Good morning. Let’s start today’s proceedings by leaping right into the 29th day of February. That’s right, calendar fans, it’s a leap year, so enjoy this extra day of February because according to my calculations, which are based on a combination of the Mormon Tabernacle, the Farmer’s Almanac and TV Guide, this day will not make another appearance for at least four years, or about the same time Conan O’Brien is feeling comfortable as the new host of “The Tonight Show.” I had wanted to take a political shot here but early on I’m feeling kind. It won’t last.
So today we’re looking at a couple of local lighthouses. Santa Cruz was originally appropriated funding for a lighthouse in the early 1850′s, back when John McCain was still a youngster. Difficulty in acquiring land titles delayed the project and the lighthouse was not built until 1868. It was a wooden structure with a tower and was first lit on December 31, 1869, a New Year’s Eve special. The light itself was originally white but was changed to red in order to more easily distinguish it from the numerous residential lights in the area. By the way, I have been to the red light district in Amsterdam and did not visit any lighthouse keepers there, if you catch my drift.
In 1878, the lighthouse was threatened by the gradual erosion of caves underneath Lighthouse Point, which is still a major problem today. The following year the wooden lighthouse was placed on rollers and moved about 300 feet inland, which I wish they would do to Bush and Cheney and just keep rolling. Today, most of the original lighthouse is gone although erosion and Al Gore made part of the original foundation visible in the 1990′s.
There were only three keepers at the original Santa Cruz light. The first keeper, A.A. Hecox, was succeeded in 1883 by his daughter Laura, who faithfully attended the light until her retirement in 1916, when Arthur Anderson served until the light was discontinued in 1941. Leave it to an accountant to screw things up.
Keeper Laura Hecox was not only the lighthouse keeper but an avid amateur marine biologist. Only Laura and her mother occupied the six-room lighthouse, so one of the rooms became a museum housing Laura’s nature items, notes, literature and her collection of beanie babies. Her collection was donated to the Santa Cruz public library in 1902.
In 1941 an automated light was place on the wooden tower near the original lighthouse. During World War II the lighthouse was used as a lookout tower. The 54th Coast Artillery-an African-American unit-was stationed at Lighthouse Point. In the words of the late, great, Johnny Carson, “I did not know that.” After the war, the lighthouse was deemed as unnecessary, like buying snow tires in Hawaii. Or trying to understand why Isiah Thomas still has a job with the New York Knicks. The structure was sold to a local carpenter who purchased it for salvage rights. The old lighthouse was razed in May, 1948, leaving only the automated wooden tower.
In 1965 eighteen-year-old Mark Abbot drowned while surfing near the point. His parent used the insurance money to build a brick lighthouse near the site of the old light which was completed in 1967. The Mark Abbot Memorial Lighthouse is currently home to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, which opened in 1986. According to Boots McGhee, one of the Longboard Union members that founded the museum, the lighthouse is the perfect location for this exhibit because after viewing the surfing memorabilia you then walk outside to the perfect living theatre- Steamer Lane. The lighthouse is now currently threatened once again by erosion, which is undermining the point, which I’m afraid, is the point. Which means enjoy the lighthouse while you can because unlike the TV show “Law & Order, it won’t be running forever.
In the fall of 2001, a second lighthouse was joined the party. The Walton or (Santa Cruz Harbor Light) was built on the west jetty of Santa Cruz Harbor. The light received its name from one of its patrons, Charles Walton, who donated $60,000 for the project in memory of his brother Derek of the Merchant Marines. I’m not quite sure why they built this second lighthouse-if anyone knows email me and clue me in. I took a ride over there earlier this week and shot the first three foam-filled photos. In the third shot you get the double shot of the two Santa Cruz lighthouses. Photos #4, 5 and 6 were taken at Lighthouse Point-midday, sunrise and at sunset. I love the feeling being out there alone on the edge of the continent shooting a spectacular sunrise or sunset. It’s magical or in the words of the Electric Light Orchestra “You’re walking meadows in my mind, making waves across my time, oh no, oh, no, I get a strange magic.” This really has little to do with how I feel, I just like the song.
Which reminds me of the old joke. A frustrated woman says to her husband, “You love football more than you love me.” And he replies, “Yeah, but I love you more than baseball or basketball.” So that’s it for our final blog of February. Coming up on Monday we’ll head back to Lighthouse Point for some superb sunrise action. Enjoy the lighthouses, enjoy the weekend and for you locals, I hope to see you at Fresh Prep Kitchens on Saturday. Bon appetit.