Posts Tagged ‘chantry island’

Young Girl on Chantry Island

April 23rd, 2012 by Bruce Coast Lighthouse Admin

As a young child, Jean Scott, now Jean Davies, lived in Southampton and was friends with Ruth Klippert, the daughter of the Chantry Island lighthouse keeper. Because of this friendship, Jean made many trips to the lighthouse during the 1930’s.

This is some of what she recalls:

So many things about the island! First, I remember the bats. My God! They had bats in that house. Oh! I spend half my weekends running around with a broom matting down bats, Ruth would have a broom, and I would have one and old John (Ruth’s dad, lighthouse keeper) would have one. I remember the time we knocked over a lamp, which wasn’t very good. But, he was a nice old man. Quiet. (But he’d get after us.) Every night – it wasn’t electrified then – we had to climb to the top to light the light. He had to pump it up and light the gas. Of course, there were beautiful prisms as I recalled, and when we climbed to the top, he’d say: “Now you girls keep your fingers off that glass. Don’t touch the glass.” He was meticulously clean. Then we would light it. It would just flame when it would light. He also had a range light he had to light, on the dock at the end of the island. It was a long way to go. He had an old bicycle and he’d get on it and pedal away down on those boards and out onto the old dock to light the light. I feel really blessed. I have such happy memories.

I hated the snakes. The snakes were bad over there. Lots of water snakes. Big ones. Fat. One morning it was hot and Ruth said to me (and she was maybe five years older that I – she’d be 13 or 14, I’d be 8) “Come on, let’s get our bathing suits. Let us go down and have a swim off the dock.” In those days they were one piece, down to our knees. She said “Last one in stinks.” I started to run and she started to run. We hit this wooden dock and couldn’t stop at this point and shot off the end. Well, I’ll bet you there were 50 snakes up under the pilings. I nearly swam to Sauble. I could see their heads. They were probably just as afraid as we were. A terrible experience. The water was full of them.

John Klippert was a great guy. He made boats, too. They weren’t very fancy, not Nova Scotia dories, but good sturdy boats. He always had a boat going in his shed. He was also fixing cupboards or painting. I’ll tell you what I remember best about that shed: The smell of tar. He had all these nets in there. Many mornings he’d say, “Well, good morning girls. We’re going to have fish for breakfast.” We would then go out and set just a little bit of the net just off the island. He had little corks and he’d anchor it. In an hour or so we would be back there, and sure enough, we’d have a perch or herring. I hate herring, they’re full of bones. He would make biscuits. There was nothing he couldn’t do. A remarkable man in his day.

He had his island so neat. It was wild, but it was organized. He worked all the time. He was always building boats, mending nets, or fishing, or painting. Just a great old guy. He wasn’t there in the winter. I often wonder if he got paid in the winter. Back in the Dirty Thirties? There was a supply boat that would come in once a year, and I was there one time when it came in. We were really excited. It wasn’t that big. It brought drums of fuel, and paid, and some stuff he didn’t even want. The paint was always grey or white. He always kept everything painted. And his windows were always clean. Cleaner than mine. I often thing of old John Klippert’s windows. They were just gleaming.

The house has fallen in, and that is what has made me so sad. I slept there many, many times, on weekends, and sometimes a week or two in the summer. We played cards. I don’t remember doing much else, but playing cards. We made taffy, and he would let us cook. Ruth was older and more knowledgeable. I was just a kid.