Thursday, March 20, 2014

3/20/14 Tybee Island; Historical Society

Tybee Island; GA

     There is an old Chinese proverb that says that one who plants trees from which they will never eat fruit exhibits one of the greatest forms of love.  I have a great deal of respect for those that give of themselves to preserve history so that future generations can learn and enjoy where they came from.  

    I met several such people today at the Tybee Island Historical Society.  There are three historic districts on Tybee, and work to preserve many of the island's historical treasures would not get done were it not for those folks who care about those yet to come.

Bernie Goode

     Bernie is one of sixty volunteers who work with 15 paid employees at the historical society here. He has a twin brother, and the two of them are in the midst of walking from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans - one segment at a time.  This summer they are walking across Nebraska to Denver.

    Bernie, retired from 36 years of service in the Army Corp of Engineers, took it upon himself back in '03 to research an old cemetery on the island. In that process, he came across the town council minutes dating clear back to the late 1800's.  He started writing an article for the island's newspaper based upon those meetings - teaching the island's history in a whimsical style as he points out humorous conflicts the council wrestled with over a century ago.  

    There are numerous issues with farm animals running loose in the streets and difficulties in the original development and growth of the island, but one of his struggles has been deciphering the handwriting of one particular secretary for the council.  He wrote in one of his articles:

" . . . . please forgive me, I also look forward to Mr. Storer's demise at the end of 1914 - his replacement has a beautiful hand !"

    This comment in an article elicited a letter written from Texas - from the great-grandson of Mr. Storer !!  It is a lesson that a writer just never knows their reach across time or geography.  Since the letter, the great-grandson has shared a number of things in his possession of a historical nature with Mr. Goode.

     Bernie volunteers at the main museum, which is housed inside an old artillery emplacement (called a battery) that lies in the shadow of the lighthouse.  It is a labyrinth inside, and the artifacts cover many elements of the island's history, including the days of Spaniards, pirates, amusement parks, the Coast Guard Dive Training facility and others.

     Regarding the batteries, here is a photo of another one that shows clearly how the guns were situated in order to protect the entrance to the river.  The guns were mounted on the circular shapes behind the front wall of the fort.

    There is also a collection of photos from the 1920's that give a glimpse of yet another era.

     There is a vast stretch of tidal marsh between Savannah and Tybee, and for many years if you didn't have a boat, the train was the only way to get out here.  The road out to the island wasn't built until 1923, so prior to that there were no cars on the island.  The first photo show the train running alongside the road, presumably just after the road was built.

     Way in the distance, on the horizon if you look closely you can see three large round objects.  That is Savannah GA.  To the right in the photo lies Daufuskie Island, where we visited the haunted hotel with its orbs a few weeks back.

Sarah Jones

     Sarah Jones, who has worked with the historical society for 8 years now serves as the executive director.  The efforts put forth show - in the lighthouse complex extensive work has been done to preserve and create the atmosphere that the keepers lived in, and the work continues to try to keep this place as a time capsule of years gone by.

    The lighthouse keeper's houses were built in the 1800's - there were three keepers, and thus three houses.  It was a lot of work to carry all that kerosene and oil up 170 odd steps to keep the lamp burning.  But these days it is an electric bulb that assists ships seeking the entryway to the Savannah River.

     The entire interior of the head light-keeper's house is done with items from the period in which they lived and worked here.

     There is yet another display in the base of the lighthouse itself with the tools needed to keep the lighthouse going.  Included are 5 gallon brass pails to carry the oil up the stairs.

    Oh yes - those stairs.  They have to be way tougher than the obstacles courses on Parris Island.

     And then at the top - the huge glass lens that directs the light out laterally where the ships can make use of it.  You cannot actually get into the lens, but it is a good eight feet tall.  This picture was taken by holding the camera up through a grate in the bottom of it.

    Neat shot, huh?  Finally, one last cool volunteer - and I met many of them.  This is Paul Jackson, who was born on Tybee when his father was the light-keeper.  He and his siblings were the last child to live in the light-keeper's house.  And his sister -she is the financial officer here.  I think someone said he has a brother who volunteers here as well.  But it is apparent that there are many people here who love this island and its roots.  On Tybee Island, volunteerism is the difference between mediocrity and excellence. 

Paul Jackson

     There is a lot on Tybee, but the road calls.  About one more day here will wrap us up, and then we will head back to Savannah to see if the St. Patrick's day revelers have sobered up yet.

Have a great Friday !!

     If you would like to contribute to help with the journey and starting the foundation, please Click Here.  To contact me directly, click Here.  Your support is both needed and greatly appreciated !!

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