By Sheila Dassatt

        I know what some are thinking when they read the title of this month’s article. This was Bob Hope’s theme song, only his song was “Thanks for the Memory.”  It is always a pleasure to receive a pleasant feedback letter when folks read my articles.  Last month I wrote about the Wonder Years, which I could actually go on and on about those times, which represented fifty years ago.  It is still hard to believe that 1972 was fifty years ago!

Maine Coastal News was so kind and forwarded me a letter that I received from a former Coast Guard light house keeper, who was stationed on Seguin Island between 1971 and 1973.  Thank you, Charles, for your kind letter!  If I can shed a little joy with a few good memories in this day and age, then I have accomplished a good thing. He touched on the gasoline engines that were used in the wooden boats back then, which made their hum a lot different than the diesel whine.  Both are very distinctive and have a good sound when you are out to haul on those beautiful summer days.

I would love to hear from any of you that would like to share some of those memories of the manned lighthouses from back in the Wonder Years.  I know that Manana Island also had a distinctive hermit that they shared the Island with.  His name was Ray Phillips and he left the hustle and bustle of New York City to be the celebrated Hermit of Manana Island.  He graduated from the University of Maine and became a food inspector in New York in the nineteen twenties.  He left there in 1931 to begin his solitary life on the island.

He fished off from Monhegan Island, which in time, was able to purchase one sixth of Manana Island, which was just across from Monhegan. He stated, “In practice I own it all, because the other owners never bother to come.”  Ray built a 12 foot by 13 foot dwelling out of drift wood on the side of the cliff facing Monhegan. This “shack” had no electricity but had a battery powered television and radio, which suited him just fine.  He would row to Monhegan to buy provisions with his veteran’s pension of $109 a month and a Social Security check for $77.

Occasionally, (whether he needed it or not), he would go to Rockland, on the mainland for a motel room, shave and a haircut and a night on the town. He did this twice a year, every June and September.  Ray never married and had his pet goose, which was an all white “mean honker“, which was actually his watchdog.  He also had a herd of sheep that he brought over.  He had one that he bottle fed that had been abandoned by its mother. He called her Eva. So Eva and the goose which he called Donald Duck, followed him everywhere, much like a dog would.

One night, his oil lamp was not burning, and a neighbor on Monhegan called the Coast Guard to check on him. Ray had crossed to Monhegan in a storm for supplies and slipped on a rock while getting out of his boat. It was so cold that his hands had turned numb from rowing, but he insisted on staying in his shack. His friends did not want him to stay alone that night, but he convinced them that he would be alright. Ray had passed away that night, right there in his hermit shack, exactly where he wanted to be. This all happened in 1975. The only arrangements was that his sister asked the Coast Guard tending the lighthouse if they would keep the goose.  Ray’s ashes are buried on Manana Island, which is his final resting place.

You may wonder why I went there with this memory.  Well, 1975 was 47 years ago, and a lot of today’s generation probably don’t know much about the Hermit of Manana Island, if they have heard of him at all.  These are all little tidbits about local people that we don’t want to have forgotten.  I do know that with my brother, Glenn being one of those Coast Guard men that tended the lighthouse, he mentioned Ray from time to time. Ray was part of that island’s history and was also part of the Coast Guard family that manned the island, (In a sense).  They all looked over him and remember Ray and his goose not always getting along from time to time!  Guess they were fun to watch on occasion.  There is no better watchdog than an ornery goose!

There is a lighthouse museum on Monhegan that you may be interested in.  There are more stories and pictures of Ray in this museum and it is well worth stopping by and visiting it.  These days are all behind us now and the lighthouses are not manned any longer, they are all automated now in hope that people will continue to maintain their upkeep as they are mostly privately owned now.  There is still a lot to be said for people still maintaining a presence on these islands, in case there is still a need for help and assistance.  Stop by and enjoy if you can, you won’t regret it!