My mom had an intense love of lighthouses. When this love started, I don’t know for sure. I just know that for as long as I can remember, there were pictures of them on the walls of our home. There were lighthouse figurines, and even calendars and beautiful cloth Bible covers, made by her very own hands. I still have one of those, some 30 years later. She visited quite a few lighthouses over the years, as well, including the St. Simon’s Island lighthouse which she visited with dear church friends.
She clearly received some kind of inspiration from the lighthouse.
A simple, sturdy structure, the lighthouse. They’re not flashy and fancy, like an elegant glass skyscraper, nor are they cute and portable, like the recently popular “tiny house.” But there is more to a lighthouse than that; they’re protectors. They were built to protect ships from crashing along shallow or rocky shores, and in some cases to guide ships along, helping sailors know exactly where they were in the world as they sailed by. This was done in the daytime by the purposely varied appearances of the lighthouses, and at night by the particular flashing pattern of the lens, from what I have read.
Of course, at this point in time lighthouses are virtually unnecessary for those purposes, as sailors and ship captains have GPS devices and all the other modern conveniences at their disposal to help them navigate safely. Regardless, lighthouses are still treasured, protected, and are considered important historic landmarks worthy of preservation.
Just look at the Cape San Blas lighthouse, so valued that it was moved from the cape into Port St. Joe to keep it safe from eroding sand and other dangerous conditions. It was so beloved that a movie was made about its move, and there were citizens in both parts of the county fighting about who got to keep the lighthouse. What a beloved, beautiful skeleton of a structure it clearly is! When I see it from the top of the Highland View bridge, all lit up at night, it makes my heart skip a beat, and I know I’m home. I only wish my mother had lived to see the day it was placed in her town! She’d have been there volunteering, I am certain.
The keepers quarters were moved next to it, of course, and now one of the buildings houses a small shop staffed by knowledgeable docents to tell of the structures’ history and other interesting trivia. My sister and I recently enjoyed sitting on the porch of the keeper’s quarters in the two rocking chairs that someone placed there for guests to enjoy. What a pleasure it was to sit there in that beautiful place, sharing a container of boiled peanuts from Piggly Wiggly, rocking and reminiscing and looking at that beautiful old lighthouse, as well as watching the family that was climbing it at that time, God bless ‘em.
That sturdy lighthouse reminds me of my mom, when I think about it. She was simple, kind, and down to earth. She was helpful to a fault, always sending me articles from the paper that she thought might be beneficial to me, or recipes she thought I might like. She volunteered at Beach Baptist Chapel as Vacation Bible School director for quite a few years to help the church reach more children. She did a bang-up job, too, I might add, though it wore her out due to her health issues. She kept on going, though, because that’s what lighthouses do; they keep shining, no matter what. That’s who she was.
By the way the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation is working to ensure the preservation of the Cape San Blas Lighthouse. They say if you’d like to donate to those efforts, you can visit floridatrust.org/donate, making sure to indicate that your donation is for the lighthouse. You could likely also donate at the gift shop in the keeper’s quarters, or at least receive direction on how to do so. There were damages to the buildings during the hurricane, so there is a need for more funds to continue the restoration.
But even if you can’t donate, make sure to put on your closed-toe shoes and pay $5 to climb that beautiful lighthouse, from which the views are incredible. Perhaps you can buy a t-shirt, which is also a fundraiser for the property, and then go sit down in one of those sturdy old rockers and enjoy that dependable, lovely old sight in front of you. It’s a great way to spend a day.
In case you’d like to enjoy some boiled peanuts as my sister and I did while you rock on that old porch, here’s a recipe from the Georgia Peanut Commission at GAPeanuts.com:
Wash peanuts thoroughly in cool water; then soak in clean cool water for about 30 minutes before cooking.
Put peanuts in a saucepan and cover completely with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt for each pint of peanuts.
The cooking period for boiled peanuts varies according to the maturity of the peanuts used and the variety of the peanut. The cooking time for a “freshly pulled” green peanut is shorter than for a peanut which has been stored for a time. The best way to prepare them is to cook them as soon as they are picked.
There is no firm method for cooking boiled peanuts. The shells of some peanuts absorb more salt than others, so it is best to begin with 1 tablespoon of salt per pint of peanuts. Then add more salt to taste later.
The texture of the peanut when fully cooked should be similar to that of a cooked dry pea or bean. Boil the peanuts for about 35 minutes, then taste. If they are not salted enough, add more salt.
Taste again in ten minutes, both for salt content and to see if the peanuts are fully cooked. If not ready, continue tasting every 5 minutes until they have a satisfactory texture.
Drain peanuts after cooking, or they will continue to absorb salt and become over-salted. Note: You should use only green peanuts, which are peanuts that are pulled before they reach maturity. Green peanuts are only available in later summer or early fall
'Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is "Mama Steph." She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home.
She is married and has three young adult sons who are considerably taller than she is. You can find more of her recipes at whatsouthernfolkseat.comand at Facebook.com/whatsouthernfolkseat.