The Book That Started It All

The original cover of Light on the Island

Over 50 years ago, while growing up near Chicago, my friend Carla and I read a book which was to have a lasting impression on both of us…that is to say the least! The book’s title was (and is) Light on the Island and the author was Helene Glidden.

Helene Glidden in 1951, at the time of the publication of "Light on the Island"

Helene came from a family consisting of Mother, Father and 11 sisters and brothers. When she was very young, her father, a lighthouse keeper,  and mother moved with all of the children to Patos Island, in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Patos is five miles north of Orcas Island and about a mile off shore boats enter Canadian waters.

In Light on the Island, Helene told the stories of what it was like to grow up on Patos Island in the early 1900s. Her stories are often funny, but often they are tragic as well…medical help was far from island shores.

When we great visitors to the lighthouse, we often see two types of people: those who have read the book and those who haven’t. Often if they have, we are peppered with questions about the book…where was this?, where was that?…are the stories all true? Last summer, I witnessed two teenage boys who positively squealed when they saw the book and display on LOTI. We are used this this from young girls, but….!

In a later column, I will explain how Carla and I got from reading the book in Chicago to being co-founders of Keepers of the Patos Light, but for now it’s over and out.

The Fiftieth anniversay edition of Light on the Island…available from Keepers of the Patos Light

LightontheIsland Seattle times 8261951


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