By Matthew C. Durkee
Triplicate Features Editor
Endless days of tedium and isolation took their toll on many of the "wickies" who manned the St. George Reef Lighthouse, but Byron Horrocks wasn't one of them.
"It was intimidating for a while, but I thoroughly enjoyed it," Horrocks remembers.
The Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class arrived at the lighthouse in October 1953, and remained until December of the next year.
A native of Roosevelt, Utah, the ocean was a novelty to Horrocks, who volunteered for the Coast Guard while war raged in Korea.
"I looked forward to it, seeing the ocean," Horrocks said.
Most of Horrocks' memories at the lighthouse are happy ones.
"I just enjoyed being there. It was three men, four at the most, and we got along well together."
Horrocks doesn't remember suffering from boredom.
The crew had their daily chores and duties, and in the evenings they would play pinochle and listen to the radio.
When the tide was low, they could go out on the rocks and walk around for a while.
"I think one of the things I can remember most," Horrocks says, "is at night you could look out and see the lights of Brookings and Crescent City. It was neat to see that sparkling view. The stars were beautiful out over the ocean. Listening to the water splash up against reef thereit was a soothing feeling."
Horrocks remembers several funny things that happened while there.
Once, a thick fog set in for 11 days11 days they had to keep the foghorn running.
"I went out there one time, and I said, Oh, golly, the fog lifted. I'm going to turn the foghorns off,' and one of the other fellows said, I turned them off 20 minutes ago.'"
Horrocks explained that even though the horns were loud enough to be heard for 30 miles, the crew simply got used to them.
Another time he surprised a depressed chief by cooking a full-course Thanksgiving dinner for himself and the chief, who had been prevented by a sudden storm from going to the mainland and spending the holiday with his family.
Among the more distinctive aspects of St. George Reef Lighthouse is its tricky landings. Until helicopters came into use, supplies and crew had to be hoisted off the water by the lighthouse craneusually the whole boat was lifted onto the reef.
"It was scary to be in the boat. It was scary to run the crane," Horrocks says.
"You had to rely on the fellow who was on the boat to tell you when to pull it up. Sometimes the waves lapped at it pretty good. It was a lot of precision work to get it up there."
Horrocks, who returned to Utah and lives there now, says his lighthouse memories have grown into family lore.
One of his daughters has done research on the St. George Reef Lighthouse. The second daughter has lighthouse pictures "all over the place."
"When they go to the coast, they want to see the lighthouses."
In fact, Horrocks was in Del Norte recently, and with his family he went out to Point St. George, where they could see the lighthouse.
"It was a neat 10 minutes to sit out on the point and remember all those things when I was a kid."
The Daily Triplicate welcomes stories about local history as well as people who served in the armed forces. Reach Matthew C. Durkee at 464-2141 or mdurkee@tripli