Interview with Stateside with Cynthia Canty – January 27th, 2015

Tune in to Stateside with Cynthia Canty tomorrow January 27th, 2015 to hear an interview I did with Cynthia about the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes and the 100th anniversary of the United States Coast Guard. The show will air at 3:00 P.M. & 10 P.M.on Michigan Public Radio and Interlochen Public Radio stations across the state. A podcast of the interview should be available after the airing on Stateside’s Webpage: http://michiganradio.org/programs/stateside-cynthia-canty

A Birthday Present for the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes

A Birthday Present for the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes

One hundred years ago on this day, January 20, 1915, the U.S. House of Representatives, on the recommendation of then President Woodrow Wilson passed the Coast Guard Act of 1915. The bill (S. 2337; a bill “To create the Coast Guard by combining therein the existing Life-Saving Service and Revenue Cutter Service.” ) had been introduced to the U.S. Senate on May 16, 1913 by Senator Charles E. Townsend of Michigan, was referred to committee and ultimately passed by the Senate on March 12, 1914. The bill, if signed in to law, would form the United States Coast Guard by merging the existing Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Life-Saving Service. More importantly to the “Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes” Rev. William H. Law, it would provide an updated pay structure and provide pensions to the men in their service. The battle for a law favorable to the welfare the life-savers and their families had been waged by many as early as the late-1800’s. William H. Law, as part of his mission, took it upon himself to inform the public and their representatives in government of this need as early as 1900, after his own life was rescued by men of the USLSS. In his 1902 publication, “Life Savers in the Great Lakes”, W. H. Law includes the following intent: These pages are written and sent out as an expression of appreciation for the services of the Life Savers in taking the author, his son, and a friend from a stranded yacht, with a hope that the people’s representatives in the United States Congress may be favorably disposed toward a bill pertaining to the Life Savers now in the hands of a committee. Though these earlier attempts at the passage of a bill to enact a pension for the men in the USLSS had failed, W. H. Law persisted in his efforts to garner support for a pension bill to be enacted. Working with Senator Charles E. Townsend, they would draft a bill that the Senator could bring to the floor and have a chance of being passed. One of the main sticking points of such a bill was the fact that the USLSS was in essence a civil service and that by granting pensions to the members they would be opening the door for the pensioning of all civil service employees. In order to get around this, the bill would be worded instead as a reorganization plan, combining the USLSS and the Revenue Cutter service into a new organization called the Coast Guard with provisions to place them under the authority of the military, thus removing them from civil service. “If they pensioned the lifesaver they left the field open to the vast array of civil service employees. They [the government] couldn’t do that, so we decided to ask for a reorganization putting the lifesaver on par with the naval reservist and the navy men, where he belonged,” W. H. Law stated to the Detroit Free Press in 1915. While Senator Townsend was preparing to bring the bill to the floor in 1913, the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes started a lobbying campaign of his own, sending various letters and stories of the brave men of Life-Saving Service directly to the homes of the very Senators and Congressmen who would have a chance to vote for the passage of this bill. The letter was well received and many congressmen and senators wrote back assuring they would do everything they could for the passage of the bill. One senator from a landlocked state sent this reply to Rev. Law: We senators and congressmen from states in the interior have little or no personal knowledge of the Life Savers, and I want to thank you for the information you have given me. I have read with a great deal of interest what you mailed me for it came to my home. Your interesting stories concerning the Life Savers were read by my family and talked over at the dinner table. It was thoughtful of you to send your literature to congressmen and senators while at home, for when in Washington they are very busy. May I trouble you to state, what, in your judgment, would be the best course of procedure to improve Service. From what I have read, I have faith in you and I am sure from your experience in having personally visited all the stations on the Great Lakes, and by keeping in touch with those on the various oceans by mail, you are in a position to give me the material I need in drafting a bill. Rest Assured...

A Christmas Message for the Lightkeepers and Coast Guard People (1919).

A Christmas Message for the Lightkeepers and Coast Guard People (1919).

Copy Of A Typewritten Letter As A Christmas Message for the Lightkeepers and Coast Guard People.   135 Pine St., Detroit, Mich., Dec. 25, 1918 My Dear Friend:- Christmas Greetings from myself – Sinbad the Sailor, who also extends greetings from the Lightkeepers and Coast Guard people and Old Father Neptune the Storm King, and his Mermaids throughout the Great Water World. I am sitting in my own quiet room upstairs, down below on the ground floor there is a little Christmas tree beautifully trimmed, and about it there is dancing a little boy we call “Golden Locks,” because of his ten distinct ringlets hanging loosely over his ears and neck. This is our three-year-old grandson, Billy Moore. There are several other grandchildren on their way to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s house, and soon I must join them in a Christmas celebration. What a wonderful thing the institution of Christmas is, deriving its name, and especially the beautiful spirit of cheer, of hope, and of kindly consideration that characterizes Christmas, from Christ Himself, who nearly 2,000 years ago, left his sacred footprints in the sands along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, as He went about doing good.   “The hands that helps is better than the lips that only pray. Love is the ever gleaming star that leads the way, That shines not on vague worlds of bliss, But makes a paradise in this.”   If you hear anyone say there is no such thing as “Santa Claus,” that it is a “delusion” and a “myth,” please remind him of the fact that it is the spirit kindness, the disposition to sacrifice for others, a kindly generous spirit in the beauty of sacrifice that seems to be in the very air at this period of the sweet Yuletide, that takes possession of everybody that has a heart to feel – this bright and beautiful spirit is Santa Claus. The good natured, fat, jolly, red faced and red nosed old chap, with his reindeers, sled and rich warm furs, is Santa Claus in a form that can be understood by the smallest children; this is Santa Claus in the rough, but the real Santa Claus is the spirit that puts him in motion and furnished him with the goods, for be it remembered, the giver is greater than the gift.   “O, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie, Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light, The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”   The war is won, and now as never before, we realize that the greatest element of success is our firm faith in our ability to succeed through courtesy and efficiency. May you learn to look at the bright side, keep the sunshine of living faith in your heart and never let the shadows of discouragement and despondency fall upon your pilgrim path. Very sincerely, W. H....

Spiders gather poison where bees gather honey: Aftermath of the Mataafa Storm

Spiders gather poison where bees gather honey: Aftermath of the Mataafa Storm

“The public is apt to run to extremes.” One of the many quotes from the Sky Pilot of the Great Lakes, Reverend William H. Law I ran across in my research for the book that shows not much has changed in the past 100 years. This particular quote comes from an article in the Duluth News Tribune, Dec. 8, 1905 in the wake of the Mataafa disaster.  If you are unfamiliar with this particular event,  I would point you to a great book on the subject, “Luck of the Draw- The Mataafa Story” by Robert M. Abrahamson. Suffice it to say the disaster was one of many wrecks caused by a storm that occurred on the Great Lakes on November 27-28, 1905. Rev. Law happened to be in Duluth during the storm, later writing first-hand accounts of the many wrecks and the bravery of the U.S. Life-Saving crew in their efforts to save as many sailors as possible. In the aftermath of the storm, which took the souls of 36 and destroyed or severely damaged 29 vessels, the public in trying to make sense of the death toll lashed out and criticized the local life-saving crew, the same crew whose selfless acts that day saved many, for not doing enough. We see these reactions even today when events happen that are hard to grasp. We, the public, tend to take the easy road when grappling with complex events that are beyond our control. It is easier for us to assign blame to any one particular component of the overall event than to accept the reality that these events can be and most-often are the culmination of many factors that may or may not be within our control. Even when they are within our collective means to control, we still tend to choose the easy path of assigning blame rather than striving to correct the issues to prevent them from happening again. Rev. Law, in seeing the injustice being dealt the brave crew of the Life-Saving crew rightly determined that this should not stand and took it upon himself to set the record straight:   LIFE SAVERS NOT TO BLAME W.H. Law of Detroit Says They Did Everything Possible. “Familiar with the duties of life saving crews by 20 years of service among the life savers along the chain of lakes from the Big Sandy at the foot of Lake Ontario to Duluth and acquainted with every captain in the service, l declare without hesitancy that the life saving crew of Duluth heeded well the call of duty in attempting to rescue the crew of the steamer Mataafa, nine of whom perished from exposure on the wrecked boat a few feet from shore a week ago Tuesday night.” So spoke W. H. Law of Detroit, Mich, last night. He is a missionary to the lighthouse keepers, life saving crews, their families and the fishermen on the islands of the great lakes. He witnessed the Mataafa disaster and has come to the support of the life crew with an answer to adverse criticism of the manner in which the crew confronted danger. “The public is apt to run to extremes,” he said. “It is like a strong inexperienced boy who knows not his own strength and is difficult to control. There is a disposition on the part of a number of well meaning- men women to criticise the life saving crew, but they are to be pardoned as they know not or the seaman’s or life saver’s life. “Although Captain McLennan and his men were not on the scene until some time after the boat struck, they are blameless. They were on duty the night before and were three miles away with their heavy apparatus rescuing the crew of the steamer England when notified or the Mataafa‘s distress. “Even had the crew been on the scene earlier in the afternoon it is doubtful whether the nine men who lost their lives on the stern of the Mataafa could have been saved. The heavy seas made it impossible to fasten a line even if the life saving crew had succeeded in shooting one over that part of the ship. “The exhausted life saving crew walked three miles to the wreck and when they arrived and for hours after, a surf boat was out of the question as no boat could have lived in the waves which scaled the stranded vessel and cut lite lines to pieces on the jagged rocks. “It is well to consider the combination of circumstances which contributed to defeat. Spiders gather poison where bees gather...

To all a Happy Thanksgiving!

To all a Happy Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to drop a note to thank everyone that has followed my journey this year and to wish you all a safe and happy Thanksgiving with family and friends. -J “Most of all to be remembered with delightful recollections are those family gatherings, the family circle of nine boys and two girls, with father and mother, around the winter’s fire; not the kitchen stove, but the real fire, the brightly blazing hospitable fire in the big, old-fashioned wood fireplace in the farm house of the old homestead. There is no restriction, no restraint of any sort, and certainly no affectation of style. We told stories, we laughed, we often all sang together. We were serious and gay by turns. We younger members of the family would engage in some games or play while father and mother are discussing some hard point of theology in the minister’s last sermon, or perhaps the great danger coming to sound, Christian morals from the multiplication of card parties and country dances.” ~ Rev. William H. Law, 1927...