Dec. 22, 2008
In the winter, Boston Light had few visitors and limited communication.
“You were in a world of your own,” said Reece, 87, whose maiden name is Norwood.
In the years that followed, the family looked forward to the annual package, a gift from Maine floatplane pilot William Wincapaw, who began dropping Christmas packages for lighthouse families in 1929.
Wincapaw became known as Flying Santa, and the Flying Santa tradition endures to this day.
A lot has changed since Reece’s father was a lightkeeper. Boston Light is rare in that it has not been automated, and it is manned not by a family but by Coast Guard personnel, who have cell phones, GPS systems and wireless Internet access.
During the holidays, Boston Light still looks like the isolated lighthouse where Reece spent her childhood.
These days, it’s Sally Snowman, the last civilian lighthouse keeper, Friends of Flying Santa and local fishermen who keep the holiday spirit alive at Boston Light.
Two Sundays ago, on Dec. 14, Snowman dressed in a cloak, dress and bonnet to portray Mrs. Thomas Knox, whose husband was Boston Light’s keeper when the British attacked the island in 1776.
Twenty visitors, including families with children, made the trip from mainland with lobster fisherman Stephen Holler of Quincy, who delivered a large wreath and other decorations for the 89-foot-tall lighthouse.
Snowman, unfazed by the 30-degree weather, spoke to the gaggle of children, much as Reece’s mother might have spoken to her own nine children 80 years ago.
Friends of Flying Santa arrived by helicopter the same afternoon, bearing gifts for the keepers.
Brian Tague, president of Friends of Flying Santa, said for most lighthouse-keeping families, Christmas was the same as every other day, though perhaps a special meal was served.
“There was never a holiday on a lighthouse,” Tague said. “Always work to be done.”
Reece said that when she was a child and a teenager, she didn’t see her family’s situation as especially demanding or different.
“We didn’t feel isolated,” she said. “That was the way we were brought up.”
Reece, whose family was among the last to live on the island, said she would routinely row home from dates on the mainland during World War II.
It’s a much different world than the one her 11 grandchildren are growing up in. This Christmas, Reece will celebrate at her home in Hingham with a granddaughter.