Interview With Floyd D. Kimball

From the interview with Floyd D. Kimball of Port Townsend, WA conducted by Hazel Hatfield on May 14, 2002 at the Fort Worden History Center.  Mr. Kimball served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1950 to 1953 on active duty and from 1954 to 1960 as a reservist.  He had previously served in the Navy from 1945 to 1949.  Here he describes  an incident that occurred in his early days at the Point Wilson Light Station:

“I was on a midnight watch and it was about 4:30 in the morning, it was dark.  This light turns, the red flash got three flashes on it and it flashed every 20 seconds by rotation.  The light quit turning, and being inexperienced, I didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t report it to anybody.   I went up to unstop the light.  That was the first time I ever was up there.  I could turn it by hand but it wouldn’t go on its own.  So I turned the light for about an hour and a half by hand, guessing approximately how fast to turn it.  When it got daylight, I proceeded to tear the light apart.  It was brass, a pretty good sized light.  I found that it rolled around on ball bearings and the bearings had frozen.  They had no oil in them.  I looked through all the drawers and I found a bunch of ball bearings and I started replacing them.  In the meantime, it is getting to be around seven, seven-thirty and the keeper comes up looking for me, and I’m up in the light.  Here I am at the light, completely torn apart.  I thought he was going to fall over.  ‘What in the heck are you doing?’

I said, ‘The light quit.’

He said, ‘Well, what are you doing?’

I said, ‘I’m fixing it’

He said, ‘Do you know what you are doing?’

I said, ’Not really, but it’s pretty simple.  It’s electric and it runs on ball bearings, it rolls on ball bearings.  So, it can’t be that complicated.’

When I got done, I put it all back together and the light worked fine.”

The interviewer asked if he got any hero’s reward from the Coast Guard.

“No, no, no.  The keeper was probably too embarrassed to tell anybody, because it was actually lack of maintenance that the bearings got that way in the first place.  It shouldn’t have happened.”

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