This December, the St. Augustine Record republished a series of Letters to Santa printed in the St. Augustine Evening Record from December 1921. Peter Willott, a reporter for the Record, worked with the staff at the St. Augustine Historical Society’s Research Library to gather these letters. One of the letters came from little Eloise Malloy, the only daughter of Clarence and Agnes Malloy. Clarence served as the First Assistant Keeper of the St. Augustine Light Station from December 1918 to January 1927, when he was promoted to Head Keeper at St. Augustine.
Above: The reprinted letter to Santa from Eloise Malloy (Source: St. Augustine Record, December 12, 2021)
Before malls began to pop up on the American landscape, children wrote letters to Santa often published in their local papers. This way, Santa and the rest of the community could read the letters and know what to bring on Christmas Eve. Eloise’s letter also gives us a unique glimpse into a young child’s life at the St. Augustine Light Station.
One of the realities of life in the United States Lighthouse Service was often the remote locations where the Keepers and their families were placed. As Eloise mentions in her letter, she did not have any little girls to play with while living at the St. Augustine Light Station, leaving her to entertain herself with toys. One should remember that Anastasia Island in 1921 was still remote, connected to the town only by a wooden bridge and trolley. D.P. Davis doesn’t come to town until the late 1920s and develop the marshes along the Matanzas River into the Davis Shores development. However, Lighthouse Park, the neighborhood surrounding the St. Augustine Light Station, did contain several households with children, although probably not many. The rest of the island remained wild and undeveloped, with some exceptions.
Also mentioned in her letter is the location of her stocking on the southeast chimney of the Keepers’ House. The house served as living quarters for three different households: the north side of the building housed the Head Keeper and his family; the south side housed the First Assistant and his family; the Second Assistant, usually a bachelor, maintained quarters in a room on the second floor overlooking the front lawn. As her letter indicates, Eloise and her family resided in the southern part of the house since her father was the First Assistant Keeper.
As Eloise mentions in her letter, the “big light” that her father kept burning was none other than the first order Fresnel lens at the top of St. Augustine’s Lighthouse tower. Clarence Malloy and the Keepers used kerosene to keep the light burning at this time. The Lighthouse Service ordered the construction of an outbuilding away from the tower to serve as storage for the kerosene. Visitors to the site today can still see the brick pathway leading to the site of this building. Kerosene was not stored in the oil room across the hall from the Keepers’ Office in the tower to prevent fire.
Above: A site photo from the 1940s shows the location of two outbuildings, with the southern building serving as kerosene storage (marked by arrow) (Source: St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum Collection)
What Eloise found under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning is anyone’s guess. One can imagine that she had a very sleepless night listening for Santa and his reindeer visiting the Light Station. Perhaps Santa is a bigger lighthouse fan than we think! After all, sailors use them to navigate their ships. Why can’t Santa?
Above: Eloise Malloy, aged 12 (Source: St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum Collection)