09/16/09 - posted by Paul Judge

I'm glad to know that at least one of those magnificent telescopes will once again be on display. I’m also heartened to learn that John Martini is doing an article about the history of the Marine Exchange Lookout.

Fifty years ago the pines and cypresses planted around the Lookout didn’t obscure its sight lines. I went to school at St. Thomas the Apostle with Jimmy and Tommy Morrissey. I think that at one point my younger sister had it in her mind that she’d one day marry Tommy. It was a special treat to be invited over to their home after school or on weekends. I was fascinated by its architecture and the observation room atop the building. The two telescopes were mounted on large tripods and one used a tall stool to stand or sit on to look through their eyepieces. The magnification of those scopes really did allow the viewer to see details of the insignia of a ship’s stack or scan the ‘House Flag’ of the shipping lines that owned a particular vessel before the hull cleared the horizon. There were nautical related books on shelves which included identification catalogues with marker and ship types that allowed Mr. Morrissey to be certain of the vessel he sighted before notifying the Marine Exchange office downtown of its approach to harbor.

Play was not limited to inside the building. The forested slopes adjacent the Marine Exchange made for a terrific playground. Among the trees where a 4-H Ropes Course has operated for the last 25 plus years the Morrissey’s had created their own trees houses, rope swings, and a Zip Line that allowed us to exercise our arboreal talents. Up slope and through the chain link and barbed wire fencing were abandoned coastal defense gun emplacements at Fort Miley to reconnoiter and fuel our imaginations to play war games on. There are time when I’ve returned to the memorial of the cruiser USS San Francisco when the chill of the fog or the crispness in the winter air on a clear sunny day brings back memories of those childhood playtimes at the Morrissey's place.
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