PHOTO: A collection of souvenirs from the parade that will be on display at the Veterans Day event.
HIGHLANDS, NJ - The Twin Lights Historical Society will honor our nation’s heroes this Veterans Day by contributing 100 percent of the day’s donations from lighthouse visitors to VFW Post 6902 in Highlands. The post was unable to afford much-needed work after Hurricane Sandy and, four years later, can no longer put off basic repairs to the deteriorating structure.
The VFW Post 6902, located at 331 Bay Avenue in Highlands, currently consists of approximately 70 members. It is operated by Quartermaster Don Manrodt, with help from his family.
“The towers and the museum draw more than 75,000 people a year to the town of Highlands,” says Mark Stewart, a trustee of the Twin Lights Historical Society. “They patronize the shops and restaurants, which is great, but the VFW doesn’t see much benefit from this traffic and it is in desperate need of basic repairs.”
The Society will empty its donation boxes on November 10th and deliver all donations made on Friday the 11th to the VFW in the form of gift cards to local building suppliers. During the recent Lighthouse Challenge, visitors stuffed nearly $700 into the donation boxes at the Twin Lights.
“We hope to see at least double that amount,” he says. Stewart also announced that the Twin Lights Museum has been given the green light by the Parks Department to continue its popular Seeing Stars exhibit through 2017. The Society was presented with a Senate Resolution this summer, praising its work to encourage heritage tourism and its contribution to the Sandy recovery effort.
There is never a charge to visit the museum or climb the towers. On Veterans Day, there will also be a free afternoon program on the Twin Lights’ intriguing connection to the Spanish-American War. The presentation, scheduled from 2:00 to 3:00 in the Twin Lights Auditorium, includes recently loaned artifacts from Admiral Dewey’s reception in New York City following his naval victory in Manila. It was Dewey’s arrival—a day earlier than anticipated—that proved the commercial viability of wireless communication. Guglielmo Marconi was assembling his radio array at the Twin Lights to cover the America’s Cup races when he detected Dewey’s “White Fleet” steaming toward New York Harbor.
“In terms of celebrity in 1899, Admiral Dewey was like Michael Jordan, Elvis and Lady Gaga all rolled into one,” says Stewart. “Dewey’s welcoming parade had over 30,000 marchers. By contrast, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has 8,000. Had he arrived to an empty waterfront, it would have been a logistical catastrophe. Marconi’s ‘magic box’ saved the day.”
The society will also be screening its 40-minute award-winning documentary—You Heard It Here First: the Pledge of Allegiance at the Twin Lights, starring Ed Asner—throughout the day.
“We’re honored to be able to support our local veterans,” says Stewart. “In addition, VFW halls are an underappreciated community resource. This one is in danger of closing its doors if folks don’t step up and pitch in.”
The Twin Lights National Historic Landmark will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, November 11th. A Veterans Day Breakfast, sponsored by the Highlands Education Association, will be held that morning from 9:15 to 10:45 at Highlands Elementary School on Rte. 36. The breakfast has been donated by Windansea, Bay Avenue Bakery, Havana, Fresh, Girls Café, Katz, Water Witch Coffee, Et Al, Quick Check, Dunkin Donuts of AH, WAWA and The Montecalvo Family.
Regular hours for the lighthouse are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The museum’s Seeing Stars exhibit will be open, as well as access to the North Tower. For more information on days, hours and special events, visit twinlightslighthouse.com or call 732-872- 1814.