The Best Approach

Jimmy Kemmer, Judy Heckes and ‘Aunt Rye’ at the Oysterville Approach, c. 1940

Here on the Peninsula, when we talk about one approach versus another, we usually aren’t talking golf strategies or planning a sales campaign.  We’re talking beach approaches – the traditional ingress/egress roadways to and from the ocean beach.

At Oysterville – and probably at other early settlements, as well – the approach road was originally constructed for wagons and stagecoaches that carried freight and passengers from one end of the Peninsula to the other.  Travelers journeyed along the only available north/south highway – the hard sands of the weather beach.  Each ‘approach’ was marked by a large, clearly visible sign constructed in the area of the primary dune.  Or, more accurately, as clearly visible as a sign could be made, considering the constraints of stormy weather, wind-blown sand, fog or any of the usual constraints and challenges.

Winter 1983 Sou’wester

Communities took pride in their approach Signs.  When I was a child, the sign said “Come Again” as you left Oysterville Road and drove onto the beach.  And, coming back, the big letters that spelled OYSTERVILLE may have been the first word I ever could read.  Community members took pride in constructing approach signs that were distinctive.  In 1983, the Sou’wester featured a photograph of Ocean Park’s “Sunset Arch” and provided the following information about it:

This old Ocean Park beach approach sign was dubbed the “Sunset Arch”. It stood at the east end of Bay Avenue and was erected in the spring of 1932. It replaced a weather-beaten sign which stood at the approach for many years. Two local clubs called the Nit-Wits, a men’s club, and S. I. O (Six in One), a women’s club, joined forces to build it. Club members were Les Wilson, Bob Delay, Henry Edmonds Jr., Bit Wins Sr., John Morehead Jr., Walker Tompkins, Lucille Wickberg (Mrs. Les Wilson), Edith Lundquist Winn (Mrs. Bill Winn), Alva Slagle, Nancy Peterson, Sharlie Peterson, and Edna Burden. Les Wilson says his club feted a fir tree, sawed the trunk into three pieces, and transported it to the dunes at the approach. After several failures, the sign was finally erected. Walker Tompkins painted it to read “Ocean Park” on the west side and “Sunset View” on the east side. Henry Edmonds says that Charles “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick set up his camera and waited for two hours to get a photograph of a car driving under it. This photo, without a car, was also taken by Fitzpatrick. The “Sunset Arch” finally rotted in the late 1940s and the sign was replaced by a new community group led by Lyle Clark in 1949. The new sign utilized the metal masts of the wrecked ship Arrow. One of the masts still stands, but it is now badly rusted. In December1981 the North Beach Peninsula Association instated a beautiful new sign at the beach approach.  The legend “Ocean Park, 1883, 46° 30′ W., 124°2′ N.” is etched in the wood. 

Long Beach Approach, Historic

I understand that nowadays, replacing an approach sign isn’t all that ‘easy.’  There are right-of-ways and easements and laws and liability issues to consider.  Estimates to replace the Seaview approach sign (damaged by a vehicle) are in the tens-of-thousands-of-dollars range.  In our complicated, litigious society, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) no longer exists and liability rather than visibility determines the best approach.  A sad commentary, indeed.

One Response to “The Best Approach”

  1. Stephanie Frieze says:

    Some approaches are best for people watching (Bolstad), some for watching the 4th of July fireworks (Seaview), some for having a bonfire (Cranberry) … The best for clam digging is Oysterville. My father always drove the beach from Seaview to Oysterville to dig and I was always with him.

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