Archive for the ‘Community History’ Category

Gather ’round! It’s the visiting season!

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

Friday Night in November 2019

Last night it was SRO at our usual Friday gathering.  We ran out of chairs so we spilled over from library to living room.  Hal sat on the floor and I meant to see how he’d manage to get up — but I forgot.  I can still do it, but it’s not a pretty picture — not popping up like toast as it was in the days before I got old and creaky,

Sue, Carol, Sandra — All A-Tangle?

The fiber arts ladies (or so I call the knitters and quilters) sat on the couch and played cats cradle.  Not really, but that’s what it looked like.  I think they were helping Sandra with a problem.  It took a while but they got it solved.

Tucker actually brought a hand truck loaded with his show-and-tell for the evening — some of his sign collection which included  few old Oysterville signs, a discarded tsunami sign,  and a yellow stop sign.  Yes, yellow.  Only a few of us remembered them. Ahem!  From The Manual of Traffic Signs on

The first STOP sign appeared in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan. There were a variety of colors used for STOP signs until the late 1920s, when the background color was standardized on yellow for maximum day and night visibility. Remember that this was a number of years before the invention of glass-bead retroreflectorization for sign faces, so a red sign looked very dark at night.

Until 1954

By 1954, signmakers were able to use durable fade-resistant red coatings for sign faces, so the background color of the STOP sign was changed to the red color you see today. This change also served to distinguish the regulatory STOP sign from yellow warning signs, and also made the color consistent with that of red traffic signal indications, which for decades had used red to signal “stop”.

So there you have it.  We learn a lot on Friday nights!


“Cuzzin Ralph, Meet Reverend Crouch”

Saturday, November 9th, 2019

I’m pretty sure my Cuzzin Ralph knows more about that scoundrel Reverend Josiah Crouch than anyone else in the current world.  Or in the last one, either.  Crouch, as you might remember was the husband of sweet Sarah Crouch back in 1892.  He was the minister for the church across the street and they lived in this house which, at that time, served as the parsonage.

When Sarah drowned under mysterious circumstances, Josiah left town in a hurry and showed up later practicing law in California.  All of that was known and documented well before the turn of the last century.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Crouch settled in to become the ghost of this house.  She’s not the least bit scary — just a little mischievous and unpredictable.

Ghost Stories by Candlelight, 11-8-2014

Over the years that I have known Mrs. C, I’ve told her story many times and in many forms — in talks at Vespers, in performance with the Shoalwater Storytellers, and in a starring role in my 2014 book, Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula.  It was when I was working on that book for History Press that I introduced the Crouches to Cuzzin Ralph and asked him if he would put his considerable research skills to work.

Ralph got right on it and provided a lot of corroboration for what we already knew, as well as some tantalizing new information.  But, there wasn’t quite enough to add to whai I already knew so I left the story as it was… for the time being.

But now, six years later, opportunities to gather information have increased exponentially as our traditional depositories for  information are digitizing their files and making them available online.  Birth records, marriage records, military records, newspaper accounts — you name it and it may well be a source for another puzzle piece in the story of our ghost.

And… Ralph is on it!  When I wrote him last week that I’m working on the sequel to Ghost Stories, I hardly had time to pose my questions before he began filling my computer screen with new information!  Great stuff!  The sequel to the Crouch story should almost write itself.  Although… I keep wondering if Mrs. Crouch will weigh in somehow.  I am ever alert for her take on the “what happened next” part of her story.

Meanwhile… my own part in this ghost story is more than clear.  I’ll not be away from my writing duties for the foreseeable future.


On Its Way Out

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

Hot Off The Press!

So skinny.  Just a shadow of its former self.  There is no question in my mind that it won’t be around much longer.  The telephone book, like all the other old-fashioned, out-dated communication accoutrements, is on its way out.

The latest edition of Century Link’s Pacific County telephone directory is not quite brochure-size… but close.  Like last year’s book, it includes both the 360 and 564 area codes but, even so… Actually, there are two more white pages.  It’s the yellow pages that have disappeared — from 78 last year to 62 this year.  Probably the fault of web pages and social media and internet advertising in general.  Gone are the days when our automatic go-to option was the yellow pages.

My first reaction to the wimpy book in my mailbox was, “Oh, of course.  Everyone is giving up their landlines. Cell phones are eliminating telephone directories!”  But… there are actually more white pages, so maybe landlines are holding their own.  For now.

Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo

I did notice that there is one additional listing for the Ocean Beach Hospital. Fifteen this year as opposed to fourteen last year.  All  identical  listings, each with a different number.  It seems obvious that each number is for a different hospital department but, unless you have them all sorted and memorized, how in the world does the directory help?  On the other hand… I remember a few years back when the hospital wasn’t listed in the white pages at all.  Nor in the yellow pages.  Nor in the first page listing of emergency numbers!  Go figure.

I went on a brief search for my stash of old phone books — the ones put out by Carlton Appelo and Wahkiakum West Telephone Company back in the day.  They always included a bit of history about the communities in the area — facts and lore you wouldn’t necessarily run across elsewhere.  Unfortunately, I came up empty-handed, but I know those books are tucked away somewhere.  Even when I find them, they won’t be of much use telephone-wise.  But neither is this wimpy current one.


Our little candle continues to glow!

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Screenshot of NYTM online article by McKenzie Funk

This morning’s email was full of commentary and requests from friends and from strangers — even one from a journalist/immigrant activist in Spain about my 2017 series “Stories from the Heart” written for the Chinook Observer.  When Editor Matt Winters and I first talked about the possibilities, I remember saying, “Erin Glenn and I have an idea… Maybe we can light a little candle to illuminate what our own Hispanic community is enduring… Maybe we can help…  Maybe…”

Screenshot of NYTM article by McKenzie Funk

And so we lit that candle.  The fourteen stories appeared in the Observer each week from July 26 through October 25, 2017.  They attracted the attention of the big city newspapers in Seattle and of the international media, as well.  An Aljazeera news station in Mexico interviewed a wife and mother from Ocean Park who had been deported by Ice.  BBC did a spectacular film which featured local fisherman “Rosas” as well as Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright and others.  And an investigative reporter for the New York Times Magazine, McKenzie “Mac” Funk, came to the Peninsula several times to talk to victims, advocates, onlookers and law enforcement.  And to learn more about ICE and their methods.

Mac’s story, “How ICE Picks Its Targets in The Surveillance Age” has been long in the making.  Yesterday, he sent me the link to the online version:  The “hard copy” version will be published Sunday, October 6.

Mario – Screenshot from NYTM article by McKenzie Funk

The article is focused on what happened (and is still happening) right here on the Long Beach Peninsula — mostly at the Port of Peninsula in Nahcotta and in Ocean Park — but in all our other communities, as well.  The article is long and detailed and frightening.  My eyes filled more than once as I read, remembering when Erin Glenn and I first approached the families who agreed to be interviewed.  Their fear and their bravery and their hurt were palpable.  I’m so glad their stories are reaching an audience wider than we had ever imagined.  And, of course, I hope the ripple-effect continues until change is effected and we can all say, “We helped.”

The Oysterville Sewing Circle – The Reality

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

The Oysterville Sewing Bee, 1907

My phone messages and Facebook messages — even my email messages — have been full of the news of a brand new book by Susan Wiggs called “The Oysterville Sewing Circle – A Novel.”  People want to know what I know about it (nothing), if I’ve read it (not yet), and if it’s based on our Oysterville (not that I know of.)

However, what I THINK I know is that there is no longer another Oysterville — at least not in the United States.  There is an Osterville ( ‘y’) in Massachusetts (on Cape Cod) and there used to be an Oysterville, Oregon until it fell in.  Now there’s just us, at least as far as I know.

As for the “Sewing Circle” part of the title — we did, indeed, have a sewing circle here.   The women of Oysterville, calling themselves “The Sewing Circle,” or sometimes “The Sewing Bee,” met on an irregular basis in one another’s homes to work on the mending, darning, or other needs of the hosting household.  Female visitors in the village were included at the get-togethers.  Each session concluded with refreshments provided by the hostess.

Oysterville Women’s Club, 1932

In the mid- 1920s, they organized themselves more formally, founding the Oysterville Women’s Club and electing Mrs. Stoner as the first president.  They continued to meet weekly or bi-weekly and, while they spent some of each meeting on sewing projects, their endeavors by then included fund-raising for school equipment and acting as guardians of community needs.  During both world wars they worked on many projects for the Red Cross including knitting socks for soldiers and gathering sphagnum moss for bandages.  Sometime in the 1940s, they regrouped, included the men of the village, and called themselves the Oysterville Improvement Club.  The present-day Oysterville Community Club which meets in the schoolhouse is the present-day configuration.

“The Oysterville Sewing Circle – A Novel”

Two photographs of the Oysterville Sewing Circle are displayed at the schoolhouse — one taken in 1907 and one in 1932.  My grandmother is in each of them along with several other relatives as well as neighbors I remember from my childhood.  I wonder what they would think of the new book called “The Oysterville Sewing Circle — A Novel.”

And, as for that — the blurb on says, “Stitched together with love, this is a story just waiting for your favorite reading chair. With her signature style and skill, Susan Wiggs delivers an intricate patchwork of old wounds and new beginnings, romance and the healing power of friendship, wrapped in a lovely little community that’s hiding a few secrets of its own.”

Could it be our Oysterville?  I guess we’ll have to read the book to find out.





I LOVE Reader’s Theater!

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Sydney reads from Dear Medora — 2007

I love reading aloud!  I love doing it and I love to listen to other people do it and I love to incorporate it into the teaching/learning opportunities of various aspects of my life.  Today our Community Historians had an opportunity to participate in a Reader’s Theater experience focused on “Washington at War:  The Evergreen State in WWI.”

Our guest speaker was Lorraine McConaghy, a historian who works at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.  She talked to us about the process of creating a reader’s theater piece by utilizing original sources – in this case, excerpts from writings, diaries, speeches and correspondence.  She suggested that we consider developing a reader’s theater experience from our own research projects – perhaps presenting such a piece to local community groups or schools and asking “listeners” to participate in a significant historic event by reading the script aloud.

Early IWW Poster

As an example, she brought along a script she has developed concerning “Washington at War: The Evergreen State in WWI.”  We sat around a large table – fifteen or twenty of us – and read for forty minutes.  We read the words of politicians and labor leaders, of journalists and social activists – diverse opinions about a controversial subject in a nation as polarized 100 years ago as it is today.  It was eye-opening and familiar, both.

Topics covered the period between 1914 and 1919 and included immigration, wartime industrialization, women’s rights, social change, radical labor, epidemic disease, and worldwide turmoil.  We even sang – songs of the period like “Over There” and “Mademoiselle from Armentieres.” (It was no surprise that we all knew the tunes and the words; our gray heads give evidence that we are probably separated from that War only by a generation or two.  We probably learned those songs from our own parents or grandparents.  I couldn’t help wondering what a school group would make of them.)

Shoalwater Storytellers, 2013

Fun!  Fun!  Fun!  But then… I knew that it would be.  I was doing Reader’s Theater back in the early eighties and found it one of the best ways to put the ‘story’ back in hi’story’ for both participants and audiences.  Perhaps you remember the Shoalwater Storytellers (1981-2013-ish)?  A little different take on the form – we had costumes (hats) and props (sticks and barrels) in addition to scripts – but the idea was the same.  To research a topic and use original, contemporary sources to give voice to history.  Three cheers!!  (Did I say I loved it?)

Kudos to Nancy and Colin!

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Page 87

The day had been a long one.  I was at the hospital with Nyel at 8:15 to give him a little assistance in sending his cardio mem information to Seattle – an electronic (magic) cyberspace communication with his Seattle cardiologist telling what the pressures inside his heart are.  Then our Community Historian class at the Heritage Museum until noon – today all about the cutting-edge methodology for archival preservation of photos and documents.  And then back to spend three more hours with Nyel – strategizing with caregivers about next steps.

Home to work in the garden for an hour or two.  Mostly clean-up that should have been done last fall.  I can’t remember why I didn’t do it then…  When I finally decided to think about dinner, I noticed that today’s Observer was still tightly rolled up the way our postmaster puts it in our mailboxes.  I took a minute… and I’m SO glad I did.

Our Coast Artcle

Nestled within the paper was the annual copy of our coast magazine.  And on pages 86 to 91 is a marvelously illustrated article about our house!  “Historic House In A Historic Village” is the title.  I had all but forgotten the interview with author Nancy McCarthy and the follow-up photo session with Colin Murphey.  It all happened last September and, somehow, we’ve had a few other things to think about since then.  It seemed like a big surprise!

Best of all, I didn’t find a single factual error in the entire article and, I’m here to tell you as a writer who often interviews people – getting everything right in a long article isn’t all that easy.  Nancy did a beautiful job.  Kudos to her and to Colin who captured the visuals to perfection!  I hope you take a look – and mark September 22nd on your calendar.  (You’ll know why if you read the article.)

The Pioneer Connection

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

“So, you come from the beach,” she said.  Not a question exactly.  Susan Watkin, Family Nurse Practitioner, was one of the many workers who came in yesterday, one after another, to check on Nyel’s well being, his needs, his hopes for getting outta here.  I didn’t pay much attention until the words “the beach” registered.

“Of all the people we’ve met here, you are the first to refer to Oysterville as the beach,” I said.  “You’ve been to the Long Beach Peninsula before?”

“Yes,” she said, “My great-great-great grandparents lived there.”

“So did my great-grandparents,” I responded.  “They may have known one another.  My family name is Espy.  Who were your ancestors?”

Richard and Mary Carruthers’ Pacific House, c. 1870

“Oh!” was the response.”My mother is the one who’s into genealogy.  I’ll find out and let you know tomorrow.”

“Great!” I told her.  “I’m not so much into genealogy as I am into the history of the area and the old family stories,  Chances are I’ll know who your ancestors were.”

She didn’t wait until “tomorrow.”  She was back in a trice.  “Carruthers!” she said with a big smile and, I imagine my smile was equally radiant,  “I do know a little about the Carruthers!” I told her.  “When you come in tomorrow, we’ll talk!”

“Letters To Louise” by Carol Carruthers Lambert

I can’t wait!  Does she know that Richard and Mary Carrruthers owned the famous Pacific House in Oysterville?  Or that one of her cousins lives in Warrenton and wrote a book about the Carruthers Family called Love Letters to Louise?  Or that her great-great-grandfather replaced my great-grandfather as County Sheriff in November 1868?  (R.H, Espy resigned after only three months in office because, goes the family story, the county insisted that he pay for his badge of office.  He refused as a matter of principal.  The historic record is silent concerning who paid for Carruthers’ badge.)

I can’t wait to talk to her again today!  No telling what we’ll learn from one another!

Next Door A Century Ago

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

Mr. Wirt and His Chickens

The Oysterville of my childhood is fast disappearing.  The people, of course, have shuffled off years ago.  I think the only resident left who is older than I am is Bud and, when I was a kid, he was not in evidence.  He was ‘a lot older’ than I was in those days, of course, which when you are a kid might mean five or six years.  In Bud’s case it was probably more like ten which put us in different worlds altogether!

Some of the buildings of those days are gone, some are new, and others have been gentrified almost beyond recognition.  Our place, the Wachsmuth House across the street, the Heckes House (which used to be next door and now is three houses away), the R.H Espy House (the Red House) are pretty much the same.  To the south, the Charles Nelson House and the Ned Osborn House are as I remember. The Church and the Schoolhouse haven’t changed a bit – except that both of them are in better repair than they were seventy or eighty years ago!

Wirt House, 1939

And, of course, up around the corner heading out to the beach, the various Andrews properties are much the same as they were – the garage and the adjacent house, the Oysterville Store and Post Office and the old Andrews residence to the west.  Missing are the houses that were across the road, that make the “neighborhood” feel a bit different.

But of all the physical changes, I most miss the Wirt House.  It was located right across the lane (now called Clay Street) from my grandparents’ place (where we live now.)  I don’t remember the Wirts – they were perhaps a bit older than my Granny and Papa.  My mother always smiled as she remembered Mrs. Wirt.  “She used to come get water from our pump in the front yard.  She’d always call out, ‘Hoo! Hoo! It’s only me, coming to get some water.’  Our water was a lot better than theirs for some reason.”

Wirt House – 1939 WPA Photo

In my childhood, though, the Holway family lived in the old Wirt House.  It was a warm and welcoming household – always lots of activity with five kids.  All of them were younger than I – even the oldest, Johnnie – though he was exactly one week younger.  Somehow that was important…  Everyone in town was impressed when they built their new (and present) house.  My grandmother wrote to Willard in New York in the late 1940s, “It’s going to be the grandest house on the Peninsula!”    Even so… I miss that sweet little Wirt House.  It’s probably an old-age thing – that feeling we’d rather call “nostalgia.”

Another Storytelling Opportunity!

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Nina Macheel

Yesterday’s batch of email brought news from a woman who used to live here and who was gone before we could really call ourselves “friends.”  Nina Macheel!  A woman I much admire – a generation younger than I, talented beyond all measure, intelligent and well-spoken and… a gazillion other things.

Her note brought news of a new venture – with a new friend (and from a new residence in a new-to-her part of the country): she has begun a blog called “Pomegranate, Red.”  On its Welcome page it says the site is a “virtual” gathering place for thoughtful women. (Sorry Guys!)  Truth to tell, they almost lost me right there.  I’m not much into “women things” or “guy things.”  I enjoy all the perspectives and, come to think of it, have assiduously avoided women’s groups since I got out of high school.  (Oh.  Except for the Walking Women of Oysterville a number of years Ago which only served to reinforce my beliefs in a merry mix of genders…)


However, the underlying purpose of the blogsite – storytelling – is absolutely near and dear to my heart.  It’s what I do.  It’s why I, along with Lawrence Lessard, developed “The Shoalwater Storytellers” in 1981 – a performance group with the sole purpose of retelling the stories of our Pacific County olden days.  It’s why I joined forces with Jim Sayce ten years ago to develop a way to continue the story-telling legacy here and why I helped to form our Community Historians.  It’s why I write books about the history of our area and why I encourage others to find their own way to continue the telling.

Also, I was put off by this statement in their initial blog: Yet we have much resistance to story telling [sic] in our culture.  The word itself is loaded with negativity.  (See,red/tell-me-your-tales/) I had to force myself to continue reading and found myself saying right out loud (very loud!)  “NO!  That’s not true.  That has never been my experience.  Not here in Pacific County Washington!”  After all, I’ve been listening to people tell stories about the past and the present, about their experiences and about how things came to be as they are for more than eighty years.  Storytelling is alive and well here! 

Community Historians

So… I urge you to check out this new blogsite and to contribute to it!  I certainly intend to – if for no other reason than to show that “culture” out there that we are way ahead of them – if indeed that statement about “resistance to storytelling” has any truth to it.  I’m actually more inclined to believe that this is a clever ploy on Suzanne’s and Nina’s parts to get us to take the bait – a challenge of sorts!  (And, I wonder what will happen if you men submit a story or two.  I can’t believe, in these enlightened times, that you’d be rejected!  Go for it, I say!)