Archive for the ‘Community Spirit’ Category

One Reception Plus One Ribbon-Cutting

Friday, May 12th, 2017

From the CPHM website

This weekend, like almost every other one around this neck of the woods, is starting off in grand style.  Tonight, an opening and reception at Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum and tomorrow afternoon a ribbon-cutting at the Chinook School.  Both events have significant connections to our local history.

The exhibition, opening tonight at CPHM with a reception from 5:00 to 7:00, is called “Oregon’s Botanical Landscape: An Opportunity to Imagine Oregon before 1800.” It consists of 82 paintings representing the native plants of Oregon’s eight Ecoregions. The artist, Frances Stilwell, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and, two years after receiving her MS degree in Botany-Biophysics, moved to Oregon in 1969.  In order to define her new home, she began to learn about and draw Oregon’s native plants.

By Frances Stilwell

Before 1800, of course, there was no Oregon State or even an Oregon Territory.  The region beyond the Mississippi River was simply known as “The Western Frontier” so it makes sense that five of those Oregon ecoregions of today extend into Washington State.  As CPHM Director Betsy Millard says about the exhibit, “It reinforces our shared natural history that binds us regardless of state lines.”

The 1:00 P.M.  ribbon-cutting tomorrow at the newly restored Chinook School represents more recent history. It’s a piece of our community story that could easily have been lost in the name of ‘progress’ were in not for the collaboration of the Ocean Beach School District, the Port of Chinook and the formation of the Friends of Chinook School.’  Since 2004, the FOCS have worked toward this culminating event.

Christmas 2016

The present-day school building in Chinook was the third to be constructed on the site once known as “Gile’s Woods.”  The first school in that location was described by Lewis R. Williams his 1924 book, “Chinook by the Sea:”

 In 1892, the school which had been conducted for many years on the Prest Place was now moved over to the Cross Road in Gile’s woods to accommodate the children of parents who now moved to Chinook to engage in the fishing industry.  A large playground, consisting of an acre, donated by Mr. Gile, was cleared in the thick stand of spruce trees and a neat little school building erected near the road.  For years, this little building served as a community house to the country round about…

Before founding the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Angus Bowmer taught at Chinook School

By 1899, the student population had outgrown the small one-story school and a two-story building was constructed to replace it. The third and final Chinook School was built in 1927. During its construction, some classes were held in a large building that had been constructed in 1924 – a building that would eventually become the school’s gym.   Neither of the buildings, now renovated, have been used as part of the public school system since consolidation in 1966.  The plan is for both to continue in the “community house” tradition described by L.R. Williams.

How many times in one lifetime?

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Hanford Tunnel Collapse – May 9, 2017

I had never heard of “down-winders” until my friend and neighbor Carol Nordquist was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few years ago.  It was her younger sister, ‘Aunt Becky,’ who said, “Oh yes.  We grew up in Walla Walla.  Our family are all down-winders and cancer is what we die of.”

These thoughts came flashing to mind yesterday afternoon when I happened to see a FaceBook message from Joanne Rideout:  RICHLAND, WA (KPTV) – An emergency has been declared at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington after a portion of a tunnel that contained rail cars full of nuclear waste collapsed.

Crude Oil Pipelines in the U.S.A.

No matter how much reassurance we’ve been given about safety precautions since the site opened in 1943 – no, wait!  It was a secret until well after the war.  Part of the Manhattan Project, you know.  It was during the Cold War (1947-1991) that site expanded to its current size of 586 square miles – roughly equal to half the area of Rhode Island – and sometime during that period that we were told “no worries.”

Hanford is currently the largest and most contaminated nuclear site in the United States, and despite the fact that it is the focus of the nation’s largest environmental cleanup, it has continued to leak radioactive waste into the soil and groundwater. As if all of that isn’t horrifying enough, Hanford offers a number of tours for members of the public, elected officials and their staffs, tribal officials, stakeholders, and others.  Plus, it’s on the Register of National Historic Places.  Just like Oysterville.  Go figure.


What’s most incredible to me is that new and terrible corporate proposals continue to be promoted as “safe.”  Furthermore, we are told that the benefits far outweigh any possible negative consequences.  About the Dakota pipeline the developers told us it “wouldn’t just be an economic boon, it would also significantly decrease U.S. reliance on foreign oil…”  About the proposed LNG terminal in Warrenton, just across the river, we were told…  “the West Coast needs foreign LNG to avert economic crisis, and this ‘clean’ fuel will serve as a ‘bridge’ to a renewable energy future.”

So far, our Astoria/Warrenton neighbors are holding firm and seem to be prevailing.  But how many more environmental safety battles will be lost in our lifetime?  How many Hanfords does it take?  How many down-winders?  And how many salutes to history and facility tours to assuage horrified consciousness? OMG!

Designed to be Functional?

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

I’m a great believer in the form-follows-function philosophy of art.  I love Eames chairs (like the one at Noel’s house) and the old Bell helmets (like the one I used to have in my motorcycle days.)  Clean lines.  Comfortable.  Useful.  Classic.  Right up there with ‘no-fuss-no-muss’ and ‘waste-not-want-not’ – also attitudes and lifestyles I believe in.

So, the discussion at our Friday gathering last night was of particular interest to me.  Among participants were several of the ‘usual suspects’ plus Tucker’s life-long friend, sculptor Eric Jensen and our neighbor Cyndy, CEO of the artist-in-residency program, Willapa Bay AiR.  Topics under discussion ranged from Oysterville happenings to public art installations.  We landed squarely on the Maya Lin Fish Cleaning Station at Cape Disappointment.

“It was never intended to be functional,” Cyndy said.  “Yes, it was,” I countered.  And we argued – not very vehemently because, as usual, I wasn’t too sure of my facts and everyone else stayed quiet.  (Doncha hate it when that happens?)  Besides, Cyndy said she was a participant in the Confluence Project ( a multi-location interpretive art project which included the fish-cleaning station at Cape Disappointment) since its beginnings.

As I ruminated over our discussion this morning (and actually looked up the history of that controversial art installation), I thought about my brain.  And brains in general.  And the whole form-follows-function thing.  I’ve been told that we only use about one-tenth of our brain’s capacity.  I don’t have the brain power to even understand how that’s possible, let alone how efficient and useful the human brain design might be.

My thoughts wandered back to my elementary school days when we learned in Health Class that our bodies could be compared with automobiles.  I think the brain was the engine – the driving force.  After many decades of use and uncountable mileage, I’m sure my brain needs an overhaul.  It may be a classic design, but it’s not functioning to optimum capacity any more – if ever it was.  I am a failure at an intelligent argument.

Come to think of it, that never was my strong suit.  I have always been superior at waking up the morning after with a clear vision of what I should have said.  This morning, though, I relied on the good old internet to remind me what the intent of that fish station sculpture was.  The most recent article I could find was by Katie Williams and had appeared in the August 20, 2015 Chinook Observer.  Under discussion was the closure of the Maya Lin Fish Cleaning Sculpture.

In the article, Colin Fogarty, executive director of the Confluence Project, was quoted: “We’re on the side of the fishermen,” he said, while questioning the advisability of closing it “at the height of the fishing season, using that work of art as it was intended to be used.”

Unhappily, my only partially functioning brain doesn’t know the rest of the story.  Is Maya Lin’s sculpture still closed for use?  Or is it now back to functioning as intended?

Some Circles Have Sharp Corners

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Azmi Shawa

As I looked around the room yesterday during Azmi Shawa’s ‘Celebration of Life,’ I involuntarily took note of all the familiar faces in the crowd.  People we’ve known for years and years.  People ‘of an age’ – as was Azmi.  I couldn’t help but wonder which of us would be attending similar celebrations for the next in line.

And I thought about circles.   Congruent and concentric and intersecting circles like I learned about in Plain Geometry with Mr. Patterson in 1950 at San Rafael High School.  Circles of friendship and circles of influence, circles of sharing – the circle of life.  We encircled one another with our arms – hugs of caring and hugs of shared memories.

Willie Marsh

Not many hours afterward, Willie Marsh died.  This time, though, my thoughts cut right to the chase: “Too young!  Too many lives left to touch!  Too soon!”  Here was a circle that had an unbearably sharp corner.  Right now, it seems as though it’s a corner that can never be turned.  Perhaps the community’s many hugs will help — hugs for Berta and Marian and for all of Willie’s big family and many friends.

The Best Approach

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

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.

…and the town’s filling up!

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Headed for the Beach

In Oysterville, it feels a little like it did thirty or forty years ago when most of the part-time residents would show up on holiday weekends.  Nowadays, with our ever-increased mobility, home-owners and their friends and family seem to come and go whenever the spirit moves – not necessarily for special occasions only.  But… yesterday, as the town started filling up, I had a little bit of déjà vu.

            For starters, I think the Accuardi family is planning to be here in force to celebrate Fred and Gail.  They have sold their Red Cottage after twenty years of careful stewardship and their large family is gathering to wish them well and to say ‘arrivederci to Oysterville’ – at least to this chapter.  Martie and Steve at the Captain Stream house will continue the family’s connection with the village with energy, enthusiasm and next generations – “as God intended” as our friend Te would say.

Line-Up at the Dock

In the Red House (not to be confused with the Red Cottage) Cousins Abby and Dan Ronco and kids (the sixth generation of Espys) have arrived with friends.  Their plan is to have an Easter Egg Hunt throughout the town on Sunday.  I hope the weather cooperates, but knowing my intrepid cousins, a little rain and wind won’t slow them down.

Other folks are in town to take advantage of the long overdue clam season.  We haven’t been out but we understand the digging is great.  We’ve already been offered some freshly cleaned clams from neighbors Tucker and Carol!  (Sometimes there are advantages to being old or infirm.)

Beach Driving

And, of course, there are all of the ‘regulars’ –those spirited neighbors who are here every-weekend-no-matter-what. Plus, those who live here full-time but have been away for parts of the winter.  Add us all up and the town seems a-bustle.  As my folks used to say, “It feels like Old Home Week.”  Throw in a bit of intermittent sunshine and we can almost imagine that spring and summer are on their way after all!

Speaking of land and luck and the ‘p’ word…

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Croquet and Picnic, 2012

At our Friday Gathering last night, our upcoming 30th anniversary was mentioned.  Actually, it’s not for another six months but, given our slowed pace of mind and body these days, it’s probably time to start thinking about it.  We’ve talked vaguely about having a huge potluck picnic and just inviting all our friends – maybe announce it in the paper like people used to do in the old days.

“I’d be careful about the ‘potluck’ part of the announcement,” one of our wiseacre guests said.  “With marijuana legal these days, it’s hard to know what might be in that pasta salad Mable’s so famous for.”  We all laughed.  But… he might have a point.

We have attended (and hosted) a fair number of potluck meals over the last few decades and we’ve never been too concerned about the offerings.  But, we have noticed a recent trend toward labeling the ingredients.  It’s not unusual to see a recipe card attached to an inviting looking dish or even a slip of paper that says “gluten free” or “peanut butter frosting” in deference to people’s allergies and food restrictions.

All-time Best Selling Cookbook

So… what is the protocol, pot-wise?  Is it an unwritten rule these days that the Alice B. Toklas brownies be specifically labeled?  Or are we entering a phase where all our offerings should list the ingredients?  Probably not a bad idea.

As for the term potluck, who would have thought that its connotation could change so completely?  But, actually, the ‘traditional’ meaning we have come to understand – “a gathering where each guest contributes a dish of food, often homemade, to be shared” – is not the original meaning, anyway.

According to etymologists, the word pot-luck appears in the 16th century work of English writer Thomas Nashe and was used to mean “food provided for an unexpected or uninvited guest – the luck of the pot.” The sense “communal meal, where guests bring their own food,” originated in the 1930s during the Depression and was influenced by the word “potlatch.”  Who knew?   So now will its meaning segue again?

Picnic at the Tokeland Hotel

Which makes me think once more about Tokeland, the town across the bay named for Chief Toke of Chinook and Chehalis lineage.  Wouldn’t you think that someone from there would have been first in line to get a cannabis franchise when the law went into effect?  I mean… really!  Someone was missing the best (and easiest) marketing ploy ever.  And imagine what that would have done for potlucks in Tokeland.  The mind boggles.

See you at the schoolhouse Thursday!

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Oysterville Schoolhouse 2008

The current series of Schoolhouse Lectures here in Oysterville are drawing record numbers of folks from the greater community – close to standing room only, in fact.  Who’d a thunk it? Three years ago, when Diane Buttrell had the idea of holding a series of “old fashioned Town Meetings and Lectures” at the Historic Oysterville Schoolhouse, she asked me to do a little write-up for the paper.  I wasn’t quite sure what her concept was and, after asking for clarification, I still felt foggy about it.

“They aren’t really ‘Town Meetings’ in the traditional sense,” she told me.  “And they won’t be strictly lectures.  More like eye-opening get-togethers among friends.”  In retrospect, I’m not sure even Diane realized how those ‘get-togethers’ would gather momentum and become an every-other-Thursday ‘event’ throughout the greater community.  “I’ll see you at the schoolhouse Thursday,” has become a commonplace expression from one end of the Peninsula to the other.

Diane Buttrell

That first series of talks back in the spring of 2014 had a loosely thought-out theme based on Diane’s desire to provide an opportunity for us community members to meet and talk with some of our amazing neighbors.  “Most of us probably aren’t aware of the broad range of experience and expertise we have in our midst!” she said.

The very first speaker was geoscientist/engineer, Dr. Clayton Ralph Nichols, at the time, Chairman of the National Academy of Science Committee on Earth Resources.  “I doubt that many people know that as Al Gore made his initial presentations on climate change, it was ‘our’ Clay Nichols who was asked to talk with him about the complexities of the subject,” Buttrell says.  “That’s something that just doesn’t come up in everyday conversation.”

Jim Sayce Back in the Day c. 1985

And so it went.  Each week for six weeks we saw a new (and often unknown) side of friends and neighbors. Predictably, we wanted more.  Diane has enthusiastically complied by organizing a fall and spring series each year – sometimes with a clear theme, sometimes as general as the current focus on “local lore.”  Thus far, forty-some speakers have shared their expertise and memories with audiences that have grown and grown.  The Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum is taping each session and, in addition to adding them to their oral history archive, they are making them available on YouTube.  Who knew?

This week Jim Sayce, Executive Director of the Pacific County Economic Development Council, will talk about “Growing Up Local.”  Jim has lived here for all but ten of his 62 years and his memories are mostly through his ears! And to find out what that’s all about – see you at the Oysterville Schoolhouse at ten o’clock Thursday morning!

Mixed Blessings

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Reader Board, 3/5/2017

The words on the reader board just south of the Shelburne Inn are more-or-less an inside joke – if an outdoors sign can be said to be an inside anything.  For those in the know, however, those words announce to the world that Laurie and David are back at the helm and that our imperfect world is back in balance… more or less.  The subtext is a mixed one – relief, disappointment, anxiety and hope, probably not in equal measures.

For a year or maybe less, the venerable old hotel has been under a lease-to-buy agreement with a management company.  Shelburne owners Laurie and David Campiche have had the Inn on the market for several years and were full of high hopes when the arrangement was negotiated but, as best laid plans often go, it didn’t work out the way they had imagined.  And now they are back to continue their almost fifty years of tender loving stewardship of Washington State’s oldest continuously operated hotel.

The Shelburne Inn

Speaking as a ‘community member,’ I couldn’t be happier.  While I was interested in the management company’s innovative marketing ideas (and was even involved in one of them – a ghost storytelling night on Halloween weekend), I have to say that I missed the comfort of the Shelburne hospitality we were used to.  I missed David’s friendly conversations at pub or dinner table, and I missed the welcoming, personal touches that both he and Laurie provided just as a matter of course.  Somehow, the hotel was beginning to feel like a stranger in our midst.

But, speaking as a long-time ‘friend of the family,’ I’m sorry it didn’t work out.  Everybody deserves to retire eventually – preferably at a time in life when they can still smell the roses.  And maybe those in “the hospitality business” (as they call it, these days) deserve a few relaxing years more than most of us.  After all, they’ve been looking to the needs and comfort of strangers day and night for all these years, to say nothing of keeping the grand old hotel propped up, spiffed up, and operating smoothly.  Time for their own share of R&R!

Shelburne c. 1900

“What are the warts?” Nyel asked me as we read the reader board.  “I haven’t a clue,” I said.  “We’ll have to ask Laurie.”  I can’t really imagine.  I think the Shelburne under Laurie and David’s watch is probably in better shape than it’s ever been since it was built back in 1896.  Builder Charles Beaver must think so, too.  He hasn’t been around for some time now – at least not that we know of.  (You can read about him in “The Man Upstairs at the Shelburne” in my book, Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula… but that’s another story.)

Attention? Attention??

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

Despite (and party because of) a hefty wind and periodic drenching rain, there was lots going on in the Oysterville Churchyard yesterday.  Specifically on and around the flagpole.

It was one of those mornings that the wind whistled and rattled around the house.  As I walked into the dining room and glanced out the west windows, I was momentarily flummoxed.  The flags was streaming straight to the north.  Yes, flags was.  One American flag with two streaming parts.  A flag divided.  You would be an idiot not to read symbolism into that occurrence!  I grabbed my camera and took a picture.

Retiring The Flag

Later, Nyel took down the flag.  We retire it (as well as our Washington state flag) every year or so and, obviously, it was overdue for replacement.  The state flag was looking pretty tattered a while back and we took it down but we hoped the stars and stripes would last through the winter.  Who knew that the end to Oysterville’s current Old Glory would be so dramatic?  Being torn asunder horizontally was a first as far as we remember.

Churchyard Workers, Chris and Larry

An hour or so later, Brothers Chris and Larry Freshley drove a truck into the churchyard and began their magic refurbishing of the flagpole area.  Chris, a landscape architect, had designed and planted the churchyard three or more decades ago and, for years, Larry (a retired teacher and one-time tree-farm owner) volunteered to maintain it all.  They grew up in Oysterville.  They had a vested interest in the village.  And it showed.  The grounds with their lovely rhododendron borders were the perfect setting for the Historic Oysterville Church, the centerpiece of the village.

Renewed and Refreshed with Boxwood and Roses

In time, maintenance chores came under the auspices of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation and, gradually, the design focus became blurry, the gravel walkway became weedy, and time took its toll.  That’s often the way of it with volunteer institutions.  Luckily… Chris and Larry to the rescue!  It they had ridden up yesterday on white horses rather than in a white truck, I wouldn’t have been surprised.  It was just that kind of day in Oysterville.