Archive for the ‘Community Spirit’ Category

Remembering “Mrs. Muffin”

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

Martha Turner, 1935 Graduation from Ilwaco High School

Almost every time I turn around these days I am hearing about friends who are working at the food banks or at the school cafeteria or for Meals on Wheels — so many dedicated people helping to get nourishing food to those in need.  And I think of my friend Martha Turner Murfin.

Martha would be just two months shy of 102 were she still living and, as sure as I’m writing this, she would be in the thick of helping us all get through this pandemic.  Martha was all about helping — especially children.  She saw to it that they had shoes and backpacks and school supplies.  She saw to it that they had warm jackets in the winter and that they were signed up for “free and reduced” school meals.  She made home visits to see for herself what might be needed — ever aware of people’s pride; especially the kids’.

I first met Martha in 1981 at Ocean Park School, in those days a K-3 school.  She was the Librarian there and not only helped kids choose just the right books but offered a warm lap and comforting arms for kids who needed them.  She kept secrets and always knew just the right thing to say when a child’s whole world was falling apart.  The little kids called her “Mrs. Muffin” and so did the rest of us!  It was a term of endearment of the first order.

Martha Turner Murfin, 1918-2011

She worked with kids and families right up until she couldn’t any more — which was only a short time, as I remember.  She died in the summer of 2011 and her Celebration of Life may well have been the largest such gathering in the Peninsula’s history.

I know she’s somewhere close by, cheering us all on — especially all of the real-life angels who are following in her footsteps to take care of those in need during this most difficult time.  Thanks, Mrs. Muffin, for continuing to serve as a shining beacon for us all!

Sheltering, Sewing, and Stylin’

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020


“One thing about quilters,” says my friend Sue Grennan, “they can sew!” And she should know.  A quilter, herself, for fifty years and a member of the Peninsula Quilt Guild since moving to the beach sixteen years ago, she is an expert when it comes to stitches and seams and patterns and speed.  “I thought that making masks might be something some of us could do to help during this crisis.”

“Every quilter has a stash,” she told me.  “That’s a stack (or sometimes a box or ten boxes) of bits and pieces of fabric — left-overs from the quilts we’ve been working on.  They’d be perfect!  And I’m sure we can find mask patterns on line…”

She called the Pacific County Health Department and told them her idea.  Could you use them?  Yes, indeed, they could.  So she pitched the idea to some of the quilters last week and they are off and running… well, sewing.  “Mostly we’re experimenting right now,” she told me.  “… working out the kinks.”

Patterns and Prototypes

For one thing, there is no elastic to be found right now.  Not in the fabric stores, not at Amazon, not online or from the usual sources.  “We’re trying to figure out exact;y what we might get from craft stores, but they are asking for diameters in millimeters…” she told me.  So, for now, they are using bias tape and fashioning loops to go over the ears or ties to go around the head.  “They are definitely a work in progress. It’s a bit of a learning curve.”

This is an individual effort on the part of the quilters — not a Guild sanctioned activity.  Not like the place mats they made to be distributed by Meals on Wheels.  And not like the quilts that some members make for cancer and heart patients at various hospitals.  For the moment the masks are in the experimental stage.   Some are being made with pockets inside so you can slip in a non-porous tissue or paper for more protection.  Some masks are reversible (like the Sue and Bill are modeling here).


Today 90 masks will be delivered to Gloria Park’s quilting studio  —  a batch of 75 and another of 15  — the first day’s work by two of the quilters.  Eventually — maybe this afternoon — they will go to the Naselle Fire Department.  Another group of quilters are making masks for the Ocean Park Fire Department.  “I hope that, eventually, we’ll have enough available for any one who wants one,” says Sue.

There will be no charge.  Only the hope that the masks will offer “some” protection but, more importantly, will provide a colorful reminder to use good health habits, good sense, and good manners during these days of distancing and sheltering.  “I’m working on one with a chicken pattern on the fabric,” Sue told me.  For Farmer Nyel, I wondered?  Or maybe me. Wow!

“Garden of Eating” by Sue Grennan, 2014

And it suddenly occurred to me that just about now is when the 25th Annual Quilt Show was scheduled at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.  Not a word did anyone say about the cancelled show.  Not “if only” or “it’s too bad.”  Not the quilters.  They’re much too busy with the here and now.  Masks!

Jack’s, A Turkey, St. Paddy, And Me!

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

Stained-glass window of St. Patrick from Saint Patrick Catholic Church, Junction City, Ohio

This year, in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we are having turkey.  Yep!  No corned beef and cabbage this time around, as in how can you turn down “free?”

It happened a few weeks ago.  I was doing a big shopping at Jack”s in my effort to cut down what seem like constant forays to the grocery store.  (It was BS-Q – Before Self-Quarantining and Social Distancing; I just DO NOT like to shop.)  As the clerk rang up the total, she asked if I knew about their free turkey program.

I didn’t and, for a moment, wondered if I looked truly needy, but she explained that customers who spent over $100 at one time were eligible for a free, fresh, butterball turkey.  “Would you like one?”  You betcha!  I think it’s the only free thing I’ve ever won.

“We’ll have it for St. Patrick’s day,” Nyel said.  “The luck of the Irish and all that.”  So in the freezer it went, all fourteen-and-a-half pounds!  And out it came day before yesterday to unfreeze in the fridge.  Today Chef Nyel will roast it “to a turn,” as they say and we’ll be suitably thankful to Jack’s Country Store and to St. Patrick, himself.

And, speaking of St. Patrick — I do feel a close affinity for him.  I have a good dollop of Irish in me, although my Irish connections in Enniskillen in County Fermanagh say we’re really English and never mind that we’ve been in Northern Ireland since the 18th century.

Turkey for Dinner!

St. Patrick, too, was actually English — probably born in the 4th century in Roman Britain.  At age sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders, taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland where he spent six years as a shepherd.,,,   Well, the story goes on and I can’t claim to much in common with any of it beyond the English ancestry part.

Who knew?

“If you don’t like the weather…

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

…just wait a minute.”  Those have been watchwords about our Peninsula weather for as long as I can remember.  Between that rather flippant saying and my childhood memories of Old Jimmy Anderson’s daily (rain or shine) prediction, “Looks like more rain coming,” I don’t put much faith in the weather forecasts.  The safest way of considering our weather from my point of view is “what you see is what you get.”

Back in the day, when I was first teaching here, school closures because of snow and ice were called on the days when the school bus couldn’t get up Sahalee Hill.  The Director of Transportation — for years it was Bob Slagle — would do a test run about five in the morning and would make the call.  Sometimes it would be a delayed opening to give things a chance to warm up and melt.  Sometimes it was an all-day closure — a go-out-and-make-a-snowman-day for kids and a day for working parents to do the day-care-scramble.  Before computers and cell phones, we were all notified by land-line-telephone and, if we were part of the “telephone tree” we spent a busy few minutes calling to notify colleagues or parents who would then make their own calls.


I don’t know how it all works these days.  My impression is that school closures are made more frequently and not necessarily by a reality check but, more likely, by paying heed to the online weather forecasts.  Granted, the weathermen are more up-to-the-minute and more accurate these days, but I still get the feeling that we all carry the “better safe than sorry” mantra a little too far.

Or… am I falling into that old person’s refrain: “I used to walk five miles through deep snow to get to school…”  Probably so.  And, as far as I know, there haven’t been any rumblings about school closures this week.  Not yet.  On the other hand, the opening session of Community Historians 2020 has been postponed from tomorrow (January 15th) to the following Wednesday when it will be combined with Session Two.   I have to confess, I’m delighted.  It’s been a long time since I’ve made a snowman…  We can only hope.


And speaking of the democratic process…

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

Charlie and Marta, Yesterday in L.A.

The weekly phone conversation (a three-way, free, conference call) with my “kids” always involves a political component of some kind.  Happily, we are all of the same mind philosophically, Marta being perhaps the most liberal, and both she and Charlie politically “involved” in one way or another.  Both are well informed and Charlie happens to live in Adam Schiff’s district which, somehow, makes me feel more closely aligned with his present impeachment responsibilities.  A bit of a far-fetched idea, but there it is.

Alice and The Dodo (speaking of caucuses)

Last night, the conversation got around to the primaries and I mentioned Washington’s caucus system which Marta didn’t know much about and when Charlie asked when that was happening, I couldn’t really answer.  So after we had hung up, I looked it up.  Or tried to, and found that the Democrats will be voting in a regular presidential primary this year for the first time ever.  The Republicans, apparently, have been using a combination of the primary and caucus systems for some time.  2020 will be the first time that both parties in our state have used the primary system for a presidential election.

Once again, I wonder how that got by me.  The Seattle Times article that popped up on my screen was dated April 9, 2019!  The reason is probably a no-brainer – too much cost for too little participation.  I’m quite sure it’s the right decision, but I did love the opportunity to hear various viewpoints and to have a chance to express my own.  It always seemed to me to be an excellent method for ensuring some meaningful dialogue among voters and, hopefully, a better informed electorate.  On the other hand, the 2016 caucus I attended didn’t feel as though there were enough participants — at least not here on the Peninsula.  I surely hope that changing to the primary system increases voter involvement.

Fortunately, we still have a lot of time to gear up — the date of our primary will be March 10, 2020 — just a month after the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation primary.  Presumably the early date will give Washington state a  greater influence on the nomination process.  Go Washington!

The Best Theme Yet: “My Home Town”

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

The Announcement

Tonight is the 6×6 auction at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Foundation — the big annual fundraiser for the support of their exhibition programs.  A worthy cause but, more than that, a wonderful event starring our local art community.  Nyel and I have again reserved a table for six and are looking forward to an evening “out on the town.”

Appropriately enough, the theme of this year’s 6×6 event is “My Hometown.”  It’s a great theme, as always, and lends itself to every interpretation imaginable. It can be a literal interpretation like Jeanne Nitzel’s “My Hometown, Long Beach, Wa c. 1950s” or fanciful like Richard Schroeder’s “Mouse House” showing a big chunk of cheese inhabited by chunky little mice.  If you (like us) didn’t get to see the submissions during last month’s display at the Heritage Museum, take a look right now at the CPHM website preview:×6-art-show-and-auction/

My own preferences seem to gravitate to the historic themes — particularly as related to the bay or ocean.  And, I have to admit that I’m biased in favor of the many artists I know personally.  It’s probably fortunate that our neighbor Tucker Wachsmuth did not do a painting specifically of Oysterville.  My actual hometown done by an artist who is also a neighbor would probably put me over some edge.  And it definitely would threaten the precarious Stevens financial balance.

As it is, Nyel and I have had several serious discussions, full of phrases like:  “…we’re pretty much tapped out this year.” and “…we really don’t have any wall space left.” and “…but it’s all for such a very good cause.”  Your guess is as good as mine on what will happen when we have paddles in hand and Auctioneer Bruce Peterson starts his hypnotic patter!  Whatever the result though, it’s bound to be a great evening of elbow-rubbing with the local glitterati,  delicious refreshments, good company, and lots of laughter and enthusiasm.  (And high hopes that Security Guard Richard Schroeder remains upright and at the top of his form.)



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.”

Let’s Talk About Plan B…

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

Which chapeau?

The count-down has begun!  One week from right now we will be scurrying to put the finishing touches on the house and garden — the last minute adornments to complete preparations for “Our Grand Affair.”  There will be balloons and flowers to put out, chairs to set up, tables to arrange with food and beverages, stage and P.A. system for the musicians and who-knows-what-all…

“What is Plan B?” Cate-the-Music-Mistress asked yesterday.  She was referring, of course, to the weather forecast — cloudy with morning showers and 40% chance of rain.  In Oysterville, as in all of the Northwest, the weather needs to be factored in to any plans for an outdoors event.  Even for  (or maybe especially for) the 150th birthday party of a grand old lady.  In the belief that these walls really can talk, I asked the house, herself, what she’d suggest.   “Bring the party inside,” was the response!  I hoped it was actually the house that was answering — not Mrs. Crouch, our resident ghost.

Which footwear?

Two full sheet cakes, dozens of cookies, seven plus cases of bubbly beverages, sixteen musicians (and their instruments) and 200-or-so guests???  Yes, probably do-able if we cancel the house tours and just cozy up to one another upstairs and down.  Musicians in the library as they are for House Concerts, food and drink buffet-style in the dining room, people  on the stairs, standing, sitting on the floor and on whatever chairs and couches are available…  Yes.  It will probably work.

Not our first choice by any means.  I hope everyone (including those vacillating weather forecasters) are doing serious Sun Dances.  And, no matter what, I’m advising anyone who asks:  wear shoes that don’t mind being wet.  Even if we get a break in the weather, the lawns will no doubt be soggy…

Being Outnumbered and Loving It!

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Photo by Tucker

Even when it’s the height of the tourist season, I do believe the critters far outnumber the humans in Oysterville.  Especially if you factor in the birds!  And the underground folks — like the mole people!  And I guess it’s because they outnumber us that they are  sort of cheeky.

Photo by Tucker

Today, for instance, two deer grazed in our garden.  They seemed to be working on the lawn so I didn’t bother shooing them off.  But, I did go outside and talk to them for a while.  They couldn’t have cared less.  That’s one thing about our Oysterville population of wild denizens — they aren’t all that wild.  They have learned that we are cupcakes when it comes to cohabitating.  We’d rather shoot with our cameras than with anything scary or lethal.

Photo by Tucker

Tucker is the best camera shooter I know of here in Oysterville.  He always seems to be in the right place at the right time and with the right camera.  (Some of us these days just have one camera — the one on our cell phone.  Not always the best choice, photo-wise.)  The lucky part of all that for the rest of us is that Tucker shares at the drop of a hat.

Photo by Tucker

The other thing is that there is a Wildlife Path that goes right through Tucker and Carol’s property.  Not that it’s marked.  But the bear and the deer and (if there were any) the antelope, know it’s there and they all (except the antelope) travel along it.  Back and forth they go, giving Tucker a chance to take his glorious photos.  And did I say that T and C put out wild bird seed every morning?  So between the four-footed people and the feathery winged ones. Tucker has a lot of subject matter at his fingertips.  Which he shares.  And some are right here on this page!



What’s in a name?

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Jay and Helper – 2018

It was at one of those “Oysterville Meetings” — you know, the ones that happen spontaneously and very often in the street — that the name of our 150th birthday bash for the house arrived.  Neighbor Tucker, house painter Jay, and I were talking about party plans.  Jay (whose last name is Short, though he is six-foot-a-hundred-and-something) is in the process of painting the east side of our house. It’s the final side over the last four years and I am, of course, eager that it be completed “in time.”

“It will be done in plenty of time for your Grand Affair,” Jay assured me.  Tucker and I laughed at that but Jay said, “that’s how I think of your party in my mind.”  And he went on to tell about a book that he had picked up at Powell’s years ago — a kid’s book that he read over and over again to his children when they were young.  “It’s a sort of a mystery.  The clues are in the pictures,” he said.  “It was called A Grand Affair or something like that.  You probably read it to your school kids,” Jay said.

By Graeme Base

The next day, he arrived with the book in hand.  The Eleventh Hour was its actual name, and the minute I saw the cover I remembered it perfectly!  “It was the mouse!  The culprit was the mouse!”  It’s a Graeme Base book — one of my all-time favorite children’s illustrators.  I sat down almost immediately and re-visited it cover to cover.

And… even though the title wasn’t quite as Jay remembered, he wasn’t far off at all.  On the first paragraph of the second page:
Now Horace was a clever lad; he planned his day with care,
Ensuring that his party would be quite a Grand Affair.

There it was!  The name that we hope will perfectly describe our grand old lady’s birthday celebration.  “Our Grand Affair!”  Thanks to Jay and hats off to yet another successful Oysterville Meeting!