Archive for the ‘From the Past’ Category

Our Friend BobWho

Monday, October 15th, 2018

This weekend we learned that our friend Bob Bredfield had died.  He probably went the way he would have liked – alone in his house. ‘peacefully,’ of ‘natural causes.’  Selfishly, we wish we’d had a chance to say goodbye.

As it is, every day of our lives is brightened by Bob.  He was a carpenter extraordinaire and especially loved working on old houses.  They “spoke” to him right down to their bones and he responded with a loving touch.  Over the years, he worked on the outside of our place – rebuilt the balcony and both the east and south porches.  And he redid our kitchen – took the old one right down to the studs. He rebuilt the curve in our upstairs bathroom wall, building what neighbors thought was a still in his front yard to steam the wood.  He lovingly removed old windows to be rebuilt by Bergerson’s and then reinstalled them – not a single old, wavy glass pane so much as cracked.  And on and on.

Shoalwater Storytellers Poster, 1981

I first met Bob in the early 1980s.  Lawrence Lessard and I had begun a performance group, the Shoalwater Storytellers, composed of Senta and Bob Cook and Noel and Pat Thomas and us.  At that time, Bob Bredfield had one of those Old Timey Photo places in Long Beach – where tourists could go put on gay nineties costumes and have their photos taken with suitable props.  Bob was a good friend of Noel’s and Noel convinced him to bring clothing and camera to my place on the bay and take a picture for our first-ever poster.  Nowadays, a copy of it is framed in my office – another reminder of Bob and of long-ago days.

Over the years, Bob became our go-to guy for the never-ending patchwork and propping of this aging (1869) house.  He was always reliable but worked according to his own drummer, so to speak.  Sometimes, in the middle of a job, we wouldn’t see him for several days.  Often, he’d arrive at noon rather than the agreed-upon nine.  “Is Bob there yet?” I’d call from work and ask.  Nyel’s standard response was “Bob who?”  Which meant, of course, that he had not yet surfaced – at least not in our direction.  And so, gradually, we called him BobWho which he seemed to take in stride.

Bob was a hard drinker.  Whether or not that explained his somewhat erratic schedule, we could but guess.  The only time we ever saw him seriously ‘under the influence’ was at one of our Croquet Galas, probably in the mid-’90s.  He somehow decided that it would be fun to throw croquet balls as hard and fast as he could across our yard.  It was scary.  Croquet balls are kinda hard and there were lots of people here.  Noel took Bob in hand – actually, I think, took him home, diverting possible disaster.

A few weeks later, Bob came calling.  “I think I owe you an apology,” he said.  “Noel tells me…”  I told him my greatest disappointment was that I didn’t think we could invite him to anymore Galas… Promises were made and those promises were kept – through Christmas parties and other gatherings… forever.

And now… who will we call when a piece of gingerbread falls from the eaves?  Who will crawl under the house to see if the foundation is in trouble.  And who will stay under exploring the “stuff” that has found its way there in the last century and a half – native oyster shells, broken crockery, rusted toys…  “Look what I found this time,” he’d call out.

We will miss you,  BobWho.

About The ‘Comes Around’ Part

Sunday, October 7th, 2018

Jason Derrey

You know the old saying… “What goes around comes around.”  Well, I’m not sure that’s the exact expression that describes my thoughts, but it’s close.  I’m talking about the surprising connections we make during the course of our lives – connections we don’t think much about at the time, but that make a big difference later on.

Take, for instance, the 1982-83 school year at Ocean Park School.  Jason Derrey was one of the kids in the third/fourth grade class that John Snyder and I (then, “Mrs. LaRue) team-taught.  Who would ever have imagined that, all these years later, Jason would be one of the EMTs to arrive when Nyel needed help Wednesday morning!  Jason was also on call yesterday when we asked for assistance transferring Nyel from car to house after his release from Peace Health hospital in Vancouver!

Did I recognize him?  Not at all!  Little chubby-cheeked boys change a lot in 35 years!  More than girls do, I think.  Even though Jason told me who he was on Wednesday, I had to ask again yesterday – just to make sure!  Lean, well-muscled, dark hair, mustache, – not until he smiles do I begin to recognize him!

Jason Derry – Top Picture, 2nd from left, Top Row

“Do you have good memories of that year?” I asked him. “Because I do.”  “Yes,” he said and began rattling off names of “kids” he’s still in touch with.  Come to think of it… so am I in touch with lots of kids from that year, at least to some degree.  Especially with those who have stayed in the community or whose parents I know.  And now, Jason!  What a pleasure!

But, at the same time, I feel like I’m in some parallel universe.  Jason says he has a twenty-one-year-old daughter (plus several other kids, but I got stuck on the ’21’.)  How could that possibly be?  Where did all those years go?  And how fabulous to call for help and have it arrive in the appearance of a former student!  I’m so happy to have had even a small part in Jason’s early years!  But it’s even better to see how he “turned out.”  I must get in touch with Mr. Snyder.  He’ll be as pleased as I am.

What A Weenie!

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

“Left arm, please,” said I to the pharmacist.  Twice I said it – once for the flu shot and once for the new pneumonia shot.  After all, why have two sore arms when one will do?

He did warn me that my arm would be “a bit” achier.  Nyel (who was only getting one shot) said, “Oh, we’ll fix you up with a sling.”  And we all chuckled.

So now it’s the third day and still I’m avoiding lifting my left arm or, conversely, letting it hang down by my side.  It hasn’t slowed me down much – each day I’ve made good progress trimming back the roses and pulling up the spent tiger lilies.  But I whine a little.  I truly am a weenie.  And where is that sling I was promised?

I don’t remember either the flu or the pneumonia shot producing this reaction before.  Of course, different year, improved meds, yada yada yada.  And, I’m not sure I ever before chose to get both shots in the same arm.  I can’t help wondering if one shot is worse than the other or if it’s the double whammy that’s causing me grief.

Still… I think this sore arm is well worth the alternative.  I had pneumonia once – or so I’ve been told.  I was two and I don’t remember, but I do know that, as long as she lived, my mother was all about me staying out of the rain and wind and wearing galoshes and scarves and waterproof coats and hats.  If I so much as went out in the storm to fetch the paper I was severely admonished, “You’ll catch your death of cold” and plied with hot tea and honey “just in case.”

Of course, my mother’s sister Sue had died of pneumonia.  It was years before I was born – back in the days when there were no immunizations.  The whole family was extra cautious in that regard.  TB was a biggee in our family, too, and the defense against that was always good nutrition and plenty of fresh air (although not during storms!)  I don’t think any of our family members ever had the flu, but as soon as the inoculations came out, we were in line, you betcha.

In fact, I grew up with great faith in modern medicine.  It hasn’t abated one bit.  Not even in my present condition do I regret those shots!  But I am still hoping for that sling…

In Defense of Disconnecting

Friday, September 7th, 2018

William Wordsworth in 1807 by Hery Eldridge

William Wordsworth was 32 when he wrote:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…

These are the first two of a fourteen-line sonnet – a lament on the loss of rural living in the wake of the mass production and factory work now that the Industrial Revolution was upon the world.  Wordsworth lived in England’s Lake District and the countryside there, as everywhere, had changed very little for centuries.  Now, railroads and steamships and coal mines and entrepreneurship were upon us.  Man’s connection to the natural world was at risk.

The poem was written in 1802 and was published five years later.  Wordsworth’s correspondence during that period also reveals his concern with the imbalance between the spiritual and material, between nature and economic growth.  I don’t know if he lamented the loss of our natural world, itself, but I feel sure that had he lived two hundred years later, his poetry (considered a part of the Romantic period) would have taken a serious environmental turn, as well.

On Our Porch

I, too, often think “the world is too much with us.”  Mostly, I have that thought when I watch or listen to the news.  I’m especially lucky, in that regard.  If I unplug and turn away and simply step outside into Oysterville, that frantic outer world disappears.  Then, my world is quiet except for birdsong.  It smells of the sweet grasses in the meadow with a bit of pungent geranium fragrance from the pots on our porch.  And I count my blessings.

One Month (and 18 years) Too Late

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

“1912 Middy Blouse”

Yesterday I had the great urge to clean out my closet and to inventory my sartorial needs for the coming of fall.  I made a good start on filling the Goodwill bag with clothing that has been (literally) gathering dust for uncounted years.  You know – the blue jeans that were perfect when you were a few inches slimmer around the middle.  Or the bolero jacket that doesn’t quite go with anything but, surely, just the right skirt or blouse will come along soon.

I was ruthless. And, I felt “very much accomplished” as my Aunt Medora used to say.  But the bottom line is that I left myself exceedingly limited in clothing choices beyond my usual at-home-uniform – jeans and a sweatshirt.  I had the sudden urge to go “back-to-school shopping.”  Never mind that it is seventeen years since I stopped teaching and, even then, any additions to my wardrobe were usually acquired at the last minute – probably in August before the school year got under way.

As I thought about the situation, I remembered something my grandmother had written to Medora (the one and same, just mentioned) regarding her wardrobe.  The letter, which hints at my grandmother’s struggle with the transition from homemade to store-bought clothing, was dated September 4, 1912:

Elizabeth Ayer, Marie Strock, Medora Espy – 1912

The express has come at last and I am greatly pleased with the things.  All of the dresses were substitutes, as what we ordered were out but anyway the choice is fine.  There is one bad thing tho, your dress is too long and I do not see how it can be shortened.  I would not wear it if I were you unless there is some very special occasion.  Then when I come up we can take it to a dressmaker and see how it can be shortened.  It may not look too long with low shoes in the evening but with high shoes will reach the tops…

The white skirt to your middy was too short and I sent it back for a longer one…  Go into Harris and see if you can get a separate white skirt to wear with your middy – something plain and suitable for school…  I should not think it would or should cost more than two dollars for your whole middy suit only cost $2.25…At the same time get yourself three union suits part wool – you know the ribbed kind.  Do not pay more than $1.75 or $2.00 a suit.

I decided to use my own judgement about your coat and dress so as to save time, so ordered them delivered direct to you and I surely hope you will be pleased.  The coat was the best shown – cost $14.00 – a black silk plush lined with tan satin.  The hat a black beaver turned up in front.  Then a brown corduroy soft hat to go with your storm coat.  Your dress is a good quality brown corduroy trimmed with brown messaline and a large, lace collar. Do these sound all right?  I sent for best of everything in your clothes.

Bon-Ton Catalog, June 1913

The girls’ dresses look very nicely on them.  Sue’s is much coarser than Mona’s but very effective and at a distance does not show the difference in quality.  Mrs. Parant has Sue’s dress to work on.  I have ordered satine for new bloomers for you and goods to match the girls’ school dresses for bloomers.

Well, at least I don’t need to worry about putting union suits or bloomers on my shopping list.  But I do think that shopping by catalog (or, in today’s world, online) is the way to go from Oysterville.  Some things don’t change.

…and Michael cooked, of course!

Friday, August 17th, 2018

I can’t think when we were all together last.  Ten years ago?  Maybe thirty?  Ever?  The Frank Family, Patty and Noel, and us.  The arranging was done by Michael who is now older than I was when we first met … by a darned sight.  So is his brother Steven.  And the next generation – several kids as tall as I am… how could that be?

I’d like to say we did a lot of catching up, but no, we didn’t.  I’d like to say we began conversations where we had left off.  But we didn’t do that either.  It was all about now – Michael’s book tour in Italy and Steven’s new book Class Action and a righteous discussion about pro-choice and ICE and maybe just a tad of personal talk among us elderly about the aging process and how we dislike it.  And lots of hugging.

Was it like we’d never missed a beat?  Not exactly… except when we realized that the next generation – Martie and Merona’s grandchildren – have joined the ranks of “young people” with talents and opinions and interests of their own.  Not surprising on the one hand, but overwhelming and fabulous on the other.  Especially, that we could be there, all of us together!

There wasn’t time to take it all in.  Did I say more than two words to Patty?  Did I tell Michael how delicious the dinner was – eggplant parmesano, green beans and, for dessert, still hot-out-of-the-oven blackberry cobbler with ice cream.  The evening ended too soon.  And even if it’s tomorrow (which is impossible) our next gathering will be too long in coming.  That’s just the way it is with old friends.

I always wondered where that went!

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

Ed, Judy, Sydney, Nyel

One of my third-cousins-once-removed (who we don’t know very well) and her husband (who we had never met) came knocking at our door one day last week – another of those unexpected pleasures of summer!  We asked them in and spent an enjoyable hour or two getting better acquainted.

It turned out that they were in an RV and were staying on the Peninsula for several days.  It also turned out that Ed (who is a long-distance truck driver) is approaching retirement and is looking into his options regarding things to do when the time comes.  He had recently invested in a spiffy metal detector and so… we asked them back to have a go at our lawn.  “You won’t even know I’ve dug anywhere,” Ed said.

Inspecting The Treasure

I have to say that the whole concept goes against my grain just a little.  Not that I don’t delight in turning up the occasional piece of crockery or broken toy when I’m out doing my due diligence in the garden beds but, somehow, I don’t think we should go on the search on purpose.  I’m not sure why.  I certainly am not opposed to searching in archives and old files for paper treasures.  Why not metal ones hiding beneath our feet?

And so it was, that they came back a few days later and Ed spent the afternoon on the hunt.  Judy and Nyel and I (and the chickens) sat out in the sunshine and clapped and cheered as Ed swept that metal detector over the lawn – foot by foot in a very purposeful way. Alas!  No twenty-dollar gold pieces, but he did find a 1943 nickel (that Judy ended up dropping and losing when she was talking with those chickens!) and another nickel too corroded to date.

Long lost gyroscope?

There were also some bolts, a small medal with an angel on it, something Ed thought was a top, and the handle of a spoon (probably silver plated).  The spoon handle reminded me of something my grandmother had written to her daughter Medora I 1913.  She had been cleaning house and she wrote, “… All the while looking for a lost spoon as usual.  I am going to get some tin spoons, and they can get lost if they want to.  It keeps me worn to a frazzle hunting silver.”  I couldn’t help but wonder if Ed had found at least part of one of those “lost spoons” from a century ago.

As for the “top” – later Tucker, who has an eye for things, confirmed that it was, indeed, one of those gyroscopes that you spun by pulling the string wound around it.  Once you got it spinning you could put it anywhere – on the table, on the end of your finger, anywhere at all and it would continue spinning for a long, long time.  They were popular in the 1940s and ’50s and I remember having one that I played with a lot.  I wonder what ever happened to it.  I wonder if this is the very one that provided me with so much fun all those years ago…

A Summer of Connections

Monday, August 13th, 2018

Mike’s Book

At every turn this summer, I seem to come across someone wanting information about something.  Usually the questions have to do with Oysterville and someone who once lived here.  Or, about the cemetery and someone who died here.  But, there are other questions, too, and I am amazed at how many times I can provide answers.  I think it’s called “getting old.”

The other thing that has happened this particular summer is that the questioners are from places far away.  In that respect, Rosemary Peeler gets the prize so far.  She came clear to Oysterville from Australia looking for more information about her Briscoe roots.  Some years ago, Rosemary  had run across one of my Oysterville Daybook entries about Judge John Briscoe who lived and worked in Oysterville in the 1850s, ’60s, and ’70s.  We’ve communicated periodically since and, of course, I put her in touch with Mike Lemeshko early on.  I think he was still researching and writing The Cantankerous Farmer vs. the Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company, which has become the definitive chronicle about that crusty old pioneer.  The three of us spent a pleasant few hours at my dining room table looking at documents and pooling our knowledge.  Great fun!

Then, a few days ago, I received a phone call from Peggy Gordon in Canada who was looking for a copy of Anne Nixon’s family chronicle The Heckes Kemmer Caulfield Family History.  I’m not at all sure how Ms. Gordon got my name (or the name of Anne’s book, for that matter) but she was hoping I could connect her with an available copy.  I contacted my lifelong friend Anne (who is now living in California) who contacted her cousin Judy Stamp (who is here on the Peninsula) and who had all the remaining copies of the book.  Alas! there are no more, so Peggy is considering a six-hour drive from Canada to take a look at the book at Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum or at Timberland Library.

Sydney’s Camp Chronicles

And, this past weekend, Susie and Gordie Andrews introduced me to Penny Parks from New Jersey (I think) who has done some work for the fabulous “Find a Grave” site – a primary destination point for almost every budding genealogist, but one that can sometimes be fraught with problems.  She is interested in completing and correcting some work that has been done on our Oysterville Cemetery and I was delighted to be able to help, even minimally, in her endeavor.  Come to find out, Penny was here at the beach because of the annual gathering of old campers at Sherwood which is celebrating it’s 100th year anniversary this summer.  I was a camper there in its earliest incarnation as Camp Willapa – not quite 100 years ago!  And that’s another connection…

The Bridge on the Bay

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Regatta Invitation 2018

In Oysterville, the sailors among us are gearing up. Friends and relatives from as far away as Germany are arriving. There is more activity down at the bay than there has been since this time last year.  It’s Regatta Weekend!

At the center of all the activity is Tucker Wachsmuth who is Chief Organizer of this who-knows-how-many years annual event. And of course, his family is in the thick of it, too – Carol who is hostess to the multitudes; daughter Lena who oversees the Awards Dinner afterwards; son Clark who numbers among the competitors; and Cousin Chris Freshley who re-instituted the Oysterville Regatta twenty years ago (more or less) and then did then hand-off to Tucker a few years later.

Oysterville Regatta 2017 – Photo by Mark Petersen

Over the years, the regatta has developed many of the tell-tale signs of an “event.”  There are invitations, a time-keeper’s committee boat, an official rescue boat, tee shirts, trophies, music – even a yearly regatta song!  At the thick of it is Tucker – Artistic Director, Singer/songwriter, and all-year-long Boat Keeper.  The boats – all 14-foot laser class sailboats – are mostly based in Oysterville, several of them in Tucker’s boathouse.

The Regatta, of course, has generational ties to Oysterville.  The event was originally begun in the ’70s – the 1870s that is – by the oystermen in Shoalwater Bay.  They had organized the Oysterville Yacht Club and after the races the club gave a Regatta Ball, “ever to be remembered as the crowing social event of the season,” according to Wallace Stewart who was known as one of the best sailors on the bay.  Their sailboats, of course were their oyster sloops – their everyday work boats.  They were 30 feet long, ten feet wide, had centerboards and were known as “plungers” perhaps for the way they looked in choppy waters. Tucker’s great-grandfather, Meinert Wachsmuth sailed in at least one regatta in the 1890s.

Annual Regatta c. 1870s

When the sails are racing across the bay, it doesn’t take much imagination at all to think of the present-day regattas as a bridge across time – from the 1870s to 2018.  I’m sure the sailors must feel that connection even more closely than do the onlookers – especially Tucker and his family.  It’s surely genetic as well as generational!

Gore & Roar’s Ever-Expanding Picnic Group

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

Yesterday was Gordon’s birthday.  He would have been 92.  Never mind that he never made it to Birthday Number 88.  He’s no doubt ‘been’ at every single Gordon Memorial Picnic his friends have had since.  And he’s probably loving it that the group is continuing to expand, even as it diminishes, year after year.

I don’t know if Gordon and Roy (read:Gore and Roar) did the picnic-at-the-drop-of-a-hat thing when they lived in Seattle, but I do know that they began the tradition here just as soon as they arrived back in the early seventies.  By the time I arrived on the scene in 1978, there was already a well-defined “Picnic Group” with procedures and protocols all its own.

There was no particular leader. “Instigator” might have been a more correct term. The phenomenon went something like this:  By mid-afternoon the day would have stabilized to something on the plus side of no rain.  Someone (very often Gordon) would start calling members of the group and say that there would be a picnic at five o’clock (or four or six or maybe even noon) at a certain location (often a local park or their own back yard or the beach in front of someone’s house).

Food assignments were loosely made with the instigator often offering to barbecue burgers or hotdogs and everyone else pulling together salads or chips or cookies. We each brought our own picnic basket with utensils, plates, cups and whatever we wanted to drink.  For Gordon that usually meant martinis. For the rest of us it could be cokes or seven-up or beer or wine or maybe a flask of something or other.

The group included Gordon and Roy, Gordon’s cousin Jeannie, Patty and Noel Thomas, Kaye and Charlie Mulvey, Jim and Kay Buesing, Betty Newell, Marjorie Horner, Chuck and Dorothy Huggins, and any “visiting firemen” (which I was at first and as was Nyel a few years later).  Jim always flew a kite or two and he and Charlie never failed to have a couple of jokes to tell.

If it was an “occasion” like someone’s birthday, there were presents from the Funny Drawer or whatever  you might call your equivalent dumping ground for white elephants and impossible gifts from your mother-in-law.  The biggest thing about the picnics was that there was absolutely no agenda except to enjoy one another’s company.

As our numbers dwindled, we began to invite new people to join us – Gordon’s book club members and some of our Friday Nighters.  Though the frequency of our get-togethers diminished, Gordon remained the pivotal member right up until he left us in 2014. It seemed appropriate to continue with at least one picnic a year – on his birthday.  Yesterday he would have been 92.  And, although he would have been over the moon to see his long-time neighbor 103-year-old Betty Paxton in our midst, he might have been just a tad envious that she is now well into the three digits.  On the other hand, the martini-decorated-cake that Betty and daughter Jan brought would probably have made all the difference!