Archive for the ‘From the Past’ Category

I’d rather be lost on Stackpole Road.

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Yesterday, while Nyel was mostly flat on his back and I was mostly flat on my backside, he mostly dozed and I mostly wrote.  But in the wakeful moments, we talked a bit about that Sunday drive we took a few days back.  And about getting ‘sorta lost’ in the northern wilderness of Ocean Park.

“Weren’t we on Stackpole Road for a while?” I asked.  “You know, that other, fake Stackpole Road?  The one that dead-ends and then starts again for real across from Bud Goulter’s place on Oysterville Road?”

“Yep,” said the man of few words.

It’s one of the many strange things about the roads on the Peninsula.  As every Oysterville schoolboy used to know, Stackpole Road was named after Isaac Clark’s, boat, the Dr Stackpole.  (If anyone knows who Dr. Stackpole was, do tell!)

Isaac Alonzo Clark, co-founder of Oysterville with R.H. Espy, platted the bayside village and became its first storekeeper.  He was also an oysterman but, according to his cohorts, a rather timid boatman.  When a storm was brewing out on the bay, he often put in at a protected cove near Leadbetter Point.  As the other plungers headed homeward they would see Clark’s boat, Dr. Stackpole, hunkered down for the duration.  The cove is still called “Stackpole Harbor.” Presumably, the name for the road evolved from that.

Isaac Alonzo Clark

At first, the road was just a sandy cart track that led to the north end of the Peninsula.  Even when I was a girl, we locals just called it “the road to the Point.”  Since it seemed to begin at Oysterville Road, it never occurred to me that there might be another piece of it in Ocean Park – nearly five miles to the south.  The only connection to Stackpole Harbor that I can think of is that Isaac Clark also platted much of Ocean Park for the Methodist Episcopal Church of Portland. (They say he got tired of the boom-town, party! party! party! atmosphere here in Oysterville.

I don’t know whether there are still other pieces of Stackpole Road.  When we were ‘sorta lost’ out there in the denizens of Ocean Park, I wished we had kept one of those spiffy maps of the Peninsula that we used to sell at the Bookvendor.  (I think they were made by a man named Love who worked upstairs for David Jensen.)  When I have time, maybe I’ll look at map sifter online.  Meanwhile, as interesting as all this is for passing the time at the hospital… I think I’d rather be out there lost on Stackpole Road again!

Reconnecting with Old Friends

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Amelia Aubichon Petit, c. 1920s

It’s probably a product of my aging and addled mind and, if so, I’m glad.  I’m beginning to think of people I’ve written about (but have never met) as ‘friends.’  In the same way that I ‘know’ many of my ancestors through family stories and bits of save memorabilia, I have gathered about me the forebears of many other people over the years.

That amazing realization came to me yesterday with an email request from a woman named Donna Sinclair who introduced herself thus:  I just stumbled across your wonderful website as I was looking for an image of Amelia Aubichon for a website I’m working on with the Chinook Indian Nation, via Portland State University.

North Beach Girls: The Herrold Twins, Catherine and Charlotte

Amelia Aubichon (Petit)!  I know Amelia!  She was Grandmère to my friend Charlotte Herrold Davis (1911-2010) and her twin sister Catherine Davis Troeh (1911-2007).  She is one of the amazing Peninsula residents featured in my Legendary Locals of the Long Beach Peninsula.  She was born on October 6, 1830 (almost exactly 187 years ago) and died in 1924.  Charlotte and Catherine remembered that “When Grandmère Petit died, the Indians all came from Bay Center and sat cross-legged facing the Presbyterian Church during her funeral.”

Donna Sinclair went on to say:  We began this project in 2009 and then our organization, the Center for Columbia River History (part of WSU Vancouver, PSU, and the Washington State Historical Society), was defunded. Since then, I have worked with students from PSU and Professor Katy Barber to complete the site. We’ve faced some roadblocks, including having been hacked, but we are almost there. One of the pages I am working on now is about the Pillar Rock area and the descendants of Os-wal-licks and Arkensee (Amelia’s parents).

I know very little about her parents but I know some fascinating bits about Amelia, herself.  She had many interesting experiences during her long life.  She remembered watching Mount St. Helens “burst” in the mid-1840s; she knew Dr. John McLoughlin, factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company; and she knew a young man named Ulysses S. Grant who would go on to become a Civil War General and, later, president of the United States.  She remembered when a bob-tailed pony and a range of mountains shared a common name, “Skuse.” (The pony is now called Cayuse and the mountains are the Siskiyous.)

John McLoughlin (1784-1857)

She also remembered the beginning of the wheat-raising industry in Oregon Territory when the sacked grain from French Prairie was brought down the Willamette River in bateaux operated by Indians and how it eventually was taken to ships waiting at a place called ‘Boatland’ by the whites, but that was pronounced ‘Portland’ by the Indians.  The name for the new city was chosen by the flip of a coin.  In 1866, she and her husband, Amable, settled in Chinookville with the first seven of their ten children.  In later years, as Chinookville began to wash away into the river, the Petits moved downstream to Ilwaco.

Of course, I sent a copy of the photograph to Donna Sinclair with my best wishes for success in completing their project.  I was pleased to be of help.  But I was especially pleased to be reconnected with an old friend.

And, speaking of garbage cans…

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

It’s curious what we remember and even more curious what we forget.  Take garbage cans.  Nyel and I got into an early morning reverie about the dumpsters and garbage cans of our past and discovered that there are several big blanks – entire decades, even, that are unclear in the garbage disposal arena. Surely we had a method of getting rid of our trash?

The discussion was triggered by the dumpster that is sitting in front of the house next door.  During the time that Nyel was in the hospital, the sale of that house closed and, though we have spoken to the new owner on the phone, we have not yet had the pleasure of a face-to-face meeting.  When I saw the dumpster, I was concerned that it might have been put out waiting for pick-up and I wondered if the bear Tucker saw on School Street would be back.

Last night at the Friday Gathering, I was disabused of that concern.  It’s a brand-new dumpster, delivered by Peninsula Sanitation at the request of the new neighbor.  Not a bear-invitation yet.  But then I wondered what their garbage routine would eventually become.  Wednesday is garbage day here in the village – not always a convenient day for part-time residents.  Either arrangements need to be made for getting the dumpster out to the street on garbage day and back inside to a safe haven again or… an alternative garbage plan altogether.

Which led to our morning discussion topic:  How did we deal with our garbage for the twenty years we lived on the bay at the end of a thousand-foot drive?  We burned yard debris.  We recycled what we could, although for much of that time there were limited recycling collection spots on the Peninsula.  We used our garbage disposal for any ‘wet garbage’ but… what about the rest?  No memory.  Blank.  Nada.

Before Nyel came into my life, I lived in that house by myself.  I’m sure I didn’t haul a garbage can, full or empty, the length of that driveway.  And, in those days, I had only a VW bug, so even if I’d been able to wrestle a full can into a pickup to take it up the road, it wouldn’t have been an option.  I think I would remember if I had utilized the dumpster service at Jack’s Country Store.  Maybe I brought a garbage bag here to the folks’ place and put it in their garbage can or dumpster now and then.  And when did the Peninsula Sanitation segue to dumpsters, anyway?

Well… we never did solve the ‘problem.’  Nyel thinks that when we owned the bookstore we added our garbage (which is never more than a small garbage bag a week) to our dumpster there.  Our first memory of any garbage service at all is in 1999 or 2000 when we moved ‘into town’ full time and arranged for once-a-month pickup…  It’s odd what you remember.  And what you don’t.

On This Day in History – 1987

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

The Bride and Groom

Thirty years ago, today, the dawn sky looked a little iffy.  It was a Sunday and the 3rd Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Gala was scheduled to begin at 2:00. Drizzle or not, we had chairs and tables to set up, signs and balloons to put in place, food to arrange, cases of champagne to ice and costumes to put on.  I was a bit nervous – “a bit more tightly wound than usual,” Nyel would later say.

But it wasn’t the Croquet Gala that had my nerves a-tingle.  It wasn’t the sixty people pre-registered to play on ten competing teams.  Nor was it the fifty-plus spectators we expected to come.  At the forefront of my mind was the biggest secret of our lifetimes – we were getting married that day!  Right there in the garden in front of friends and family.  Right after the games were over and right before the Awards Ceremony.  And it was a secret.  Yes… I was a bit nervous.

“Oystereville Croquet Gala” by Norma Walker

Five (count’ ’em, five besides us) people knew what was in store that day.  My son Charlie, who came up from L.A. for the event – the only time in 19 years that he attended one of our Croquet Galas.  Gordon Schoewe and Roy Gustafson who agreed to stand up for us.  Judge Joel Penoyer (actually, probably Betsy, too) who agreed to bring the paper work and to officiate.  And Dr. John Campiche (probably Val, too) who we called to make sure there were no medical requirements before marriage in Washington State – which there weren’t.  Not one of them breathed a word.  Even so… I was nervous-to-the-max.

No one else – not my parents who were the nominal hosts of the event since it took place in the garden of their home.  Not my distinguished Uncle Willard who, for many years served at the Master of Ceremonies of the Croquet Galas.  Not Ann Kischner who was President of the Water Music Society which was to be the recipient of the proceeds that year.  (Did I mention that we put on the Gala each year as a fund-raiser for a non-profit organization in Pacific County?)  Yes… nervous enough so that I could barely tend to my job as registrar!

I happy to say, we pulled it off with hardly a hitch.  (Just a rather tense argument with Willard who insisted that it was HIS turn to award the trophy. I literally had to push him out of the way… and maybe I was just a tad snappish.)  The weather turned bright and sunny, after all, and I look back on that day as setting a tone for all the years that have followed – years of friends, family, fun, and memorable events!

The Wedding Pillow – from the Frank family

And here we are, thirty years later.  No plans to celebrate this year.  No signs or balloons.  Just a lot of remembering and basking and maybe a stroll or two out in the garden.   But did I say… it looks a bit iffy outside this year, too!

A Flood of Memories!

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Kay Buesing

We had reserved seats but, when it became obvious that Nyel would not be leaping out of his hospital bed in time for the curtain, I asked Kay Buesing if she’d like to be my date.  And so it was that we went to see PAPA’s final evening performance (There’s a matinee today!  Go!) of “She Loves Me.”

After all, Kay and I and community theater go back a long time.  Back to 1980 when we were part of the founding group of Peninsula Players – in the days of Lawrence Lessard and Fritz Hahn and Ginny Leach and Martha Sommer.  I have a vision of the two of us prancing around on stage (Were we auditioning for something?) – me singing “I’m a Little Teapot” and Kay laughing (or was she cringing?)

Brooke Flood, 1998

The last time I saw “She Loves Me” was at the Bowmer Theater at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and I remember being impressed with the outstanding talents of every single performer.  As last night’s performance unfolded (a literal description of that magical set!) I was equally impressed with the voices and the dancing and the mysterious suspension of disbelief that the ensemble created.  I was sucked right in.

The two female leads – Hope Bellinger and Brooke Flood – I’ve known since they were chubby-cheeked little girls.  Hope, so shy yet so accomplished, struggling to get up on the piano bench at Vespers and play a solo with perfect aplomb.  Brooke, my student in first, second, and third grades at Long Beach School – was there anything she couldn’t do well?  Though I’ve followed both of them all these years, watching them (like half of the community!) with neighborly pride, I still felt so blessed to see them together on stage all these years later.

Ron Thompson, 2012

And the male lead?  Ron Thompson!  The last time I saw him, he was here tuning my piano!  He had done a House Concert here (a pianist!) and had mentioned that if I ever needed a piano tuner… I can’t remember how many years he returned… and it took me a few beats last night to realize that this accomplished actor/singer was that same Ron Thompson!  Wow!

Such pleasant associations with these three young people – the memories wafted over me throughout the evening.  The topper was when Brooke called to me as we were leaving and I met her five-and-a-half-month-old son, William.  He smiled and reached his little hands out to me and nestled his cheek against mine!  I was instantly in love.  And so, we all decided, was William!

What a fabulous evening!  Layers and layers of memories… and still the beat goes on!

Remembering the Glorious Fourth

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017


“Martha and George Washington”   Virginia Williams and Gaynell Inman, 1920 Ilwaco Parade


The Chinook Liberty Wagon, Early Twentieth Century


Fourth of July Parade, Oysterville c. 1900


Ilwaco, July 4, 1910

The Wedding Pillow

Friday, June 30th, 2017

The Wedding Pillow

We were married on September 13, 1987. We have a pillow that says so — although it almost didn’t.

The ceremony took place at the conclusion of The 3rd Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Gala here in the garden, just before the awards ceremony. The Gala was a fund-raiser for the Water Music Festival.  Our wedding was a surprise to everyone except Judge Penoyar (who did the honors), Gordon Schowe (my ‘bridesmaid’), Roy Gustafson (Nyel’s best man) and my son Charlie (who flew up from California for the occasion).  No one else knew or suspected – not my mother or father (the hosts), not my Uncle Willard (the Master of Ceremonies), not any of the 100 or so attendees!

Among the guests were the Frank Family – Merona and Marty and their sons Michael, Steven and Danny from L.A. with a summer place in Seaview.  They were ‘friends of friends’ and we had met for the first time as we were registering teams before the festivities began.  They were charming and I’m sure I hoped that we would get to know them better but, truth to tell, I was more than a little distracted.

The surprise wedding came off without a hitch.  Michelle Kischner, daughter of Water Music president Ann and 3rd grader in my classroom, took my bouquet (supplied by Gordon) for Show and Tell the next day.  The ceremony made headlines in Wednesday’s paper and, several months later we received an elegant throw pillow with our names and the wedding date stitched on it – from the Franks in California!

But… the date was wrong.  What to do?  I finally decided to mention it in my thank you note – casually, as a quirky happening that would remind us forever of the day.  “SEND IT BACK!” she replied.  Not a request; a demand.  So off it went.  Several months passed and back it came.  Date corrected but this time… Nyel was spelled Nyle instead.  I hadn’t the heart to tell her.

The following summer, Marty and Merona were at our house (for a party? a dinner? I’ve forgotten) and Merona spied the pillow and the mistake. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she demanded.  I told her I just didn’t have the heart but, not surprisingly, the pillow went home with her and she had it redone… again!

“Oysterville Croquet Gala” by Norma Walker

When we attended Michael Frank’s book-signing in Seattle earlier this month and I asked him to personalize his book The Mighty Franks for us, I said (as I always do) “…and it’s N-y-e-l.”

“Yes,’ he said (was there a smile in his voice?)  “I remember the pillow!”

Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Dale Espy Little, 1999 — “Mom at 88”

My mother gave up driving when she was about a year younger than I.  She cut up her driver’s license and sold her car and became a big believer in Dial-a-Ride.  She also took advantage of every “do-you-need-anything-at-Jack’s” offer made to her by friends and neighbors and wasn’t at all hesitant to ask a stranger (most likely a tourist visiting the church) for a ride (most likely to the post office.)  I worried and admired in equal parts.

Mom’s leap into ‘Dependence on the Kindness of Strangers’ was occasioned by a fender bender that she had in Ocean Park.  No one was hurt and no one was ticketed but she felt it was a wake-up call to quit driving.  I have been thinking about that a lot since our own mega-mishap last week.  In fact, one of the first things Nyel said was, “Maybe it’s time I stop driving…”  Yikes!

We actually considered that possibility – weighed the pros and cons of living far off the beaten track where just getting groceries entails a 15-mile round-trip by car.  We decided that between the two of us and with a spiffy new mega-safe vehicle, we could probably manage for a while longer.  But totaling our little Prius definitely gave us pause.  And it made me think of my indomitable mother and how gutsy she was and so soon (within a year) after my dad had died and she was living on her own for the first time in all of her 80 years!

Helen Richardson Espy, 1947 – “Granny at 69”

I also thought about my two grandmothers, neither of whom ever learned to drive.  Granted, cars didn’t “come in” until they were middle-aged.  I doubt if it even occurred to either of them to learn to drive.  They had managed their households (one in Oysterville, one in Boston) and raised their families without ‘machines’ and just riding in one as a passenger was a big step.

My Oysterville grandmother did have a buggy – a used one sent to her in 1914 by her father who lived in Berkeley.  The day it arrived, she wrote to her daughter, Medora:

It is the nicest looking buggy on the Peninsula – just what I wanted – a low, high-backed seat phaeton – rubber tired, roll back top.  Eva told me it was dilapidated but there is nothing wrong except a piece out of one tire.  It is not so shining new looking as the big buggy but it looks like the city and home to me…

Mary Woods Little, c 1955 – “Nana at 75”

There are not pictures or other references to that conveyance.  I don’t know who hitched it up for her, where she went in it, or how long she had it.  I doubt very much if she went grocery shopping in it.  After all, in those days there were vegetables and fruits in the garden or ‘put up for winter’ in the pantry, there were kids at home to run to the Sam Andrews’ store just up the street for dry goods and, in the summer, Theophilus Goulter came house-to-house, once a week, with his meat wagon.

I’m unclear about my Bostonian grandmother.  She and my grandfather lived in the West Roxbury neighborhood.  Perhaps there were shops nearby or perhaps my grandfather took her into town once a week.  Whatever arrangements she made, she carried on independently in her own home, even after she was widowed.  Though I was well into my twenties by the time she died, I was too young and too far away to pay close attention to the details.  Isn’t that always the way?

From a Loser’s Perspective

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

From Another Point of View

We’ve all given lip service (perhaps a bit smugly) to the truism that winners write the history.  I’ve never given that particular platitude much beyond a cursory thought until very recently.  I’m reading Kenneth Roberts’ Oliver Wiswell – a total eye-opener regarding our American Revolution!  Narrated in the first person by the title character, Yale undergraduate Oliver, it is the story of the little-known and profoundly misunderstood loyalist cause.  It is the story of some of my ancestors – fictionalized to be sure, but fully believable.

The book was recommended to my father by his Bostonian mother back in the 1940s.  She urged him to read it for a better understanding of our forebears – the McGees and the Woodworths and probably others – who, I always heard, “went” to Canada in 1776 or thereabouts.  It’s a long book (836 pages) and I am only about a third of the way into it, but already I fully understand that “went” was not the operable verb.  More like “driven out.”  They were loyalists – not completely satisfied with things under British rule, but committed to making changes through orderly means and the rule of law.  Not through violence.  The patriots thought differently.

Samuel Adams, Patriot or Rabble-rouser?

I don’t know about my particular loyalist ancestors but Oliver Wiswell describes what happened to others like them.  They were the unwitting victims set upon by mobs of “patriots” (or “rabble” as they were known).  Loyalist homes were ransacked, pillaged, and burned; ‘suspicious  characters,’ perhaps the owner of a printing press, were tarred and feathered.  Community leaders and their erstwhile friends, were sent packing – on foot, in the dark of night, never mind the sick or the old or infirm.  Out! Out!  Out at gunpoint.

The men I grew up to revere – Samuel Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other heroes of our Revolutionary War – take on a wholly different (and downright sinister) character.  And yet… I had ancestors on the Patriot side of things, as well.  Undoubtedly, there were family schisms.  Brothers against brothers.  Cousins against cousins.  Fathers and sons in pitched battle.  It’s a look at our beginnings that I’ve seldom considered.  I think the book should be a must for those who are concerned about the current state of things here in America.

British General William Howe, Brilliant or Inept

Though written in that detailed style of the early-to-mid-twentieth century which makes it a little slow-going, many of the attitudes and situations seem all too relevant today.  Where are we headed in this land where our leaders scoff at ethics and change the rules to allow themselves to prosper to the detriment of our planet?  How many racist killings, ICE raids and other travesties are we to endure?  And how will these chaotic times be interpreted 250 years hence?  Oliver Wiswell is slow going in places but worth the effort.  Let me know if you read it… I’d love to get your take on this fictional account of our history as seen through the eyes of the losing side.

Ode to A Petrified Clam

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

The Perfect Little Black Bag

The presentation made to Nyel and me by Double ‘J’ and the Boys at Sunday’s concert was unprecedented in oh! so many ways.  First of all, I don’t think any other musicians have ever done such a thing.  Thanking us, yes.  Profusely thanking us, yes.  But a gift?  The bar has definitely been raised!

And what a gift it was!  Actually, two gifts in three parts.  First: a black carryall emblazoned with the logo from The Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering – an event I’ve actually hankered to attend!  The bag is the perfect size for me – not too huge, with straps that fit over my shoulder and allow the bag to tuck right under my arm rather than hanging and banging at knee level.  (I’m sorta short.)  Plus, it has a large outside pocket, a net thingy maybe for a water bottle if I ever thought to carry one, and a metal ring for hanging stuff off of.  Plus, the top zips closed for security purposes.  I’ve claimed the bag part of the presentation for myself.

Petrified Clam, Texas Size

But wait!  Before I’d had a chance to fully register all of the above, Judy (with magician-like precision) extracted parts two and three of this never-ending gift – the front and back sides of a petrified clam!  Now, that’s something you don’t see every day!  Not unless you spend your winters in the wilds of Texas as Judy and Charlie do.  Apparently, they run across petrified items every once in a while.  “But finding matching halves is unusual!” Judy said.

I don’t know what that clam weighed when it was alive, back when Texas was under water and no one was around to brag about the size of things in the Lone Star State.  But now that minerals have replaced all the once living clam cells, the petrified version weighs fourteen ounces.  Almost a pound!  Perfect paper weights for Nyel’s desk!  If I knew how to write an ode (in keeping with the poetry piece of this gift), I would definitely commemorate this hefty clam.  Something like –

Petrified Clam Halves – 14 ounces worth!

Oh, huge and silent mollusk of so long ago,
Your sea birth unremarked by ancient mariners!
Overlooked by cowpokes, but not by yodeling Judy
Or by Charlie of the sharp snappy snake boots.
Welcome to our bayside home!  Can you smell the sea again?

Better yet… maybe Judy will write one of her inimitable songs!  I mean, how many songwriters have tackled a petrified clam?