Archive for the ‘From the Past’ Category

Eating Crow

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Ruthie’s Project

My cousin Ruthie brought a big three-ring binder to me the other day – an ‘ancestry project’ she’s been working on for more than a year.  It is the story of her Grandfather George Maloney (1882-1975) and she thought I might be interested.  Wowie Zowie!  I love it!  Much of it was written by George, himself, when he was in his mid-eighties.  It begins with his memories of growing up in Northold, Middlesex, England.

He called his story ‘George by George’ – and just from the title, I know he was a man I’d have liked, but I never had the opportunity to meet him.  His descriptions of growing up in a family of nine boys and one girl in Victorian England are right up there with Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson!  I was especially taken by his story called “Rook Pie.”


The Maloney home was adjacent to Islip Manor, the Estate of C. E. Innes, Esq.  On the estate was a large wooded area with a fine grove of towering elm trees.  This grove was about a quarter of a mile from the Maloney residence and was the home of a great colony of shiny black crows.  Egg-laying and hatching must have been a colony plan, for the ‘rooks’ – young crows – all seemed to leave their nests on their maiden flight within a few days of each other.  These few days were ‘Rook Shooting’ days for Mr. Innes and his friends.  No retriever dogs were used to gather the fallen birds, but the Maloney boys and others did so and were rewarded with a rook.  Being more than one Maloney boy at the ‘shoot’ we usually ended up with a half dozen rooks – just enough to make a pie according to Mrs. Beaton’s [sic] famous recipe.

Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery Book and Household Guide

Mrs. Beaton’s Cookbook was ‘the’ book in England at the time and referred to by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as “one of the greatest works of man” in his study of married life entitled A Duet with an Occasional Chorus.  He also was the author of the Sherlock Holmes series.  On the Maloney kitchen shelf was a copy of Mrs. Beaton’s cookbook and on page 708 was the following famous recipe for rook pie:

Ingredients. – 6 young rooks, ¾ lb. of rump steak, ¼ lb. of butter, ½ pint of stock, salt and pepper, pastry.

METHOD: — Skin the birds without plucking them, by cutting into the skin near the thighs, and drawing it over the body and head. Draw the birds in the usual manner, remove the necks and backs, and split the birds down the breast. Arrange them in a deep pie dish, cover each breast with thin strips of steak, season well with salt and pepper, intersperse small pieces of butter and add as much stock as will three-quarters fill the dish.  Cover with paste (see veal pie), and bake for 1½ to 2 hours, for the first ½ hour in a hot oven to make the paste rise, and afterwards more slowly to allow the birds to become thoroughly cooked.  When the pie is almost three-quarters cooked, brush it over with yolk of egg to glaze the crust, and, before serving, pour in, through the holes on the top, the remainder of the stock.

Time. – To bake, from 1½ to 2 hours. Average cost, uncertain, as they are seldom sold.  Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.

Crows are almost worldwide in their habitat, so Dear Reader. if you can acquire half a dozen ‘rooks,’ make a pie.  Perhaps if you try it, you might like it.

That last line makes me think of dear old James G. Swan who famously said in his 1855 book, The Northwest Coast or Three Years’ Residence in Washington Territory:  “I ken eat crow, but hang me if I hanker arter it.”

Totally Tubular Troublemaker

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

The IV Drip Bags

The annoying BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! from one of Nyel’s IV drip bags (probably not a technical term) brought a gaggle of nurses to the door about five o’clock this morning,  “Troublemaker!” said the Charge Nurse, popping her head in, and everyone laughed.

If you know Nyel, even slightly, you know him to be a low-key, non-complainer to the max.  “Troublemaker” is about the least descriptive word imaginable for him and the Charge Nurse’s playful teasing was the perfect tension dissipater.  “It’s just that you’re totally tubular right now,” said his Night Nurse.  More laughter.

Nyel is, quite literally, a mass of tubes – to the point that there is only one area, on his left forearm, with enough space for a blood pressure cuff.  So, getting a kink or a crossed wire or something else to cause the alarm bells to sound, is an imminent and constant possibility.  Even so, the nurses come running when they hear that annoying distress signal and we are ever-grateful for their attentive watching and listening.

More Connections for Nyel

Almost as importantly as their attentiveness – they are fun.  As soon as the kink in his picc-line was straightened out, they got into a guessing game about the origin ‘totally tubular.’  “It’s from California in the eighties,” said one.  “Yeah.  I think it’s one of those Valley Girls expressions,” said another.  “I’m thinking it’s a surfer term,” said the Night Nurse.

According to Google, there was merit to all of their explanations but the one no one thought of was the one I liked best:   tubular is an old term meaning awesome. That I know. It originates from vacuum tube amplifiers sounding better than other amps, so a “tubular” sound was preferred. Eventually tubular came to mean anything cool or awesome.  And more recently, it is used to mean “lame” or “nerdy.”

Tubular Bells

The surfing explanation came up most often:  Surfing Pipeline. When the wave closed over itself it was “Totally Tubular”, the perfect wave.  And, according to some, the term goes clear back to the Mike Oldfield’s 1973 recording of  Tubular Bells, the most famous progrock “symphony” of them all—and a bit of a “love it or hate it” affair amongst music snobs—but in actual fact, most of the instruments played on the album are played by Oldfield himself, layered during the recording process.

And… here endeth the first lesson for this Sunday, November 19th at Legacy Emanuel, room 5305!

Meds and Makeup? Really, Mrs. Crouch?

Friday, November 17th, 2017

The Get-Away Bag

Now that Nyel seems to be on the Emanuel Hospital Fast Track, I keep a get-away bag handy for myself.  Nyel-the-patient has every need supplied when he is admitted but for me, as the patient’s wife-and-faithful-companion… not so much.  I am eternally grateful that they supply me with a cot and linens and endless cups of decaf-on-demand.  I am happy to bring whatever else is required so that I can stay in Nyel’s room – a blessing of modern-day hospitalizations that I don’t remember back in the day.

Yesterday Nyel was scheduled for a pre-scheduled blood draw at Ocean Beach Hospital and, from the results, Dr. God’s assistant was going to determine what should happen next – return home or another stay at Columbia Memorial or a trek to Portland and admission to Legacy Emanuel.  “Better bring your suitcase,” said Nyel.  He wasn’t feeling at all well.  He had an inkling.  Quickly, I added my make-up and my own meds and away we went.

This morning I discovered that two (thankfully, not all-that-important) items had been left behind – calcium and my eyebrow pencil.  Fortunately, the calcium is a supplement rather than a prescription and can be replaced without having to call our pharmacy at home etc. etc.  The eyebrow pencil is more complicated – it’s the last of a discontinued color (charcoal gray) by Maybelline – not that there is a makeup store nearby, anyway.  Oh well…

Larry Murante who made Mrs. Crouch famous in song!

But a more serious concern is my inability to locate my debit card.  It’s not with me.  Probably it’s at home in a pocket.  I did my due diligence – calBled the bank etc. etc. but, since I can’t just hop home, I’ll have to wait for a while to solve the mystery.  In the meantime, I’m pretty sure that I’m in no way at fault for any of these ‘problems.’  I’d give odds that it’s Mrs. Crouch, our resident ghost.  It’s been some time since she’s weighed in and it’s just like her to want to reinforce her ancient bones, get decked out up to the eyebrows, and go on a shopping spree!

And, if you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Crouch, check out this website – she’s definitely a force to reckon with at our house (and beyond, apparently!):

…with pinballs and the Brownsmead Flats

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

The Brownsmead Flats

“Flashback: Remembering the 60s, Part 2” tomorrow evening at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum with a “Coffeehouse Concert” featuring the music of the Brownsmead Flats.  There will also be a few minutes to peek at the expanded 60s exhibit which now includes a couple of our neighbor Tucker Wachsmuth’s pinball machines.   Woot! Woot!  It’s not clear yet if Nyel and I will be there but I have my fingers crossed.  I am eager to celebrate the sixties – even though I’m a decade or two off, memory-wise.

The pinball games I remember were often going on at the Pool Hall in San Rafael during the 1950s.  Not that I was a participant.  Heavens no!  Until my friends and I were old enough to drive and could finagle a way to borrow the family car, we walked to high school.  For me, it was a mile or two down Fourth Street, right through a rather questionable part of town – past the Greyhound Bus Depot on one side of the street and the Pool Hall on the other.

Tucker wih His Pinball Machines

There were a lot of sleazy characters hanging out around both buildings, but we walked on the Pool Hall side – mostly so we could glance in and see which of our classmates (the guys with DA haircuts and cigarette packs tucked into their rolled-up tee shirt sleeves) were catching a few games before classes began.  Mostly they played pool but, occasionally we’d see them at the pinball machines, always looking a bit frantic or desperate it seemed to me.  Money was scarce in those years (1953-1957) and ‘wasting’ a quarter on pinball or pool seemed the height of decadence, at least to me.

Coffee Houses were big in the fifties, too, but mostly in North Beach in San Francisco – way off limits to ‘nice girls’ in Marin County, clear across the Golden Gate.  It wasn’t until the seventies that I had a hands-on Coffee House experience.  I was teaching in Hayward and a group of parents wanted to bring folksinger Stan Wilson to Hayward, especially for the teenagers of the area.  Since Stan was a friend of mine, I was the one who was asked to convince him to donate an evening.  It wasn’t a problem – Stan was all about kids and music and readily agreed to make the trip from Berkeley for the evening.

Charlie’s Coffee House Poster c. 1970

The organizers rented ‘a hall’ – an abandoned restaurant in the old Green Shutter Hotel in Hayward (also sorta sleazy as I recall) – and we had a decorating session with a bunch of local high school kids.  I took Charlie along (I think he was a freshman) and he set about making a huge poster (that I still have) full of pop comic book characters.  I remember being blown away that he didn’t us a single reference – all drawn by memory with felt-tipped markers in an hour or two.  It was my first real inkling of the extent of his art abilities.

I find it interesting to think about how we dignify ideas and experiences as time passes.  Things that might have been just a little edgy (perhaps not quite in a good way) when they began and then became popular, but take on a patina of gentrification as we look back on them.  Or maybe I’ve always been half a bubble off.  In any case, I can’t wait to see what other memories Friday night’s experience at CPHM will trigger.

When All-Day Fun Didn’t Cost a Dime!

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

Cowboy Nyel, 1947

We were talking about Halloween and the costumes we remembered from childhood.  Always cobbled together, of course, from whatever we could beg from our long-suffering parents – including forays into mom’s makeup for the finishing touches.  If ‘store-bought’ costumes were available, we’d never heard of them.  It was way before the days of Walmart et al had taken the fun out of Halloween – just like they’ve ruined every other holiday.

“It was back when you could play all day in the empty lot down the street and it wouldn’t cost a dime,” Nyel said.  “And, if you did have a dime, you could go to the Saturday matinee and see the newsreel, several short subjects, a cartoon, and a double feature Western!  All for a dime!”

Yep.  We both remember that empty lot – his in Montpelier, Idaho, and mine in Alameda, California.  We dug holes and built forts with found pieces of lumber.  We chased grasshoppers and blew the fluff from dandelions-gone-to seed and held buttercups under each other’s chins.  We played King of the Mountain on the highest spot and used the fence along the back as home-base for hide-and-seek.  Olly Olly Oxen Free!

Halloween Witch

We felt really rich if we had a penny and could buy a couple of wax bottles – those ones that had juice inside.  Bite off the top, suck out the juice, and chew the wax all day like gum – or until your jaws got tired.  Or how about those red licorice lips and black licorice mustaches?  And, of course, we weren’t beyond dashing home to beg for a nickel for an ice cream bar if we heard the Good Humor Man’s bell in the distance.  (Nyel says there was no Good Humor Man in Montpelier.  “A deprived childhood,” I say.)

But… back to the Halloween costumes.  We both agree that we miss those days of imagination and innovation but we can’t really remember any ‘stand-out’ creations.  Nyel says he usually dressed as a cowboy and I think I was usually a gypsy.  Come to think of it, the last costume party we went to wasn’t that long ago and I think we went as…  a cowboy and a gypsy!  It’s reassuring, somehow, that some things haven’t changed!

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!