Archive for the ‘From the Past’ Category

Of Stewart Brand and Coleman White

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Stewart Brand, Stewart Brand 10/09/1973 – by Peter Breinig/San Francisco Chronicle

I had them conflated in my dream — Coleman White’s signature on a notecard and memories of a young Stewart Brand as I knew him in the 1960s.  I woke up confused, asking Nyel where our copies of the Whole Earth Catalog are.  “Over there on the shelf,” he said.  Funny how you cease to see what is in front of you all the time.

Back in the early 60s, some years before he got the idea for The Whole Earth Catalog, Stewart was part of a photography seminar that met at our house in Castro Valley.  The seminars were connected with a long-distance learning class by Rochester Institute’s Minor White at California School for the Arts in San Francisco.  My husband, Bill LaRue, Minor’s summertime assistant, was the West Coast facilitator for that class.  The group met once or twice a month in the evenings in our living room.  I was “the little woman” who kept them in coffee and cookies and secluded from interruptions.  Somehow I became friends with only two of the group — Helen Nestor of Berkeley and Stewart of San Francisco.  I remember both of them as being kind and inclusive, even though I tried to be invisible (as instructed).

The last time I saw Stewart  was on a trip to the Bay Area about the time that Ossie and his sons-in-law, the Mack Brothers, began building my house on the bay.  Stewart and I met at a coffee shop in Sausalito near his houseboat.  We talked about living gently on the land and I remember telling him that I had considered solar and wind power — even purchased a wind turbine — but felt it would be too difficult for me to manage as a single woman.  Surprisingly, he agreed with me, and made me feel better about staying on the grid.  Bless him.

Coleman White (1944-2019)

Coleman and Sally White moved to the Peninsula in the mid-80s — Coleman having left his bright-lights-of-Broadway career at the perfect time to become Director of the Peninsula Players.  Lawrence Lessard had just moved to Hawaii and the Players were in need.  I can’t remember how many shows Coleman directed — only that both Nyel and I were in several of them and found him to be kind and insightful.  They weren’t here long — opened their B&B, the Boreas Inn, enrolled their young son Caton at Ocean Park’s multi-grade school, and then moved to Port Townsend all in the blink of an eye.  Or so those eight years seem in retrospect.

I don’t know why I confused those two men in my dream.  They were both tall and slim, both imaginative and thoughtful, both good listeners.   Come to think of it… a lot like Nyel.  Go figure.



drawers, trap doors & other unmentionables

Monday, February 1st, 2021

Women’s Underdrawers – l. knitted silk 1810-1820; r. lawn,1820

A reference in yesterday’s Daybook entry prompted this comment from Cate:  “Ok, What exactly are “papa’s under drawers”?  I have to admit this sounds a little unsavory.”

Really?  I thought everybody knew what “underdrawers” were.  But maybe you had to grow up around older people of a few generations back.  Especially older people with a country background.  I think today we would simply call underdrawers “long underwear” — a one-piece, long-sleeved garment that buttoned down the front and had a “trap door” behind.  I seem to remember that my grandfather’s had a fly in front, but maybe they just buttoned clear to the crotch.  It wasn’t something a little girl would take note of and I only saw them on the clothesline on washday.

From the 1902 Sears Roebuck catalog

From the 1902 Sears Roebuck Catalog

I think  underdrawers were also known as “union suits.”  By whatever name, they were apparently first created in the 19th century for women in an effort to replace more constricting undergarments such as corsets.  They were comfortable and soon became popular among men, as well.  I associate them with winter and cold weather.  I know that my grandmother wore silk bloomers when she was a girl — I still have the pair that was part of her 1897 wedding trousseau.  I imagine that her underwear evolved from from that time until her death in 1954.  I’m not so sure about Papa’s.

All of this made me wonder why I was familiar with the term “underdrawers” and Cate was not.  And it made me wonder what my dear Granny (or even Papa) would have thought about bikini briefs and thongs.  The mind boggles…

Change comes slowly, yet all too fast…

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

Ten houses border the east side of Territory Road between the old ‘S’ curve and Oysterville Road.  Except for one or two of the newest ones, they all face Willapa Bay and beyond their front porches and gardens is a great swath of marshy meadowland.  There, the grasses grow as tall as I am in the summer, sheltering nesting birds and providing food and cover for other tiny creatures seldom seen.  In winter, the puddles and ponds left by the rains and high tides attract ducks and geese.  Our chickens cluck at them and they quack and honk in return.  And all year ’round the bear and deer and coyotes call the meadows their own.

Bear in the Meadow

Until recently, the meadows hadn’t changed much in a hundred years.  Before that, though, when Oysterville was new and when the shoreline was a bit farther out, there were three more streets parallel to Territory Road (which was then called Fourth Street.)  In front of our house at various times were a ball park, the Whealdon Slaughter House, the Loomis and Patterson Boat Shop and the residence of the Federspiel family.  In front of the homes north of us were  a saloon,  the Methodist Church, the Pacific Journal building, another boat shop — and probably more.  My grandfather, Charlie Nelson, Dewitt Stoner and Horace Wirt all remembered and told Charles Fitzpatrick so he could draw a composite map.

Some of the buildings may still have been there in my mother’s childhood, but by the time I came along they were all gone.  The only difference between my memories of the meadows and what I see out my windows  today are the fences.   There aren’t any there now.  When I was little, most of the meadows of Oysterville were edged with barbed wire.  That’s because almost everyone had a horse or two — mostly for their kids.

Main Street/Boulevard

My  grandfather still had one remaining workhorse from his farming days — Countess, who was often pastured in front of our house or in the meadow south of Holways’ place.  Now… no kids, no farms, no horses, no fences.  Even the last of the old fence posts are gone.

I notice, too that even the meadows, themselves,  are disappearing.   Three or four houses north of us, Main Street has been mowed to boulevard proportions for several blocks; as it has widened, the meadow has narrowed.  And, from the southeast corner of Territory and Oysterville Roads and all the way to the shore line, a fence has gone up along the verge as the owners of the old Stoner place slowly incorporate the meadow into garden areas.

I know that change happens and we must make way for progress.  But it saddens me that the character of the village as I have known if for so long is changing.  Too, I’m always curious about why people are attracted to our little hamlet and then set out to make it different from the way they found it.  It must have something to do with wanting to leave our mark.  I console myself that in another hundred years it will all be different once again.

When your computer shows signs of dementia…

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

February 3, 2019 – From Cyndy Hayward

Yesterday, my much younger (and very much sharper) neighbor wrote to me  after reading my blog in which I had stated that we’d last had snow in Oysterville in 2017 or maybe 2014: I am attaching a picture taken February 3, 2019, from Merchant St. looking toward your property.  There was glorious, deep snow on the 3th and the 4th of that year.  I’m a little surprised that you don’t remember, since it was in your birthday month.

The fact that I didn’t remember — birthday month notwithstanding! — didn’t seem a bit surprising, actually.  My forgetter is much better these days than ever before.  But what did bother me (a lot!) was that I had done a search on my blogs — all 3,919 of them! — for the word “snow” and the most recent ones to show up were in the two aforementioned years.  No blogs that mentioned snow later than 2017.   But here was a gorgeous photograph from Cyndy to say otherwise.

February 4, 2019 – Photo by Sydney Stevens

After receiving her enail, I repeated my search with the same result — nada!  But snow is unusual in Oysterville; surely I would have written about it.  So I then looked for the precise dates she had mentioned and… up popped a blog titled “Of White Snow and Sooty Sweeps” complete with my own snow pictures taken in 2019!  I was amazed and annoyed at the same time.  There was the word “snow” as big as life right in the blog’s title and my computer’s search function had totally ignored it.  It’s one thing for me to forget, but an entirely different matter for my trusty computer to do so.  I DEPEND upon its memory and its cleverness as my own abilities along those lines diminish.

I flashed back to the late eighties (I think) when Sue Anderson, Janet Morrison, and I travelled back and forth to Longview every week to take a computer class.  We were trying to learn something about MS-DOS (I think); it was long before Windows and Word were available (maybe).  About the only thing I remember from those lessons is “garbage in, garbage out.”  Not helpful right now.  Whether of not I want to classify my February 4, 2019 blog as “garbage,” it went in but wouldn’t show itself on demand.  A lot like my own, personal memory of when we last had snow in Oysterville.

Disconcerting, to say the least.  Maybe what they say about the human brain also applies to computers — after so many years, there is just too much information to sort through and so some of it is “forgotten.”  Damn!  So much for the robotic hope for the future.  Fuggedaboudit!

Our County’s Political History – just sayin’…

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

In today’s Observer,  there was a statement about our County’s political history that caught my eye. “The County used to be the bluest shade of Democrat blue.” That must have been written by a newcomer to the County, thought I.  But, I have to concede that even the term “newcomer” is open to historical interpretation.  So, I thought I’d just correct the record a bit.

From the time Washington achieved statehood in 1889, Pacific County was on record as strongly Republican.  That wouldn’t change for another thirty or forty years. But on November 11, 1932, the Pacific Tribune ran this article:


Pacific County Votes Democratic For First Time
The Democratic donkey turned out to be a wild and wicked jackass in this election. Even Pacific County went Democratic for the first time in a million years and the State of Washington turned Democratic even to the extent of
defeating the old timers at Olympia…Not  a Republican will be left in Olympia but N.D. Showalter, superintendent of schools, and the Democrats did not have anyone against him.
Roosevelt carried the state by 100,000 majority… The state elective officers bowed down to the Democrats by majorities ranging from 20,000 to 50,000, being carried away in the general demand for a change. It is reported that Fred Norman is the only Republican senator elected to the legislature and the Democrats will be in full control at Olympia as well as Washington, D.C .
It was not an election, it was a revolution!


When the Sou’wester reprinted this article in 1981, Editor Larry Weathers added:  The election of 1932 was a milestone in county politics, but to be truthful, it was to be another ten years before local residents completely switched their loyalties to the Democratic Party.

I should probably add that both the Democratic and Republican parties have changed a great deal over the ensuing years which may account for some of the switched allegiances.  Or so I understand. In the early 1900s and beyond, my grandfather was a staunch Republican.  By the time I came along in 1936, his children were leaning toward the “other side” and now, there are no elephants left among his descendants as far as I know — just “wild and wicked jackasses” to quote that long-ago Ilwaco Tribune article.  Ahem.

“The Dark Divide” is on its way!

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

Coming September 18th!

If you are a Robert Michael Pyle fan or a Bigfoot fan or a Giants in the Trees fan… take note!  At long last the trailer for “The Dark Divide” is out and available for viewing on YouTube and FaceBook.  The movie comes to the big screen on September 18th and will be showing the 18th-20th at the Columbian in Astoria.  Woot!  Woot!

The film is based on Bob’s 1995 book, Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide.  It stars David Cross as Bob and Debra Messing as Bob’s late wife, Thea.  Although I’ve watched the trailer a half dozen times now, I’m still having trouble acceptinng Mr. Cross as Bob — not his looks or voice or mannerisms…

The Book – First Edition

But a trailer is not a good way to judge; I’m hoping my willing suspension of disbelief kicks in when I see the full movie.  Bob mentioned in his email announcement that Debra Messing is “a truly remarkable Thea” and I so hope he’s right.  Like Bob, the real Thea was so special and distinctive, it’s hard to imagine anyone capturing her on the silver screen — even Debra Messing.

The cinematography looks to be amazing — most of it centered in  Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest, from Mount Rainer to the Columbia Gorge,  — and that, of course, is probably the important part if it’s to be at all reflective of the original book.   The screenplay was written by Bob and director Tom Putnam so, presumably, Bob is fine with whatever deviations there are from the book.  (I’m never quite sure what “based on” means.  Sometimes any vestige of the “original” is lost on me.)   After I’ve seen it, I hope I get a chance to talk to him about it.  I’m also eager to see (or, more to the point, hear) how much of the musical score is provided by Giants in The Trees.

Robert Michael Pyle

What a treat for all of us local fans!  I can hardly wait.  Meanwhile, I think I’ll re-read the book.  If memory serves, we bought our copy from the author, himself, when he did a signing at our book store, The Bookvendor, back in the day.  Wow!  So long ago, now.  And now we can say, “We knew him when…”  Actually, we’ve been saying that about Bob for years!

…a thousand words, a million memories…

Monday, August 17th, 2020

Yesterday, my son Charlie posted a picture from his childhood — a picture sent to him by our long-ago neighbor and Charlie’s forever friend, Diane.  And along with the posting  came the most wonderful “conversation” between the two of them!

Diane began by saying, “In life, one of the best blessings a person can have is a Best Friend for Life. I am so blessed to be able to say I have two of those. One of them is Charles M. Howell, IV.  Here we are in this picture from left to right, me, Charlie (as I call him), and my youngest sister Denise. This was mid 60’s. Charlie is still and always will be my first BFF!”

Charlie’s response: “Thanks! Blast from the past! I wonder what we were playing. And who took the picture. But that was the gang. (Your older sister, Debi, wouldn’t have anything to do with us!)”

But then, the conversation got even better — especially when “overheard” by a mom who was, like so many working mothers, a bit oblivious to what the kids were doing when they were told they could “go on out and play.”

Diane: “Yeah, Debi always kept us at a distance. The only time she came around was when you made the Beatles instruments and she got to be John!”

Charlie:  “I was always George, unless we were playing Batman & Robin and the Beatles. Denise didn’t like getting the leftover parts (Ringo or Robin), and sometimes wanted to be James Brown. I don’t think it was very structured. Running around, air guitar, a lot of noise, and a lot of fun. But this looks like we were doing something else.”

Diane:  ” I am holding coloring book and crayons. I remember you would always let me color in your books then scold me if I didn’t color straight.”

The conversation continued for a bit, but by then other people had weighed in with similar memories… I loved every word!  What a strange and wonderful gift to be able to “re-live” part of your own child’s childhood — that part of growing up that adults aren’t normally party to.  But now, we are all adults and we are all looking back with a sort of grown-up childhood wonder.  Thank you for the posts, Diane and Charlie!  It was a rare privilege to re-visit the two of you on Greenridge Road in the mid-’60s!

When The Stars Align and Memories Erupt!

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

Sometimes nice things happen for no reason at all — at least not for any reason that is immediately apparent.  So it was when a former student called me the other day and asked if I had any of my Ocean Park School books for sale.  If she had called a month beforehand, or even a week before, the answer would have been “I’m sorry.  No.”  But as it was…

Last week I had received an order of my Arcadia books and was reorganizing shelves in the back forty to accommodate them.  Up high where I could hardly reach was an unlabeled box which I retreived with difficulty and… voilà ! There were six or eight copies of Ocean Park School, The First Seven Decades!  I was so happy to see them!

1979 – Tera in A.M. Kindergarten, 2nd Row, 3rd from left

Years ago, when the book was not selling and not selling (it did dismally, I’m sad to say), I gifted the copies that remained to the Friends of Ocean Park School.  I thought they could use them as prizes or something.  For all I know they still have them stashed in a storage area somewhere.  I purposely kept out a few dozen copies to sell… just in case.

Over the years Adelaide’s had sold a few and I sold a few, but otherwise… nothing.  Gradually, I forgot that I had any left.  So, a year or so ago when someone asked me about them, I said, “Sorry.  There are no more.”  I wish I knew who that was!  I could revise my reply!

The other thing is that they were very spendy to produce.  (I had them published with the yearbook company that does the Ilwaco High School yearbooks.)  So I priced them at my cost thinking that I might manage to at least recoup my investment…  Surprise!  Surprise!  They certainly did NOT fly off the shelves.

Ocean Park School, 1936

But that was fifteen years ago and book prices, like everything else. have gone up.  The price of  Ocean Park School, The First Seven Decades stays the same — $60.00.  It still seems spendy to me but when Tera Fluharty (O.P. School, 1979-1982) came to the door to get her book, she didn’t bat an eye!  What she did do was visit and reminisce for ten minutes or so.  Even masked and distanced as we were, it was fabulous!  As we both agreed, there really is no price that can be put on memories!





Sometimes you forget…

Friday, July 31st, 2020

House Book – Front Cover

I recently “ran across” (which means, really, that I zeroed in on what had been in front of my very eyes for years and years) my “House Book” from the years I lived on the bay in the house that Ossie (and Wolfgang and Gunter) built for me.  The book is essentially two leather  covers enclosing a few hundred “blank” pages — or they were once.  During those years — 1980 – 2000) many people filled the book’s pages with  drawings, advice, praise, more drawings and general craziness.

The book was made for me by Nancy Lloyd in the days she specialized in leather craft.  It contains an amazing history of my life in that house and is full of memories of the wonderful people who visited me there, who partied there, who touched my life and who will always be in my heart.

"Gore & Roar" 9/3/82 by Gordon Schoewe

“Gore & Roar” 9/3/82 by Gordon Schoewe

I love reading it, though it tugs fearfully at my heartstrings.  On 3/29/80, just after I had moved in,  my dad wrote:  May this house (and home) never be finished — the essence of life is expectation. — Dad (WWLittle).

The first time Nyel’s name appeared was on 9/28/84.  He was included in the notation made by me:  Dennis Crabb’s “musical wish group” met here.  Along with Nyel’s name were listed Kathy Sayce, Ann Kischner, Ann Hauser, me.  Was that the first glimmer of the “Water Music Festival?”  But where were Patty and Noel and Kathy Crabb?

By Charles Mulvey 11/10/84

And SO many parties!  A Goodbye to Lawrence Lessard party in 1984 and again in 1986 (go figure!); birthday parties (many!) for Gordon and Roy and Noel and Nyel; High Tide parties toward the end of each December (usually); anniversary celebrations for my mom and dad;  Cinco de Mayo celebrations; come-and-meet-our-friends-from-Calif. or Ariz. (or Seattle or Boston or Oxford) parties; and Just Because parties.

On 4/16/94 Willard wrote Paradise is to be at Sydney’s and Nyel’s, by the bay, on a sunny day in April…Love Willard and Louise.    And in August 1995, notes from my cousins Joey and Mona Espy from NYC and New Orleans, respectively.

By Hannah Snyder 8/8/88

Throughout the book are (typically) nutty messages to  “Mommy” from Charlie commemorating his annual Christmas and occasional summer visits.  On Christmas 1994 he wrote:  I came here and saw Mommy & Nyel & Bowser.  Bowser loves me.  Big Kitty Jr. is at home all by himself for the first time, and he is lonely.  I have asked Nyel to try to find me a hardcover copy of Wittgenstein’s “Tractus Philologicus” which I’ve wanted to read for a long time– but now I’m reading “Hopeful Monsters” by Nicholas Mosely which refers to it.  We are having chicken… 

House Book- Back Cover

At the very end of the book is a list of “Sightings” which begins 4/11/86  at 7:30 a.m. 2 adult raccoons on Sydney’s Road heading for woods; 7:45 a.n. cock pheasant between house and high tide line… and continues to record deer and black bear and elk and hawks for pages and pages!

How rich our lives have been!


We had to take a raincheck!

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Ambrose, Gordon’s Alter Ego

Yesterday should have been Gordon Schoewe’s 7th Memorial Picnic Day in honor of his 94th birthday, but… you know.  We had to give this one a miss.  We’ll try again next year.  I wonder if any of the picnic group remembered to drink a martini in his honor.

There were no martinis here but at least I was able to suggest to our Bainbridge Island friend Dick Hawes to mix himself a double in Gordon’s honor.  We aren’t martini drinkers, Nyel and I, — weren’t even back in the day, although I think when Nyel was a drinkin’ man, he’d have one with Gordon on his birthday.  Dick would join Gordon in a martini or two whenever, birthday or no birthday.  Still would!

From my old Bay House Memory Book

Sadly, Dick had called to tell of the death of another old friend, Jim Lucus.  It was actually through Jim that Dick and I met forty-some years ago.  My friendship with Jim  dissolved shortly after I moved up here from California but, over the years, each of us maintained contact with Dick.  Ironically, Dick mentioned that Jim’s health had been iffy for a few years and, the last time they had talked, Jim said he was hopeful that he could enjoy a good martini again soon.

Cheers Gordon and Jim!  I hope you are sharing all the martinis your hearts desire.  And, Gordon… same time next year for your 95th!