Archive for the ‘From the Past’ Category

Pearl Harbor Day

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Infamy:   evil reputation brought about by something grossly criminal, shocking, or brutal

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

“December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy…”  It was the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed and I remember listening to the radio as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke those words to Congress when he asked them for a declaration of war.  I was “five-going-on-six” and I remember it all clearly – the barbed wire on the beaches, the Victory gardens, the tinfoil drives, the air-raid wardens and rationing books, Kilroy, Lucky Green going to war, and being allotted only one pair of shoes a year – unless you were a kid.  We got two.

We hadn’t been at war – not with anyone—for five years, which at that point was my entire life.  I had no idea what a Big Deal that really was.  Perhaps no one else did either at the time.  As it turns out, that five-year period from 1935 through 1940 has been the longest time the United States has been at peace in our 232-year history. Both beforehand and afterwards we’ve had several periods as long as three years without being involved in a war, most recently 1976, 1977, and 1978 after the Vietnam War.  But mostly… we live with war.

IF you were born after 1978, you may have memory of two separate years that were not  involved in a major war – 1997 and 2000.  Other than that… not so much.  Since the United States was founded in 1776, she has been at war during 214 out of her 235 calendar years of existence.

Gun-toting Robotic Combat Robots

Yes, FDR had it right.  We remember Pearl Harbor – at least some of us do.  But how many more days of infamy have we forgotten?  When did we and the rest of the world go numb? Perhaps it was when researchers began using their knowledge of how human emotion develops to try to build robots that can feel.  But are they teaching those bots to remember?  Especially, to remember the important things?  Like Pearl Harbor.

“Grab his tail! Grab the horse’s tail!”

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

The Strathblane

When I ran out of reading material the other day – temporarily, until my book arrives at the library – I decided I would take a look at some the old Sou’westers… but which one?  The first issue was published in 1966 and for years the Pacific County Historical Society published them quarterly.  They are a treasure trove of our County’s history!  I have most of them and, before I knew it, I had started at the beginning and am now working my way through the lot!

I think it will be a slow process – mostly because I feel compelled to share some of my favorites with Nyel or with Tucker and Carol or… maybe (like today) in my blog.  This is an excerpt from an article by Eleanor Barrows Bower, published in Volume 1, Number 4 – the Winter 1966 issue:

            A country doctor unhitched his horse from the buggy and became a hero as the Strathblane disintegrated on the sands near the Ilwaco Beach Lifesaving Service [Klipsan Beach] on November 3, 1891.
            Charles Nelson, Sr. keeping solitary watch in the tower found the lines of communication downed by the storm and dispatched riders to obtain aid for the stricken ship.  From Cape Disappointment, Captain A.T. Harris and his men arrived by the narrow gauge railway but were unable TO SHOOT A LIFELINE ABOARD.  All but one of their lifeboats having been destroyed, the stranded sailors were obliged to jump for their lives, and the surfmen joined hands with local citizens to form a human rescue chain.
            On the Peninsula making his usual hose calls, Dr. T.H. Parks responded to an appeal for help from Nelson.  Astride the horse he had trained to enter the surf, he directed the survivors to grab hold of the harness, or the horse’s tail to be towed to safety.  Of the thirty men aboard, twenty-four were saved, including Jack Payne and First Mate James D. Murray both of whom became prominent Pacific County citizens…

Klipsan Life Saving Station

Years ago, maybe in the early 1970s before I moved permanently to the Peninsula, I saw a poem about this rescue in the New Yorker magazine.  I wish I had saved it.  I’m very curious about who wrote it and how they knew about Dr, Parks and his recue horse.

Thanksgiving 1947 – History Remembered

Thursday, November 22nd, 2018

1947 Golden Wedding Thanksgiving

My grandparents were married on November 25th – Thanksgiving Day – 1897.  I was lucky enough to be among the celebrants for their Golden Wedding Anniversary fifty years later, in 1947.  I don’t remember now whether we celebrated on their actual anniversary or on Thanksgiving which, that year, was on November 27th.  Or, in the interest of family members getting to Oysterville for the grand occasion, perhaps it was on the Saturday just before or just after the holiday.  I don’t remember.

Helen Richardson, November 25, 1897Saturday just before or after the holiday.  I don’t remember.

I do know that the time and place of their 1897 wedding had to be changed at the last minute.  They were scheduled to have a large church wedding in Oakland, California where my grandmother had grown up and where the young couple had met at California College a few years beforehand.  But young Helen’s mother became very ill at the last minute, and the church plans were cancelled.  The wedding took place at my great-grandmother’s bedside on Thanksgiving Day.  I’m not sure if that was before or after the originally planned date.

Fifty years later, all of their surviving siblings and spouses plus their four surviving children and spouses, plus many of their grand nieces and nephews, plus most of their seven grandchildren, plus a few close family friends, gathered at the Moby Dick Hotel in Nahcotta.  It was the only venue at the north end of the Peninsula large enough for the celebratory dinner.  I don’t remember much about it except that I was placed next to my grandmother at the table and I felt almost like the guest of honor, myself.

50th Wedding Anniversary Celebrants

I also remember that my cousin Freddy was the only one of Willard’s four little girls to attend.  She sat across from me, next to our grandfather.  Her three sisters were all home with the measles (I think. It might have been mumps or chicken pox.)  As I look at those pictures now, it saddens me to realize that I am the only one still living – even darling Freddie is gone.

The H.A. Espys On Their Fiftieth – 1947

I wouldn’t trade my years and my memories for anything.  I am thankful for all of it.  Even for the realization that this, then, is another of what my mother called, “the secrets of old age.”  If you live long enough, there is no one who left to share your memories.  I guess the flip side is that there’s no one to contradict your version of the events – the revisions of that 1947 Thanksgiving will be left to history.  Just like the corrections that are being made now to the very first Thanksgiving in 1620… but that’s another history lesson altogether.

On the Eve of Thanksgiving 2018

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Family Christmas 2014

On this day before my 83rd Thanksgiving, I’ve been reviewing all the things I’m most thankful for.  Of course, there are the “usual” – family, health, home.  And then, there is one more – memories.  Quick!  Before they fade!

An enduring memory of my mother is her whacky sense of humor.  She loved the songs and poems from her own growing up years in the 19-teens.  I can still here her singing in her enthusiastic off-key warble:  “K-K-K Katy, Beautiful Katy…” as she went about her chores.   Or the nonsense poem about the “durned ol’ rube from the high-grass town” that I have never heard or run across anywhere else.

Family on Easter 1940

And, the vision of my father, thumbing through a well-loved art book, looking at the reproductions of the masters and shaking his head in wonder and appreciation.  Or of his Sunday morning habit (back in the days of radio) of listening to classical music – often the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, I think.  He would pace and listen – his way of relaxing as I later came to understand, though his intensity made me a little anxious at the time.

And, my memory of my grandparents – Granny with her soft lap and smooth skin, always smelling reassuringly of powder and violets.  And Papa with his whiskery kisses and his meticulous measuring of how much I’d grown – marking it on the door and where did that board my dad transferred the marks to go, anyway?

And of my playmates down by the bay when we still had a big sandy beach for building sand castles and digging endless tunnels.  And all those ballast rocks, covered with moss that we could slip and slide over – or turn upside down and the find baby crabs hiding there.  And of skipping down the road, arm-in-arm with a friend singing (at the top of our voices, of course):

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

Oysterville Kids 1947

Yes – I am thankful for so many simple memories.  And, I am hopeful, too, – hopeful that the children of today will have their own simple memories to be thankful for – three-quarters of a century from now!

Lucy Locket should’ve been so lucky!

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

Another Three-Egg Morning

Being the wife of a somewhat impaired chicken farmer isn’t easy.  Right now, all coop duties fall to me since Nyel can’t put any weight on his left leg.  Besides the chickens missing him, there are other problems.  Like yesterday morning when I got up and put on my bathrobe…

The problem with coop duty at this time of year is that, no matter the weather, the grass is wet.  That entails boots and, for several years, there has been a boot crisis here at our house – as in my (extremely) old, comfy ones have sprung way too many leaks and I can’t find any in this new-age world that I can easily slip on and off when I’m wearing my usual blue jeans.

So… I’ve taken to doing the food and water run to the coop in boots and bathrobe so I can slip those boots onto (and off of) bare feet and legs.  Easy Peasy! The hem of my robe gets a little damp, but my next morning activity is to shower and get dressed so the bathrobe has essentially twenty-four hours to dry.  Over and out.  The bathrobe had the added advantage of having big, roomy pockets, and therein lies another problem.

A Pair of Pockets, 1700-1725, British Museum

Yesterday, just before dawn’s early light, I slipped into that warm, fleecy bathrobe and felt a rather familiar weight in my front right pocket.  Oh no!  An egg!  It all came back to me.  The morning before there had been four eggs waiting in the nest boxes.  I could carry three in one hand and, since my other hand held the water and food containers, I slipped the fourth egg into my pocket.  Apparently, that was the end of my thought processes about that particular egg.

Which made me think of Lucy and Kitty.  You may remember that “Lucy Locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it, Not a penny was there in it, Only ribbon round it.”  Well, at least these days it’s harder to lose your pocket, egg or no egg.  I read somewhere that, although men’s pockets began to appear in trousers and waistcoats as early as the 1600s, women’s pockets were separate items – more like a modern purse – and in the 17th and 18th centuries were typically attached to a ribbon tied around the waist and worn under the petticoats.

Embroidered Satin Pocket, 1725-1825, Germany

It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that dress patterns show pockets being sewn into the seams and not until the two World Wars when women began wearing trousers that pockets became part of everyday fashions for the female gender.  As you might expect, there is a lot of political palaver that goes with pockets and their sexist beginnings.  All I can say is, doing the chicken chores sure is easier these days than it would have been a few hundred years back.  And all because of that bathrobe pocket!

They don’t make ’em like they used to…

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

A 1945 Classic

It was a small group of Friday Nighters who gathered last evening – just the right number to have an in-depth discussion or two.  Mainly we talked about movies – old ones.  But, we began our stroll down memory lane with last year’s Academy Award winning Best Picture – “The Shape of Water.”  Those of us who saw it were pretty much underwhelmed.

To me it seemed like a poorer version of “The Enchanted Cottage” – 1945 with Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young.  That was another “modern day” fairy tale with an impossible happily-ever-after ending.  It was so much better than “The Shape of Water.”  But we all conceded that sometimes you can’t go back again – some of those oldies are better left in our memory banks.

Then we talked about the movies we’ve seen over and over – the ones that do hold up.  “Rear Window” and “The Birds” – actually most of the Alfred Hitchcock movies.  And “Casablanca” and “Gaslight” and “The African Queen” –  anything with Ingrid Bergman or, for that matter, Humphrey Bogart or Katherine Hepburn or Gregory Peck or…

Scene from 1952 “I Love Lucy” episode, “Job Switching”

And there were the musicals – “Oklahoma” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “Cabaret” and “Meet Me in Saint Louis” and how about all the Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly movies and which partners did we like them best with.  And, in that genre we agreed that some of the more modern films like the first “Mama Mia” were holding up pretty well, too

From there we segued into early television.  We all felt that most of our once-upon-a-time favorites seem dated now.  Nyel had recently seen an episode of “Wagon Train” that he found pretty lame.  On the other hand, we thought that some of the classic TV comedies – “I Love Lucy” or “The Carol Burnett Show” – anything with Tim Conway and Harvey Korman – still can make us laugh until we cry.  “They don’t make ’em like they used to,” we said.  Over and over.

“Dick Tracy” character, B.O. Plenty introduced in 1957

This morning Nyel and I repeated that same mantra when I mentioned, “I don’t seem to feel my usual sparkle today,” which led us to Sparkle Plenty, Dick Tracy’s daughter-in-law, and her father Bob Oliver “B.O.” Plenty which led us to Pigpen and the other “Peanuts” characters…  and isn’t Prince Valiant still going strong more’s the pity?  And so, our day began.  With, I might add, the full realization that we aren’t quite what we used to be either.  It makes me wonder how our past selves would hold up if we could rewind the film…

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.