Archive for the ‘From the Past’ Category

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!

A Century And More Ago

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Medora’s Locket

Every once in a while, it seems important to go back in time for a little reality check.  My “go-back-to” place is often family correspondence.  It’s sort of my own, personal “On This Date In History” experience.  So, I wondered this morning what was happening on the last day of June in my Aunt Medora’s life?  She was my mother’s oldest sister — born January 3, 1899 and died unexpectedly in her sleep of a Cerebral Hemorrhage on January 16, 1916 — just two weeks after her seventeenth birthday.

DIARY            WEDNESDAY,  JUNE 30, 1915            DIARY
 3125 Claremont Ave. Berkeley, Calif.

Do you realize Diary that I am in California, the land of our dreams?  Those two weeks at home intervening between the eleventh and the twenty-sixth were very busy days.  We packed, cleaned house, and did general overhauling…We left Saturday morning on the early train…arrived in Astoria about eleven; then followed a weary wait till three when the Rose City left.  We had two large staterooms opening on deck.  Only Sue was sick crossing the bar.  Sunday morning was delightful, so calm and sunny.  Just before lunch I got acquainted with…Clarence Hickock from Portland. We sat up on deck all afternoon and talked…

The Espy Children in 1913 – Dale, 2; Willard, 3; Edwin, 5; Mona 9; Sue, 10; Medora, 14.

Monday morning we arrived.  Grandpa, Eva, Ruth, Buelah, Uncle Sid and Uncle Bert met us.  Clarence asked to call.  Ha ha!  San Francisco is the thriving bustling metropolis of old; the bay, the fog and wind are all the same.  But as we rode through Oakland I could see the difference.  Out here in Berkeley are many beautiful homes. Aunt Maud’s is very attractive, every little detail is so perfect, and the whole house is very artistic…

What a difference a century makes!  I wonder if any fifteen-year-old girl anyplace in the world could write of their day today with such quiet innocence and pleasure.  I also wonder if someone looking back one hundred and five years from now would feel that ours is a time of calm in comparison to what might be going on then.  A horrible thought, indeed!




Gone! A BANd-aid Approach to Morality?

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

Classic Elmer Fudd

Have you heard?  Elmer Fudd has turned in his gun.  Now he’s going to carry a scythe when he hunts down that pesky wabbit, Bugs Bunny.

Never mind that a scythe is a lot scarier with its Grim Reaper connotations that Elmer’s old shotgun ever was.  Or, so it seems to me.  And, we are reassured, Yosemite Sam is being stripped of his gun, as well.  It’s all in the name of  a new stance on gun violence by Warner Bros.

The All New Elmer Fudd

But it is also pointed out that “cartoon violence” is still alive and well in the relaunch of the old classics.  There will be plenty of dynamite and explosives.  Even though the characters have been stripped of their wight to bear arms, I guess we can still be vewy vewy afraid!

And then there’s “Gone With The Wind.”  It’s being pulled from HBO Max “for a time” because, in its portrayal of the antebellum South and the Reconstruction Period, “the film romanticizes slavery as a benign and benevolent institution,” according to Jacqueline Stewart.  She is a University of Chicago professor of cinema studies and director of the nonprofit arts organization, Black Cinema House, and in September 2019, she became the first African-American host of Turner Classic Movies.

Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in Gone With The Wind

Stewart’s commentary, “Why we can’t turn away from Gone with the Wind” is well worth reading. Her thoughtful discussion of historical context, censorship, Black Performance,  and trenchant racism goes far beyond the film industry’s knee-jerk reaction and band aid approach to “fixing” issues rife in our culture.  Before forming your own opinion, I urge you to read hers: Then,  see “Gone With the Wind” one more time.



Those were the days, my friends…

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

I’ve just finished reading (or probably re-reading, though it surely didn’t seem familiar) Dick Francis’s book The Edge.  Written in 1988, it dealt with the fictional “Great Transcontinental Mystery Race Train” and, though I’ve never traveled by train in Canada, — or anywhere else after 1964, for that matter — it all seemed wonderfully familiar.

I have made transcontinental trips in North America, however — three of them here in the United States, from Boston to Portland and back in the summers of 1938, 1939 and at Christmas in 1946, the same trip, though the other way ’round.  I have few memories of the first two journeys.  I was 2-1/2 and 3-1/2 and made the trips with my mother from Boston where we lived to Portland, Oregon and then, of course, on by car to Oysterville to visit my Granny and Papa.

My mother told me two things about those trips.  On each of them, all I was interested in doing was walking the length of the train and back, through the many cars and over the scary couplings between them. Over and over again!  She claimed that we walked the full 3,000-mile distance to Oysterville!  And, secondly, after my first terrifying trip to the bathroom where you could see the railroad tracks when you flushed, I simply refused to go.  Period.  I didn’t have any “accidents;”  I just shut down.

My mother was fit-to-be-tied and finally appealed to the conductor who found a little potty and then, apparently, the problem was solved.  I think it might have been that same conductor who took pity on her and offered to do the walking with me for some of the time.  (I always did like a man in uniform!)

During the war when we lived in Alameda California and  had no car, we travelled by Pullman train from Oakland to Portland and always had a sleeping berth which the porter made up while we were eating dinner in the dining car.  Once or twice we made the trip at Christmas and I remember that the train was jam-packed with servicemen going home on furlough for the holidays.

“The Shasta Daylight”

By the time I was a teenager, Southern Pacific’s Shasta Daylight was making the trip — which they advertised as “a fast 15-hour-30-minute schedule in either direction for the 713-mile  trip through some of the most beautiful mountain scenery of any train in North America.”  I travelled back and forth several times that way, once with my Aunt Mona, once with my mother, and once with my best friend Joanne Bruner.  (All I remember about that particular trip is that Joanne and I made ourselves sick on fig newtons.  I still can’t eat them.)

In the fifties and early sixties, I travelled a little by train in England and Europe but found that it was less expensive in the long run to buy a car and then bring it back to the U.S. at the end of the summer.  And, besides, we weren’t stuck on the main rail routes that way and could really get away from the beaten path.  We were living on Arthur Frommer’s recommended $5.00 a day and travel was far cheaper by car if you could manage the initial outlay.

I don’t really miss train travel. Even back then, I found it more “romantic” to talk about it or see in the movies than to actually experience it.  But I am sorry that most of our recent generations haven’t had the opportunity — just like I’m sorry I didn’t have my grandparents’ experiences with horses, carriages, and buggies.  Again, it probably sounds more appealing than it was.

PGD may have come and gone…

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Nyel with “Boy Cat”-1975

Somehow, amid the discussions about the Personal Grooming Day possibility and other adventures made necessary by our compliance to sheltering… Nyel opted out of the haircut and beard-trimming part.  At least for the nonce.

I do believe his decision was prompted through a journey back in time.  Somehow, he broke out a big packet of pictures — photos of family and friends and people he now has no memory of.  Most, of course, aren’t labeled and if he didn’t recognize the people or places, he put them in the discard pile.  That, as might be expected, made me (“the- hoarder” he said — “the historian” I insisted) a bit crazy.

Nyel and Sylvia, 1975

So far the “discussion” is unresolved and the photos are re-stuffed into the envelope awaiting resolution.  Meanwhile, I was introduced to old girlfriends, a former wife, his father’s wayward brothers and much much more.  After 36 years of togetherness, even the exes had lost their intrigue — at least to me.  Still… it doesn’t seem right to just pitch them.

The pictures of Nyel in the 70s, however, were worth the journey!  Finally, I can see exactly what shade of red he’s been trying (unsuccessfully) to describe all these years. And I think I’m detecting a strong glimmer of nostalgia attached to that decision not to trim his hair.  Or beard.  I’ve tried to gently explain that forgoing the haircut in the here and now won’t exactly get us back to those good ol’ days…

Stay tuned!