Archive for the ‘Oysterville Store andPost Office’ Category

Oysterville’s Seventeenth Postmaster

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Jean Smith, Oysterville Postmater 2002-2012

Mescal Jean Smith, always known to us by her middle name, died last week at her home in Tygh Valley, Oregon.  Her daughter-in-law kindly called to let us know.  Though Jean and John moved from Oysterville almost six years ago, I feel Jean’s absence more since that phone call than in all the years since they left.  Somehow, they have remained ‘present’ despite our sporadic communication.

Jean and John came to Oysterville in 1984.  They bought the Oysterville Store/Post Office Building as well as the old Andrews house next door.  I don’t know if Jean had aspirations to become the postmaster at that time or not.  I think Mary Munsey was still in charge of the mail in those days and then came Casey Killingsworth who we dubbed “The Singing Postmaster.”

John and Jean Smith, 2012

Meanwhile, Jean and John (but mostly Jean) ran the store.  John was still working in Oregon; for years we saw him only on the weekends.    By the time John finally retired and moved to Oysterville full-time in 2001, Jean was working as the PMR (Postmaster Replacement) at the Post Office as well as keeping an eye on the store.

Somehow, she also had time to grow tubs full of gorgeous tulips, nip outside to give doggie treats to her canine friends, and wave hello to the neighbors on her noontime walks through town.  She had worked and walked her way into our community and into our hearts and had brought John right along with her.

Soon, in 2002, she was officially appointed Oysterville Postmaster and John was minding the store full-time.  It was a natural division of labor and it seemed as though it had always been that way.  Indeed, now, almost two decades later, there are many store customers and postal patrons who don’t remember life ‘BJJ” – before Jean and John.

Jean Cuts Farewell Cake, 2012

“How is John doing?” I asked during the phone call.  Jean had written some time back that he had been diagnosed with “Beginning Alzheimer’s.”

“Not very well,” Jean’s daughter-in-law replied.  It wasn’t clear that he fully understood that Jean had died.  “His son will be taking him to Arizona to live with them,” she said. And we were quiet for a while.

I asked if I could do any calling – to let people know.  “There’s someone I called who said she’d post a notice at the Post Office,” she said.  “And we are going to gather up there at Jean’s Beach, probably in July, to scatter her ashes.  We want all her friends to come.”

I’m not really sure where Jean’s Beach is, but we plan to be there.

Mail Call! – Always fun in Oysterville!

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Mailboxes at the Oysterville Post Office

It’s probably similar at little post offices throughout the world.  Our Oysterville P.O. is a gathering place for the locals – nowadays, not so much ‘gathering’ as ‘see-you-as-I’m-passing-through – and it’s a collection/disbursement area for news and rumors (now called ‘fake news’) and gossip.  And, of course, there’s the mail.

Over the years, we’ve had some strange items in our post office box.  Take the letter that was sent to my folks from a friend in England.  It was addressed properly except that instead of WA, there were periods after each letter: W.A.  That little mistake was compounded by the omission of U.S.A.  The letter took several months to get here.  First it went to Western Australia, according to the cancellation stamps on the envelope.  A notation said, “Not here.  Try West Africa.”  The next note said, “Try the U.S.” and that, apparently did the trick!

Even in my great-grandparents’ time, there were interesting mail stories.  In 1893, the Oysterville postmaster received this letter – the first indication that the erstwhile Baptist preacher (who had skipped town to avoid arrest for his wife’s possible murder) was also a bigamist.

Tom and Sam Andrews Store and Post Office, c. 1900

Sir:
…I am the ferst [sic] wife of one Josiah Crouch.  I was married to him the 5 day of August in 1885 at St. Joseph, Mo. County Buccanan [sic].  In 1888 he left me at Havensville Kans and I understand that he went to Ark. In 1889 he married a woman by the name of Tedden at Gladstone Ark as I had too [sic] letters from D.P. Tedden the father of his last wife.  I have a little girl 7 years old.  I have written some letter [sic] to Ilwaco with my one [own] handis [hands] no forgery.  I have send [sic] letter [sic] a copy of Mr. Teddens letter and a stat ment [statement] nad [and] copy of the married [sic] lissen [license] to T.H. Parks at Ilwaco Wash if you wish to see thum[sic] you can write to him yours respectfully Mrs. Tillie Crouch

Mail from Japan

Not too long ago, there was another curious bit of mail in our postal box.  Apparently, it was from Japan and was addressed to:

The Tourist Information Center of Oysterville Town.
Oysterville – Town.
Washington – State.
Willapa – Bay.
Pacific Ocean.
South west – Olympic City.
South west — Washington.
North west – U.S.A.
To: U.S.A.

 We love going for the mail.  We never know what the next surprise might be!

Count down! Save the date!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Meet the Author - CopyMark your calendar!  Saturday, June 18th, 1:00 – 3:00, Oysterville Store, Meet the Author.  (That would be me!)  I’ll be signing my new book, Jailhouse Stories from Early Pacific County.  And, as storekeeper Greg Rogers says, “There will be a book talk at one o’clock.”

Presenting a new book is always interesting.  I’ve had some practice doing it, myself, but I’m even more experienced at watching other authors introduce their books.  During the decade that Nyel and I owned the Bookvendor in Long Beach, we hosted many “Meet and Greet” events for authors.  That was during the 1990s when publishers were still sending authors ‘on tour’ with new books – a practice that has all but stopped in this era of e-books, self-publishing, and a much beleagured, struggling communication industry.

I like to watch how potential buyers approach a new book.  If it’s a paperback (like Jailhouse Stories), the blurb on the back cover often gets scanned first.  Sometimes, it’s a quick look at the illustrations.  But, I suspect with this new book of mine, it will be the index that gets the initial once-over.

At the Oysterville Store (1)More than one person has already asked me if any of their forebears show up in the book.  It’s possible, of course, but probably unlikely.  The parameters are fairly narrow:  those booked into the Pacific County jail between April 15, 1886 and September 20, 1919 or those connected with law and order here during that same period of time.  And a few others.  The index lists most of the 591 men and women who spent time behind bars here in those years – even for a day.  And a few others…

I hope, though, that interest goes beyond those who were unfortunate enough to run afoul of the law.  It’s the ‘for what’ and the ‘why’ questions that are far more interesting.  Crime (or at least those transgressions that are punished), like all other social problems, erupt in waves of ‘popularity.’  During those years in our County, whether it was being ‘drunk and disorderly’ or an ‘underage woman’ or a person deemed ‘insane,’ arrests reflected not so much the laws on the books, but the concerns of the community at any given time.

The book takes a peek at the history that’s often swept under that proverbial rug of respectability – right here in Pacific County!  I think readers will find it illuminating even if they don’t see familiar names in the index!

Without The Background Noise

Sunday, July 5th, 2015
Fourth of July Visit

Fourth of July Visit

It was with relief that I woke up to peace and quiet this morning. This hushed fifth of July – birthday of my beautiful Marta and of the Dali Lama – is a welcome contrast to the sounds of insanity of yesterday.

Open for Business

Open for Business

We went to sleep last night feeling like we were living on the edge of a war zone. The explosions were continuous and seemed endless – some from a few doors north in Oysterville, but most from the ocean beach just a mile to the west. I drifted off thinking of all the money being blown up and wondering if we’d be awakened to the sound of fire engines. Or the smell of smoke.

Patriotic Pies!

Patriotic Pies!

The night proved uneventful; Oysterville appears to be still intact. But, still, I held my breath as I took a quick took at FaceBook to see if the rest of the Peninsula escaped unscathed. The pictures of the crowds on the beach and of the ‘bombs bursting in air’ were amazing. Everyone looked happy and in a celebratory mood. Yet, I could almost hear that unseen background noise…

Patriotism, Oysterville Style

Patriotism, Oysterville Style

My own images of our Fourth were so simplistic by comparison – so safe and sane looking. You’d never know there was chaos happening so very close by. I wonder if that’s the way it is a mile away from the front lines in real war zones.  And why is it, again, that we celebrate our independence so loudly and dangerously?  I rather visit friends and eat pie.

Pride? Anxiety? Bhima’s not telling.

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015
Bhima-the-Greeter

Bhima-the-Greeter

When I went in to get my mail the other day, Bhima was sitting tall beside the door. At first glance I thought his expression was one of pride. But… maybe not. Perhaps it was Bhima looking anxious. I think it could have been interpreted either way.

Bhima doesn’t often stand sentinel at the entrance to the Oysterville Post Office. Usually he is lazing on the lawn in front of Greg’s house next door with a ball for fetching at the ready. He’s given up on me as a likely playmate, however. I’m usually on my way somewhere that makes a drool-covered hand undesirable. (No offense, Bhima!) This sentry pose was a new one for Bhima.

The Facelift Begins

The Facelift Begins

Also new was the white color of the building’s front wall. It’s a giant step forward in the face-lift process for which owner Greg has been preparing for some time. First came a lot of looking at early pictures. But reading colors from black and white photos is beyond difficult. Next came hours of careful paint-scraping in an effort to find the ‘original’ colors. Easier said than done. Then were the trips to Seattle to a place that specializes in matching heritage paints. (Well, I don’t know if “heritage” is the right term, but you know what I mean.)

I’m actually not sure of Greg’s final choices in the matter. I’ve heard him mention “Standard Station Red, White, and Blue,” “Coca Cola Red,” and some sort of very light mustardy khaki color. I also heard him say how much he likes the look of this bright white primer. So, I’m in wait-and-see mode. Maybe Bhima is, too.

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Greg’s Photo of Bhima’s Coat of Many Colors

Or, it’s entirely possible that Bhima was purposely hiding his backside. During the painting process he managed to get a good bit of paint on his coat. If he were a FaceBook reader, he’d know that Greg had already posted that picture. I’m posting it once more on the off-chance that he reads my blog… And, be of good cheer, Bhima! You look great no matter what color you’re wearing!

Ghosts and Hot Chocolate by Candlelight!

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

 

Sydney Talks about Ghosts, 11-8-2014

Sydney Talks about Ghosts, 11-8-2014

Last night I shared center stage with the world’s most elegant raven (a sculpture by Greg’s mother) and talked about ghosts to a standing-room-only crowd. They (well, not the raven) drank hot chocolate, told some ghost stories of their own, and seemed to have a great time. Me too!

Greg Rogers at the Oysterville Store knows how to put on an event! Candlelight and chocolate eyeball candies for kids gave just the right touch of eeriness to the evening. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate – none of the slashing rain or moaning wind that Greg had hoped for. Too, there was a competing clam tide but that was probably just as well – it was a packed house!

Oysterville Store Raven

Oysterville Store Raven

There was high interest in the ‘behind-the-scenes’ tidbits concerning Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula – lots of great follow-up questions about the details. Plus, I actually got a lead or two on another possible ghost story – maybe a sea captain who hung himself long ago in a house in Seaview.

The ‘Lamplighter Story’ surfaced again, too – the woman who appears now and then in the Ladies Room at the Seaview restaurant  à la Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s the only enduring Peninsula ghost story that I did not include in this book and seems to be calling out for me to get busy with a sequel.

Signing "Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula"

Signing “Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula”

I also learned for the first time that there is a “Lady of the Bay” who rises out of the waters of Willapa Bay now and again. Apparently she appears out of the fog on the lonely, curvy stretches at the head of the bay. “She doesn’t appear on this side of the bay – just on the other side,” we were told. I’ll have to ask my friends in South Bend and Raymond if they know of her.

I loved it all. I don’t know how the raven felt about it, but at least I didn’t hear him say “never more”… so maybe there will be a next time!

(Many thanks to Greg Rogers and Stephanie Frieze for these great photographs!)

The Magic Words! “Sold Out!”

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

 

From Mary Beth Kelly's FB Page

From Mary Beth Kelly’s FB Page

The “Ghostly Book Event” at Adelaide’s yesterday was great fun. I was astounded at how many people were there to be “introduced” to the ghosts and even more amazed at the number of books they purchased and that so many stayed to have me personalize and sign them! When proprietor Katee Uram whispered in my ear that they were almost sold out, I was delighted.

Fortunately, I had a partial box of books in my car just against such an emergency so the book sales continued without a hitch. Whoo Hoo! And, meanwhile, people were leaving me notes with their phone numbers – eager to tell me about their own ghostly encounters here on the Peninsula. “Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula, Part Two” seems like a distinct possibility!

'Sydney Signing' by Maggie Stuckey

‘Sydney Signing’ by Maggie Stuckey

The entire experience was enhanced by the weather. The wind howled and the rain slashed against the old Taylor Hotel. I arrived a bit early and Katee was already answering anxious phone callers asking whether the author was going to make it. I loved hearing Katee’s end of the conversation, “She’s already here!” and hoping that the caller would take courage and join the party. And apparently they did!

I’m already looking forward to the next ghostly adventure that will take place at the Oysterville Store on Saturday, November 8th beginning at 5:00 P.M. Several people have told me already that they will be there, eager to buy books and to bask in the ambiance of the old store by lamplight.

Next Ghost Event:  Oysterville Store, Nov. 8th

Next Ghost Event: Oysterville Store, Nov. 8th

Store owner Greg Rogers has “plans” for that evening and with his typical enthusiasm and imagination it should be another event to remember. And, given the time of year… maybe the weather will cooperate again. Maybe even a power outage! If so, I doubt that it will be anything to do with PUD. With three of the stories in the book about Oysterville ghosts, it seems a given that there will be some spirited hijinks afoot. No, make that afloat!

Scraping Up History

Saturday, June 21st, 2014
Paint Layers at the Oysterville P.O.

Paint Layers at the Oysterville P.O.

We commonly say that we are “digging” into the past. That usually involves research of some kind – searching various archives for deeds or birth certificates or other primary documents that give a framework of time and people.  But, for the archaeologists among us, actual digging is, indeed, the most direct route to the past.

Oysterville storekeeper Greg Rogers, however, is scraping rather than digging to find answers. His question: What was the original color of the Oysterville Store and Post Office? He has photographs going back to the very earliest days of the building (1918) but, of course, they are in black and white. And, so far anyway, there is no way to determine actual color from a black and white photograph.

Oysterville Store c. 1940

Oysterville Store c. 1940

Some of us old-timers remember clear back into the 1930s when there was a small gas station in front of the post-office. It was a sort of adjunct to Bert Andrews’ Garage down the street a way. I remember the whole store-post-office-gas-station being a sort of cream color with reddish-brown trim. But I’ve never claimed to have a very good visual memory.

Those are not, however, the colors that Greg is finding as he scrapes around the doorframe at the post office. He has found white, green, and a red he describes and “Coca-Cola red, like your car, Sydney.” Both the white and red seem to have been used on the trim and both red and white show up on the siding.

Oysterville Store c. 1930

Oysterville Store c. 1930

But then there were stripes… They can be seen as darker, horizontal areas in the old photographs on the lower portion of the building. And, how old are the parts of the building that have been scraped so far? Are those marks on the trim piece indicators that it is pressure-treated wood? If that is the case, it might be fairly recent in the great scheme of things – perhaps a repair?

But, on doing a bit of my own research, I find that the slit method of pressure-treating wood has been around since 1911. Knowing what I do of Bert Andrews, he could well have been on the cutting-edge of construction materials in 1918. So when was that trim painted red, anyway? Maybe Bud remembers.

All of this scraping and pondering is the precursor to giving the building a new coat of retro-colors. I’m looking forward to Greg’s final conclusions and to seeing the building as it once might have been. I wonder if it will stir up some long forgotten memories.