Archive for the ‘Pacific County’ Category

You just can’t make this stuff up!

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Big News in 2010

Once upon a time, about two years ago maybe, I would have said “Only in Pacific County!”  I’m referring to my reaction to yesterday’s banner headline story, “Attorney: Wrong man in prison” – right there on the front page of the Chinook Observer.

If you’ve lived in our county for very long, you remember when Martin Jones was convicted of shooting Washington State Trooper Scott Johnson back in 2010 – a crime for which Jones is now serving a 50-year sentence.  No doubt, you also remember that Trooper Johnson was shot in the head by a .22-caliber bullet which broke apart and remains lodged in his head.  Subsequently, he left the Washington State Patrol due to disability but recovered sufficiently (Say what?) within a few months to run for Pacific County Sheriff against incumbent John Didion.  In our great wisdom (and what some called the “pity vote”) we elected him not once, but twice.

Yosemite Sam

As if all of that isn’t melodramatic enough, yesterday’s news story says that “sworn declarations from local drug dealer Peter Boer” have been filed, alleging that, back in 2010, his brother, Nick, “took credit” for the shooting and sent Peter to dispose of gun parts.  And the report goes on to say, “Peter Boer also alleged a motive, though no evidence has emerged to support it:  Johnson had been shaking down his brother Nick Boer for money in lieu of arrest.”  (Say what?)

And here I thought it was pretty crazy, back in 1985, when Mayor Fred Rutherford fired all the policemen (or maybe it was ‘almost’ all) in Long Beach.  I can’t remember the details except that we got a call at Ocean Park School where I was then teaching that “Everything is under control.  Fred is marching down the center of Pacific Avenue wearing his six shooters and the town is pretty quiet.”  Just like Yosemite Sam!  Perhaps you remember that?  It doesn’t seem nearly so strange in the light of more recent law-and-order events in the county.

MRAP – Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicle

Lest we be concerned… perhaps it might help us to remember that we’ve come a long way in the last thirty odd years.  Specifically, remember the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle that Sheriff Johnson managed to get for the county.  No need to patrol the streets with six shooters these days, no sirree!  (You just can’t make this stuff up!)

…you be the judge!

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
Chinook Observer Editorial 8/3/2016

Chinook Observer Editorial 8/3/2016

As far as I can tell, this week’s Chinook Observer contains more mentions of Oysterville than have ever occurred in any single past issue.  Beginning with an article about Oysterville Sea Farms (“Judge delivers clear win to Driscoll in land-use case”) and an editorial (“Preservation still possible in Oysterville”) followed by a number of letters to the editor and even a guest column, our little village is certainly in the spotlight.

In one way or another, they all have to do with legal process.  And, as we all know, once you get involved in that can of worms, reason and logic seem to fly out the window right along with facts and other pertinent information.  As Shakespeare wrote back in 1597 in King Henry VI, Part II:  “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”  (And, wouldn’t you know – lawyers have been arguing over what he meant by that ever since!)

Maybe the controversy in Oysterville boils down to semantics.  The headline “O’ville design guidelines wouldn’t withstand legal test” summarizes what a Gig Harbor attorney wrote in her guest column on the subject.  I don’t know much about the law, but I do understand something about the English language.  It seems to me that “guidelines” and “laws” are totally different.

Oysterville Design Guidelines

Oysterville Design Guidelines

According to my old copy of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary  a guideline is “an indication or outline of policy or conduct”; a law is “a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or firmly recognized as binding or enforced by a commanding authority.”

Furthermore, synonyms for law are listed as “rule, regulation, precept, statute, ordinance, and canon.” Guidelines ain’t in it!   In other words, guidelines are used to guide – which, to the best of my knowledge, is how the Oysterville Design Review Board utilized the Oysterville Design Review Guidelines for almost forty years.  I think Robert Freed’s letter (page A7) of explanation is the most cogent of all the opinions expressed.  In particular, I suggest you read his next-to-last paragraph which begins: “Design review guidelines are intentionally prepared with ‘gray areas’…

But to quote yet another of those common knowledge things, “You can’t fight city hall”… or in our case, the various boards, agencies, and departments of Pacific County.  In that regard, I wish the Observer would have an investigative reporter take on yet one more of those expressions that have become so prominent in twenty-first century parlance:  “Follow the money.”

Where will you be next Tuesday?

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

july-2016-printable-calendarAfter an 18-day road trip, we rolled into town last night to the news that our County Commissioners are holding a hearing at 10:30 a.m. July 12th at the Courthouse Annex in South Bend regarding a newly proposed ordinance for the Oysterville Historic District.  Should the ordinance pass, it will replace the controversial Oysterville Design Review Board (ODRB) and effectively remove the community from design decisions about their own place of residence.

We were aware of the hearing date but not that the newly proposed process, if approved, will remove the community from the equation altogether.  According to the latest research by one of our neighbors:  … there are two big issues around the proposed ordinance changes:  (1) what we just learned about a hearing examiner system – namely, that the community has no right to be heard during the hearing (that is stated in the examiner’s decision) and also has no standing to either appeal it or to request a reconsideration.  That takes a close, community-oriented ODRB process and cuts us out entirely.  That needs to be addressed.  (2) if you read the WHEREAS clauses in the proposed ordinance (go to the county website and it is listed just under the Ordinances link), there are several justifications proposed to be included in the ordinance that sounds like the resignation of 4 ODRB members is what left the County in this position.  That, of course, is misleading and unfair, since several of us stepped up to fill those positions.

Oysterville Design Guidelines

Oysterville Design Guidelines

I would add here that the deadline for applying for the aforementioned vacant positions on the ODRB was May 2nd. Five (count ‘em, five) Oysterville residents applied in ample time for those positions and have NEVER had a response from the County Commissioners with regard to their applications – not a ‘thank you for applying,’ not a ‘we are considering your application,’ not anything.  Our Commissioners apparently disregarded the applications entirely so that they could justify proceeding with the Hearing Examiner process.

If you care about Oysterville and you have a few hours to devote to its future next Tuesday morning, we hope you can attend the hearing in South Bend.

Thinking of John Didion

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

Saint John DidionThe headline on Facebook from The Oregonian/OregonLive read: John Didion, former Oregon State center on College Football Hall of Fame ballot.  Actually, it said “Fooball” which made me smile even more, if that’s possible.  I was so pleased for John’s family and for John, too, for that matter.  Somehow, I’m sure he’s heard the news.  After all, he was a (New Orleans) Saint from 1969 to 1974 and I have no doubt that he is among a greater company of saints now.

I know zip about the College Football Hall of Fame or how you get into it so I did a little research.  First of all, it was launched in 1951 by the National Football Foundation to immortalize the players and coaches of college football. So far, 977 players and 211 coaches are included.  They represent 305 schools.

According to the online article: John Didion is one of 75 players on the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame Ballot, the National Football Foundation released Wednesday. Didion was a key part of the Beavers’ famed “Giant Killers” and a two-time All-American, earning unanimous first-team honors in 1968. 

John Didion

John Didion (1947-2013)

Like most of us in Pacific County, I remember John as our County Sheriff (1998-2010) and, before that, as the D.A.R.E. officer who came to my classroom year after year to instruct children in “Drug Abuse Resistance Education.”  Before that, back in the mid-seventies, I remember him as the young man who dug the hole for my septic tank when he was working for his father-in-law Bill Niemi.  I knew him as the brother of my colleague Sue and uncle of the three Anderson kids whom I taught in the 80s.  I remember him as one of ‘the good guys’ and one of the nicest men I’ve been privileged to know.

In recent weeks and months, John has been much on my mind.  It was John who discovered the first Pacific County Jail log book in the back of his office closet and brought it to me back in 2010.  He thought I might find it of interest… and, of course, I did.  Jailhouse Stories from Early Pacific County is the result.  Though it makes its official debut June 13th on bookstore shelves, a few advanced copies of Jailhouse Stories are ‘out.’  The very first one should have been for John.

Foot-dragging in Pacific County? Surely not!

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Oysterville SignLike all other residents in the Oysterville Historic District, we received a letter in mid-April concerning four vacancies on the Oysterville Design Review Board.  Qualified residents were invited to apply.  Deadline for applications:  May 2nd.

I know of five (possibly six or seven) property owners within the District who sent in their applications well before the stated deadline.  That was more three weeks and two Commissioners’ meetings ago.  None of the applicants have heard a word.  Not “thank you for applying,” not “we’re too busy to deal with this right now” and certainly not “you are hereby appointed…”  There is an official silence.

Design Review Guidelines0003But the oyster shell telegraph does not remain silent on the issue.  We have heard that at least one of our neighbors is waiting for some decisions regarding his property and desires those decisions to be made ‘in a timely manner.’ We have also heard that the Department of Community Development does not think an ODRB can be convened and trained within the required timelines – which according to some are 180 days and according to others are 120 days.

It looks to me like 23 days have already been wasted.  The Board could have been appointed and trained (which we are told takes two or three hours) and be up and running by now. So what’s the hang-up?  It would seem to be in the best interests of both the County and its residents to get this show on the road. But… and isn’t there always a ‘but’?

Last January, the Commissioners directed the DCD to develop a new Design Review model for Oysterville.  It would replace the ODRB with a Hearing Examiner, effectively taking the decision-making process for “major and minor construction” in Oysterville out of the hands of its citizens.  That new ordinance is to go into effect by January 2017.

Pacific County CourthouseSuddenly, according to the oyster shell chatter, the new ordinance has already been written (presumably by the DCD) and awaits approval by the Commissioners.  Also presumably, the ‘process’ involved in its adoption would require a public hearing and an appeal period, then appointment and training of the Hearing Examiner – all undoubtedly taking as much or even a longer period of time than establishing an interim ODRB.

So the foot-dragging seems to involve some decision-making on the part of the Commissioners.  Should they appoint an interim ODRB (which could be hard at work until January 2017)  or move ahead more quickly than planned on a new Ordinance? Meanwhile, the clock is ticking… Seems like it’s time to fish or cut bait.  Or at least tell those who complied with that application deadline what’s going on.

“Chopped Liver” Here

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Winter/Spring 2014 - Summer/Fall Sou'wester

I believe it’s still considered bad form to toot your own horn and probably even worse form to criticize the efforts of others. I am about to commit both offenses in the name of setting the record straight and I apologize right up front to anyone whose toes I step on.

There is a newish site on FaceBook (at least new to me) purporting to be about Pacific County history. Hooray for that! I’m all about our Southwest Washington history. So I took a look and one of the first things I saw was some place name definitions: “Beard’s Hallow” and “Dead Man’s Hallow.” I thought I might have wandered into a Harry Potter book by mistake. We have Hollows here with an ‘o’.

Still… I wanted to commend the effort until I took a brief look at those and other entries – lots of guesswork and “I think it’s” or “I may of spelled it wrong” and it made me a bit crazy. K is for KidnappingThere is a plethora of excellent information available about the place names of Pacific County, not the least of which is a double issue of a recent Sou’wester. “A Sense of Place, Names of the North Beach Peninsula” researched and written by TOOT! TOOT! yours truly.

I was not surprised to see that it was not a title listed on the “Books I Have Read about Long Beach Area” on the same site – after all it is a magazine, not a book. Never mind that the Sou’wester magazines (published quarterly since 1966) are one of the most reliable sources of Pacific County History and, should top any list of reading material about the area.

Book Cover for Dear MedoraAs for the books that were listed – great, as far as they went! However, there was not a single title by TOOT! TOOT! me, even though sixteen of the eighteen books I’ve written about our area are still in print. Not one. I definitely felt like the proverbial chopped liver. (And, in case this is the reason, let me disabuse readers right here and now of the notion that I write for children.  I do not.   My ABCs series are about basic facts; not alphabet books for youngsters.) But, I consoled myself that I was in good company. James G. Swan’s The Northwest Coast or Three Years’ Residence in Washington Territory was not on the list either. It’s a book that should be required reading for anyone purporting interest in our area history. Period.

I know my Oysterville grandmother is rolling over and over in her grave up at the Oysterville Cemetery. She believed firmly in hiding your light under a bushel. My Bostonian grandmother, on the other hand, lived by the rule, “If you don’t toot your own horn, no one will toot it for you,” TOOT! TOOT!

Kidnapping the County Seat!

Sunday, February 7th, 2016
"An Outing on the Bay"

“An Outing on the Bay”

According to all reports, Sunday February 5, 1893 was cold and miserable – “slushy” Commissioner John Morehead called it. While the good citizens of Oysterville huddled in the uncertain warmth of the church’s woodstove, two plungers sailed across the bay from South Bend. One went straight to Oysterville; the other headed for the dock at Nahcotta.

After fortifying themselves at the local saloons, the hundred-or-so men converged on the courthouse at Oysterville.  There, according to Morehead: …the two parties went into a huddle to talk over their method of procedure. Finally, an egotistical tailor and taxidermist named John Hudson, who afterward was an exhibit at Chicago World’s Fair from Pacific County, stepped forward and after rolling up his sleeves, so as to show his well-developed biceps, assumed an attitude and kicked in the door of the court house. The mob swarmed in and seemed to be more intent on satisfying their curiosity than in carrying away the contents of the offices.

County Courthouse in Oysterville 1875-1893

County Courthouse in Oysterville 1875-1893

The rest of the story is a familiar one – at least to those of us who live in twenty-first century Oysterville. Ultimately, the South Benders did take away some of the records and the furniture and, wrote Morehead: in due time the contents of the court house were removed over to South Bend by the usual method of transportation.

But it’s the last part of the Commissioner’s story that I like the best: To show that there was no demand at that time for nerve tonic in the booming city on the banks of the Willapa, bills were presented to the Commissioners for services rendered to the county while looting its property. It is unnecessary to say that those bills were disallowed by the board without a debate, by a two to one vote.

A Sign Marks The Site

A Sign Marks The Site

That infamous day of 123 years ago was the first Sunday of the month, just as this is the first February Sunday of 2016. There aren’t too many other similarities. Today, the temperature is a mild 57° with sporadic sprinkles predicted. The church is empty except for the occasional tourist and the courthouse is no more. As far as I can tell, this will be just another quiet day in greater downtown Oysterville.

A Reprieve for Oysterville!

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
the County Seal

the County Seal

Yesterday at their regular bi-weekly meeting, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) directed the Department of Community Development (DCD) to move forward with a Historical District (that would be us!), but limit decision-making to a Hearings Examiner and to major and minor construction. ‘Administrative Approval’ (of minor items such as tree removal, location of TV dishes, and types of fencing) will be taken out of the ordinance completely.

Enforcement of the current and future ordinance was part of the directive – a refreshing and hopeful aspect, in my opinion. For several years we have been told that there is neither funding nor manpower to enforce compliance with the existing ordinance which, predictably, has resulted in some residents ignoring the process completely. Presumably, letters have already been sent out to recent ‘transgressors’ giving them fourteen days to respond.

Pacific County Courthouse, Oysterville (1875-1893)

Pacific County Courthouse, Oysterville (1875-1893)

The new ordinance will go into effect in 2017 so, practically speaking, the DCD has a year to revise, replace, or otherwise adjust the current ordinance and its accompanying guidelines. In one form or another those items – the ordinance and the guidelines – have been ‘on the books’ for almost 40 years. The National Historic District has been able to retain its character and ambience because of them.

But, times change. Contrary to the opinion of many, Oysterville is no longer (if it ever was) a cohesive group of neighbors willing to work together for the ‘common good.’ In the matter of design guidelines and laws pertaining to them, we run the gamut. There are those who say “my property, my right to decide”; there are those who feel the status quo with the current guidelines and ordinance is just fine; and there are several groups who fall somewhere in the middle.

Pacific County Auditor's Office, c. 1890

Pacific County Auditor’s Office, c. 1890

Two of the ‘factions’ were present at yesterday’s meeting. We sat on opposite sides of the room and our representatives addressed the Commissioners briefly, even though this was not a public hearing. One group asked that the BOCC throw out the current ordinance “immediately” and the other urged that those items that currently fall under administrative approval be included in some way in the revised ordinance. Chairman Frank Wolfe underscored that the County will continue to operate under the current set-up until 2017.

The DCD is eager for community involvement and I’m sure our work is cut out for us. It will be interesting to see how (or if) the residents work together toward a common outcome. I suspect that there will be as many proposals from our community for the new ordinance and guidelines as there are opinions in this tiny thirteen-person village. The next year will be interesting, if nothing else.

Bottom line – all of those letters and emails our supporters wrote and all of you who attended the Community Meeting here in Oysterville in October had a positive effect. Thanks to the concern of the community, we have been given the gift of time. I do so hope we don’t squander it in squabbling!

…and the town filled up!

Monday, October 19th, 2015
R.H. Espy Family, 1895

R.H. Espy Family, 1895 (Harry, standing at right)

My grandfather, Harry Espy, was born in 1876. He was the third child and second son of R.H. and Julia Espy who had, in total, eight children. Five of them lived to old age and, even as a self-involved youngster, I knew I was lucky to know them and to get the benefit of their wisdom and reminiscences.

Every year until my grandfather died in 1958, the family – all of us! – would gather for a week or ten days in the summer. We never called those get-togethers “family reunions.” They were just referred to as “the time when the family came.” I was ‘the little pitcher with big ears’ sitting in the corner of our library while the old folks visited. I especially liked the stories of their childhood days when the stagecoach still came “lickety-cut” into town and Oysterville would “fill up” when court was in session.

Pacific County Courthouse, Oysterville (1855-1892)

Pacific County Courthouse, Oysterville (1855-1892)

This was still the County Seat, of course, and during “Court Week” (which I think was once a month) attorneys and their clients, witnesses, and jurors would come into town. Even the judges and sheriffs, if they lived elsewhere, would take rooms in the Stevens Hotel or at the Pacific House. Many families would take in a boarder or two for the week and the town would be all a-bustle.

As a very little girl, I remember being curious about the expression “the town filled up.” I knew about filling up the bathtub and filling up a glass with milk, but I couldn’t quite understand that happening with the town – only when there was a very high tide and the street was awash for a few hours. That, it seemed to me, was what filling up meant.

Ilwaco-to-Oysterville Stage (1860-1889)

Ilwaco-to-Oysterville Stage (1860-1889)

I thought about that last night as I looked up and down the road. Almost every house had lights ablaze – unusual for a Sunday night in Oysterville these days. But, already people are gathering for the Community Meeting at the Schoolhouse scheduled for tomorrow afternoon from 1:00 to 3:00. Our County Commissioners want to hear what their constituents think about their suggestion that they rescind the ordinance which protects this little village.  And… we want to tell them!

The town is filling up. I can almost hear that stagecoach coming lickety-cut!

This Morning at the Oysterville Store!

Thursday, September 17th, 2015
PCHS Outing to Visit Willie Keil's Grave, 1953

PCHS Outing to Visit Willie Keil’s Grave, 1953

I wonder how many people are left in Pacific County who remember the Pioneer Picnics that took place in Bay Center every year from 1920 to 1972. They were almost always held on the 2nd Sunday in August and they were a time when the “old-timers” of the County (and their friends and families) would get together and reminisce. I remember going to several of them with my grandparents back in the forties and fifties – before I was old enough to appreciate those gatherings for much more than the fried chicken and potato salad.

PCHS Meeting August 25, 1953

PCHS Meeting August 25, 1953

There were always several hundred people there from all corners of the County. There was lots of visiting and speech making and the keynote speaker invariably told about an interesting and import aspect of County history. I think the first time I heard about the “Kidnapping of the County Seat” was at a Pioneer Picnic. I don’t remember who the speaker was – it could have been L.D. Williams or L.L. Bush or my Great Uncle Cecil or even my grandfather or Charlie Nelson. They would all have been there.

I remember being fascinated that my grandparents knew so many people from “across the bay” – from Nemah and Bay Center and South Bend and Tokeland. It never occurred to me then that these had been their closest friends in the days when transportation was primarily by water. Years later my mother would tell how the trip across the bay on the Shamrock or Reliable (or even in a neighbor’s boat) was much easier (and quicker) than getting to Ilwaco or Chinook by train. “Most of our friends were across the Bay in those days, not on the Peninsula,” she would say.

Oysterville Store, July 2015

Oysterville Store, July 2015

Although the Pioneer Picnics are no more, two important ‘direct descendants’ are – the Bush Pacific County State Park (which began as the Bush family’s property on which the Picnics were held) and the Pacific County Historical Society (which began in 1949 as a way to formally gather ‘the memories’ of Pacific County history.) Today the Pacific County Historical Society is holding their quarterly meeting at the Oysterville Store from 9:00 a.m. until 11 a.m. We intend to be there!