Only in the best of regulated households…

September 24th, 2022

Whenever there was an unexpected mess to clean up or an embarrassing social confusion, my mom would sigh and say, “…only in the best of regulated households.  There was never an explanation to her remark but we all took it to mean that whatever it was could happen to anyone and we should just deal with it as best we could and get on with things.

Well… the attractive wooden box on the corner  of our kitchen counter doesn’t quite fit this category — but its contents might.  The box, I seem to remember, came with some fancy-schmancy food item in it — maybe smoked fish — which we soon enjoyed to extinction but kept the box.  I don’t know our intent, but it soon became one of those catch-alls for important items, especially small some-day-when-there’s-time projects.

Cocktail Fork with Bent Tine

Today I decided to clean it out and either prioritize the projects or get rid of them entirely.  Silly me.  Although I might be able to complete one or two of these plans — most of which were on Nyel’s ever-ending list, I fear most will go back in the box until someone more clever than I runs across them.  Here are a few that I can at least identify:

   A sterling silver cocktail fork, Hunt Club design, belonging to my mother, with one seriously bent tine.

      Numerous seed packets, some open and half empty with no indicators of how old they are or if they are still viable.

Seed Packets

A package of six individually wrapped bronze(?) keyhole escutcheons for the little keys that sometimes locked old-fashioned bureau drawers.  We have several such drawers with only small holes which originally held locks and (I think) these sorts of escutcheons  I’m sure Nyel had a plan but…

A clear glass paper weight embossed “COLUMBIA PACIFIC HERITAGE MUSEUM – Heritage Advisory Council.”  I was just wondering whatever happened to that group.  I I think we had an initial get-together — maybe at an opening exhibition — and I don’t think we’ve met since.  I wonder how many of us are still among the living…

A fat cellophane (actually what we used to call a “glassine”) envelope with these words printed on it in blue capital letters:  COLLECT U.S. COMMEMORATIVES: THEY’RE FUN; THEY’RE HISTORY; THEY’RE AMERICA.  I don’t know if these are something that were originally with my old (1943-1947) stamp album that I recently mailed to my friend Dick Hawes.  Whether  or not they are, I believe I will send them, also, to Dick for him to give to his friends who are, in fact, serious collectors.  I understand they gave that old album to a young boy who took it into his third grade classroom to show his friends and try to interest them in his newly found passion as a Philatelist.

So, there you have it.  Another day in Oysterville’s Fast Lane!



Do I need to give up on the C.O. too?

September 22nd, 2022

Such A Tempting Posture

I’m beginning to think I want to be an ostrich when I grow up.  There is something to be said for sticking your head in the sand when the going gets tough.  Actually, I guess I did do that to some extent twenty some years ago when I retired and vowed never to watch the nightly news again.  I’ve pretty much kept that vow and as far as I can tell have saved myself a lot of angst.

My reasons were many-fold, but mostly I found that the national and international news was mega-depressing and that I really couldn’t make a difference no matter what I did.  I decided that I’d rather focus on our local community and try to do something that 1) I enjoy and 2) had at least the possibility of making a positive impact on a few folks beyond my immediate sphere of influence.

So, I put my energies toward researching our local history and writing about it and making it available, at least as much as I could, to others who might be interested.  That desire spawned seventeen or eighteen books, a number of newspaper and magazine articles and, best of all, the seeds of the CPHM’s Community Historian Project.  Yay!

A Role Model Perhaps???

But… when I read (with heavy heart) yesterday’s local paper — our esteemed Chinook Observer — I felt myself sinking into the doldrums once again.  Too many negatives — the Weyco Strike, county-backed housing at the expense of open space, new Covid deaths, clam dig cancelled, mortgage rates rising, new gimongous airport threatening farmland… and on it went.  And… what can I do about it?

Write a letter?  Ten letters?  Join a protest march?  Put a sign in my yard?  Sorry.  Been there done that.  Many times.  I think it’s time for the next generation — actually those who were born several generations after my peers and I were struggling to be heard. But wait.    Aren’t those the “future leaders” who were raised on Saturday morning cartoons?  And we wonder why we’re in trouble…

 Super Heroes to the Rescue?

Meanwhile… each Wednesday I’ll continue pulling my head out of this Peninsula sand dune we live on — just for a moment —  in case something positively positive and unexpected happens.  I don’t have high hopes.


Keeping Tabs on Mrs. Crouch

September 21st, 2022

Window That Has Settled To The Right

I am frequently asked about what kinds of mischief Mrs. Crouch has been up to lately, and I know my vague responses aren’t very satisfactory.  Although I am often aware that she is  just out of sight, she seldom does anything substantive enough to satisfy those who are looking for a good ghost “experience”– certainly nothing interesting enough to warrant the beginnings of a story.

Nevertheless, I have vowed to begin paying better attention and to document anything that seems enough out of the  ordinary that it might be attributed to Mrs. C — even a few definite indicators that she is still “looking out for the household” in her own inimitable  fashion.  I’ve decided to  write down each incident as it occurs,  and perhaps in time a pattern will become clear.  And, perhaps, a story will emerge.

Door From Library Into Hallway With Sad Iron Doorstop

With that in mind, I want to tell about what happened a day or two ago — nothing much, of course, but still out of the ordinary.  First, let me remind you that this house is now 153 years old and has settled and become comfortable on the sand dunes that underlie Oysterville.  Some of the windows no longer open and the interior doors need to be latched closed or propped open — otherwise they almost-but-not-quite shut on their own.

The door between the east room (where the TV is) and the hallway is kept open with one  of my grandmother’s old sad irons, and the door from the east room into the library is propped open with one of the old ballast rocks brought up on the oyster schooners of long ago.  Both doors are usually left open for ease of access, but occasionally I close one or both.

Door Between Library and East Room With Ballast Rock Doorstop

The other day, it felt a bit drafty as I was watching TV, so I moved the sad iron and firmly closed the door into the hallway.  Not ten minutes later, I heard the door unlatch and watched, fascinated, as the door swung slowly (uphill!) back to its wide open position.  In a moment of total disorientation, I thought that Nyel would appear in his wheelchair, probably miffed that I had closed the door.  But…

I went into the hall and looked around but there was nothing to see.  Nor did it feel cold as is often reported after ghostly activity.  All was as usual… except the door.  It seemed clear to me that Mrs. C. wanted it left open and so I have complied, draft or no draft.  (Or was that actually a draft?)  It’s always hard to tell with ghosts…

My mother set the bar really really high!

September 19th, 2022

Dale’s Birthday Crown – 1998

I’m not talking about the beverage bar here — although mom had a fair hand at managing the little wet bar in this house after Dad (the main bartender) died.  I think she was making up for the years that she (and Dad, too) were pretty much teetotalers.  Those were the years before her own parents died and, though Mom and I never discussed it, I do believe she didn’t drink out of respect for their beliefs.  But, she made up for lost time in her own old age and liked nothing better than to entertain her friends with cocktails and her inventive appetizers.

Dale On Her Way To Vespers

But, the bar that this blog title refers to has to do with her fabulous wardrobe.  From hats to shoes, dresses to suits, jewelry to gloves, she could create an outfit for any occasion and loved every opportunity to do so.  Among her keepsakes are some great pictures of mom “dressed to the nines” sometimes on her way to a special function, but often for a “usual happening” like Vespers or a meeting of the Community Club at the schoolhouse.

My earliest memories include mom’s trips to her dressmaker.  No matter where we lived, she found someone who could whip up a new outfit or alter an old one for her.  She was never without something “new and fashionable” to wear.  By the time I was in fifth or sixth grade, I was included in these dressmaking sessions and how I hated them.  My fondest wish was to buy the perfectly fitting item off the rack, preferably without having to try it on.  That, of course, never happened, and as soon as levis became the rage, I was in them as often as I could manage.

Dale – A Symphony In Black and White

I think I was a great disappointment in that regard to Mom.  But she never gave up on me.  Periodically, when she could afford it, she would take me on a shopping spree and get me “outfitted” — usually for some specific occasion.  When Charlie and his Dad and I went to Europe for a year, Mom took me to I. Magnin’s and bought me several warm wool suits and a few dresses that stood me in good stead for years.  And again, when I accepted a teaching job up here in the Northwest some twenty years later, she took me to Portland to get me “properly outfitted.”

I think she finally realized that I was a hopeless prospect.  But she never chided or even mentioned any disappointment.  As I look at these picture of her now, I wonder if I did my part by telling her how beautiful she was and how proud I was to have such an elegant mother.  I hope so.

Coasters For The Cocktail Hour

Monday Evening, March 23, 1931

September 18th, 2022

Bright Angel Trail

Letter from my dad, Bill Little, to my mom, Dale Espy, during Spring Break when they were both college students at the University of Redlands.  They would soon announce their engagement and would be married on September 22, 1934.

Bright Angel Camp
Grand Canyon National Park
March 23, 1931

William “Bill” Woodworth Little, 1932

Dear Dale,
I am a total wreck – physically at least.  Bob and I went down the Bright Angel trail —  and if there were Angels on that trail, the Devil made ’em — to the river.  It’s a seven mile hike each way — 14 miles in all — and a drop of 7,000 feet in the 7 miles.
Well, it only took us 2 hrs 40 minutes to get down.  We rested for an hour and a half and started up.  We made the first half in 1½ hours and the 2nd half in 3 hours!  How we made that last mile of the trail — 2,000 feet up — I don’t know.  But we are here — loafing in front of the fire in the lodge room of the Bright Angel Camp.
We have a cabin here — all furnished for $1.50 each day.  Tomorrow we’re going to loaf and see the places around here where we don’t have to walk!
We are running out of money and we aren’t going to come back by Zion Park and Las Vegas — the roads are reported as terrible  —  but are either going to stay here until Thursday and get home Friday night — or come back starting next morning by way of Phoenix, Yuma, San Diego stopping for Friday night and part of Saturday with Dr. Love…   I’ll write you tomorrow night and let you know how we’re coming.
At any rate, we’ll land in Redlands on Sat. afternoon and I’ll see you Sat. night and I’ll be broke!
I miss you now — I was too tired this afternoon to miss you.  I didn’t miss anything except a comfortable chair.  There’s one thing wrong with this Canyon — there’s no elevator to the ground floor!
                                       Love    you, Bill
Bob sends his “stiffest” regards —



Remembering what Ratty said…

September 17th, 2022

“Believe me my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats,” said Ratty to Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s classic 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows.

Oh how I wish Mole had listened and had spread the word to all his kith and kin years ago.  Then, perhaps, I wouldn’t be traveling, once again, in this Land of Lament that is my otherwise marvelous looking lawn.  Perhaps the Mole People would have messed about right on out to sea.  After all, Mole never did go back underground.  He liked it along the riverbank with Rat and there he stayed.  It could as well have been the banks of Willapa Bay… and beyond.

In Our SE Corner

I’m not sure where, exactly, the Mole People  have been all Spring and Summer.  But now, all of a sudden, I know exactly where they are.  At least some of them.  Right in the southeast corner of our garden.  To be fair, it’s probably the best place they could have chosen — mostly out-of-the-way and not immediately apparent.  But still…   And, I do know that all those mole hills are probably the work of one Mr. Mole.  Only one.  Which gives me a Case of the Dreads.  What will tomorrow bring?  Or more specifically, how many more moles and where?


Getting ready for the honkers and dabblers!

September 16th, 2022

These are the Meadow Mowing days in Oysterville.  Every year about this time, the meadows in between the most easterly houses and the bay are shorn of their yearly growth.  Everything goes!  The tall grasses which have turned golden in the summer sun.  The little alder trees and gorse trying, as always, to gain a foothold and begin the process of reforestation.  The Queen Anne’s Lace and giant Hogweed and who know what all else — mowed down for another season.

Lest you think it is only that we mow the meadows for our view — there are many other reasons, too.  An obvious one, of course, is the fire danger that they would pose after a few years of neglect.  But, more importantly to many of us is the habitat they provide, once the fall and winter rains come.  There are times when the entire waterfront meadow looks like one big lake — a fact not lost on the dabbling ducks and flocks of geese who come and “settle in” each day, sure of finding the best morsels those brackish ponds and puddles can provide.

I know that this will be the first time I will truly miss the chickens.  They loved to cluck and fuss at all the activity on the other side of our east fence.  I wonder if any of the old-timers among the waterfowl will notice that our domestic fowl are gone.  And should you wonder if it’s really the same geese and ducks who return year after year — it’s probably been too long since you’ve read a good book about migratory birds.  There are dozens (of books, that is) and this is a great time of year to get started on a couple while you’re waiting for the honkers and dabblers to arrive right here on the Peninsula!

Maybe I should take up knitting…

September 15th, 2022

I’m re-reading Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, The Complete Short Stories, a 1985 compilation by G.P. Putnam’s Sons of previously published stories.  I’m sure I’ve read them several times before — certainly when this book was published and probably, for most of them, when they were first in print, as well.

As I read the stories now, I have a vague recollection of each — but not a “full disclosure” sort of memory, so I still read with interest.  And, besides… now that I am “older and wiser,” I’d like to think I have quite bit in common with Miss Marple — starting with her age.  However, Mrs. Christie was actually a bit vague about that.  In At Bertram’s Hotel, published in 1965, it is said that “Miss Marple visited the hotel when she was 14 and almost 60 years have passed since then,” implying that she was nearly 75 years old.  However,   in 4:50 from Paddington, published almost a decade earlier in 1957, Miss Marple says she will be “90 next year.”  So… I content myself that I’m in the ballpark…

Dame Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple

The other bit we have in common, Miss Marple and I, is that we both live in small villages.  Of course, St Mary Mead is truly a village — with a doctor, a policeman, shops, and other amenities, whereas Oysterville is but a collection of residences with a long, wonderful history.  Still, the opportunities for observation and speculation regarding our neighbors might be comparable.  Fortunately, I don’t know that there has ever been a murder here and, in any case, I seriously doubt that I would have any of Miss Marple’s skills in picking out the clues.

Plus… there’s the knitting.  Another of those “attention to details” occupations that I am hopeless at.  So… I guess Miss Marple and I are not so much alike after all.  Besides, I’d much rather enjoy reading about her than trying to emulate her.  Now emulating Mrs. Christie — that’s another matter.  Did you know that she is the best-selling author of all time — outsold  only by the Bible and Shakespeare?  Wow!

And then there was “the day after…”

September 14th, 2022

A Reasonable Facsimile — at least as I remember.

So… there was one important part of our wedding story that I left out of yesterday’s blog.  It happened the following day — on Monday, September 14, 1987…

But first, a little background.  The Croquet Gala on the day we were married was the third (of sixteen) such events and was a fund-raiser for the relatively new Water Music Festival.  I’m not sure now whether Ann Kischner or Pat Thomas was the President of WMF, but it was Ann who asked if they could sponsor a kid’s team.  And so it was that Michelle Kischner, a third grader in my 1st/2nd/23rd grade class as Ocean Park Elementary was at the Gala when Nyel and I were married.

After the ceremony, I was wondering what in the world to do with the nosegay that Gordon had given me as a wedding bouquet when I spied Michelle.  “Would you like this?” I asked.  “Oh! Yes!”  (Did she actually jump up and down?)

1987/1988 !st/2nd/3rd Grade Class, Ocean Park Elementary — Spring 1988

“And can I take it to school tomorrow for sharing?”
“In a brown paper bag as usual?”
“And will you let me tell about your wedding?  You will still pretend to be Mrs, LaRue until I share, okay?”
“And can we have sharing at the usual time — just before lunch?”
“And it will be a secret until then?”

I answered every question in the affirmative and Michelle and I had our plan in place.  The next morning she placed her brown paper bag on the shelf above the coat hooks, the bell rang, the kids took their seats, and our school week began.  I took attendance, as usual.  I took the lunch count, as usual.  And I was about to begin working with them on our Daily Newsletter, as usual,when Michelle popped up from her seat and approached me, motioning for me to bend down so she could  urgently whisper… “Can we have sharing NOW?”

Nyel and Michele, April 2022

And, of course, we did!  Michelle shared first — I was afraid she’d explode if she had to wait another minute!  Her news was an absolute sensation, of course, and I don’t really remember what happened next.  Lots of hugs, I think.  (And I should say here that most of the kids knew Nyel from the previous school year– he usually accompanied us on field trips and, besides, it’s a small community… everyone knows everyone, or so it seems. )

Years later, when Josh and Michelle were married, she and I lamented that the nosegay wasn’t still around.  It would have been fun to give it a place in the wedding of  Mr. and Mrs. (now Dr. and Dr.) Rogers!  A “place,” that is, besides the one in our hearts!

35 years ago today…

September 13th, 2022

Mr. and Mrs. Stevens – September 13, 1967

September 13, 1987.  It was a Sunday and, in Oysterville it was misting heavily at first light. I remember “knowing” that the day’s events would proceed NO MATTER WHAT!  It was the day of the 3rd Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Gala.  More importantly, it was our wedding day– though only a half dozen people besides us knew it.

We had decided on the spur of the moment.  “Why not at croquet?” we said.  “All our friends will be there.  We’ll be in our croquet costumes — totally suitable for a wedding.  The champagne is ordered.  The food is planned.  Yes!  Why not?  And let’s keep it a secret until the time comes… for fun!”  And so we did.

Sealed With A Kiss!

Joel Penoyer (and presumably his wife, Betsy) knew it.  They had already reserved their space for croquet when I called Joel and asked him if, in his capacity as Judge, he would prepare the paperwork and marry us just before the Awards Ceremony.  And “Sh.  It’s a secret.”

My son Charlie was coming up from L.A. I phoned him the previous week and he made hurried arrangements. I knew even then that it would be the only Croquet Gala he would ever attend (there were 16 in all.)  And “Sh.  It’s a secret.”

Gordon Schoewe and Roy Gustafson knew about it.  I had called asking if they would stand up for us.  They, also, had reserved their places as they did every year (plus Gordon had created the logo on the croquet trophy and he and his alter ego, Ambrose, designed the croquet invitation every year.) And “Sh.  It’s a secret.”

Afterwards – Dad Made An Impromptu Speech Welcoming Nyel to the Family

Plus, Dr. John Campiche knew.  I was unclear about Washington’s marriage requirements.  In California where my only previous experience had been, you were required to be screened (for VD I think) but Dr. John said “No such requirements here.  You’re good to go.”  He and Val, too, were already coming.  And “Sh.  It’s a secret.”

No one else… not even my folks or my beloved Uncle Willard (the Master of Ceremonies) knew.  For me, the day went by in a blur — not a misty one, thank goodness.  Although the day stayed gray, it cleared enough for us to rush around before the 2:00 opening and get the signage and balloons up, the champagne and food in place, put on our croquet costumes and proceed.  Mostly I remember Charlie taking pictures of me at work at the Registrar’s Table and of Nyel, clipboard in hand, as one of the judges on Croquet Court One.

Wow! We even made the local papers!

When the time came, Willard balked at giving center stage to Gordon (for whom I had to intercede — another story, entirely!);Gordon presented me with a nosegay (read: bridal bouquet); my mother had a case of the vapors, and the crowd gradually realized that a marriage was really, truly taking place.

Last Spring, Nyel and I talked a bit about how we would celebrate this day — our 35th anniversary — but we never really made a plan.  That was unusual for us.  Perhaps we knew, somehow, that another plan was in the works for us…