Posts Tagged ‘Autumn in Oysterville’

Flowers, Feathers, and Fedoras

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

You seldom see umbrellas here on the Peninsula.  It’s just a fact of life.  On the days when you’d really need one, the rain is coming sideways and the winds would blow any self-respecting bumbershoot inside out in a trice.  Or more likely, right out of your hand and down the road. We who live here are at two (or maybe three or four) with umbrellas.

I think it’s always been that way here at the beach. But it’s not necessarily a northwest thing.  Nyel says that when he first arrived at the ‘U’ in the early sixties, one of the things he noticed was that everybody on campus carried an umbrella.  So why there and not here?  And why in my girlhood did my mother carry an umbrella in California but not when we were in Oysterville, even in the wintertime.

I have been pondering these somewhat drippy thoughts intermittently (like the rain these last few days) since the phone call I received asking about a golf umbrella left in the vestibule of the church.  “My husband used it the day of the Christmas Program to help people get into the church without getting drenched,” the caller said.

I knew exactly what she meant.  The gutter over the small porch roof has given way and the raindrops line up there so that they can rush in torrents down your neck as you enter the church.  It’s a problem that’s being taken care of but, in the meantime… an umbrella is the only answer.  On Sunday afternoon the man with the golf umbrella (like the doorman at a fancy hotel) helped many of us arrive at the program comfortably dry.  A hero with a golf umbrella at the Oysterville Christmas Program!  Who’d a thunk it?

I wonder if the use of umbrellas is dependent upon how we are dressed.  I don’t remember my mother wearing fancy hats with feathers and flowers here in Oysterville when we came for visits.  She left those “dress-for-the-city” outfits (including hats) behind right along with her umbrella when she came here during vacations.  No feathering or flowering headwear to protect.  And, in the London of my younger days, when every businessman wore a fedora or a bowler, an umbrella was insurance against having to take the hat for re-blocking at the haberdashery.  But are bowlers and brollies still de rigueur on Fleet Street?

Here, where slickers and sou’westers were the uniform-of-the-day, maybe umbrellas weren’t considered necessary.  And nowadays, dressing up isn’t likely to include a fancy chapeau for the ladies or a fedora for the men.  I wonder how many ‘locals’ even own an umbrella… or, if they do, where and when they last used it.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t going to the Oysterville Church last Sunday!

Monday Morning at the Beach

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

There’s nothing like the reality check one gets by doing a few errands here on a drizzly Monday morning.  In one fell swoop, you can get a sampling of the demographics of the area – ages, health, food choices, preferred vehicles.  You can learn about it all – often, whether you want to or not.

I began at the bank yesterday.  There were already three people in line (behind that sign that says for privacy concerns, please wait here) and, before long there were four more behind me.  Two tellers were busy at their windows and two were busy elsewhere, each helping elderly couples.  Customers outnumbered the worker-bees three to one and we probably averaged three times as old as the busy young women employees.

The man in front of me began talking to the man behind me – “Haven’t seen you for a long time… how’s it going?”  And before anyone could say “Next, please” the two were into a heavy-duty discussion about their health issues.  “Essentially, I have no spine anymore,” said one.  “All that’s holding me up are my torso muscles.”  YIKES!

But he was standing tall and straight, perhaps thanks to Rebound in Vancouver for which he had nothing but praise.  I was tempted to weigh into the conversation at that point – Nyel has had many Rebound experiences, as well – but, even though both men seemed to be including me in their discussion, I remained silent.  (Privacy Concerns said the sign.  Though I thought it probably meant banking privacy.) However, I did nod greetings to several others as they joined the end of the line.

Next, I had a prescription or two to pick up.  Another wait in line (brief, this time) but people were spread out and conversations weren’t very possible.  Perhaps the privacy sign at a pharmacy carries more clout.  As at the bank, there were a steady stream of geriatrics coming in to drop off or pick up prescriptions and medications and we outnumbered and out-aged the staff by a goodly number.  And, like my first errand, I had a nodding acquaintance with several of the customers.

Then, on to the drop-off box at the library (which was closed) though the cars (mostly older model SUVs or sedans) in the parking lot and the lights in the conference room suggested a meeting of some kind (maybe Friends of the Library?) was taking place.  I’d guess that the attendees were also gray-hairs; who else would be gathered at the library on a Monday during working hours?  And I felt a smidge of guilt that I had never made time to volunteer there, despite my constant patronage.

Last I went to the grocery store.  There, among the shoppers, I ran into several different friends – all of retirement age but still working at part-time jobs.  Again, we and the other customers out-aged the clerks but, interestingly, there were several gray-haired men stocking shelves and being helpful to shoppers.  I wondered, fleetingly, how many businesses on the beach employ people who have already retired from another job. Or two.

It was all very comforting, somehow.  I felt right at home everywhere I went – certainly better than I ever feel on my brief forays these days into suburbia or the big city.  Once again, I thanked my younger self for making the move to “the beach” (this particular beach!) forty years ago.  It was the right thing to do.

Where did we leave off, anyway?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Visiting with John Snyder

My old team-teaching partner, John Snyder, came visiting yesterday.  It had been years!  At least five and that visit had only been an hour or so.   Before that it had been at least ten years and before that, our get-togethers might have been oftener but were certainly spasmodic.  He and his family left here when their twins were two or three – about the ages John and Kathy’s grandchildren are now.

This time, he brought lunch (sandwiches from Cottage Bakery) and was able to stay for almost three hours!  It was non-stop talking – mostly John and me catching up and taking gallops down memory lane.  Sometimes, I thought I was right back in the early 1980s!  Nyel got a few words in edge-wise and took a picture or two.  The time flew by!

We talked about so many old friends – Jim Sayce and Mike Robinson, Jeff Quigley and Jimmy Campiche, Barbara Hedges Canney and Tom Akerlund. And places, too – the Ark Restaurant when it still had the bar in back and there was music on Friday nights; Camp Sherwood where we took our third/fourth graders for a Friday-Sunday overnight one year; some of the “kids” we had taught who are now married with children (and, in some cases, grandchildren!)

Page 107 – Ocean Park School – The First Seven Decades

I signed and personalized a copy of my book, Ocean Park School, The First Seven Decades (© 2002) for him, secretly embarrassed that I hadn’t sent him one years ago.  Plus, now that I’ve thought of it, I’ll forever kick myself for not reaching out to him when I was actually writing the book.  He probably could have identified some of the kids I had to leave unnamed and, for sure, he’d have had a story or two to add.   (Or wait!  Maybe he did!  There’s a quote from him on page 107.)

We promised one another that we’d get together again, soon.  John and Kathy are in Olympia now – not as far as Everett where they were for years.  And, we’re going to try to do it on a weekend so Jeff Q. and maybe Mike R. can join us…

My Turn!

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

“Well, hot damn!  Last night it was my turn to take a ride to the hospital in an emergency vehicle.

“What’s going on?” they asked when they got here.  Standard question.  But it was hard to explain.

“We were watching television after dinner and the entire wall started moving to the right.  Then it was back.  Then to the right.  If I looked elsewhere, same thing.  If I closed my eyes, everything seemed fine.  Except for the nausea and…”

“So, you were dizzy?”
“No.  Not exactly.”  And I explained again.
“Vertigo, then.  You were experiencing vertigo.”
“Maybe.  But that’s not exactly what it was like.”

Meanwhile, I was freezing and they were plastering me with sticky things so they could monitor my heart.  “Everything looks good.  You have a bundle branch blockage but you probably know about it already.”

“No, actually, I don’t.”  “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about.  You probably wouldn’t have known about it for another two or three years.”  OMG!

Finally, they took me on the gurney out to the aid car.  I was shivering, waiting for the promised warm blanket, while we rode interminably, I thought, to Ocean bean Hospital.  “It’s never this far when I’m driving,” I thought.

First, the paper work – “medications you take?  Have you eaten any banned foods lately?  Romaine? You don’t look 82! Here’s a vomit bag if you need it.  I’m going to put more heart monitors on you.  I’m starting an IV – saline solution. Can anyone come to get you from the hospital?”

The promised warm blanket turned out to be the thinnest of thin covers (was it paper?).  Better than nothing, I guess. There were thicker ones in the ER but still I was goose-bumpy.  The nurse turned up the thermostat, asked me the same questions, gave me a pill for nausea and something by IV for dizziness.  Or was it the other way around?  The doctor came in.  Looked me over.  Ordered a chest X-ray and a bunch of blood samples and other stuff…  Nyel called.  He was fine.  Worried and feeling helpless in his wheelchair.  But fine, otherwise.

“Don’t worry about me,” he said.  “Back atcha,” I said.  “I’m fine.  Just freezing.”

About 11:30 they called me a taxi.  16.9 miles to Oysterville – a non-stop talking trip (driver not me.)  I was freezing.  I was glad I’d gone to the ATM yesterday.  I’d better go again today…  Nyel was up and waiting for me when I finally got home!  What a guy! Tomorrow an appointment with my primary care doctor.  I hope he doesn’t say “vertigo” but, if he does, I hope he can get to the bottom of why.  I’m still freezing.

The Best of All Let-Down Days

Friday, November 23rd, 2018


I love the day after Thanksgiving!  Of all the days-after of all the holidays of the year, the Friday after Thanksgiving is my all-time favorite.  First of all, it’s the left-overs!  No worries about what to fix for lunch or dinner – there is always plenty.  In my experience, even if you go out to dinner – to be with friends or family or (once for us) to a restaurant – you are always sent home with leftovers.  Yum!

And that reminds me of one of my favorite Thanksgiving stories, told to me by Virginia “Gin” Williams Jones when I edited her autobiography, “Gin’s Tonic,” for the Sou’wester magazine in 2007:

“Gin’s Tonic” Sou’wester

We were an ecumenical family.  On Sunday everyone went to the church of his/her choice.  Grandpa and Nana were Presbyterians. Dad and Mama raised us in the Presbyterian Church.  Rees was an elder in the Presbyterian Church and sang in the choir all his life.  He married Marg who was a Roman Catholic and raised the boys to be Catholic.  Jack was an elder in the Presbyterian church.  He married Julia who was a second-generation Christian Scientist.  Their children went to the Presbyterian Church.  Uncle Lew and Aunt Elaine were Episcopalians and raised Warner and Rodney in that church.  Aunt Nell and Uncle Krummie were Presbyterians and raise Herb and Lewie in that church in Portland.

We were all very respectful of each other… until Thanksgiving.  In those days Catholics couldn’t eat meat n Friday so the Catholics would eat turkey like mad Thanksgiving night while the Protestants yelled, “Get those Catholics out of the kitchen!”  Then it was all reversed the next day Friday, when the Catholics would yell, “Get those Protestants out of the kitchen!” but it was always with a great deal of humor.

Pumpkin Pie

The other wonderful thing about the Friday after Thanksgiving (unless you adhere to the modern Black Friday shopping “tradition”) is that it is an absolutely free lollygagging day.  Not only is there plenty of food in the kitchen to see you through, there is an entire weekend coming up during which you can do all the necessary weekend things.  Thanksgiving Friday is an absolutely FREE LET-DOWN-DO-WHATEVER-YOU-WANT- DAY!   Yay!

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!

“It’s Sydney… spelled like Australia.”

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

Australia seems to be much on our minds lately.  Our friend Kenny has recently been there.  Our friend Martha is about to head in that direction.  And we had two visits last summer from our new friend Rosemary who is a third-generation Australian (though her roots go back to Pioneer Oysterville and beyond.)

Once upon a time, those connections might have been enough to tempt me into taking a trip.  Might have.  The time and distance have always seemed a bit daunting.  But, at this point in time, I’m content to live vicariously and wear the “I Love Sydney” tee shirt that Kenny brought me.  (I wish it was large enough for Nyel to wear.  Somehow, that would make more sense.)

I think that Australia was the first foreign country that I ever learned much about.  It was fifth grade at Lincoln School in Alameda and I remember that we made booklets about “The Land Down Under.”  We also learned to sing “Waltzing Matilda” and found out what a swagman and a billabong and a jumbuck were.  We drew pictures of kangaroos and duck-billed platypuses and compared the size and shape of Australia to the United States.

What I don’t remember is anything about Sydney.  You’d think I would have connected it to my name or that my classmates would have teased me or something… but, no.  In fact, my first “memory’ of paying any attention at all to the city of Sydney was in 1959 when the Sydney Opera House was built.  That was two years after I graduated from college — long after fifth grade, for sure.

Nowadays, especially when there seem to be so many Sidneys and Cydnees, and Siddnees around, I find myself saying, “It’s Sydney… like Australia.”  People seem to get that.  Mostly.  Although, every once in a while, that gets translated to Cindy.  I seriously wonder if there is a Cindy, Australia – or if some people are just amazingly stupid.  And then I think about our nominal head of state and I stop wondering about that last part.

When Memory, History & Fantasy Converge

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Michael with His First Book

This morning’s blog had to take a back seat for a few hours.  Michael Lemeshko arrived early bearing a cardboard tray of to-go cups — a caffè mocha for me, an Earl Gray tea for Nyel, and something else for himself.  It was a coffee date arranged some time back – a chance to catch up and, maybe – just maybe – a chance to exchange some useful information.

Currently Michael is gathering material for a new book.  This one is about B.A. Seaborg who was one of the movers and shakers here on the Peninsula in the mid-to-late nineteenth century.  From the Aberdeen Packing Company in Ilwaco to the town of Sealand contiguous to Nahcotta, it was Seaborg who was responsible.  And oh! so much more.

With his usual dogged determination and single-mindedness, Michael is pursuing every possible scrap of information about Seaborg – even to the point of trying to ‘reconstruct’ the Ilwaco streetscape of the 1870s, building by building.  One of the reasons for our coffee date was the hope (slim, I thought) that I might have some old photographs that would help.

Judge John Briscoe

“Come on over and have a look at my files,” I offered.  “I think I have about 30 photos of early Ilwaco –but you probably already have found them elsewhere.”  I knew he’d combed the various local museum archives and maybe even the Oregon Historical Society plus who knows what other nooks and crannies that might be hiding local history.  Michael is nothing if not thorough.

But before we got down to it, we talked about some of the aftermath from his first book about Judge John Briscoe, The Cantankerous Farmer vs. The Ilwaco Railway & Navigation Company and the Rest of his Neighbors on the Long Beach Peninsula.  Last summer we both entertained the judge’s descendants – a group of great-greats from Pennsylvania and a great-great-great-granddaughter from Australia.  Already, Michael told me, he has met with several of the Hawkins family — descendants of Mr. Seaborg.

B.A. Seaborg

And, I picked his brain a little about some things I’ve been working on.  Especially about online research sites.  Too, we talked about early magazine publications – especially Harper’s Magazine and their terrific illustrations.  Harper’s is the oldest general interest monthly in America.  Its debut was made in June 1850 and it soon began featuring works by American artists and writers such as Horatio Alger, Stephen A. Douglas, Theodore Dreiser, Horace Greeley, Winslow Homer, Jack London, John Muir, Frederick Remington, and Mark Twain.  But I digress…

When we finally got to the photographs, I was absolutely gobsmacked that Michael found five in my files that he hadn’t seen before.  One of them was actually a photograph that he was hoping against hope existed — and not just in his mind’s eye.  And voilà!  There it was!  I think he was beyond Gobsmacked.  All-in-all – a most satisfactory coffee date!

Come again?

Friday, November 16th, 2018

Bumper Sticker

“Maybe that’s why we haven’t had a razor clam season this fall…”  I had just arrived at the post office and there was my neighbor looking at the “I sell guns to clams” sign in the store window.

“You think it’s some kind of standoff, then?” I asked him.  “Could be…” was the reply.

“But how do you do a background check on clams?  Is it obvious if they are suffering from mental illness?” The conversation continued along those lines for a while – perhaps one of those better-to-laugh-than-to-cry-about-it discussions.

Digging Razor Clams

So far this fall there has not been a razor clam season on the Long Beach Peninsula.  The reason according to WDFW [Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife]:  Based on beach surveys conducted this summer, WDFW estimates the total razor clam population on most Washington’s beaches has increased significantly from last season, which means more days of digging this season. The exception is Long Beach, an area that is recovering after a decline in clam survival due to low salinity in winter 2017.

And for those who don’t live in the area or who have never had the pleasure of digging for the elusive razor clam, a clam gun is one of those answers to the question, “When is a gun not a gun?”  In this case, it’s a long tube made of metal or, perhaps PVC, with a handle so that you can push it into the sand over a clam hole.  Some say they are THE fool-proof method of procuring your 15-clam limit – if the clams are showing.  And, of course, if the season is open.

“Come Again” said the old Oysterville Approach Sign

Others swear by the tried-and-true clam shovel – which was actually the first tool referred to as a “clam gun” back in the day.  That’s when most diggers simply repurposed a garden spade by shaving the sides and bending it at an angle to the handle.  Before that, at least for me, was the old-fashiioned hand method: dig-like-mad-and-hope-for-the-best.

All of those techniques, of course, were used well before guns were being sold to clams.  (What do you suppose a clam’s gun looks like, anyway?)

“Kevin’s Song” by Mary Garvey

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

A few days ago, songwriter Mary Garvey continued a conversation that we had begun last May when Kevin Soule died out in Willapa Bay:  “I think I have a song for Kevin… The lines about not having time to do much came a while back.  The others just recently.  The final one as I was driving to the bank last week or so…it was like a message…whoosh… I don’t have a tune yet…sort of a shadow of it though.”

“Kevin’s Song”

By Mary Garvey

November storms becalmed in May
With search and rescue on its way
There’s not much left for me to say
Farewell farewell to thee

Not much time to say my prayers
Nor enough to set my flares
The sea has caught me unawares
Farewell farewell to thee

Farewell to my noble wife
My daughters I love more than life
A world of beauty and of strife
Farewell farewell to thee

Farewell to those I left on land
And those at sea who understand
It is not ours to command
Farewell farewell to thee

As I take my final breath
I feared not life I fear not death
I grieve for those I leave bereft
Farewell farewell to thee

Life is like a morning star
It can only shoot so far
We must take things as they are
Farewell farewell to thee