Posts Tagged ‘Dale Espy Little’

Dale’s Easter Bonnet

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Dale's HatMy mother, Dale Espy Little, was known for her hats.  For the reception after her 2009 memorial service, I decorated our porch with all the hats that she had left behind and invited the women who had come to her “goodbye” to take one/

Her favorite hat during her later years at the nursing home was a saucy pink number.  She wore it a lot and I have photographs of her on many special occasions wearing that hat.  I was especially pleased that one of her most devoted caregivers during that period, Barbara Christian, selected that hat the day of the service.July 1, 2009

Yesterday I received this Easter note from Barbara:  Sydney, since acquiring your mother’s hat I have gotten a lot of mileage from it. Today it visited Easter coffee hour at St Peters. Kaye Cowan and I thought you may like to see the Easter Bonnet so here are a few photos. –Barbara Christian

It was the perfect Easter gift!  And,wouldn’t my mom have loved seeing her hat used in this imaginative way!   Thank you so much, Barbara.  (And, Kaye, too!)At OVCC, Mother's Day May 13, 2006Sleeping Mom With Hat June 2006October 2006

Larger Than Life…And Beyond

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Dale in 1999My mother, Dale Espy Little, was truly an amazing woman.  She accomplished many notable things in her lifetime, not the least of which were spearheading the formation of the Oysterville National Historic District, helping in the foundation of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation, and working tirelessly to restore and, later, maintain the Historic Oysterville Church.

She is probably best remembered for her elegant outfits and especially for her hats, many of which she made from scratch and most of which she trimmed according to her own special flair.  It was her idea to establish Music Vespers at the church on summer Sundays and for many years she attended every service, sharing a story or memory about the early days of her childhood here.

Besides all that, she was positive and fun, outspoken but kind, and a loyal friend and neighbor.  Since her death four years ago at age 97, many, many people have approached me with ‘Dale stories’ and I am always reminded of how many lives she touched and of my good fortune to have been her only child.  But… she’s a hard act to follow.

Take the mention of her in the just-out freebie, Our Coast Magazine, that was included in all the issues of the Chinook Observer this week:  Decades ago – how could it be so long? – Dale Little used to host late-summer invitation-only croquet parties at the home of her grandpa R.H., Espy, founder of the village writes editor Matt Winters.  NOT TRUE, MATT.  NOT EVEN CLOSE.

For nineteen years Nyel and I single-handedly put on the “Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Gala” as a fund-raiser for various non-profits in Pacific County.  My mother and father were among the invited guests and it was in their garden that the event occurred – not at the R.H. Espy house two blocks to the north.

My mother, of course, was always dressed to the nines and strolled amongst the throng meeting and greeting and having a grand time, as was her style.  I can almost understand why someone’s memory might play tricks and she would mistakenly be given credit for hostessing the event.  And it’s probably uncharitable of me to point out this error of fact…

When it’s my turn to be remembered, it will no doubt be for my nit-picking about erroneous information that is ultimately destined to become part of the historic record.  Or, more likely, I’ll simply be remembered as Dale’s daughter.  Either way would be fine with me.

Water Woes

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

As we drove through Chinook the other day, a large “BOIL WATER” sign caught my eye and, though I don’t know what is going on there, I was full of sympathy.  Last year about this time Oysterville, too, was under orders to boil water and we’ve been in a world of hurt ever since.

Our little water co-op is now required (by the State) to chlorinate the water so, for starters, our water doesn’t taste quite the same as it always has before.  It’s not bad; it’s just not the same.  All her life my mother would say, “There’s nothing like good Oysterville water.”  I’m not sure she would think so anymore.

In addition, we are facing big, expensive system upgrades – not yet required by the State, but soon…  In anticipation of that, and to repay cash reserves used up in trying to discover the source of our water problems, we are facing a 300% (almost) increase in our annual water rate.  That’s a hefty amount, even though the part-time users tell us our rates are “cheap” by comparison to other places.

Then there is the matter of “equity.”  As I understand it, we have about 70 water hook-ups and they are divided just about equally between full-time occupants and part-time occupants.  We all pay the same basic rate, though there is a per-cubic-foot  “conservation charge”  for those who use over the basic amount.

When our water co-op was formed and we all ponied up a hefty amount as start-up costs, we agreed that we would not pay for water.  Our monthly bill pays for the system and for its maintenance.  Water is free.

But, of course, part-time users feel that’s unfair.  Full-time users argue that the system has to be in place and operating no matter how much or how little water one uses.  Part-time users say that full-time users should pay more.  Full-time users say that part-timers have a choice – they can live here full-time if they want.   And some of us remember when the yearly fee was only $25 – before the State got into it.  And on it goes.

At our annual meetings there is always much discussion, often heated, about the basic charge that was calculated to cover ‘normal’ usage for full-time residents.  There is a surcharge for usage over that basic amount to encourage water conservation which we all agree is a universal responsibility.  For irrigation purposes, most of us have our own wells, although I know of one person who just pays the overage, no matter how much.

When my mother was a girl the well water that we now use just for watering the garden was the only water they had.  This household was lucky, because the well water was wonderful.  In fact, the neighbors came and pumped a bucket or two each day for their drinking purposes, as it was superior to their own.  The old pump is still there.  Only the handle is missing.

I’ve inquired about going back to using that well water but, as I understand it, if there is a State-approved water system within so many feet of your residence, you cannot use your own well water except for irrigation or non-consumption purposes.  Or maybe it’s just that you cannot dig a new well.  Either way, we still need to pay the piper (so to speak)…

It does seem ridiculous that in this place of 100 inches of annual rainfall and a water table that in most places is only a few feet below the surface, our water has become such an issue.  I hope Chinook can work out their current problems with less angst than we are having,

A Disappointment

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Dale Espy Little

In at least one respect, I was a disappointment to my mother.  She was one of those “born to shop” women.  I… not so much.

My first memories of clothes shopping involve shoes.  It was during the war and they were rationed.  I think children were allowed two pair a year.  Mine were always “sensible brown oxfords,” partly because they would wear well but mostly because they were about the only choice for my quadruple-A foot.  Shopping for shoes was seldom an adventure in high fashion.

Same with clothes shopping.  Nothing ever fit.   My mother, who as long as she lived had a dressmaker for those items that she couldn’t buy ‘off the rack,’ took me to be measured and examined by whoever was doing her sewing then.  I remember always being just a tad disappointed with the resulting made-to-order outfits.

By my teen years, well before there were sizes designated as “petite,” everything hung on me like gunny sacks.  Of course, what I wanted were pleated skirts and cashmere sweaters and ballerina-style shoes like all the popular girls.  By hook or by crook, we managed some store-bought items so I didn’t feel like a total misfit, but it was always an ordeal.

Fortunately for my mom and her desire to pass on her shopping abilities, I had a good friend in those years who could wear whatever caught her eye.  Her mother was not a shopper and she adored going into San Francisco with my mother and me on shopping sprees – usually in the fall before school began and again in the spring in preparation for Easter and warmer weather.  She always came away with an armful of purchases.  I came away disappointed and with reassurances that “we’d find something” another day.

So, over the years, I’ve limited my clothes shopping mostly to times of desperation.  Since there aren’t a lot of shopping choices in Oysterville and, these days, blue jeans work for almost every occasion, I am lulled into thinking all is well in the wardrobe department.  But, when we were in Longview yesterday taking care of other matters, I nipped into Macy’s to see what I could see.

Talk about disappointment!  OMG!  I felt like I’d walked into a bargain basement of discount rejects.   Racks and racks of sleazy stuff, even in the shoe department.  Not the Macy’s I remember.  Maybe it’s because they are having a big sale.  Maybe it’s because their person in charge of display thinks the more-cluttered-the-better look will sell clothes. Maybe I just haven’t been shopping since things went funny on us.

Five minutes and I was out of there.  Maybe I’ll find something another day…

Valentine’s Day 1932

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

     My parents announced their engagement eighty years ago today.  I thought that was so romantic when I was young.  I still do, but it’s another of those partial knowledge things.  I simply never thought to ask the right questions – or any questions at all, really.
     As I remember the story, it was actually my mother who made the announcement at a sorority tea. (My folks were both students at the University of Redlands in California.)
 She did that by passing around a big box of candy.  It was one of those red heart-shaped boxes – the kind we still see every year as February 14th approaches.  I’m not just sure how the engagement announcement and the candy passing were organized.  Did she make the announcement and then pass the candy or did someone else pass the candy while she was flashing her ring?  I never asked.
     I’m also a bit confused as to why Mom made the announcement at a sorority tea.  Maybe that was the custom.  Maybe it’s still the custom.  We didn’t have sororities at Stanford so I have no experience along those lines.  (That is actually one of the reasons I chose Stanford over several other colleges.  At seventeen I was idealistic enough to held strong opinions concerning elitism and sororities.)
     Presumably, Mom and Dad had shared the happy news with their families ahead of time.  I don’t know if my father was enough of a traditionalist to have asked my mother’s father for her hand first.  Dad was from Boston and Mom’s entire family thought of him as very “proper” so maybe he did.  I only know that my mother’s mother was crazy about him and remained so for the rest of her days.
     Not long ago, a family friend (my age) was going through her late father’s effects and found the little 2¼ by 3½ betrothal card that my father had sent him  The card is simply engraved “Betrothed” on the outside and my parents’ names, William Woodworth Little, Helen-Dale Espy, on the inside.  The envelope, the address hand-written by my father, was postmarked “Redlands 5:30 a.m. Feb. 15, 1932.”  Perhaps he was busy mailing the announcements as my mother was passing the candy.
     The only other thing I know about the engagement is that they were all as poor as the proverbial church mice.  There was no question of my father affording a diamond.  In fact, he never did manage to give her one, but his mother had a gorgeous solitaire that she left to my mother, knowing that Dad would probably never be able to afford diamonds.  Mom gave it to me when her hands became to arthritic to wear it.
     My dad did seal their betrothal with a ring, however.  It just wasn’t a diamond.  It’s a lovely emerald-cut aquamarine.  Mom wore it for years as a pinky ring and gave it to me for my sixteenth birthday.  I love it.  But that brings up another question.  Why did she give it to me?   Perhaps that was about the time she inherited her mother-in-law’s diamond.  But did she talk it over with my dad?
     Giving up your engagement ring, even if to your only daughter, seems overly generous, even a bit extreme, to me now.  I do hope I told her how appreciative I was…

“I’s not a little boy…”

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Helen-Dale, Edwin, Willard - August 1914

     Now and then I wish I had a direct line to heaven so I could ask one of my forebears a question about the past – usually some mundane detail that no one ever bothered to talk or write about.  Seldom have I wished to make such call so that I could tell them something.  However, yesterday I was sorely and illogically (and probably irreverently) tempted to try!
     My mother was the youngest of seven children and close in age to her two just-older brothers, Edwin and Willard.  The three of them were born within three years of one another and they grew up, according to all of them, as “three peas in a pod.”  They played together, went to school together, had the same friends, and grew up sharing many of the same memories.
     As adults, when they were reminiscing about their adventures, they often laughed about the fact that, when she was very little, mom was often mistaken for a boy.  As their older sister Mona wrote in her recollections of their childhood:  All three were dressed alike in coveralls but Dale would become very indignant when some man would say “what a fine group of boys.”  She, in her baby voice loud and clear would reply: “I’s not a boy; I is a little gill!”
     This misunderstanding was perhaps compounded by the fact that she was called “Dale” – a name which could easily be a boy’s or a girl’s.  Her Christian name was actually Helen-Dale but the “Helen” was dropped early on to save confusion in the family since Mama’s name was also Helen.
     So, yesterday I was looking at census records for Oysterville for 1920.  Names were listed household-by-household and there, following the name Willard R., was the final name listed under head-of-household Espy, Harry A. –  the youngest child, my mother.  All the facts were right – her place of birth, Olympia; her age, eight; etc.  Only her name and relationship to her parents were wrong.  Allandale, son, declared the census!
     Understandable, of course.  Even the census taker, assuming she was a little boy had heard “Allandale” instead of “Helen-Dale” and had recorded it for posterity!  How my mother and her siblings would have laughed to hear about that!

November 13, 1911/2011

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Happy 96th! - 2007

     On the occasion of her 97th (and last) birthday, my mom commented that it was “quite a many.”  Of course, we had a party and, of course she loved it.  She was the quintessential party girl!
     So it seems fitting that we are hosting a House Concert today – the anniversary of her hundredth birthday.  She liked nothing better than entertaining a house full of friends.  Adding music to the mix would have been the frosting on the cake.  She loved music, “the jazzier” the better.
     Our musician today is Jim Page.  He ‘found’ us, not the other way around, and we are feeling apologetic that we aren’t as familiar with his music as we should be.  That he is a friend of our long-time musician friends Larry Murante and Carolyn Cruso was the only recommendation we needed to put him on our schedule.  Fortunately for Jim, our House Concert regulars are more informed than we are; we are anticipating a full house.
     A neighbor told me yesterday that Jim is known for his social commentary.  “If something big hits the news, Jim has written a song about it within twelve hours.  And not just ‘a’ song – a ‘brilliant’ song.”
     Mom’s all-time favorite musical was “Hair” – social commentary of the first order!  She saw it more than once and played the album often.  I’m thinking that she would approve of today’s House Concert.  I’m sure she’ll be here in spirit.

Finding the Way

Sunday, October 9th, 2011
In Oysterville

     In the early 1970s, many of the streets and roads and avenues and lanes on the peninsula were given new names.  The east/west streets were numbered; the north/south streets were lettered.  It was supposed to make it easier for emergency vehicles.
     I wasn’t living here then, but I remember how incensed my mother was about it.  “Just imagine getting rid of those sweet, old-fashioned names that really mean something!” she fumed.
     Of course, there was a hearing about it and, of course, mom went.  “How can you discount our history like that?  How can you just eliminate names like ‘Huckleberry Lane’ or ‘Joe Johns Road’ or ‘Ridge Avenue’?” she asked.  “I lived and worked in San Francisco for many years and the streets there still have their historic names.  The ambulances and fire trucks find their way.  Are you saying that our firemen and ambulance drivers aren’t as smart as those in a city as big as San Francisco?”
     It must have been a point well taken.  The street names in the National Historic District of Oysterville were retained as were a sprinkling of others throughout the peninsula.  We still have Bay Avenue and Cranberry Road and Pioneer Road, for instance.  And I thought things might be taking a turn for the better when 10th Street in Long Beach was recently re-named ‘Sid Snyder Drive.’
     But each time I drive out toward the beach to visit friends on ‘V’ Street, I give a little involuntary shudder.  I want to shout “It’s Skating Lake Road you dolts!!!”  But who would I shout to?  More than one person has asked me in recent years if there really is a lake out there and why in the world it is called ‘Skating Lake.’  Mom’s point exactly.
     A lot of our history was eliminated when those names were changed.  Several generations have grown up with no knowledge of Skating Lake – not even through the reference of a street name.  They haven’t had the opportunity to ask and then to listen to their elders reminisce about the evening bonfires around the frozen lake, the skating parties, the fun.  It just doesn’t come up much.  Why would it?  ‘V Street’ doesn’t conjure up many old memories…

Picture Perfect?

Friday, September 16th, 2011
Seriously

     Today is the day we decide where to hang a couple of newly framed pictures.  One is the portrait of me drawn a few weeks ago by my cousin Bruce.  I’ve been trying to look at it more objectively now that it’s framed.
     I still think the eyes are mine but not the nose.  The chin, maybe, but certainly not that jowly part!  The hint of hair, straight and non-frizzy – a definite improvement over reality!  On the whole, it seems to be the Serious Me.  I’m glad he put in all those smile lines around my eyes.  I don’t want posterity to think I looked so thoughtful all the time.
     We have a large oil portrait of my mother done in the 1960s by a Berkeley artist.  I think my dad took pleasure in it and maybe mom did, too.  I’ve never seen the likeness, myself.   It shows her mysterious, rather sexy, side – a side a daughter probably wouldn’t see.  For me, the missing part is her vivacity.   It’s hard to capture that on paper, I guess.
     On the other hand, we have an even larger portrait of my grandparents, done in tempera by Willard’s (then) wife, Hilda.  It was painted to commemorate their fiftieth wedding anniversary and I’ve always thought it captured them perfectly.
     It shows them in the east room of our house – the room they always called “The Nursery” for that’s what it was when my mother and her six siblings were young.  In later years, it became their retreat, their family room, their office, their reading room.  Hilda pictured them exactly as I remember them – Papa with his perpetual cup of coffee and Granny with her little typewriter on her lap.  Although they are in repose, they seem neither overly serious nor lacking in vitality.
     Predictably, Nyel is silent when it comes to comments about the drawing of me.  Probably wise of him.  Other people will undoubtedly offer their two-bits worth.  When they do, it will be interesting to see if my own objectivity holds up. 

Back in the day…

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
Espy Children on Danny, 1913

     There are no longer any horses in Oysterville.  In fact, there aren’t any barns anymore.  In my childhood almost every household that included children also included a horse or two.  Without out them, our landscape seems incomplete – especially the lonely looking meadows between the houses and the bay.
     In my mother’s childhood, of course, horses were absolutely necessary – there were no automobiles yet in Oysterville.  My Uncle Edwin said that the family had 16 horses “maximum” – one for each of the seven children by the time they were school age; one or two for Mama’s phaeton; the best, most spirited horse for Papa; the rest, work horses for the farm.  And, to accommodate the horses, as well as the dairy cows, there were three barns.  When I think of all the other families and their horses and barns I’m sure there wasn’t a lonely looking field or meadow in sight!
     My grandfather didn’t believe in children using saddles; he thought they were dangerous.  Even so, there were mishaps that became family stories.  One involved Edwin:  a horse he was riding swerved under the branch of a spruce tree.  Ed ducked, but the branch caught him by the straps of his overalls and left him hanging in mid-air, arms and legs flailing, yelling at the top of his lungs.  Fortunately, not too much time went by before a passing neighbor heard him and came to his rescue.