Posts Tagged ‘Historic Oysterville Post Office’

Mail Call! – Always fun in Oysterville!

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Mailboxes at the Oysterville Post Office

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

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

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

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

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

Mail from Japan

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

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

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

Help Me to Understand

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Oysterville Store and Post Office c. 1940

The U.S. Post Office is at it again.  Oysterville is under attack.  It’s not quite like it was last time when we were one of many small, rural Post Offices being considered for closure.  No, this time our little Post Office will be staying open but we will be losing our Postmaster, Steve Fricks.  He will be replaced by someone new.

It’s not that Steve wants to leave.  Far from it.  This is his ‘dream’ job – close to home, part-time, pleasant (if a bit quirky) working conditions, and friendly (also a bit quirky) postal patrons.  From my viewpoint on the opposite side of that little postal window, Steve is a perfect fit for Oysterville – always pleasant, informative, and helpful – especially with some of us elderly folks who might need assistance in carrying a package or in understanding which mailing method might be best.

Postmaster Jean Smith, w008

Steve is the seventeenth Postmaster in Oysterville’s history.  I think that’s a remarkably small number considering ours is the oldest continuously operated post office in Washington, beginning on April 29, 1858 with Isaac A. Clark as Postmaster.  Several of Oysterville’s oldest residents remember the five who proceeded Steve– Minnie Andrews, Muriel Wright, Mary Munsey, Casey Killingsworth, and Jean Smith. I think that they all stayed until they retired or left of their own volition.  Not so Steve.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have the story quite straight.  I had heard from a friend that her friend was applying for the Oysterville postal position.  “That can’t be right,” said I, but upon checking with Steve, I found it was absolutely true.  “I am being transferred to Ocean Park,” he told me, “but not by choice.”

Mailboxes at the Oysterville Post Office

It seems that someone (actually two someones) in Ocean Park are moving ‘up’ to positions in other post offices.  Somehow, that means that Steve has to be offered one of those jobs – a “step up” but a step he doesn’t want to take.  If he refuses, his employment with the Post Office is over for now.  He can reapply in X number of years.  Apparently, it’s a union rule, designed to ‘protect’ workers from being passed over when jobs become available.

Say what???  I thought Unions were for the protection of employees…  Bureaucracy with a capital B if you ask me.  “What can we do?” I asked Steve.  “I don’t think anything,” was the reply.  Probably not, but I’m determined to lodge a complaint, anyway, beginning with a call to “Chris” at the Ocean Park Post Office.  I believe he is Steve’s immediate supervisor.  I know that it will be less than useful but maybe I can find out who the Postal Union contact for this area might be and call that person, too.   Maybe we all should.

Foiled again and out of touch as usual!

Saturday, March 12th, 2016
Picture Postcard

Picture Postcard

I was feeling a little smug which is never a good sign… but, for once in my life I had sent out birthday thank yous in a timely manner. My mother would have been proud. And even though cards and gifts had become separated in all the surprise party excitement, I was feeling pretty confident that I had sent the appropriate appreciative notes to all but one or two people. (If you are one of those, let me know!)

Bert Andrews picking up the Oysterville Mail in Nahcotta, 1915

Bert Andrews picking up the Oysterville Mail in Nahcotta, 1915

So when I walked into the Oysterville Post Office yesterday and Steve-the-Postmaster held up a familiar looking postcard and said, “You owe me fourteen cents,” I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It took some explaining on his part for me to understand that two of the recipients of my cards live here in town and before Steve could deliver the cards, he needed to collect seven cents for each one.

“YIKES! Do you mean there will be postage due on all those thank you notes I sent out? I am mortified!”

Good until 1952

Good until 1952

“Well,” he said, “It probably depends on the post office. Some will collect it; some won’t.”

I, of course, blame Nyel.  (Always easier.) He had assured me that those left-over stamps with the polar bears on them were still good. And well they should have been! They cost twenty-eight cents each. Who knew that mailing a postcard now costs thirty-five cents!

I wish I could have this discussion with my mom. I wonder if she would be so insistent upon written thank yous these days as she was when I was a kid. Not that I’m stuck back in the penny postcard days. But thirty-five cents! In my salad days I could have bought a pack of cigarettes with that amount of money and had change left over for twelve postcards! Granted, they tell me cigarettes cost seven or eight dollars a pack now, so I guess the inflation of stamps is within reason… but still…

The Biggest Event of the Day in Oysterville

Monday, June 16th, 2014
Oysterville Store and Post Office c. 1940

Oysterville Store and Post Office c. 1940

“Getting the mail” is a Big Deal in Oysterville. I don’t remember mail being an ‘event’ in other places that I’ve lived – places where the mail is delivered house-to-house every day. In fact, in my childhood in Alameda, I think the mail came twice a day. It was placed in the mailbox on the wall of the front porch and whoever came home first scooped it up and put it on the kitchen table.

In Oysterville, though, it seems to me that the mail was the most important event of the day. First there was the scramble in the household to finish up any correspondence or other items that needed to go with my grandfather (“Papa”) to the post office. While he waited, he often trimmed his beard or mustache although, come to think of it, it was probably the other way around – I, having collected all the outgoing mail standing on one foot and then the other waiting for him.

Then we would climb in his old Plymouth and he would drive (“like a bat out of hell” one of the neighbors often remarked, rudely I thought) to Minnie and Bert’s store and post office. I don’t remember ever walking that distance with Papa; we always went by car and, in memory at least, so did everybody else.

Inside the Oysterville Post Office, 2010

Inside the Oysterville Post Office, 2010

There would follow a very long time of buying and affixing stamps, collecting ‘our’ mail (which was never even glanced at until we got home) and discussing any late-breaking village news with postmistress Minnie and any other neighbors who were on their way in or out of the post office. I remember that part as interminable and I have no doubt that anyone still living who remembers my grandfather has a like-feeling about those visits. Oh how he loved to talk!

I don’t think we went into the store very often – not unless Bert was there and Papa wanted to say “hello.” On those occasions, I’m sure I stood on the little step-stool (provided for kids like me) and looked into the rounded-glass topped candy case, but I have few memories of getting any treats. Actually, then like now, I wasn’t very crazy about sweets.

Then, home we went and headed for the nursery (which today would be called the family room) to read the mail. Everyone stopped what they were doing and gathered round. Unless the incoming mail was of a very personal or private nature, everything was read aloud by the recipient. I never gave that a thought as a child, but I imagine that it was a habit Papa acquired as my grandmother gradually lost her sight. By my day, she was blind and the daily mail was a high point of the morning.

Harry and Helen Espy in the Nursery by Hilda Cole Espy, 1947

Harry and Helen Espy in the Nursery by Hilda Cole Espy, 1947

And it wasn’t just straight-ahead reading. Each bit of information was discussed and digested right down to the way it was written, the various possibilities of meaning and so on. On paper days – in those days, the Chinook Observer and the Ilwaco Tribune which came one on a Tuesday and one on a Friday I thinkPapa might hit the highlights but then the rest of us would leave to go about the day’s activities. I can still see Papa sitting at his desk, totally absorbed by the news and often chuckling at “some fool thing” one of the editors had said.

In a way, Nyel and I follow in that same tradition. Usually, it’s he who drives to the post office and comes home with a “Mail Call!” announcement, and we take a coffee break to open and read whatever has come our way – mostly bills and junk mail these days. And on paper day, he’s the one perusing the ads and the police blotter and the editorial page. Some things don’t change much in Oysterville. Thank goodness!

A Walk to the Post Office

Friday, September 20th, 2013
Store and Post Office 2006

Oysterville Store and Post Office, 2006

Most mornings we review our plans for the day over coffee – where and what our meals will be, what appointments we have, what projects we’ll work on.  We also decide whether or not we’ll walk to get our mail, assuming we’ll be in town and that the weather is fairly cooperative.

It’s less than half a mile from our house to the Oysterville Post Office and, even if we make it an easy stroll, it only should only take ten or fifteen minutes.  If we hurry, we can make it there and back with our mail and maybe a bag of chips from the store in twenty.  Having said that, though, it usually takes forty-five minutes to an hour, depending upon the number of “Oysterville Meetings” along the way.

Another Oysterville Meeting

Another Oysterville Meeting

Day before yesterday we left the house at 9:30 and got back at 11:30.  Two hours!  The day was beautiful and everyone in the world seemed to be out and about.  Right off the bat we ran into Tucker at the corner of Territory Road and School Street.  We talked to him about progress on his house – the sheet rocking is done and the tapers are there.  He’s arranging for the next step which is the siding.

While we were still talking, Cyndy came along in her car, headed back to her temporary home after checking on building progress on her new place.  We spent a few minutes talking about the Willapa Bay Artist in Residence pilot program which is in progress right now, and about the Open House they will be having Saturday afternoon.

We had scarcely rounded the corner onto Oysterville Road before a van approached us and Nyel said, “It’s the cousins!”  Sure enough, it was the Ross Family – Ken, the Cape D. Park Ranger, his wife Marijka, their three kids, Max, Madison and Mason, and Marijka’s folks.  We did a short “how’s it going” visit while cars went around us, and we learned that they are completely moved in now and that Ken is no longer the newest kid on the block, job-wise.

Post Office Boxes

Oysterville Post Office

From that point we had no further encounters until we were leaving the Post Office.  Charlie Talbott was there and asked on behalf of his dad how one goes about making a donation to the Oysterville Cemetery.  We talked for quite a bit about our little cemetery, why his folks chose it for their final resting place, and what each of us might or might not do when the time comes.  It’s an unusual way to get to know someone, but I did feel like I was better acquainted with Charlie as we said, “See you later.”

The walk homeward was uneventful until just in front of the Stoner house when a car approached, slowed down, and an attractive woman passenger said, “Hi, Sydney!”  It turned out to be Karen Garrett who used to live in the area but was visiting from Hawaii.  I’d never have recognized her (Face Blindness again!) but we had a short catch-up visit, especially regarding a neighbor who has recently been diagnosed with cancer.

It was only a hop homeward then, but as we approached the last little way we saw Tucker again, this time with his wife, Carol.   So, of course, we had to spend a few minutes for the last ‘meeting’ of the morning! Hard to believe that by then it was almost lunchtime!

“A one-legged Indian sawed out a tune…”

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Brian O'ConnorLast night we got to talking about unforgettable “music experiences” we have had – times when we’ve just happened to be in a place where people spontaneously gathered and began to play or sing.  For me, it was at a little roadside café on the way to Yosemite back in the 1960s.

They were open for breakfast and lunch only, and we were among their last customers of the day.  About halfway through our meal, we noticed that the waitress had quit clearing tables and had brought her fiddle from somewhere behind the counter.  Then a guy at the corner table opened his guitar case and a few folks drifted in through the back door bringing their instruments… and suddenly we were surrounded by glorious, spontaneous music.

Greg talked about a similar experience.  “I had never been in Appalachia,” he said, “but that’s what it felt like.”  I knew exactly what he meant – probably a stereotype, but a really great one to my way of thinking.  For each of us, miles and years apart, it was a time that left a deep impression.  (Which reminds me, I forgot to mention the movie “The Songcatcher” to him…)

Then Greg shared his dream that the garage attached to the Oysterville Store might become some sort of a music venue eventually.  “I could lock up the store, open the garage doors, and people could just come on in…  It’s a great space.  Beautiful wooden floors.  It would be a perfect place for spontaneous musical gatherings…”

Then he asked the five dollar question (at least in my mind.)  “Did those sorts of music sessions ever happen here in Oysterville that you remember?  Or that you’ve heard of?  Is there a musical tradition here?”  Hmmm.  All I remember from my childhood was the envy I felt because my friends had to practice the piano!  I SO wanted to take lessons but that never happened.

Nyel remembered that mom’s friend Edith Olson talked about William Fisher who played the violin.  “He didn’t sing,” she would say.  “But, oh he was good.”  She said her favorite tune was “Hair in the Beans.”  That was pretty much before my time, though.  William Fisher has been in the cemetery since 1942.

Hootenanny Program My Great Aunt Dora remembered “a one-legged Indian who sawed out a tune on his fiddle” for the dances in the hall above the saloon when she was a little girl.  That was even longer ago – back in the 1880s. Not that she ever got to go, mind you.  But sometimes she would go with her father (who owned the building) to get things ready beforehand.   She never said whether or not they told her mother that they lingered to hear the music.

I don’t know if ‘Greg’s Garage Fantasy’ will come to fruition or not.  I hope so!  On another note (ahem!), tomorrow’s Vesper service at the church is going to be a hootenanny!  Not exactly spontaneous, but certainly unrehearsed, singing-wise.  I don’t know if Oysterville ever saw hootenannies back in the day, but it’s our former postmaster Casey Killingsworth and Family who are putting it all together for tomorrow – so the Oysterville connection is strong, indeed.  It’s sure to be another music experience to remember.

Visiting beyond the Porch

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Greg's HouseJPGYesterday morning I went calling on our new neighbor Greg Rogers.  I had an appointment to interview him for a Chinook Observer article on his plans for the Oysterville Store.  We met at his house – the place we all call the Bert and Minnie Andrews House.

No one is completely sure when or where the house was built.  According to Bud Goulter, who seems to always know about these things, the house was once situated on Andrews property across from the John Crellin house, now often called “the bottle house.”  In the early 1900s Tom Andrews owned the Crellin house and the large Andrews family owned much of the property across the street.  Bert was Tom’s nephew.

Bert Andrews HouseAlso, according to Bud, the building was moved to its current location in 1907, although Bert and Minnie didn’t move into it until 1919.  All that is a little murky in the Facts Department.  Although Bert and Minnie and their five children are listed in the Oysterville Census of 1920, they are not listed in the 1910 census.  So perhaps they were not the owners of the house in 1907?

On the other hand, though they came from California, their four youngest children (the oldest of whom was 12 in 1920) were born in Washington.  So, if Oysterville was their birthplace, the family could have been here in 1907 or 1908.  Why they would move the house to a new location but not move there, themselves, is a bit of a puzzle.

Bert and Minnie Andrews(An aside – Tom Andrews’ brother, Sam, was the Oysterville postmaster from July 23, 1895 until his brother Tom replaced him on May 4, 1901.  In 1913, Sam took over again and then in July 1918 their niece-in-law, Minnie Andrews, became postmistress.  According to Charlotte Jacobs, an Andrews descendent, the issue was probably not one of nepotism but more a question of who could be talked into taking on the job. A case in point is when Tom Andrews was eager to move away from the peninsula.  Taking his postal responsibilities seriously, he felt he could not leave Oysterville before finding a replacement postmaster and talked brother Sam into serving a second time.  It apparently took Sam another five years to talk Minnie into taking her turn.  By the time Minnie retired on July 1, 1945, the Andrews family had collected and distributed mail for the residents of Oysterville for fifty years less twenty-one days.  An admirable record!)

Nevertheless, everyone seems to agree that Bert and Minnie moved into the house now owned by Greg at the same time that they built the store and post office.  In the earliest pictures of the house, it looks much the same as now – not many changes to the outside.  The inside, though is a different story.

Greg has been busy removing carpeting and old linoleum, tearing out non-original partitions and gradually getting down to the bones of the buildings.  There have been numbers of owners since the Andrews – The Wrights, the Stahlkes, the Munseys, the Smiths and maybe some I’ve forgotten.  Each family apparently put their particular stamp on the original.

Interestingly, there are few Oysterville residents who remember being inside the house since back in the 1950s or ‘60s.  I don’t think I was ever actually inside, even as a child – only on the big front porch back when the Wrights were the owners.  They had a player piano that they kept there and I remember how much fun it was to watch the keys go up and down as it played “Glow Little Glow Worm” and we sang along for all we were worth – a forerunner to today’s karaoke?

Greg and I did talk about his plans for the store which was, after all, our original intent.  We even went next door so I could take a look.  But I think I’ll have to do a follow-up interview if for no other reason than to see more of the inside of the house.  Such a treat after all these years of wondering what was beyond the porch!

Glad Tidings by Special Delivery

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

There weren’t many folks at the church last evening to hear the latest news from the United States Post Office.  Not like last time when the pews were full-to-overflowing.  Of course, this time the news was good and the poor attendance seemed to underscore our peculiar human tendency to gravitate to the negative.

I couldn’t help thinking that the messenger of glad tidings, David Boos from the Postal Service’s district headquarters in Portland, was probably familiar with low church attendance.  The last time he was here, he had shared with me that he is also a Baptist minister.  It’s not news that most churches are suffering from diminishing congregations and that Good News (capital G, capital N) is what churches are all about.

But last night’s message was secular in nature.  We were officially told that our little historic Oysterville Post Office will stay open!  The hours will be limited to four-a-day during the week and stay the same (2 hours) on Saturdays.

And, though last night’s attendance didn’t bear it out, Mr. Boos told us, of all the Post Offices in his district threatened with closure, Oysterville’s had shown the greatest support from its patrons.  This conclusion he based on the percentage of returned survey forms, sent to us about a month ago and asking which configuration we would like in the future.

Eighty-eight percent of us who responded chose keeping our post office where it is with a “realignment of hours.”   Two percent chose “delivery option.”  One percent chose “village post office” option.   Nine percent did not choose among any of the options presented, and no one at all chose the “nearby post office option.”

I found it interesting that most of those who spoke at the meeting were still looking at the most negative scenario possible.  Their questions were all about what would happen “in the future” if ‘they’ decided to close the post office again.  There were also those who worried about lobby access, even though Mr. Boos explained that the postal authorities had determined that the hours of access to postal boxes would stay as they are now.

“But what if I’m coming home from a trip at ten o’clock at night and want to stop by to get my mail?” a man asked.  At that point, one of my neighbors exited the meeting with an under-the-breath comment, “Maybe you could wait until the next morning?”  I wasn’t far behind.

In my book, David Boos gets the highest marks possible for patience, clarity, positive responses to stupid questions and even more patience.  (And if you are one of those who buy into “There are no stupid questions,” you weren’t at that meeting last night!)  And, I realized after all was said and done, none of us thanked him for coming to deliver the good news in person.  Belatedly, then, many thanks, Mr. Boos!  In spite of our rather self-centered attitudes, we appreciate your time and effort.  And your patience!

Bottom Line: Oysterville, WA 98641 continues alive and well!  Hallelujah!  Raise the flag!

Making Memories in Oysterville

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

  The thermometer on our shady porch read a record-breaking 98º and the breeze was but an intermittent zephyr.  Still, it wasn’t the weather yesterday that was the main focus of folks with Oysterville Zip Code 98641.  The subject – or actually, subjects – under discussion revolved around our long-time postmaster and her storekeeper husband, Jean and John Smith.

Activity started early in the morning.  People came with tents and tables, with chairs and umbrellas, with tablecloths and bags of ice.  People schlepped and hauled and miraculously transformed the backyard into a gala party venue and, by noon, when the festivities were set to begin, there was a parade of food-bearing celebrants.

And what food it was!  Our houseguests from Seattle said they had never seen such potluck fare!  Oysterville potlucks are always outstanding, but people outdid themselves for this one.  There were salads of every variety – potato, pasta, fruit, tossed green, caprese.  There was a rice and shrimp casserole.  There were breads and muffins and cinnamon rolls and cookies.  There were pies and cakes and every manner of soft drinks and wines and beers.

People said there were more than a hundred celebrants here during the course of the day, though no one thought to do a head count.  We were all too busy visiting and wishing our guests of honor well.  Jean had arrived in a fancy party hat and we had a crown ready for John.  He took it off for some of the photos, but mostly wore it on top of his floppy sunhat which was a great look and definitely a new fashion statement.

The Honorary Oysterville Militia members gathered at the height of festivities and fired the cannon in Jean and John’s honor.  The cannon has been known to misfire on the first try, but not yesterday.  The bang was loud enough to notify anyone within zip code range, and probably beyond, that there was a party going on!  It was certainly a day to remember!

on the disappearance of Oysterville…

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

     We finally put out our hummingbird feeder on Saturday.  Not that we have seen any hummingbirds here in Oysterville yet this season.  But our friends Les and Kaye in Seaview say that they have so many vying for a chance at their feeder, they are going through a quart of sugar-water a day.  Kathleen and Frank who live just two miles south of us say that the feisty little birds are putting on quite a show at their feeders, too.
     But not here in Oysterville.  It’s not the first time I’ve wondered if Oysterville is beginning to disappear Brigadoon-like into the mists of Shoalwater Bay.  Perhaps the hummingbirds are the first to notice – or not notice, as the case may be.  Sort of like the canaries in the coal mine only backwards.
     Certainly, our population is disappearing.  Within the last year, four houses have sold or have sales-pending.in our little National Historic District.  The ultimate result will be the loss of two part-time and five full-time residents and the gain of one almost full-time resident (three weeks out of four here) and five part-time residents.  We are excited for all the people involved.  The changes are milestones they have looked forward to.  Plus, we are always pleased to welcome new neighbors, no matter how frequently we see them.
     I suppose we are – and probably have been for some time – a really-truly ghost town.  About what constitutes a ghost town, Wikipedia says:
     A ghost town is an abandoned village, town or city.  A town often becomes a ghost town because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as floods, government actions, uncontrolled lawlessness, war, or nuclear disasters. The term is sometimes used to refer to cities, towns, and neighborhoods which are still populated, but significantly less so than in years past.
     We definitely qualify on the last point – significantly less population.  A hundred years ago there were more than 160 Oysterville residents;  now only a fourth that.   And, the jury’s out (so to speak) on whether or not the economic activity that supported us has failed due to “government actions.”  The County is still messing with Oysterville Sea Farms and the U.S. Congress seems to be giving our Post Office only a year’s reprieve.  Besides, the majority of the population are retired, so the economic picture is totally skewed.  Oysterville hasn’t been a blue collar, working class town for more than half a century.
     We haven’t even seen the deer people in town lately.  Of course, I must admit that we discourage their coming into our yard.  But, without deer and hummingbirds and people, I feel like we are, indeed evaporating.  Thank goodness for the swallows!  They are everywhere — even in Oysterville.