Posts Tagged ‘Oysterville Church’

A Glimpse From Beyond My Own Grave

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

“Oystervile Cemetery Sketches” by Marie Oesting

Yesterday, I finally understood a little bit better about why we never asked the right questions of our grandparents or our parents or someone else who has now gone on to their ‘great reward.’.  It’s a familiar theme. “Why didn’t I ever have that conversation with my great aunt?”  Or, “Why didn’t my mother tell me about that?”

My conversation was with my friend and neighbor, Cyndy, who is the President of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation – the organization that owns and manages the church and much of the open space here in Oysterville.  She and I served as Co-Presidents until last May when my term on the Board was up and I chose not to run again.  Nyel, too, was on the Board as Treasurer for a number of years until he resigned last month for health reasons.

We were talking about the church and its need for new or repaired wallpaper.  Cyndy had recently been over there with a ‘wallpaper expert’ and was telling us with some amazement that the wallpaper is applied directly to the boards.  “Yes,” Nyel and I said.  “The church is single-wall construction.”

Biggs and Dutton Album, 1993

Cyndy went on to tell us that the wallpaper expert had suggested lining the walls with a “very thin” wallboard to give additional stability to the repaired/replaced wallpaper when the time comes.  “But, I think that would ruin the acoustics in the church,” I said.

It was an “aha” moment for Cyndy.  She, like most people who have been to musical events in the church, is well aware of its fine acoustics.  Musicians from her Willapa Bay Artists in Residence Retreat often go there to play their instruments.  One group even had a small concert there.  The church has become the ‘recording studio’ for more than one CD over the years – the first one I’m aware of was “Christmas with Biggs & Dutton” recorded in the historic Oysterville Church March 7-9, 1993, according to the liner notesBut Cyndy had never put that together with the single-wall-construction part of the picture.

We continued discussing the wallpaper situation and Nyel and I mentioned that we have all the unused rolls and remnants from the last time the church was papered.  “You do?” Again, pure amazement.  “Yes, of course,” Nyel said.  “Where else would it be?”  (What he didn’t say was that this house has been the repository for almost everything to do with the church, ever since it was built in 1892.)  “But why didn’t you say something?” Cyndy said.  “All those years you were on the board and all the times we’ve talked about wallpaper?”

Inside the Oysterville Church

I don’t have a really good answer for that.  There were, indeed, many discussions about the need to “do something” about the wallpaper.  Our friend Ray Hansen has actually done several repairs over the years and has offered to come and do whatever is needed if the ORF Board would like him to.  “I know we’ve mentioned Ray and his offer,” I said.  “Yes, but I don’t know who Ray is,” Cyndy said.

That’s when I began thinking about all those questions I should’ve asked my grandparents.  And all the conversations we must have had in which they mentioned things that simply didn’t register… because I didn’t know the people or the circumstances or have any need to pay heed.  And that’s when I had a glimpse of what it might be like here in Oysterville when I am dead.

Slinky, Red, and Dripping with Fringe

Friday, October 28th, 2016
Sydney in the '70s

Sydney in the ’70s

It must have been in 1975 or ’76.  I was still living in California but came up to Oysterville with Charlie and Marta for Christmas.  We arrived a few days early, just in time for my folks’ Christmas Party which was always a gala event.  We had all brought our ‘best bib and tucker’ as directed by my mother and looked forward to the big evening with great anticipation.

Mom, always ‘the hostess with the mostess,’ had invited a number of ‘young people’ for our benefit – some, not really ‘young’ by any usual standard, but closer in age to me than to her.  Among them were Noel and Pat Thomas, Gordon Schoewe and Roy Gustafson who, it would turn out, became life-long friends.

Patty and Noel in the '70s

Patty and Noel in the ’70s

The details of the party mostly escape me except that Charlie spent the preparation hours in his room building an exact cardboard miniature of the Oysterville Church – exact except for the slot in the roof into which people could drop money; the folks had decided that the party should be a fund-raiser for the restoration of the church.

I also remember that Charlie and Marta disappeared partway into the evening’s festivities and later learned they had gone upstairs with Jimmy and Jeff Campiche (and maybe a few others) to play cribbage.  Or was it poker?   Anyway, I couldn’t find them and leave it to a mom to be annoyed…  I’m pretty sure no one else noticed.

Gordon and Sydney in the '70s

Gordon and Sydney in the ’70s

What Noel and Pat and Gordon and Roy remembered for years and years was the dress I was wearing – “long, slinky, red, and dripping with fringe” as Gordon always insisted.  And they all always agreed.

Though the long, slinky, fringy parts of their memories were true, the dress was actually burnt orange and brown in color.  I still have it somewhere – waiting for twenty or twenty-five pounds to disappear so I can wear it again.  But then… the memory is so much better than the reality, why bother?

Built to Last and Outlast

Thursday, August 18th, 2016
Church Porch

Church Porch

When Ossie Steiner made the finials and balusters and other decorative parts of the Oysterville Church, he intended them to last.  That they were beautiful and provided just the right finishing touches to the restoration of the old building went without saying.  Ossie was a craftsman of the first order and he fashioned those final embellishments as exact replicas of the 1892 parts they were to replace.  That was in 1978 – forty-eight years ago.

Painting Rack

Painting Rack

So far, all of those parts, except for one, remain perfectly solid and look to last another forty-eight years – or at least another 36 which would be as long as the originals held up.  That one bad baluster was apparently hiding a rotten core from the beginning and finally, earlier this summer, it gave way.  Mychael Clarson removed it (and its next door neighbor) and Nyel took the solid piece to Richard Rank to duplicate on his lathe.  Nyel ordered six, just in case, and designed a painting rack so that he can paint them assembly line style.  A pair and four spares!  Ossie would be proud.

In 1980 Ossie began building my house (now owned by Cyndy Hayward) on the bay.  The Bank of Pacific building in Ocean Park was going up at the same time and I remember Ossie shaking his head over their roof as it was being constructed.

Bay House Under Construction

Bay House Under Construction, 1979

“Your roof will last twice as long as that one,” he told me.  And it did.  In fact, I think the bank building has been re-roofed twice since then and the bay house… not at all.  I believe that the difference was that Ossie used shakes, not shingles, and laid them on with greater overlap than those at the bank.  Even so, 47 years is pretty amazing! Whatever Ossie did might have been more spendy initially but since then, has been a money-saver many times over.

“They don’t make ‘em like they used to,” people often say.  I don’t know about that, but I do know that back in his day, Ossie set a high standard, indeed.   I’m glad I had the opportunity to hire him and to watch him at work.  He was a master builder, indeed.

Year 39 Begins Sunday!

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
First 2015 Vesper Service: Sunday, June 21st

First 2015 Vesper Service: Sunday, June 21st

Carol Wachsmuth and I drove around the Peninsula yesterday on a ‘Delivery Mission.’  Actually, I was just along for the ride — keeping Carol company as she stopped here and there distributing this year’s Oysterville Music Vespers schedule to people who can help get the word out.  Summer vesper services begin this Sunday – the 39th consecutive year!

An article in the June 28, 1978 issue of the Pacific Tribune said: After 30 years without regular services, the historic Oysterville Church will open its doors for a series of vesper services on successive Sundays beginning July 2nd…The first two services will be conducted by Dr. R. H. Edwin Espy, well known to residents of the Peninsula from his boyhood in Oysterville and from speaking engagements on the Peninsula across the years.  He is best known nationally and internationally as the recent General Secretary of the National Council of Churches.           

Ed Espy, circa 1975

Dr. R.H. Edwin “Ed” Espy, circa 1975

I had just moved here full-time and, of course, I went to that first vesper service as did most members of the Espy family.  We were here in force for a family reunion and going to a church service across the street from the house – a service conducted by my Uncle Ed – was what we always did on the Sunday of a family gathering. (I probably should point out here that the Espys always felt a bit proprietorial about the church since R.H. Espy, co-founder of Oysterville and family patriarch, had donated it and the land on which it sits back in 1892.)

That 1978 service was a bit different, though.  It marked the first service since the rededication of the church to the Oysterville Restoration Foundation and the beginning of a concerted effort to restore the church… according to Mrs. Dale Little, an Oysterville resident… said the June 28, 1978 issue of the Tribune.  I think mom was hopeful that her efforts at organizing that first summer of vespers would ‘take hold.’  I don’t know if she realized that the services would be on-going for almost 40 years and would become the only regular source of revenue for the continued maintenance of the church.

Oysterville Church Before Restoration

Oysterville Church Before Restoration

As Carol and I ‘made the rounds’ – the Bank of Pacific for their reader boards, the Chinook Observer for their Community Calendar, the Visitor’s Bureau for their continuing outreach to tourists – we talked about what’s in store for this summer.  First up is an all-Peninsula program: Dr. Barbara Bate, the officiating minister; the Bayside Singers dircted by Barbara Poulshock; Sandy Nielson playing the organ; Diane Buttrell presenting the Oysterville Moment.  I hope the church is full-to-overflowing!

No! No! No! Not in the church!

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Swallow on GuardThere was a lot of scolding going on in the Oysterville Church yesterday.  It began during the Memorial Day program right when Nyel was reading “In Flanders Field.”  The door from vestibule to the main part of the church was slightly ajar and those of us in the rear pews could hardly hear the words to that lovely old poem.

Competing with Nyel (and later with the Bayside Singers) were two very indignant swallows.  Sometime previously, perhaps over the weekend, someone had left the entry door open long enough… Now, Mr. and Mrs. Barn Swallow had begun their nest just above the vestibule window and they were letting us all know that the church was currently off limits to the rest of us.

After the morning’s ceremonies were over – the cannon had been fired and the last of the left-overs from coffee-at-the-schoolhouse had been packed away – I noticed that the church door was still open.  In fact, both of the double doors were open wide.  When I went over to close them, Mr. Swallow scolded me roundly from his perch on the bell rope.  He was obviously keeping close watch over the construction site a few feet to his north.

That bell rope has been knotted so that it is out of reach of tourists. Fortunately, there weren’t any in the area as I stood there talking to the immovable bird.  He cheep-cheep-cheeped at me as I tried to explain that the inside of the church, though perhaps barn-like to him, was not an appropriate place for a nest.  He was unflappable.  Literally.  So I went off to the American Legion sponsored lunch at the Heritage Museum.

Later, apparently during a work break, Nyel found the vestibule empty of birds and firmly closed the doors.  I felt vaguely sorry for them.  And more than vaguely annoyed at whoever had left the door open in the first place.  What were they – born in a barn?

Today in Oysterville with Kuzzin Kris!

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016
Kris Jones, Teacher

Kris Jones, Teacher of Meditation and Voice

If you have considered…  if you have wondered… if you are curious…  or even if you are an old hand at it, take a bit of time this afternoon to attend Kristina Jones’ Sunday afternoon talk about meditation.  She will be speaking right here in Greater Downtown Oysterville at the church across the street.  Her topic:  “Basic Principals of Meditation.”

“Lest the fact that we’ll be in church confuse people,” Kris says, “I want to point out that what I teach is not a religion.  I’ll be talking about meditation techniques and benefits.  It will be a very informal gathering – lots of opportunities for questions and comments.

Kris in the News

Kristina B. Jones, Opera Star

Kris has been practicing meditation for 42 years and has been teaching for 30 years. (That’s in addition to being an opera star, living in Nepal and starting a non-profit foundation for sexually abused girls and more.  So much more!)  This afternoon, though, the focus will be meditation.

She plans to talk about the medical benefits of meditation (lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, tension, breathing problems and PTSD, as well as the spiritual enhancements (quiets the mind, opens the heart, creates foundation and balance.  In addition, Kris will demonstrate a variety of techniques which she says, attendees are welcome to try.

Kuzzin Kris

Kuzzin Kris, the Williams Connection

I have to confess, I know very little about meditation (yet), but I will here affirm, clearly and repeatedly, that time spent with Kris will be a delight.  Not only will you learn something (guaranteed!) but you will be entertained as well.  And, best of all, you will have a new friend when the hour is up.  Kris is just that kind of gal!

Oh!  Did I mention that she’s my cousin?  As in shirttail?   Actually… since she is a Williams, and half the Peninsula are related to Williamses, she may be your cousin, too.  So come on up to Oysterville this afternoon and enjoy an hour or so with Kuzzin Kris!  The fun begins at 3:00.  It promises to be chilly, so we’ll have the heat on for you!

Something’s Outta Synch

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
Our M2adow in March

Our M2adow in March

We knew back in January and February when it rained day after day after day that every drop would be translated into mosquitoes.  We knew as we watched the standing water gather in the swales and in the meadows and in the low area behind the church.  “Gonna be a mosquito problem come Spring,” we’d say.  And there is.

They came early.  In swarms.  The mosquito abatement guy said he’d never seen them so thick up at the cemetery.  But, just when we were in the midst of the ‘to Off or not to Off’ debate’ here came the swallows!  A bounty crop, you might say.  “Ah!  The balance of nature!” some said.  “It will all work out for the best,” some said.

Porch Mess

Porch Mess

Around our house you are more likely to hear, “Damned swallows!  What a mess!”  Two swallow facts contribute to our probably non-PC attitude about the little darlings.  The first fact:  each barn swallow (as most of ours are, though we have cliff swallows, too) eats 850 mosquitoes a day.  (That’s according to Mary McCann on BirdNote.)  That’s the good news.  But that voracious appetite translates into lots and lots of swallow guano.  That’s the bad news.

The second swallow fact:  the little darlings may be a marvel of instinct and perseverance, but they aren’t necessarily smart in their choice of real estate.  Take the one-inch ledge atop our porch windows, for instance.  Some years (like this one) Mr. and Mrs. Swallow try for days and days to build there.  Sometimes they are successful.  Sometimes not.  And sometimes, Nyel intervenes by attaching plastic-strips-that-blow-in-the-breeze as discouragement.

At The Church

At The Church

Meanwhile, though the guano (or SwallowShit as we say in our call–em-like-we-see-em sorta way) builds up on the window, on the window sill, and on the porch which is the main entrance to our house.  Not only do we (and our visitors) need to watch where we step, but we are often dive-bombed and always scolded unmercifully by busy Mr. and Mrs.  They have marked their building site and woe be unto those of us encroaching on their territory.

So, my question is:  in that entire balance-of-nature scenario, what is it exactly that is going to balance the guano problem?  (And, did you know, that when you scrub guano off a painted surface – like your house—the paint comes with it?)  I mean, really!  Rain equals mosquitoes equals swallows equals guano.  Is that really Mother Nature’s idea of a suitable end product?  Surely not.

And did I say, that for the first time in forty years, there are swallow nests in progress at the church?  Three of them, so far.  We can only pray…

Did we sound fabulous, or what?

Monday, July 27th, 2015
Oysterville Church - Perfect Sound Box

Oysterville Church –  A Perfect ‘Sound Box’

I can never decide if the music in the Oysterville Church sounds best when I’m standing in the middle of it or if I’m outside ‘listening in.’ It’s almost a toss-up, but participating (such as I was able) in yesterday’s Vesper service with Cate and Starla Gable would really be hard to beat. They had the entire congregation singing and the church seemed to rock in perfect harmony and rhythm. No electricity needed!

Our little historic (1892) church is known, of course, for its superb acoustics. Dozens of musicians have told us how wonderful the sound is there and several have even recorded albums surrounded by its peace and quiet. I don’t know, though, if those recordings can completely capture the magic of hearing the music in person. Perhaps “magic” is the wrong word in the context of the building… maybe “spirit” as in “spiritual” would be a better descriptor.

Cate and Starla Gable, July 26,2015

Cate and Starla Gable, July 26,2015

As part of their program yesterday (and with two designated helpers, Betty Lu Krause and my Kuzzin Kris Jones) Cate and Starla had us all singing two different rounds – “Let Us Sing Together” and “All Things Shall Perish.”  The second was a four-part round and Cate encouraged us to “be sure to listen to the harmonies” as we were singing.

Kris Jones Leads Part Four of "All Things shall Perish"

Kris Jones Leads Part Four of “All Things shall Perish”

How do you do that, I wonder? I think that must be the difference between true musicians and us lay people. I really have to stop singing in order to listen. Of course, I totally get that if we all did that, there’d be no harmonies to hear… but I stopped anyway for a moment. Fabulous!

I left the church thinking again that acoustic music is THE best. How fortunate we are to have that fabulous little structure right in our own backyard, so to speak. Not only does it provide the perfect ‘acoustical environment’ for all the talented musicians who perform there, it makes the rest of us sound good. Really good!

Let The Singing Begin!

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015
Rolande Chesebro

Rolande Chesebro

It seems fitting that the memorial service for Rolande Chesebro will take place at the Oysterville Church this Saturday, the very day before our 2015 Music Vespers season begins. Rolande and her husband Glenn Leichman were frequent Vespers attendees. In fact, I think that’s where we first ‘met’ some years ago – or maybe became aware of one another more than ‘met’ in any formal sense.

Rolande was a woman who immediately made you feel comfortable. And, at the same time, joyous. She had a gift that way. No matter where our paths crossed – at house concerts here, at their Willapa Acres property on the bay, or out and about in the community, I always felt calmer, more centered, more me after visiting with her. Truly… it was a gift.

At Willapa Acres

At Willapa Acres

Perhaps it had to do with Rolande’s work as a landscape gardener – her connection with the earth and with the people who love it. I recently learned that there is a memorial bench in her name at the Seattle Arboretum. I have no doubt that when I next visit there and have an opportunity to sit on that bench in the midst of all those beautiful plantings, her spirit will come through. And maybe I’ll hear a bit of music, as well.

Always there seemed to be music associated with Rolande. That old rhyme that ends “and she shall have music wherever she goes” seems much too trite. And yet… it is true, too. So I was not surprised to learn that many musicians – most local, but some from afar – will be involved in her service. In fact, it looks as though her memorial will be mostly music. Later in the day, Rolande’s and Glenn’s friends will celebrate her life with music and food at Willapa Acres – an old-fashioned hootenanny that she would have loved.

The Memorial Service at the Oysterville Church begins at 1:00 Saturday; the pot-luck hootenanny at Willapa Acres, around 4:30. Friends of Rolande’s and Glenn’s are encouraged to attend both. I wouldn’t miss either for all the world.

The Pump Organ Blues Here in Oysterville

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015


First 2015 Vesper Service: Sunday, June 21st

First 2015 Vesper Service: Sunday, June 21st

The 38th Annual Music Vespers season begins Sunday and, so far, it looks as if this will be known in the inner circles as “The Year of the Organ.” We seem to be on some brink at every turn. (I should say from the onset that it is a vespers tradition to use the old-fashioned pump organ as accompaniment for the congregational singing. It’s not ‘necessary’; we have a piano available. But ‘necessary’ is not the operable word here. ‘Tradition’ is what’s important in a historic church.)

Our first cause for alarm was when one of our main organists moved away. Finding someone to step into her shoes has not been easy. In fact, it has been impossible so far. Plus, it’s a busy summer for our other three stalwart organists and they are hard-pressed to take up the slack. I do hope the congregation feels okay with a cappella hymn singing on a couple of Sundays. Or maybe another miracle will happen…

Oysterville's Stalwart Old Pump Organ

Oysterville’s Stalwart Old Pump Organ

And then there is the matter of the organ, itself. For some years the little parlor organ has been a bit cranky and our volunteer organists have had to baby it along. We have been on the search for an organ repairman and have actually been recommended to several but, alas, they deal with pipe, not pump, organs – a different animal altogether.

Then, last year we were given a ‘new’ organ of similar vintage and style. It seemed to be the answer to our prayers, at least for a few Sundays, and then it, too, got cranky. (Both organs are about my own age and I know the feeling. Some days it’s just difficult to have all of one’s parts moving smoothly.)

Bonnie Masson, Organist

Bonnie Masson, Organist

We continued looking for an organ repair expert and, last winter our our first miracle occurred! Through a friend of a friend we managed to get in touch with a remarkable man who knows all about the inner workings of organs. He finally came to Oysterville in April, took our old organ completely apart, pronounced it in “amazingly good” condition and returned to Portland to order a few replacement parts. The organ is not quite back together now, awaiting new felts. Try as we might, we’ve been unable to get a commitment for a return date from our organ repair master.

As I see it, we have the next three days and that’s it. On Friday there’s a wedding at the church, on Saturday a memorial service and then, Sunday… Vespers! We’ll just have to hope that the back-up organ is all rested up since last summer and feels young and frisky. Like me… on a good day. Meanwhile, we are praying for that second miracle.