Posts Tagged ‘Oysterville Schoolhouse’

“… a heap of news…”

Monday, August 31st, 2020

Sydney with Second Grade Student, Southgate School 1962

As the start of school gets closer, my thoughts turn increasingly to my own school days, to the years I taught, and to the school experiences of my own children.  This morning I took a few minutes to look back even further — to 1908 and an exchange of letters between my mother’s oldest sibling and my grandmother.

Medora was eight and was at home in Oysterville with Papa and with her two younger sisters while Mama was in Portland waiting for the birth of their next child (who would turn out to be Edwin.)  Although Mrs. Matthews of Ocean Park was staying at the house to oversee things, it was Medora who get Mama informed of the day-to-day doings in the Espy family.  Often, her closing remark was: That’s a heap of news, isn’t it?

Medora, c. 1906

Thursday, Nov 12th 1908
My dear Mama:
          The teacher has made it a rule that if two children are out of their seats at once, there name will go on the board and we will have to stay in.  It doesn’t matter if we go to our class, then she doesn’t put our name on the board then, but if we go up and ask her something when she is busy with a class, then our name is put on the board.  I was trying not to have my name on the board but sure as I live it was there.          I’m going to send a little poem that I have to learn, don’t you think its pretty.

Harvest Song
Summer is gone, autumn is here
This is the harvest for all the year.
Corn in the crib, oats in the bin,
Wheat is all threshed, barley drawn in.
Carrots in cellars, beets by there side.
Full is the hayloft, what fun to hide!
Apples are barreled, nuts laid to dry,
Frost on the garden, winter is nigh.

Father in Heaven, thank Thee for all,
Winter and springtime, summer and fall.
All Thine own gifts to Thee we bring
Help us to praise Thee, our Heavenly King.

With love from all,
Medora Espy

A few days later Medora wrote that her name had not been on the board “since Tuesday” and sent a copy of her grades:

Compare both months’ work.  You saw last months but I ask you to compare them for me please
                                                   Last Month      This Month
Deportment                                           80                 80
Arithmetic                                             82                 80
Reading                                                 92                 92
Geography                                            88                90
Spelling                                                  94                 95
Writing                                                  92                 94
Lang                                                        92                94
Scholarship                                           89+               90
Days Attendance                                  20                 14
Days Absent                                          0                  0
Times Tardy                                         0                  1

Mama soon wrote back:

Helen Richardson Espy, c. 1908

Dear Medora:
          I was glad to get the standing of your report card the other day, and hope you will continue to raise in scholarship each month.  Then too I was happy to know your name is staying off the board.  We can not always understand our lessons, and it takes hard work to get them perfectly, but there is one thing every little girl can do and that is behave like a lady and not add to the trials of her teacher.  Mama wants her little daughter to lead as the best example in behaviour like she stands for the highest in her lessons.

I can’t help but wonder if the students, parents, and teachers of today, in our strange and constrained circumstances, will have anything close to the relationships disclosed in these precisous old letters.  I fervently hope so.

There’s Still Space Available at OSA!

Saturday, July 20th, 2019

Sydney c. 1944

When I was a kid in Oysterville seven or eight decades ago, summers were all about freedom and being outside and playing and exploring.  My memories are filled with picking blackberries in the meadow,  of finding the baby crabs that lived under the ballast rocks at the bay, of talking with Jimmy Anderson when he walked into town for his “fresh” can of milk each day.  The days were long, though the summers, too short.

Too, for part of each summer I attended Camp Willapa which was run by family friend Dorothy Elliott.  Although there were “rules” and “schedules” it’s the fabulous adventures I remember — the three-or-four-day canoe trips over to Long Island or up the Naselle.  Or camping at Beard’s Hollow or fishing off the end of the old wooden Nahcotta Dock.  There were animals to care for — bunnies and ducks and horses and goats — and new kids to meet who would become life-long friends.

The Oysterville School – Home of Oysterville Science Academy

I thought about all that when I received a note yesterday from a former Oysterville Science Academy student.  This is what it said:  OSA was one of my favorite camps! I loved participating in this weeklong camp for many reasons. One of them was meeting so many interesting people! We got to meet a blind wood worker, and many other awesome crafts people and scientists! Another great thing that happened was being able to go outside as much as we did! We got to go on little field trips, play in a tree fort, run around, and hang! We had great fun with an abacus and geography stars! My aunt got to talk to us about her Mars mission, which was really special. OSA was a great experience and I think others will enjoy it as much as me and my friends did!

This will be the fifth year of the three-week-long Oysterville Science Academy.  Each year I have taken great pleasure in seeing and hearing children’s voices over in the school yard.  (The Oysterville School has been closed for lack of students since 1957!!)  I have marveled at descriptions of their “process-driven” curriculum — presenting the building blocks of science (observation, classification,inference, measurement, etc.) while meeting experts and investigation the world (Oysterville!) around them.

OSA Students in Lab Coats, 2016

But I never quite equated it with summer camp.  And, yet… how did I miss that!  I am told there are still spaces available for this year’s Academy which will be held August 12 – August 20.   Incoming or outgoing fourth graders are the target participants.  If you know of a likely candidate — a neighbor, a friend’s child or grandchild — please spread the word.  It’s free!  It’s fun!  And it’s state-of-the-art science in an old-fashioned, historic setting.  Would that I were nine again!

For further information, contact Diane Buttrell at or 360-214-1267.  Hurry!  Time flies in summer!


Were you the one who spoke to Diane… ?

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

Diane Buttrell

At the Opening Reception for Eric Wiegardt and David Campiche’s exhibition at the Heritage Museum in late July, Diane Buttrell had a conversation with a woman about plans for the Fall 2018 Lecture Series at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.  Diane can’t remember who it was.

Not only that, the conversation was substantive enough that she (Diane) is hoping that this person might kick off the Series.  “I thought we might begin on September 6th but, obviously, that’s too soon now.  I’m hoping for September 13th – if only I can find out who the woman was.  She would be perfect!”

Diane and Hal were here last night for our usual Friday Night gathering and, as they were leaving, she very hesitantly explained her predicament to me.   And, even more hesitantly, asked for help.   As a fellow “now-who-told-me-that” sufferer, I am only too happy to do what I can which, ultimately, comes down to blogging about the dilemma and hoping for the best.

The topic for the planned series this fall is “Hear My Story” and will feature people in our community who are doing something interesting or for the good of the order and, perhaps more importantly, how they came to be doing it. She has a number of folks on her line-up but… that first week is still “To Be Announced.”  I can’t tell you how sympathetic I am to her plight!

If you are the person Diane was talking to – or even if you were eavesdropping on the conversation – Diane urges you to get in touch with her at  There is no time to lose!  Publicity deadlines are upon us for a September 13th kick-off.  And, if you have FB Friends who might have attended that opening on July 27th and just might have spoken with Diane, please share this!  Thanks so much.

On a Path Strewn with Bread and Garlic

Friday, November 18th, 2016
Nanci Main at the Oysterville Schoolhouse

Nanci Main at the Oysterville Schoolhouse

Yesterday, Nanci Main took a packed house of joyful listeners back in time to the glory days of the Ark Restaurant.  We laughed (and wept a bit) right there in the Oysterville Schoolhouse as she recalled the adventures (and misadventures) of those twenty-two years, beginning in 1981 when she and Jimella Lucas put Nahcotta on the world’s culinary map.

For many of us, it was a trip down memory lane, somewhat bittersweet as those journeys often are.  She spoke of people (Red O’Connell, Denton Vanderpole, Jeannie Speelmon, James Beard) and places (the Shake Shack, Red’s Restaurant, their house in Seaview) – all now existing only in our shared recollections.  She spoke of beginnings – especially of the Garlic Festival – and of traditions like the music of Spud and Crabbo on Sunday mornings.  And she praised those crew members who have been with her “since the beginning.”

Ark Menu

Ark Menu

Her descriptions of the ill-fated catering job in Sacramento and the Thanksgiving at the Ark when steaming turkeys triggered foamy fire retardant to cover the kitchen – hilarious!  And I am here to say that they were hilarious ‘back in the day,’ as well.  I remember hearing Nanci and Jimella talk about both incidents years ago with the same mix of horror and humor that we heard yesterday.  They are tales that definitely come under the heading of “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Nanci is a storyteller without peer.  Her ability to see the poignancy as well as the humor of a situation and to credit others, taking the spotlight away from herself, are qualities that draw in her listeners.  The hour-long talk was over far too early.  I think we all wanted more.  Just like we did at the old Ark Restaurant – even when we were full-to-overflowing.  And that comes under the heading “You Can’t Get Enough of a Good Thing.”

Down Memory Lane with Sue Holway

Friday, November 4th, 2016
The Holway Family, Next Door Neighbors

The Holway Family, Next Door Neighbors

I was so glad that Nyel and I didn’t have to be in Portland until mid-afternoon yesterday.  It meant that we were able to go to neighbor Susan Holway’s ‘talk’ at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.  We’ve missed several of the others during this Fall Series, mostly because of doctoring issues, and I was especially glad to go to this one.

Sue, of course, is almost a decade younger than I.  Plus she lived here full-time and, except for one glorious year, I was only a summer kid.  Yet, “her” Oysterville and mine overlap in all the most important aspects – the people who lived here, how no one locked their doors and we walked right in, how everyone shared and helped one another.  Her final remarks, a poignant wish that the old Oysterville spirit could be rekindled, will stick with me for a long time.  No one could have said it better.

Sydney and Johnny, 1939

Sydney and Johnny, 1939

Sue’s older brother, Johnny, was the one who was my age.  He was just a week younger but, summer by summer, he grew taller and smarter than all the rest of us.  Susan mentioned yesterday that, when school consolidation happened, the kids from Oysterville’s one room schoolhouse turned out to be the valedictorians and salutatorians.  She might have been talking about her own class, but I could relate to that.  Ten years earlier, in my seventh grade class at Ocean Park School, we had considered Johnny Holway and Vernon Andrews geniuses.  Especially in math, as I remember.

We had to leave just a tad early so we missed the question and answer period, if there was one.  I think I would have asked Sue when she thought Oysterville began to change away from that all-inclusive, neighbor-helping-neighbor village that we both remember.  More importantly, I’d have asked her how she thinks we can get it back.

Gearing Up for School

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016
Gin after cutting her bangs - a year or so ago

Gin after cutting her bangs – a year or so ago

My lively seven-going-on-eight-year-old cousin (2nd, twice removed) Gin came calling the other day.  She and her brother are here in Oysterville for their last visit before school starts.  “We’ve already done our school shopping…”

“It feels kinda sad,” she told me, lamenting that summer is on the wane.  Then she dashed off to see if there were any eggs that needed collecting and was back not long afterwards asking to use our outdoor faucet to fill her super-duper water gun.  “We’re going to ambush the Bemis Boys,” she told Nyel.  Those are her first cousins who were arriving shortly from Sun Valley.

School Street

School Street

Amazingly, we are gearing up for school here in Oysterville, as well.  Just yesterday Diane Buttrell sent me the schedule for the Fall 2016 Schoolhouse Lecture Series.  It will be the fifth semi-annual series she has organized and hosted and she’s asked if I will again do some write-ups for the paper.  I see by the dates that I’d better get cracking.  The theme is “Local Lore” and those who will be presenting the talks are:

9/8: Bud Goulter
9/22: Dobbie Wiegardt
10/6: Michael Parker
10/20: Ernie Soule
11/3: Susan Holway
11/17: Tom Downer

Be sure to mark your calendars – every other Thursday, September 8th through November 17th at 10:00 a.m.  I’ve already marked mine!

“In The Mood”

Friday, February 5th, 2016
Cupid, Diane Buttrell

Cupid, Diane Buttrell

Undoubtedly I overuse the word ‘fabulous’ but yesterday’s Oysterville Schoolhouse experience was FABULOUS! Notice I said ‘experience’ because the event went above and beyond. First and foremost, Kuzzin Kris Jones held the attention of a packed house and was kept afterwards with many questions by her enthusiastic listeners. For no logical reason, I was bursting with pride. What a life she has had! No, scratch that. Is having!

But there was another story unfolding yesterday as well. At the top of the program, before introducing Kris, Diane Buttrell quickly and breathlessly told us a bit about our friend Wayne Downing. In a whirlwind romance that began only weeks (six I think) ago at one of Diane and Hal’s “Read to Me” evenings, Wayne has won himself a bride!

The Groom, Wayne Downing

The Groom, Wayne Downing

Most of us know Wayne – if not personally, then from his column “An Old Dog’s Tale” in the Observer or as host of “In the Mood” on KMUN, our Coast Community public radio station. We’ve clapped for him in several of Sandra Nielson’s productions of “Shoalwater Shenanigans” (Wayne played Chief Carcowan as well as Henry Feister and Eldridge Higgins.) He is, in my opinion, one of the most loveable and huggable of men and I couldn’t be happier for him and for his bride Sharon.

Before they arrived at the schoolhouse, and for reasons I cannot yet reveal, Diane told us in a rush of their courtship story beginning with her own introduction to newcomer-to-the-Peninsula, Sharon, at church and of inviting her to the “Read to Me” evening. She told of Wayne and Sharon’s immediate attraction as evidenced by instant and total immersion in conversation and eye contact.

The Bride, Sharon Patterson

The Bride

The story even involved the couple being stuck in the elevator where Hal and Diane live. And then there was the day they met for lunch at the Full Circle and had to be asked to leave at 5:00 p.m. – closing time. Talk about smitten! They apparently set a wedding date, then decided they couldn’t wait and went over to the courthouse at South Bend and… voilà!

Sharon and Wayne arrived at the schoolhouse yesterday after Diane’s commentary and just in time to hear Kris.  They were glowing, smiling, and holding hands – all of which continued right through Kris’s talk. When I gave them my congratulations afterwards and teased a bit about not waiting, they both glowed even more and Wayne’s response was “Our loins were on fire!” A fabulous response… and pure Wayne!


My Gypsy Kuzzin

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016
Kristina Jones, Performer

Kristina Jones, Performer

In my mind, anyone who has moved fifty-four times (or is it fifty-seven?) qualifies as a gypsy. Not in the ethnic, Romani sense, but in the wandering, nomadic, intrepid sense. I mean, how many people do you know who have sung (and even starred) in operas on the national and international stage? Or have lived in Nepal and begun a Foundation to stop sex-trafficking of young girls? Or worked in New York City for an antique dealer specializing in Asian art and antiquities?

Those are just some of the things I could tell you about my friend and ‘kuzzin’ Kristina Jones. Her life epitomizes romance and adventure and she has many a story to tell! I haven’t heard half of them yet, I’m sure! I’m looking forward to learning more tomorrow morning at the first of the 2016 Spring Lecture Series at the Oysterville Schoolhouse. Kris begins her talk at 10 a.m. and I intend to take a front row seat!

Kris Jones, Teacher

Kris Jones, Teacher

Kris is a great storyteller. She pulls you into the plot, keeps you mesmerized throughout, and often leaves you wondering whether her story is fact or fiction! I’m pretty sure it’s all true, though, and probably only the tip of that proverbial iceberg. I say that because I went online to find out more about the Little Sisters Foundation.

According to her founding partner Stuart Perrin: In 1992, my distinguished colleague, Kristina Carlson Jones moved to Kathmandu to open a meditation center. She contacted me in New York and told me about children being abducted and trafficked into sexual slavery… On one occasion, at the risk of her life, Kristina Carlson Jones outfitted as a nurse, went into the Falkland Road hellhole of brothels in Mumbai to document the dismal condition of young girls who were sold to traffickers. Had the brothel owners known what Kristina was really up to, most likely they would have killed her.

Now that’s a story I’ve not heard! Perhaps she will tell it tomorrow…

Oysterville School: Education Mecca!

Friday, October 23rd, 2015
"Tucker at the Helm"

“Tucker at the Helm”

Yesterday, the Oysterville Schoolhouse was crowded with eager learners, all there to hear Tucker Wachsmuth tell about his great-grandfather Meinert Waschsmuth’s long, adventure-filled journey from Sylt in Germany to Oysterville in Washington Territory back in the mid-1800s.  And about his great-great uncle, Meinert’s brother, who shipped out at the same time on a different vessel and whose fate is largely unknown. I will say only that it was a fabulous talk, illustrated and documented to the max. It was a learning opportunity for us all.

But, there was another sort of learning happening at the Schoolhouse yesterday even before Tucker was introduced. People were circling the room, looking at the bulletin board display cases that contain bits and pieces of Oysterville School District No. 1 history. There are photographs, class registers, receipts for work done, examples of early 20th century art projects and on and on.

1914 Oysterville School Register

1914 Oysterville School Register

For the most part, those contents are copies of “school stuff” that had been stored haphazardly in our old woodshed. They were left-overs from the forty-some years that my grandfather, Harry Espy, served on the Oysterville School Board,

When the Oysterville Community Club, under the able leadership of Casey Killingsworth, undertook the restoration of the building, Larry Freshley and I were asked if we would work interpreting the school’s history. The large sign outside and the cabinets inside with their historic information were the result. Little did we know then – back in 2001/2002, that they would be the source of ongoing “education” in and of themselves!

Yesterday, before things got started, two audience members who had come to hear Tucker shared some important historic information of their own. Community Historian Kathleen Davies found her grandmother’s name on a 1914 class list. Previously, she had thought her grandmother might have been in school here in 1910 but we couldn’t find any documentation.

Yesterday: success! There was the name “Jones, Maude [age] 13. Kathleen was thrilled and so was I!  It never occurred to me when I put the bulletin boards together that I would be continuing to learn about their contents all these years later.  Kathleen and I talked a bit, also,  about where she thought Maude might have lived, about the old school attendance boundaries, and who might have had a big farm where her Great-grandfather would have worked. So interesting! I hope we both learn more as time goes by.

Oysterville Schoolhouse

Oysterville Schoolhouse

And, a lovely woman whose in-laws are part of the Eugene Andrews family, pointed out her mother-in-law’s name on a list of teachers in another display case. “? – 1926     Ellen ? (Andrews)” is what it said. I now know to update that information to say “1924-1926 Ellen Andersen Andrews.”  I wrote it down (correctly I hope) but didn’t write down the daughter-in-law’s name for which I am truly sorry.   The record will be updated on my computer and, when time permits, in the schoolhouse display.

I love it that those display cases “keep on giving.” Maybe, eventually, we’ll gather enough bits and pieces to replace all the gaps and question marks. Eventually…

Coming Soon: Oysterville Science Academy!

Thursday, June 4th, 2015
Oysterville School, 1940s

Oysterville School, 1940s

Diane Buttrell and I have been talking about her plans for the Oysterville Science Academy this summer and I am feeling totally out of the educational loop. Maybe “educational” is the wrong word. It’s the kid loop I’m no longer part of.

Twenty years ago, I would have known most of the fourth graders in the Ocean Beach School District and I could have said to some of them, “Have you heard about what’s happening in Oysterville this summer? Are you planning to go? Will I see you in the schoolyard or down by the bay? I hope so!”

Ascan0021s it is, I can only hope that kids and parents get the word and sign up for the exciting program that Diane and her colleagues are planning. Beginning July 27th and continuing for three four-day weeks (Mondays thru Thursdays) fourth graders will become totally immersed in science. Through demonstrations, experiments, and hands-on activities and they will have an opportunity to learn from an amazing number of experts. Yes! Experts in matters such as oceanography, logistics, biology, and geothermal activity!

They won’t be learning in quite the usual way, either.  They will be using a curriculum developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Lessons are based on the time-honored processes used by actual scientists world-wide — observing, inferring, predicting, using numbers, measuring, communicating using time/space relationships, and classifying.

Imagine! Lab Coats!

There will be some writing, some research, and some time for art.  And, there will be lab coats! If I were a kid, that would be the final caveat! The experiments, the research, the field trips to look at ‘stuff’ in its natural habitat – all well and good. But there’d be nothing to make me feel more like being a real scientist than wearing a lab coat. What a great touch!

From the vantage point of an Oysterville resident, I can’t wait to hear children’s voices on the school grounds again. It’s been 57 years since school has been held on a regular basis at the little one-room schoolhouse. The occasional Easter egg hunt or visit by a group of school kids is great, but three weeks in a row of daily use by school children is a Big Deal. It almost makes me want to be a fourth grader again. Or maybe a teacher again. Almost.