Posts Tagged ‘Oysterville’

Next Door A Century Ago

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

Mr. Wirt and His Chickens

The Oysterville of my childhood is fast disappearing.  The people, of course, have shuffled off years ago.  I think the only resident left who is older than I am is Bud and, when I was a kid, he was not in evidence.  He was ‘a lot older’ than I was in those days, of course, which when you are a kid might mean five or six years.  In Bud’s case it was probably more like ten which put us in different worlds altogether!

Some of the buildings of those days are gone, some are new, and others have been gentrified almost beyond recognition.  Our place, the Wachsmuth House across the street, the Heckes House (which used to be next door and now is three houses away), the R.H Espy House (the Red House) are pretty much the same.  To the south, the Charles Nelson House and the Ned Osborn House are as I remember. The Church and the Schoolhouse haven’t changed a bit – except that both of them are in better repair than they were seventy or eighty years ago!

Wirt House, 1939

And, of course, up around the corner heading out to the beach, the various Andrews properties are much the same as they were – the garage and the adjacent house, the Oysterville Store and Post Office and the old Andrews residence to the west.  Missing are the houses that were across the road, that make the “neighborhood” feel a bit different.

But of all the physical changes, I most miss the Wirt House.  It was located right across the lane (now called Clay Street) from my grandparents’ place (where we live now.)  I don’t remember the Wirts – they were perhaps a bit older than my Granny and Papa.  My mother always smiled as she remembered Mrs. Wirt.  “She used to come get water from our pump in the front yard.  She’d always call out, ‘Hoo! Hoo! It’s only me, coming to get some water.’  Our water was a lot better than theirs for some reason.”

Wirt House – 1939 WPA Photo

In my childhood, though, the Holway family lived in the old Wirt House.  It was a warm and welcoming household – always lots of activity with five kids.  All of them were younger than I – even the oldest, Johnnie – though he was exactly one week younger.  Somehow that was important…  Everyone in town was impressed when they built their new (and present) house.  My grandmother wrote to Willard in New York in the late 1940s, “It’s going to be the grandest house on the Peninsula!”    Even so… I miss that sweet little Wirt House.  It’s probably an old-age thing – that feeling we’d rather call “nostalgia.”

Sorry. The cannon is indisposed.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018


By rights, THOM (The Honorary Oysterville Militia) should gather day after tomorrow to fire their cannon in commemoration of Oysterville’s founding.  It was April 12, 1854, according to accounts by both Isaac Clark and Robert Espy, that they paddled their canoe shoreward to the sound of Old Klickeas’s drumbeat.  That foggy day, as far as we know, marked the beginning of a permanent settlement here.  Worth noting with a cannon salute, eh?

But, unfortunately, THOM’s cannon is confined to quarters for a time.  After fourteen seasons – and not even the winter ones – out of doors in our northwest weather, her underpinnings are needing replacement.  New carriage wheels!  Nyel is ordering them today from an outfit in Pennsylvania and until they get here, the cannon will remain indisposed.  Which means she will stay tucked away in our garage until the new wheels arrive.

“Obviously, a canon of living in Oysterville is to have a gorgeous garden.” Diedre Duewel

We have been custodians of the cannon– a full-sized replica of an 1841 mountain howitzer made by Cannon Ltd. of Coolville, Ohio – for some years now.  We purchased it just in time to be used for Oysterville’s 2004 Sesquicentennial celebration. And, of course, as with most things in Oysterville, there is a story to go with it.

Oysterville has a long history of celebrations marked by cannon fire. According to my esteemed late Uncle Willard Espy’s account in Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa’s Village, in the 1870s R.H. Espy would don special black broadcloth pants, a maroon and black brocaded vest, a light linen duster, a stiff shirt with boiled bosom, a stiff collar, a bow tie, and a beaver hat and would discharge the cannon to begin festivities such as the annual regatta.

There are accounts that Oysterville’s original cannon was blown to bits by a rowdy group of midnight revelers, so for several generations we had to make do with only the stories about it. Hardly satisfactory thought Nyel. We happened to be in Gettysburg a few years before Oysterville was to observe the sesquicentennial year of its founding, and all those cannons on display prompted Nyel to make inquiries. He learned that for a mere ten or twelve thousand dollars Oysterville could once again have a cannon.

Cannon Squad, 2007

We pondered… and on the long road trip back home we conceived the idea of forming The Honorary Oysterville Militia. We would sell commissions to our friends and relatives and buy the cannon with the proceeds. General Nyel was the first to invest. The plan was successful beyond our wildest expectations and in early 2003 the cannon was ordered. It arrived in the spring of 2004, just in time for Oysterville’s 150th celebration. We’ve been celebrating loudly ever since!

Beyond my understanding… and his.

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

the only one in town

I got an email and a phone message yesterday from a young man who had one of those difficult (for me) two first names.  He was from a radio station in Tacoma and had heard “a story about a church in Oysterville that was open 24/7.”  Was that my church, he wanted to know, and what could I tell him.

So, of course, I called.  When it comes to Oysterville and the church I always call.  I want people to know the “story” – a story fast fading into history.  He sounded pleasant and eager and apparently wanted to involve the Oysterville Church in a radio story of some kind.  We didn’t quite get that far, I’m afraid.

What was the story you heard about the church, asked I. That it was open 24/7, said he.  And then he stopped.  I guess I waited too long because he eagerly explained that he had been in Long Beach and had heard that story.  Was it true?  He wasn’t sure which of Oysterville’s churches it might be?  He was hoping I knew which one and maybe even “went to that one.”

at the ‘y’

I tried to explain that Oysterville is a National Historic District.  That the church is historic.  That it’s the only one in town… “Yes, but do you ever – or do you know of anyone who ever – goes there at midnight to pray?  You know, being open 24/7 and all?”

I’m sorry you didn’t come to Oysterville when you were so nearby, I said.  And I explained about being a National Historic District.  That once-upon-a-time no one locked doors; it wasn’t necessary.  We all knew each other, had free access to one another’s homes… leaving the church unlocked is sort of a holdover from those days, I said.  Another long silence.

“across from the church and facing the bay” . 1930

Does everyone in Oysterville belong to that one church he wanted to know.  Maybe he was thinking that he’d have better luck talking to one of the other members.  Obviously, our conversation was going nowhere and he wasn’t coming up with the answer to his radio show. You know what, I said.  I don’t think I can really help you until you come to Oysterville and see what the church is all about for yourself.  Then, knock on my door and we can talk…  I’ll try to do that he said.

The phone call ended and I felt as though communication had not taken place.  We were two aliens trying to breach the void – even though the words were familiar, they were totally out of any mutually understandable context.  Kinda like when millennials begin talking cyberspace to me.  Scary to think that my very own growing up years are not only forgotten – they aren’t even conceivable…

Oh boy! It’s been way too long!

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Bike Basket

I think it’s been a year and a half since we’ve seen The Hawes.  Otherwise known as “Tricky” because his name is Dick and if you are old enough that doesn’t require explaining.  You’d think he lived in another country.  Well, maybe Bainbridge Island qualifies now that we are all close to the doddering age.

I’ve known Dick Hawes since my California days.  Clear back to the early seventies.  He was from the northwest but for a time worked near Half Moon Bay (I think) where a teacher-friend of mine lived.  The Tricks (we also call him that) moved back up here a few years before I did and we’ve kept up our friendship ever since.  The teacher friend, though… not so much, at least not for me.

Checkin’ Out the Bay

For a long time, Dick lived in a spiffy condo in Belleview.  When we went to the big city, we’d stay with him, and when he wanted a bit of country air, he’d come and stay with us.  He always came armed with a camera – a real one, not digital, even now – and he’d take long, solitary walks soaking up the ambience.  Later, he’d send us a card with a picture on it – something he saw or, more often, something we see every day.  But when seen through Dick’s eyes, it becomes a work of art.

M m m m m Good!

A few years back he formed his own little company called “one eye open” and marketed his cards at various galleries in the Seattle area.  He even had a show of his originals here at Bailey’s Café and, as I recall, made a sale or two.  That’s remarkable for a photographer.  In my salad days when I was married to Marta’s father (who is a photographer) I got used to hearing people visit his exhibitions and say, “I took a shot just like that!”  Yeah, right.  You don’t hear that so much at watercolor shows.  Or sculpture exhibits.  Or even at book signings.

Anyway, The Hawes will be here for the weekend and beyond!  Yay!!  We have a lot of catching up to do.  I don’t think he’s been here since my birthday two years ago this very week.  Is that possible?  Have we been up there?  I wonder if any one of the three of us can remember.  A sad, sad situation to be sure!

…and the beat goes on…

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Celebrating Poetry in Oysterville

50% Hippie!  That’s what my test results were for one of those dimwitted FaceBook quizzes with the alluring (not!) title, ‘How Hippie Are You?”  Fifty percent seems about right. I’m pretty much a hippie in spirit but not in practical application.

Truth to tell, the hippie generation came too late for me.  I was already a wife/mother/teacher living in the East Bay by the time the Summer of Love came along – not inclined to be hanging out in the Haight-Ashbury or in Golden Gate Park.  On the other hand, the Beat Generation was a little too early for me.  I was a junior in high school when Allen Ginsberg’s Howl was published, and a foray into San Francisco was generally a shopping trip with my mom, not an evening in North Beach at the City Lights Book Store.

Tod Marshall, Poet Laureate of Washington State

But, in both cases, I was in agreement with almost everything about those countercultural movements.  Almost.  I was too uptight to try the drugs, a bit leery of the free-love movement and certainly not comfortable piercings and tattoos – but grew my hair long, and had a wardrobe that featured black skirts and sweaters as well as layers of diaphanous scarves and colorful ankle-length dresses.  I embraced the music, the literature, the art, and the world of ideas that both the ‘beats’ and the ‘hipsters’ shared.

I thought about all of that yesterday afternoon, knowing that the “Celebration of Poetry” was taking place at our house in Oysterville.  Right up my alley!  Right in my house!  And… I was missing out once again.  Not because I was too early or too late this time around.  I was 100% present at Nyel’s bedside and 100% where I wanted to be – no question about that!  And thanks to Tucker’s photos and the magic of cyberspace, it might actually have been a 150% situation anyway!

Taking the Shortcut

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

The View from Our House

I never stop counting my blessings that our friends Carol and Tucker live just a spit and a holler away.  It’s less than a block door-to-door and even less than that if you take the shortcut through the churchyard – a good thing to do in the summer, but pretty puddly in the winter.  It’s 165 steps by road; 122 by the shortcut.  Not a lot shorter but, somehow, walking across the lawn and through the gap in the fence seems to be faster by far.

It’s not that we spend that much time in one another’s houses nor necessarily in one another’s company.  Usually, Friday nights at our house.  Now and then around their table or their firepit.  Working on projects together, occasionally.  No… it’s not about time saved or spent – it’s just knowing that they are there.  They’ve come to our rescue many, many times in the years (Is it five, now?) they’ve lived in Oysterville full time – feeding the chickens when we are out of town, keeping an eye on the house, even preparing our ‘home hospital room’ after Nyel’s quadriceps surgery three years ago.

Taking the Shortcut

Sometimes we get to reciprocate.  But not very often.  If they are away for a few days, we stand in for them, tossing out birdseed in their yard each morning and, if it’s a Wednesday, we deal with their garbage can.  Hardly enough to feel that things are ‘even’ in terms of time or effort, though. When I worry about the inequality of it all, they assure us that that’s not the point.  But we wish we could do more for them.  Mostly, I guess, we wish we weren’t so often in need, ourselves.

The best part, though, is that we enjoy one another’s company.  Sometimes Carol and I dream up a ‘double date’ and the four of us go out to dinner or maybe on a day trip.  For a couple of winters, we’ve shared rides to the Community Historian meetings and, I think out of interest rather than neighborly support, both Carol and Tucker took the class I gave at Grays Harbor College a year or so ago. We’ve worked on community projects together and have sat side-by-side at programs at the schoolhouses and during services at the church.  We enjoy meeting one another’s friends and visiting with one another’s relatives. Living in proximity seems like extra icing on the cake.

Walking Home the Long Way

Tucker is the one who ‘discovered’ the shortcut.  It used to be that he got the best cell phone coverage out in his backyard or over toward the church.  If I called from the kitchen, I could look out the window and we could see one another as we talked.  (Those teenaged whipper-snappers have nothing on us old ducks, by Godfrey Daniel!)  And, one step led to another, you might say.

It all puts me in mind of my childhood when kids came in and out of neighbors’ back doors with ‘nary a knock or a ‘yoo-hoo.’  I don’t really remember any shortcuts then and we aren’t even close to that sort of bursting-through-the-door boldness now, but the feeling is the same – unconditional neighborliness!  It’s the best!

The Espy Family Seat and Other Stuff

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Sometimes I feel that Oysterville must qualify as the Espy Family Seat – the place Espys come when they are on the search for family information.  Or maybe, as my sainted Uncle Willard claimed, all roads lead to Oysterville when it comes to Espys.  I’m not sure the reason, but one way or another, we get to meet a lot of fabulous Espy relatives.

Yesterday, it was Debi Snyder, a fifth cousin twice removed (is that what we decided?) who is on a road trip from Provo, Utah with her husband Ron.  Our common ancestors are Thomas Espy and Anna Hamilton – Debi through their son William and me through their son Robert.  That much is well-documented, apparently, so there is no question of our cousinship.

Fifth Cousins Twice Removed

The big question among the genealogists seems to be about Anna Hamilton Espy’s parentage and that was part of the reason that Debi looked me up – hoping for a family Bible or other documentation (Sorry! Not here!) that would firmly establish Anna’s parentage.  That her father was Alexander Hamilton (not the famous one) seems to be true.  It also appears that for some years in the 1750s, after Anna’s mother died and while Alexander was off fighting Indians, young Anna lived with his parents, presumably her grandparents.  Anna rejoined Alexander (presumably her father) in 1760 when he remarried a woman named Amanda and began his second family of .

As far as my newly-discovered cousin and I are concerned, Anna’s parentage is neither here nor there.  But, Debi’s sister is apparently interested in qualifying for the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Being descended from Alexander Hamilton (not the famous one) seems to qualify you and until recently that’s been a fully legitimate reference.  But now, apparently, the DAR is questioning Anna’s paternity and until it’s all resolved… no acceptance by the DAR.

DAR Constitution Hall

I’m afraid I hold a “so what?” view of that entire DAR thing and my new-found cousin seems to agree, though she is pursuing the documentation quest out of sisterly loyalty.  My father’s mother was a passionate and active member in the DAR and, when I was a teenager, was eager for me to join.  I had absolutely no interest then or now. In my mind, the DAR is forever tainted by their treatment of opera singer Marian Anderson back in 1939 when they denied her the opportunity to perform in DAR Constitution Hall because of her race.

Actually, that fact has shaped many of my decisions through life.  I chose Stanford because it didn’t then have sororities; I have never joined AAUW and in several (though not all) other instances I’ve tried to avoid ‘exclusive’ groups which set their members apart from the rest of the world.  But that’s another story…  Yesterday I was proud as punch to be a member of an even more singular group – the Espys – and to welcome yet another cousin to the seat of the Oysterville branch of the family!

The View from Next Door

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016
The OCC Newsletter, 4/20/2016

The OCC Newsletter, 4/20/2016

The photograph on the first page of the current Oysterville Community Club’s newsletter is beyond fabulous – at least from my perspective.  And that’s the whole point.  It shows our house from a time and perspective that I don’t often see.  Talk about a trek down memory lane!  And who was the horse, anyway?

The picture was taken in 1973 by Peter Janke (now the newsletter’s editor) and shows the field that was north of our house for all of my lifetime and most of my mother’s.  When my grandfather was a boy, the Stevens Hotel was on that property.  By the early twenties, the Stevens were gone and the hotel was owned by Andrew Wirt.  My mother remembered it from her childhood as the place “where the bachelors lived.”  I don’t know when the hotel “came down” – probably in the late nineteen- twenties.  That’s when the Heckes/Kemmer/Caulfield Family built “the Annex” to the northwest of the Heckes Inn using the lumber from the Stevens Hotel.

Heckes House with Annex (r.) circa 1930

Heckes House with Annex (r.) circa 1930

The Annex (which was known as and used as a garage in the seventies and eighties) is now gone, too.  And I’m not exactly sure if you can say the field is “gone” but on it is the Hampson House built in 1985/1986.  John Hampson, with a lot of help from Hank Batten, landscaped the grounds with trees and shrubbery which has now grown up so that our view of the Heckes House is completely blocked.  Nor have we ever seen Cyndy Hayward’s lovely new home from our place, located as it is, just north of Hampson’s.

One of my fondest memories of ‘neighborliness’ in Oysterville is of Helen Heckes keeping an eye on my grandparents in the forties and fifties and later on my folks, as well.  If she was up in the middle of the night and saw a light on at our house, she’d call first thing in the morning.  “Is everything all right over there?” she’d ask.  These days, the only light we might see from that direction is the security light over the Hampson’s garage which sometimes shines right into our bedroom window. Unfortunately, not so neighborly.

Hampson House, 1987

Hampson House, 1987

There are other changes to be noted in Peter’s picture, too.  The power lines along the east side of the road, now gone underground.  The old spruce tree in the southwest corner of our yard, once upon a time (1917 or so) a live Christmas tree that my grandfather and his sons brought from the woods and replanted there.  Fearful that it might take part of our house or the church if it toppled in a storm, we had it removed in the late 1990s.  (There was quite a hue and cry about it – never mind that it showed rot at its core.)

So a big shout out to Peter for a fabulous look from next door forty years ago!  Seems like yesterday in some ways… at least from my perspective.

No green. No orange. No Irish.

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

p3673_p_v8_acI grew up believing that I was “Scotch, Irish and English.” Never mind the whole Scotch-Scottish thing. I was proud of my heritage, especially the Irish part. I suspect my positive feelings about being from the Emerald Isle had more to do with Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald than anything else. They were in the movie “Going My Way” and the year I was eight years old it won 7 academy awards, including the one for best picture.

The plot involved a young Irish priest (Bing) taking over for an older priest (Barry), a lot of talk about Ireland, and the song “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral.”  I imagine the plot was pretty bland because, in those days, my parents were picky about which movies I saw. I’m not exactly sure their fussiness could be attributed to good parenting as much as to ensuring themselves of undisturbed sleep. After I saw “Fantasia” when I was three, I had horrible nightmares for weeks.

690145008.0.xAlso, I’m quite sure I was allowed to go to that particular Bing Crosby movie with my good friends Jackie, Joyce, and Robert Reading. I don’t know if they were Irish or not, but I was absolutely fascinated by the fact that they were Catholic. They went to St. Joseph’s parochial school in Alameda (and wore uniforms which I greatly envied); they ate fish every Friday; the priest came for dinner one Saturday a month and I got to help them clean their house in preparation; when we had sleepovers they taught me how to say a rosary. And they all had freckles-to-die-for.

The Reading kids went to the movies at least two Saturdays a month – matinees – and when they came home, they’d relive the plots for my benefit. They were allowed to attend lots more movies than I, even though Mr. and Mrs. Reading paid good attention to the Hays Office Recommendations. (They were the be-all end-all in terms of what was acceptable and what was unacceptable content for motion pictures produced for a public audience in the United States from 1934 to 1968.)

20160317_072115Anyway, in my little-girl mind, the Readings and Bing Crosby and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” all had something to do with being “Scotch, Irish, and English.” It wasn’t until about the time the Hays Office was considered outdated that I finally went to Ireland, myself, and visited Enniskillen (in the North) on a quest for my ancestors. “But,” the friendly people at the City Hall Records Department told me, “your forebears came here from England. You aren’t really Irish at all.”

So… the top o’ the morning and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all my friends, Irish, non-Irish, and Irish wannabes! It’s our lucky day for sure and begorrah!

Down Memory Lane – On Gravel Roads

Monday, September 21st, 2015
The Wirt House, 1939

The Wirt House, 1939

I ran across a picture of the old Wirt House where my friends Johnny and Ruthie Holway lived when I first knew them. I still think of it as “across the lane” from us – probably because we always used the side door not the front door on what is now Territory Road. I remember every inch of that house even though it was replaced by the current house back in the late forties.

Stackpole Harbor

At the End of Stackpole Road

What struck me most about the photograph, though, was the gravel road in front. The picture was taken in 1939 – part of a WPA project documenting rural areas. I’ve been trying to remember when the road was finally paved. Probably Jim Sayce knows. He’s good at remembering things like that.

And when did Stackpole Road get graveled? I remember when it was still just sand and there were hardly any houses along the way at all. We would drive out there in my grandfather’s old Plymouth – usually for a picnic at The Point. Even though it seemed a long way north of Oysterville, it wasn’t as far as it is now with all the accretion. And, of course, there wasn’t a wildlife refuge or a state park there in those days.

North of Joe John's Road, c.1946

North of Joe John’s Road, c.1946

The changes I notice most, though, are along Sandridge between Joe Johns Road and Oysterville. They have all happened so gradually and over so much time that I can hardly remember when there were just meadows and forests for most of the way – until the Espy Ranch House. Nowadays, when people ask me which house that was, I’m hard pressed to tell them. No longer is it ‘the only house just beyond Oysterville.’

Thank goodness for these old photographs! I wish there were more. We’ve put on a lot of miles since those days of gravel roads and I’m grateful for opportunities to travel down them once again.