Posts Tagged ‘Oysterville’

This used to be a nice neighborhood…

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

A Popular Sign

Most of us old-timers in Oysterville can remember clearly when, not so many years ago, no one locked their doors here.  Now, we can’t put out a campaign sign for one of our  long-time, third-generation neighbors without it getting ripped off.  Twice so far.

After our first “Dan Driscoll for Commissioner” sign disappeared back in July, Dan replaced it, and I faithfully brought the new one into the house each evening before dark and set it out again in the morning.  Then came the smoke, the poor visibility, my sore throat and scratchy eyes and… I became complacent.

Yesterday morning:  the sign was gone.  For the second time.  Carolyn Long’s sign (a bit catywampus) is still there, though I hesitate to say so for fear it, too, will be stolen.  I don’t see any other nearby Driscoll signs gone, but I haven’t actually taken an inventory.  So Nyel and I have the uncomfortable feeling that we are being specifically targeted.

Carolyn Long Survives!

On the other hand, all of the Wolfe signs within view of our house are still up.  It seems possible that it’s one of Frank’s supporters who is doing the dirty deed.  Perhaps Frank needs to have a word with them.  Especially because, of the many Frank Wolfe signs in the village, only one is in front of a voting resident’s home.  The others are a bit misleading since the homeowners live elsewhere full-time and are not eligible to vote in Pacific County.

While it is true that every voter registered in Pacific County can vote in the general election for any one of the candidates running for Pacific County Commissioner  (unlike in the Primary Election in which only the voters in each candidate’s Commissioner district can vote), those voting privileges do not extend beyond the county line.   Perhaps those particular sign displayers are confused about that.   More likely, they are trying to show support for a candidate who most voting residents of the village do not support — an unhappy statement in itself.

Sign or no sign, Dan has our support!

To me, the sign-stealing is just one more example of the neighborhood going downhill.  The Big City Folk move in and good manners and respect seem to evaporate.  It’s too bad.  Perhaps Frank should have a little talk with some of his Oysterville supporters.  They aren’t doing his cause any good at all.  And why the Driscoll signs that Nyel and I have displayed seem to be a particular target is a mystery to us.  If you have an idea, do weigh in!  Inquiring minds want to know.


Sometimes you forget…

Friday, July 31st, 2020

House Book – Front Cover

I recently “ran across” (which means, really, that I zeroed in on what had been in front of my very eyes for years and years) my “House Book” from the years I lived on the bay in the house that Ossie (and Wolfgang and Gunter) built for me.  The book is essentially two leather  covers enclosing a few hundred “blank” pages — or they were once.  During those years — 1980 – 2000) many people filled the book’s pages with  drawings, advice, praise, more drawings and general craziness.

The book was made for me by Nancy Lloyd in the days she specialized in leather craft.  It contains an amazing history of my life in that house and is full of memories of the wonderful people who visited me there, who partied there, who touched my life and who will always be in my heart.

"Gore & Roar" 9/3/82 by Gordon Schoewe

“Gore & Roar” 9/3/82 by Gordon Schoewe

I love reading it, though it tugs fearfully at my heartstrings.  On 3/29/80, just after I had moved in,  my dad wrote:  May this house (and home) never be finished — the essence of life is expectation. — Dad (WWLittle).

The first time Nyel’s name appeared was on 9/28/84.  He was included in the notation made by me:  Dennis Crabb’s “musical wish group” met here.  Along with Nyel’s name were listed Kathy Sayce, Ann Kischner, Ann Hauser, me.  Was that the first glimmer of the “Water Music Festival?”  But where were Patty and Noel and Kathy Crabb?

By Charles Mulvey 11/10/84

And SO many parties!  A Goodbye to Lawrence Lessard party in 1984 and again in 1986 (go figure!); birthday parties (many!) for Gordon and Roy and Noel and Nyel; High Tide parties toward the end of each December (usually); anniversary celebrations for my mom and dad;  Cinco de Mayo celebrations; come-and-meet-our-friends-from-Calif. or Ariz. (or Seattle or Boston or Oxford) parties; and Just Because parties.

On 4/16/94 Willard wrote Paradise is to be at Sydney’s and Nyel’s, by the bay, on a sunny day in April…Love Willard and Louise.    And in August 1995, notes from my cousins Joey and Mona Espy from NYC and New Orleans, respectively.

By Hannah Snyder 8/8/88

Throughout the book are (typically) nutty messages to  “Mommy” from Charlie commemorating his annual Christmas and occasional summer visits.  On Christmas 1994 he wrote:  I came here and saw Mommy & Nyel & Bowser.  Bowser loves me.  Big Kitty Jr. is at home all by himself for the first time, and he is lonely.  I have asked Nyel to try to find me a hardcover copy of Wittgenstein’s “Tractus Philologicus” which I’ve wanted to read for a long time– but now I’m reading “Hopeful Monsters” by Nicholas Mosely which refers to it.  We are having chicken… 

House Book- Back Cover

At the very end of the book is a list of “Sightings” which begins 4/11/86  at 7:30 a.m. 2 adult raccoons on Sydney’s Road heading for woods; 7:45 a.n. cock pheasant between house and high tide line… and continues to record deer and black bear and elk and hawks for pages and pages!

How rich our lives have been!


The Next Generation In Town Again!

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

Yesterday it was the Deer People who were checking out the possibilities in Tucker and Carol’s backyard!  I’m not sure where else they mosied while they were in town, but I don’t think they came over our way.  Nyel and I were actually outside in our garden for a good part of the day — filling in the mole and dandelion holes with dirt, grass seed and topsoil — and we didn’t see them.

Greens from Carol

It was hot.  We worked for most of the afternoon.  We have that much and more still left to do.  Maybe this weekend.  As Nyel says, “They’ll keep.”  And, anyway, we have other things to accomplish.  Hard things like defrost the built-in refrigerator in the bar which is the very worst job in the house.  More on that at some later date.

And, we want to finish up the greens that Carol left for us yesterday!  A big bowlful of red and green lettuces and arugula and all manner of beautiful bounty from her garden.  We ate a huge salad last night and will have another for lunch today. Fabulous!

By Beatrix Potter

Then we may take a page out of The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies by Beatrix Potter: The Flopsy Bunnies simply stuffed themselves with lettuces. By degrees, one after another, they were overcome with slumber, and lay down in the mown grass.

Doesn’t that sound like a lovely afternoon?  Factoring in, of course, that these old bunnies don’t flop and lay down on the grass so readily anymore — but a nice dozy after-lunch in the sunshine sounds pretty tempting, no matter how it’s taken!

Characterizing Oysterville… Again!

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

During these Spring months of sheltering, I’ve been thinking, or rather-rethinking, how I characterize Oysterville.  Not a village — it’s not even close to self-sustaining, even in a limited go-to-the-corner store sense, and we have far too few residents to meet traditional requirements (500-to 2500) as suggested by National Geographic.

A hamlet, then.  Defined as  “a small settlement, with a small population which is usually under 100, in a rural area … typically unincorporated…”  I’ve long advocated the hamlet designation.  But it’s the “rural” part that confounds me a bit.  Not that we are urban or suburban… but it’s our lifestyle these days that doesn’t really fit my mental grasp of “rural.”

My ruminating has been prompted by a book recently suggested to me by my friend Alan Griener who lives in Switzerland — the rural life by Verlyn Klinkenborg.  I think I’m in love — with the book and the author (who is but four years older than my son.)  His writing reminds me of Thoreau and E.B. White and Aldo Leopold, perhaps all rolled into one. .

The book takes the reader, month by month, through the daily life on the author’s small farm in upstate New York where he raises horses and cows and bees and grows hay and fruit trees and vegetables.  You accompany him on his summer trips  through the midwest with its farms and ranches on a completely different scale.  You’ll  attend a small town Fourth of July parade (much like ours in Ocean Park) and maybe you’ll relate to sipping root beer and listening to the radio in an air-conditioned pickup on a hot summer night — certainly not here, but somewhere, long ago.

H.A.Espy Children on Danny, 1924

Or, if you’re like me, you’ll begin to re-think whether we live a “rural” life or if that was a few generations back.  When my mother was a girl and her father was a dairy farmer with some 50 head of cattle and 10 to 15 horses (work horses, a horse for each family member, the horses for Mama’s phaeton, etc.), Oysterville was indeed, rural.  Every family had horses and cows and gardens and, of course, chickens and maybe pigs and goats.  Not like now when many of us have none of the above.  Or maybe only one.  Like chickens.

So, is Oysterville still rural?  Is it “the new rural?”  Or is there another designation entirely?  I hesitate to think what it might be.


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Connecting the dots — at last!

Saturday, March 14th, 2020

John Peter Paul, 1827 – 1909

Yesterday, I finally had a face-to-face encounter with a man I’ve greatly admired for many years.  Never mind that he lived and died way before my time.  He’s the horticulturist who, in 1869, was the first to cultivate wild cranberries here on the Peninsula.  He’s the master carpenter who built the Oysterville Courthouse and the two-story Oysterville School in 1875.  He’s the farmer who bought John Crellin’s DLC plus an adjoining 320 acres and engaged in stock-raising.  And, he’s the man who platted, laid out town lots, founded, and named Nahcotta.

He was John Peter Paul.  During the last forty years, I’ve read about him, written about him, and admired his industriousness and his ability to successfully turn his hand to whatever interested him or was needed by the community.  But, until yesterday, I had no idea what this man looked like.

Then, as I was thumbing through Volume II of History of Washington, The Evergreen State, From Early Dawn to Daylight with Portraits and Biographies (great title!) edited by Julian Hawthorn (Nathaniel’s son) and published in New York by the American Historical Publishing Co., 1893 — whew!! — I happened to run into John P. Paul.   He was a handsome fellow, indeed!

Oysterville School 1875-1907

He was born in Ohio on August 10, 1828 (which made him two years younger than R.H. Espy, my great-grandfather.)  He attended public schools until he was sixteen and then went to Cincinnati where he learned the carpenter’s trade.  He subsequently worked in Lexington,Kentucky and in Nashville, Tennesee before deciding, in 1853 to investigate the comparatively unknown region beyond the Rockies.

After mining in Nevada City and Placerville (then called Hang Town), California, he followed that trade in a number of locations between California and British Columbia until 1867.  That year he arrived in Knappton (then called Cementville) on the Columbia River.  There he stayed for two years before moving to the North Beach Peninsula where he lived in the Nahcotta area and, later, in Oysterville.  In 1882 he married Mary L. Andrews of California.

Hawthorne concludes his biography of John Peter Paul with these remarks:  The life of our subject has been one of great activity and frequent changes.  Blessed with a rugged constitution,he is still hearty and vigorous, and is enjoying all the comforts  of a happy home with his good wife, surrounded by many friends, and possessing the respect and esteem of all who know him.

Pacific County Courthouse, Oysterville (1875-1893)

On the chance that he was buried locally, I looked him up in the Ocean Park Cemetery Find-a-Grave site and, wouldn’t you know!  There was his picture, taken directly from Hawthorne’s book!  Apparently, I could have met John Peter face-to-face long ago.  His gravestone has him born in 1827, a year earlier than Hawthorne’s biography reports, but hardly important in the great scheme of things.  He died in 1909.

All-in-all, I am left wondering who else I can “meet” by taking the time and expending a little due-diligence!


Paul, Me, and Oysters Three!

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Paul Brent

Artist Paul Brent and I have a special relationship.  It has to do with oysters.  But not in the way you might think.  It has nothing to do with eating oysters and certainly nothing to do with growing oysters or even gathering them.  It has more to do with their shells.

As I’ve written now and then,  for 160+ years Oysterville’s economy has been based upon three different varieties of oysters.  The pioneers here made their living by shipping Native oysters (Ostrea lurida) to gold-rich San Francisco in the 1850s and ’60s.  By the turn of the century, when those little Natives were depleted to the extent that they were no longer economically viable, the oystermen began importing oyster seed from Chesapeake Bay.

By Paul Brent

Those young Easterns (Crassostrea virginica) thrived and reached harvestable size, but they did not propagate well in the cold Willapa Bay waters.  However, the growers continued importing them, though prices for the little oysters were high and freight costs exorbitant.  The death knell for Easterns here came in the summer of 1919 when an unexplained environmental event in the Bay destroyed virtually all of the oysters.

Enter Trevor Kindaid, a marine biologist from the University of Washington, who brought students here to experiment with imported seed of the Japanese oyster (Crassastreaa gigas). They thrived (but, for years, did not propagate consistently) in our bay.  Each case of seed (baby oysters attached to pieces of old oyster shell) could produce 150 gallons of fresh oyster meat and, in the first years, oysters matured to marketable size within 18 months. Though the onset of World War II put a temporary halt to imports of seed cases from Japan, oyster growers managed to maintain production until 1948 when seed imports resumed.  Today, of course, it’s a whole new ballgame what with hatcheries and “designer” oysters and triploids and I don’t know what all.

Painting by Paul Brent

About the time I met Paul (at an early Art Walk at the Port of Ilwaco) I was teaching a class on Oysterville history and I was especially interested in our economy and development as it paralleled the various decades of oyster production in Willapa Bay.  As visual aids,  I had examples of Native oyster shells (tiny!) and Japanese shells (huge!) but none of an Eastern (medium sized, but a bit different in thickness).  Somehow Paul and I got to talking about that.  “There are lots of ‘Easterns’ in Florida!  When I go home, I’ll send you some shells.”  And he did.

Yesterday, he sent me more oyster shells – of the photo variety, through email —  paintings, inspired he said, from something he saw during the recent Music in the Gardens Tour.  I love these paintings!!  Even more than I love oysters!  Thank you Paul.  I’m so glad you and Lana Jane now have homes on both coasts and that our friendship has transcended oysters!

Havetos and Gettos

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

Sydney in Oysterville, 1939

When I was a young girl, I hadn’t heard of “the power of positive thinking” or of “the cup being half full.”  My life was simply a matter of havetos (as in you have to go to the dentist and get your braces tightened or you have to clean up your room)  and gettos (as in you get to go outside and play until dinnertime or you get to go see the new “Road” picture with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.)

It seems to me that most of the gettos were connected to ifyous.  If you put away your toys you get to listen to “Let’s Pretend” on the radio.  The havetos, of course, were decided upon by forces beyond your control like your parents, or by circumstances like getting sick.  And they were really serious like having to stay in bed or go to the doctor.  But, as I remember, my life was mostly gettos.  Thank goodness!

I didn’t realize until long after I was grown that not all of my playmates had as many gettos as I did.  For me, for instance, school was a getto.  The only haveto I associated with it was having to eat some breakfast before I left the house.  That always left me feeling a bit sick to my stomach and as soon as I went away to college, I gave up eating first thing in the morning.  (Ever since, breakfast is a getto if I can wait a few hours for it.)

I was amazed when I learned that some of my friends looked upon school as a haveto.   They thought of visiting the relatives as a haveto, also.  And, even of going to camp as a haveto!  They were the Eeyores among my friends.  I tried to stick with the Poohs and Piglets.

I remember hearing some older people made dire predictions and ominous statements – “when you grow up, you’ll realize…” or “enjoy being young while you can…”  I knew even then that they were referring to the grim realities and responsibilities of life as an adult when it would be all havetos and very few gettos.  But, I hadn’t heard of “making lemons out of lemonade” back then, either.

I’m happy to report that my life is still more gettos than havetos.  The number of doctor’s appointments are creeping up, of course, and housework and gardening definitely fall into a gray area… So far, though, the gettos are way out in front.  

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…

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