Posts Tagged ‘Winter in Oysterville’

But where did they keep their skeletons?

Saturday, January 5th, 2019


The Victorian Age is named after Queen Victoria and covers the period of time that she reigned – 1837 to 1901.  Our house was built in 1869, smack dab in the middle of that period and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that it is a Victorian – right down to the closets.  Or lack thereof.

In the twenty-first century, we not only take closets for granted, they are one of the things that potential home buyers check out.  “Enough closet space” seems to be right up there with running water and ample electrical outlets.  Our house would never pass the closet test, even though several have been added in recent generations.

Originally, and even as recently as my son Charlie’s childhood, this 11-room house had only two closets.  Four upstairs bedrooms but only two closets.  That’s not to say that there wasn’t wardrobe and cupboard space.  But there weren’t closets for hanging clothes – not the sort of closets we think of today.  Presumably, Victorians simply did not have very much clothing and what they had could be folded and kept in a chest or free-standing cabinet.  Built-in closets were generally used for other sorts of storage and, in earlier times, extras and nonessentials weren’t part of the equation.

Original Closet

The closet in our upstairs North Bedroom, the only original closet now remaining, measures 16 inches deep and 79 inches wide.  It is fitted with two 15-inch clothes rods and several clothes hooks, all of which I imagine were later additions.  For my entire life it has been the repository for my two uncles’ golf clubs in one corner and their baseball bats in another.  It is adequate for the needs of guests but I’m not sure if it would do for a continuous occupant.

The only other closet original to the house was transformed by my folks into a commodious linen closet at the east end of the upstairs hallway.  It had been the only closet in the “master bedroom” – long and narrow with hooks along the sides, I think.  In the process of converting it, they found a number of “treasures” way in the back.  Among them was my Uncle Albert’s fire engine, presumably tucked there in 1904, the year he died at age 5.

Albert’s Fire Engine – circa 1905

The south end of the master bedroom was made into a huge closet to accommodate my mother’s clothes.  (Not only was she a fashion maven, she never threw anything away and was known   for incorporating clothes from her youth into the outfits of her golden years.) It is now mostly empty – just a few costumes from Nyel and my days in community theater.  Other closets in the house include a small room upstairs that was once a cistern and a “new” 1970s addition to the old parlor now the downstairs bedroom.  Downstairs linens are kept in the wardrobe which once held excess seasonal clothing according to information gleaned from Medora’s diaries.

Linen Closet

So, there you have it.  There was no water closet – the outhouse sufficed.  Presumably there were few if any skeletons in the meager spaces provided and no one ever “came out” of any of these closets – at least not that we know of.  Of course, information and feelings about such things were not hanging out for everyone to know about – not like these days when even storage facilities and cyberspace don’t provide security enough for our worldly goods, let alone our personal information.  Maybe the Victorians were actually ahead of the curve, as they say.

Size sensitive? You bet!

Friday, January 4th, 2019

When your last name is “Little” (as my maiden name is), you grow up somewhat sensitive to the size of things.  You get used to people saying, “Oh!  You ARE little, aren’t you?” when you are introduced.  And you learn to take advantage of the possibilities should you run for an office as I did in high school.  The slogan “Good Things Come in Little Packages” won several elections for me.

Not until the 1970s or ’80s, long after I had turned in that surname for another, did I begin to feel that I really was little – at least in stature.  Suddenly, or so it seemed, “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” (which described me perfectly) was no longer de rigueur.  I began to notice that even some of my third graders were almost as tall as I!  OMG!  How did that happen?

RCMQ, Nyel, Me

It was the Rose City Mixed Quartet who first introduced me to Randy Newman’s song “Short People” – in a house concert right here in my very own living room.  They apologized profusely for including it in their set list but said the opportunity was too good to pass up.  I actually like the song and have been known to request it since then, but it does make me wonder why there aren’t similar songs about tall people.  But as my six-foot-two husband might say, “Why would there be?” – the implication being that big is better, no doubt.

Certainly bigger-is-better seems to be the theme in other aspects of our lives.  Take “McMansions” and Megamalls.  Or Giant Sequoias.  Or global corporations.  Or the Cullinan diamond.  Bigger gets lots of attention.  But that wasn’t the way it was a few generations back.  My grandmother (who was just five feet tall) wore a size four shoe and, at the time she and my grandfather were married, he could span her waist with his hands. She was considered “a beauty” and I don’t believe anyone ever described her as “short.”

Our Kitchen

But the size-related thing that I remember most about my grandmother is that she wanted a small kitchen.  In 1915 when the house was being partially remodeled after a chimney fire, my grandmother wrote in a note to my grandfather:  “Make the dining room as large as you can, even if you need to make the kitchen smaller.  I don’t need a big kitchen.”  Fortunately, neither do we, even though it now includes a refrigerator/freezer, a dishwasher, a microwave and many other conveniences unknown to my grandmother.  Her kitchen had a woodstove, a pie safe, and a sink and drainboard.  I remember it fondly and wouldn’t enlarge it, now that it’s ours, for anything.

Mona and Me — Lisa, not Espy

Monday, December 31st, 2018

I really want to talk about New Years Resolutions or Why I’m Switching to Role Models, but first I think I should explain the title of this blog.  The Mona part that is.

I have a cousin named Mona.  She is the eldest (by six minutes if I remember correctly) of my uncle Willard’s daughters.  She and her twin sister Freddy grew up in New York with their two younger (not twin) sisters and they were all endlessly fascinating to me (the much older – by five years – only child, California cousin.)  But my non-resolution this year does not have to do with Mona-My-Cousin.  It’s about the other one – sort of.

First of all, I gave up resolutions long ago.  They don’t work and, besides, by the end of the first month I could never remember what they were.  So, I went to a “Letter of the Year” and aspired to all of the positive possibilities that said letter might represent.  Take 2010, for instance.  My choice was P – for projects, perseverance, publication, posterity, and positive.  I’m not sure what P represented on the balance side of the scales – maybe passive, petty, perfunctory, prosaic.

Mona (l) and Freddy (r)

That system, also, has not worked out to my satisfaction and, as I was thinking about the whole “renewal” aspect of things, FaceBook sent me yet another quiz.  I am a sucker for all those quizzes – you know, those what-city-should-you-actually-live in or how-well-do-you-know-the-famous-battles-of-Britain type quizzes.    Sadly, they are becoming fewer and further between now that the social media platforms are under scrutiny for selling your private information to advertisers – or something like that.

Over the years I’ve been told that I’m most like Lady Mary from the “Downton Abbey” series, Scooter from “The Muppet Show,” and Amy from “The Big Bang Theory.”  I’m even comparable to Yoda of “Star Wars” and, of all the characters Johnny Depp has played, I most closely resemble Willie Wonka!  So, the other day when I ran across a quiz that answered the burning question, “Which piece of art best describes you?” I said to myself, “Self,  what better role model could there be than someone (or something?) having to do with art?”


“However this turns out,” I said, “I wIill turn it into my Role Model of the Year.”  No more pesky resolutions.  No more alphabet letters that I can’t rightly remember for even six months.  Nope.  I’m going for the major characteristics of a well-known piece of art.  As I whipped through the questions (actually choices, more than questions) I couldn’t imagine what the end result would be.  “Mona Lisa” came the answer.  Really?  The Giaconda best describes me??    Deflated doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.

Your mysterious and introspective soul can only be Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” Even though you are as calm as an infinity pool on the outside, you harbor a lot of deep thought within yourself. Your friends often wonder what you are thinking about when they see you lost in thought, but they always leave you to figure it out for yourself.


Say what?  Mona L. and I couldn’t be more opposite.  Or maybe that’s the point – maybe I need to be more mysterious and try for a “deep thought” or two.  Wouldn’t hurt to give it a whirl, I guess.  And her outfit isn’t all that bad.  I do draw the line at that greenish complexion though….

Oysterville? Or Oahu?

Monday, December 24th, 2018

Photo by Tucker (Lina’s Dad)

It’s not every day – actually, up to now it has been never – that we drive into Oysterville and see a couple in wetsuits off-loading their paddleboards and stepping from the road directly into the bay!  Wow!  The sky was sunny blue and rainy gray “intermittently” as they say, there was no wind at all and the only way we really knew that we weren’t in Hawaii was… no surf.  Not even a ripple.

We had been out doing errands and just happened to come back into the village when our neighbors Lina and Dave had decided to take their boards down to the meadow and go out for a spin.  Or whatever you call a short jaunt on a water-filled meadow adjacent to and, for a half hour or so, a part of Willapa Bay.  The unusual part wasn’t so much the high tide – those happen every winter about this time.  It was seeing ‘locals’ with paddleboards stepping into the water like it was an everyday event!

Yesterday on Willapa Bay – Tucker Wachsmuth Photo

December in my mother’s day, a hundred years ago now, often meant bundling up and heading for Skating Lake just west and south of the cemetery.  In those days, the lake was really large – it went south almost as far as Ocean Park, or so I’ve been told.  It wasn’t until the 1960s that they messed around with drainage for the Surfside Golf Course that the lake shrunk to its current size – or so I’ve been told.

Anyway, in Mom’s girlhood – and even in my own childhood (occasionally) – the winters were cold enough that the lake froze and everyone grabbed their skates (if they had them) and went up to the lake.  Parents and other non-skaters built bonfires around the edges and kept the hot chocolate warm for frost-bitten ‘Hans Brinkers’ – most of whom were simply slipping and sliding on their shoes with grand exuberance.

Meadow or Bay? Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

And now?  Paddle-boarding in Oysterville in December?  My forebears would be sore amazed!  You’d almost think we were living in the banana belt – right here on the banks of Willapa Bay!  I doubt that you’d find many climate-change skeptics among the old-timers here.  Not yesterday, anyway.

Just in Case

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

Adelaide’s at the Taylor Hotel by Jean Stamper

A note on my calendar for today says, “Adelaide’s 1:00 – 2:30” – a reminder to myself to grab some copies of my latest book and head for Ocean Park this afternoon.  When I was there for a caffè mocha the other day, Proprietor Colleen Kelly mentioned that they were having a little “do” this afternoon and I asked her if she’d like me to stop by to sign books… just in case.

Now, I’m embarrassed to say, I’m not sure what kind of an event she has planned.  I think she said Bette Lu Krause would be there with her tee shirts and maybe there’s going to be live music but I’m not sure what else is going on. My impression is that local vendors who have products at Adelaide’s have been invited to be there to ‘meet and greet’ in honor of the season.  Whatever is happening, I’m taking my signing pen along… just in case.

Colleen Kelly with Hank Doodle

Colleen carries a good many of my books.  She’s all about representing local authors and artisans and, speaking for myself, I find she does a terrific job.  More than once, I’ve been in the shop having a coffee and she or one of her wonderful baristas has come over to me and quietly asked if I’d mind signing a book for someone.  I never get over that little puff of excitement I feel when I am introduced to an unsuspecting customer in really-o, truly-o “meet the author” fashion!  I should probably remember to take my pen with me to Adelaide’s all the time… just in case.

Whatever Colleen has planned for this afternoon, I’m sure it will feel warm and welcoming and all about community.  That’s the way Adelaide’s is.  That’s the way Colleen is.  Between the Full Circle at the Ocean Park approach and Adelaide’s at the Taylor Hotel, I think Colleen has served the community for more than forty years.  She knows everybody, never seems to forget a name, makes sure that folks who ‘need’ to know one another get an introduction, and makes even first-time visitors feel like they belong there.  As I say, I’m not sure what will be happening this afternoon, but you’d better come by… just in case!

Empathizing With Punxsutawney Phil

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Nyel’s Tibia 11-27-18

It’s not that Nyel saw his shadow yesterday – although X-rays do look pretty shadowy.  But when the doctor said “six more weeks” before he can begin putting any weight on his broken leg, I swear there was that resigned look we’ve come to associate with Punxsutawney Phil.  Not that Nyel would be scurrying back into a groundhog burrow… not exactly.

Our house is certainly preferable to living underground.  And being able to spend his days in a wheelchair is a whole lot better than being bed-bound as was his fate in 2014 after his quadriceps surgery.  But still… six more weeks of leaving the house only with the assistance of the EMTs and six more weeks of bed-baths and shampoo caps and other personal hygiene indignities, to say nothing of six more weeks of putting up with my cooking…  A bit stupefying to consider.

Punxsutawney Phil

Nevertheless, that’s the way it is.  The doctor didn’t mention if the six weeks would have to stretch even farther.  And we didn’t ask.  We’ll cross that bridge – by foot or by wheelchair – when we come to it.  January 9th is, at least for now, the magic date for Oysterville Nyel.  No waiting until February 2nd like Phil does… at least we hope not!  Keep good thoughts!

…until we don’t have it anymore…

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

It’s another one of those built-in situations.  Part of the human condition, apparently.  Whoever designed us glued the ‘appreciation’ part of the prototype onto the ‘retrospect’ component.  There was probably a reason for that but, try as I might to figure it out, it escapes me.

Why is it that we do not appreciate our youth and energy until we no longer have them?  Why don’t we realize the value of money until it’s inflated beyond usefulness?  And why didn’t I realize that getting the late-breaking news in the next day’s newspaper was so much better than these minute-by-minute tweets and snarks that arrive through the ozone.

In fact… it occurs to me that maybe the world is in its present state of constant turmoil for just that reason.  All this angst and drama and nastiness that is apparently a constant part of the cyberspace generation must be out there somewhere clotting up the ozone layer or the stratosphere.  Maybe it’s raining unseen from that “cloud” we hear about that is storing all our most precious information.

If I’d taken physics I might have a greater understanding.  I think there’s some principal that says energy can neither be created or destroyed.  I’m not sure how our thoughts play into that, but I think that once thoughts are formed and then released out in the universe, they have the power to influence us.  You know… like the power of positive thinking.  There are no doubt comparable energy forces like the power of paranoia.  Or the power of perfidy.

On the other hand… it’s raining.  Actually pouring.  A good day to clean out a cupboard or read a good book and just blame these gloomy thoughts on the weather.

Of Glass Harps and Mountain Dulcimers

Monday, March 12th, 2018

Michael Greiner and The Glass Harp

I (personally) know only one person who plays the glass harp – Michael Greiner.  And, until yesterday, I’ve only know one person who played the mountain dulcimer – Harlan Kinsey who I think has been playing in the great beyond for fifty years or more.  I don’t really “connect” the two instruments except that I love them both and you just don’t meet a lot of people who play either one.

But, yesterday up in Grayland on the search for cranberry information (a new book project… don’t ask) my new friend Connie Allen mentioned that she is “Career A-D-D” as in she’s had a lot of them.  I already know her as a bog owner and as a recently ‘retired’ tall ship captain, so I asked what other jobs she’s had.  It seems that she was a musician for a number of years – on the East Coast and later, in San Diego.

Connie On Board

“Appalachian Dulcimer” she said in answer to my question.  I love that instrument!  I connect it with the late fifties and early sixties and with Berkeley and with the folk revolution and with the first glimmers of the segue from Beat to Hippie.  I was only an onlooker.  Too old (was I 25?) and settled (married with a Kindergartener) to be part of it.  But I had friends in the thick of it all … especially artists and musicians.

Why I connected the dots is beyond me, but I said, “I know someone in San Diego – at least he used to live in that area – who plays the glass harp…”  Not that the dulcimer and glass harp have any particular relationship…

“Oh,” Connie said.  “Is it Mike?”  Talk about that old six-degree thing!  And it got better.  ” I went to a music gathering he hosted on the Peninsula a few years ago,” Connie said, “at…” and here she hesitated.  After all, how can you describe Camp Sherwood Forest?

Alan Greiner — c. 1948

For one thing Sherwood no longer exists – not officially.  But it’s a place forever in the hearts and souls of everyone who ever went there as a kid or a young adult.  I was a camper there in the ’40s and ’50s.  So was Alan Greiner who eventually bought Camp from Dorothy Elliott.  Alan is the father of Michael-of-the-glass-harp.  Marta and Charlie were campers there in the sixties – right along with Michael and his brother and sister.  Wow!  And how would I ever have thought to connect the glass harp and the mountain dulcimer…

It was the second time Connie and I had found a connection – on our first meeting a few weeks back, it was the Lady Washington which she skippered (for real) and on which Nyel reenacted the role of Captain Robert Gray back in the ’80s.  Wow!!  What will it be next time, Connie?  Actually… I hope it’s just the chance to get better acquainted based on the here and now.

But… you never know!

The Fragrance of Paris!

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

I love Paris!  I love its looks!  I love its feel!  I love its fragrance!  And I’m not talking Chanel Number Five here, even though that is the only scent I’ve worn since I was sixteen years old.

No, I’m talking about the waft of fresh bread as you walk by the boulangerie.  Or the pungent smell of cheese at the fromagerie or that tang of fresh produce at the greengrocers on Rue Cler.  And of course, that’s not all.  It’s the smell of old books at Abbey Bookshop or that whiff of the river as you stroll along the Quai d’Orsay.  And, somehow, every one of those delicious aromas rolled up into one!

All of that came to mind yesterday when Cate sent a message saying “I’m in Paris” and accompanied that with four photographs.  OMG!  I could actually smell those radishes!

San Francisco is another city that affects me differently than any other.  There, it’s the light.  Some say the light is special in Paris, too, and I think they are right.  But, for me, there’s something about the City by the Golden Gate that just surrounds me differently.

And Oysterville?  Not so much.  Not anymore.  It used to be the sounds.  Bob Kemmer working on the boat pulled up in his driveway.  Uncle John’s cows going into the Heckes barn of an evening.  The put-put of those old two-lungers out on the bay.  There’s a little twinge now and then – when the geese are flying or when a young girl clip clops her horse through town.

Thanks, Cate!  Those pictures were almost as good as rambling through le quartier with you.  Almost!

At the Northeast Corner of Territory & Clay

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

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

It’s not often that I think of our house as being on a corner.  The property just doesn’t feel very corner-ish to me.  I think of it more as being ‘across from the church’ or ‘facing the bay.’

Come to think of it, I don’t often think of “corners” when it comes to Oysterville houses along the east side of Territory Road.  Not until the Stoner house by the stop sign at Oysterville Road.  Now that is a corner.  But for those of us with houses bordered by a lane on one side or another… not so much.

And, for those not familiar with Oysterville terminology, the ‘lanes’ are those grassy pathways that lead from Territory Road to the bay.  From south to north they are Clay, Merchant, and Division and yes, they are officially county roads though in my lifetime, anyway, they have never been maintained by the county.  Those of us who live adjacent to them keep them mowed.

Above Our Gate

Nor do I think of the houses here as having names.  Not like the quaint old house names of Seaview and Ocean Park such as “Sand Castle,” “Yeo-Ho,” “Yellow Bird,” “Quit-Yo-Worry,” “Beech-Eze,” or “Father’s Shan-Gri-La.”   For the first 120 years or so, houses here in Oysterville were known by the names of those who lived in them.  In 1976, when Oysterville was designated a National Historic District, the Daughters of the Pioneers sponsored house signs for the historic homes – signs with the names of the original property owners – and gradually those names took hold.

I guess that our house might be considered to have a name.  A sign saying Tsako-Te-Hahsh-Eetl hangs above our entrance gate and has been there ever since I can remember.  However, I’ve never heard anyone refer to the house by that name – not family members and not neighbors or visitors.  Perhaps there is too much angst about how to pronounce it.  I’ve always just thought of the sign as being a decorative curiosity – not the name of our house.

Tresspassers Will

Nowadays, as the generations move on, it has become more confusing here in the village.  Houses have changed owners.  The Daughters of the Pioneers signs are disappearing.  We aren’t always sure who owns what or who lives where.   In fact, I’m put in mind of a wonderful passage from Winnie the Pooh:

Christopher Robin said you couldn’t be called Trespassers W, and Piglet said yes, you could, because his grandfather was, and it was short for Trespassers Will, which was short for Trespassers William. And his grandfather had had two names in case he lost one–Trespassers after an uncle, and William after Trespassers.

Whenever names and identities and signs and portents become confusing, I think of Piglet and of A.A. Milne and the House at Pooh Corner.  It may well be imaginary, but it certainly has more clarity for me than some of the corners here in Oysterville!