Archive for the ‘Community Spirit’ Category

The Oyster Boys and the Fourth of July

Sunday, July 4th, 2021

James Swan, 1883 — One of the First Pacific County Historians

James G. Swan’s account of the first Fourth of July celebration on Shoalwater Bay is amusing, horrifying, and compelling all at the same time.  As far as I am concerned, only one of those adjectives describes our Independence Day celebrations of the here and now.  But decide for yourself.

Swan, the first historian to document early white settlement in Pacific County, wrote the following description of July 4, 1853 in his book, The Northwest Coast Or Three Years’ Residence in Washington Territory:

After my return from Chenook, nothing of any particular interest transpired till toward the first of July, when it was announced to me that the boys, as the oystermen were termed, intended celebrating the 4th of July at my tent; and accordingly, as the time drew near, all hands were engaged in making preparations; for it was not intended that I should be at the expense of the celebration, but only bear my proportionate part.  The day was ushered in by a tremendous bonfire, which Baldt and myself kindled on Pine Island, which was answered by everyone who had a gun and powder blazing away.  Toward two o’clock they began to assemble, some coming in boats, others in canoes, and a few by walking round the beach, which they could easily do at an time after the tide was quarter ebb.

Early Oyster Boys Abe Wing and James Johnson, c. 18751

Each one brought something; one had a great oyster pie baked in a milk-pan; another had a boiled ham; a third brought a cold pudding; others had pies, doughnuts, or loaves of bread and my neighbor Russell came, bringing with him a long oration of his own composing, and half a dozen boxes of sardines.  When all were assembled, the performances were commenced by the reading of the Declaration of Independence by Mr. St. John, extracts from Webster’s oration at Boston on Adams and Jefferson, then Russell’s oration which was followed by the banquet, and after that a feu-de-joie by the guns and rifles of the whole company.

These ceremonies over, it was proposed to close the performances for the day by going on top of the cliff opposite, and make a tremendous big blaze.  This was acceded to, and some six or eight immediately crossed the creek and soon scrambled to the top of the hill, where we found an old hollow cedar stump about twenty fee high.  We could enter this on one side, and found it a mere shell of what had once been a monster tree.

I had with me a little rifle, which measured, stock and all, but three feet long.  With this I measured across the space, and found it was just six lengths of my rifle, or eighteen feet, and the tree undoubtedly, when sound must have measured, with the bark on, at least sixty feet in circumference.

Fourth of July Parade, Oysterville c. 1900

We went to work with a will, and soon had the old stump filled full of dry spruce limbs, which were lying about in great quantities and then set fire to the whole.  It made the best bonfire I ever saw; and after burning all night and part of the next day, finally set fire to the forest, which continued to burn for several months, till the winter rains finally extinguished it.  The party broke up at an early hour, and all declared that, with the exception of the absence of a cannon, they never had a pleasanter “fourth.”


My One Track Mind

Saturday, July 3rd, 2021

Sydney After Adelaide’s Signing Event, 7-3-21

From noon-thirty until two-thirty today I was scheduled to give a book talk at Adelaides — my first for this second ghost book, Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula.  So, I scurried around with my morning chores — feed and water the chickens, refurbish the hummingbird feeder, spray Deer Fence on roses, hydrangeas, primroses, and camellias.  (Oh… and on nasturtiums!  Who knew?  But someone has been eating them and it doesn’t look like slug work.)

We ate an early lunch (read mid-morning snack) and I was on my way, hoping against hope that Adelaide’s still had enough books!  Every book seller on the Peninsula has replenished once and has called again…  More books on their way but North Carolina’s a far piece and there’s a holiday and will they get here in time for the next signing and and and?  Me worry?  YES!

It was crowded at Adelaide’s.  SRO!  Some people I knew — even from afar! — and many others whose faces were familiar and still others who were completely unknown.  I talked for a while.  I answered questions.  And then I signed.  And signed!  50 books in all — 41 of the new ones and 9 old ones.  Plus, a few that had been purchased elsewhere…

Adelaide’s at the
Taylor Hotel, by Jean Stamper

I finished about 2:45 and then PJ (husband of Jill, both of whom volunteered to “take care of my every need” — and they did!) asked to take my picture.  It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that, despite my best intentions, I had forgotten pictures entirely!  I had intended to photograph the crowd.  And the line of folks waiting for my signature.  And maybe even the parking lot.  Damn!

Thanks, PJ, for sending me a copy of the one you took!  It’s a great one, doncha think???

The Tip of The Iceberg

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

I don’t know about you, but when I receive just a little bit of information about something — especially if it’s not in the Good News Department — I wonder.  Sometimes I even stew about it.  Today was one of those days because of one of those things.

Actually, it began yesterday when my friend Marion wrote from Olympia that she had ordered Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula from Amazon and: there was some kind of glitch so they refunded my money. I decided to go through Time Enough Books in Ilwaco as they could ship it out right away. 

My first thought:  Bless you, Marion.  My second:  What went wrong at Amazon?

Then, today, I received a Facebook message from my friend Isabelle in France:  I’m looking forward to get my copy. The delivery is being delayed. Have a great date, Sydney. Wish I were in the area and could attend the presentation and signing of your New Book.  I wrote:  Amazon?  Yes, she told me, but she is choosing to give it a few days before ordering anew from a local bookstore.

For me, those bits of information were the tip of an iceberg.  Where was the problem — with Amazon or with History Press?  Would the books I’ve ordered for my book signings arrive in time?  What’s the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say?  I got in touch with marvelous Elysia who handles all my book orders. She was wonderfully reassuring:  It must be an Amazon problem. Did they specify what the issue was? We have plenty of inventory and are shipping without issue.  

Whew!  The iceberg seems much less ominous — in fact, melting as we speak.  Take note, dear readers.  Buy locally!!!

And there they were! The flying scrapbooks!

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

Gordon was right!

I think there are 90 or 100 of them.  Scrapbooks! Year upon year of them about our lives — about the people we love; the places we’ve worked (The Bookvendor, Ocean Park School, Long Beach School, Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum when it was still the Ilwaco Heritage Museum); the community events we’ve been involved with (The Annual Oysterville Champagne and Croquet Gala, Vespers at the Historic Oysterville Church);and on and on and on.

“It’s a sickness,” Gordon used to say.  He had 110 of his own scrapbooks the last time I remember but I’m sure there were more after that.  They are all at the Heritage Museum now and mine are on their way to join them.  Nyel and I “review” two or three a day and once a week I ferry a few dozen more of ours to join Gordon’s.  That’s what I was doing today when DISASTER STRUCK!

I was loaded down, traveling on the front road and just passing Ocean Park School, when  I heard a peculiar whooshing -clumping sound that seemed to be following along behind me.  It took me until Klipsan to realize that something was seriously amiss.  Very seriously.   The trunk was wide open and it looked like a half dozen scrapbooks were gone. As in G-O-N-E.

And on it goes…

And I proceeded on — heartsick but with little hope of finding the missing treasures.  Betsy said, “You’ll find them.  Or someone will.  Put it on Facebook.”  I was less than hopeful but retraced my steps anyway.  Nowhere along the roadside through Klipsan, Ocean Park, or Nahcotta.  Back to the Oysterville Post Office where I thought the “speed bump parking strip” might have jiggled everything loose.  No luck.  On the final turn toward home, right there on the northwest corner of Oysterville and Territory Roads was a neat stack of four scrapbooks!

Mega thank yous to whoever the Good Samaritan of Lost Scrapbooks was!  Or maybe Gordon was being my Scrapbook Guardian!  However I earned such a blessing, I am eternally grateful.  And I can scarcely believe my good luck.


The Swallows Are Back!

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

Cliff Swallows at the Church – June 1, 2020

Nyel saw them first — day before yesterday, circling around outside our kitchen window.  The swallows are back!  If they’d just slow down a tad, maybe we could tell if they are of the Cliff or Barn variety.  Paul, our ORF President, especially wants to know!

Cliff swallows are the ones who nest in the eaves of the Oysterville Church.  Some people call them “Mud Swallows” because they make their neat round nests of mud rather than of grass and mud like barn swallows’ cup-like structures.  Cliff swallows usually nest in colonies which, in the western United States can number up to 3,700 nests in one spot according the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

We hope they are not aiming to match that record at the Oysterville Church!  But even a dozen or so nests can produce quite a mess on the walls — not only unsightly but damaging to the paint and expensive to clean up.  Paul has made it a mission to discourage them from nesting on the church — even had some special wooden “inserts” placed along the eaves last winter. Whether or not they will work should be determined shortly.  Bets are running about evenly here in Oysterville!

Barn Swallows (second batch) on Our Front Porch – Aug. 9, 2016

Meanwhile, we are watching to see what “our” barn swallows will do.  Nyel has reluctantly agreed that they can “have” the kitchen garden area, but he’s hoping to discourage them on the front porch.  Lots of luck with that, I say.  And besides… I love to watch them raise their families and chirp from on high at our backyard chickens.  I wonder if the girls have flight-and-swoop envy?  Its always hard to tell with chickens.

Carolers At Our Doorstep!

Thursday, December 24th, 2020

What They Saw

It was a holiday first-ever for us!  Christmas carolers at our door!  And us without a toddy or a wassail cup to offer!  Talk about gobsmacked!  All we could do was smile and smile and smile!

Maybe the tone (ahem!) for the day was set when we had a zoom meeting with the Rose City Mixed Quartet.  No serenading or singing, though, zoom being what it is.  But we had a great visit and consoled ourselves with listening to their Christmas cd in the background.

What We Saw

Then Cate called and asked if we’d be home around three…  When I heard the latch opening on the gate, I gave it a minute or two, thinking she’d leave whatever-it-was and I could catch her on her way out for a few words of  safely distanced Christmas conversation.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to find Cate and five friends — some dressed in Santa garb, some bundled against the cold, and one mafioso-type standing guard against the Grinch and Covid and non-believers in general.

What Else We Saw

I called Nyel (who was in the kitchen nearby, cooking with his Santa chef hat in place) while Cate began to strum her ukulele and the group broke into song.  I, of course, got teary — it seemed beyond belief that we would be so honored.  They called themselves the Clamdigger Choir (or was it the Clamshell Chorus) and even came bearing gifts!

What The Chickens Saw

There didn’t need to be snow or sleigh bells or a carrot-nosed snowman looking on.  It was absolutely the merriest beginning to Christmas we’ve ever had.  Thank you so much Bette Lu Krause, Rosemary Hallin, Steve Kovach, Nanci Main, Barbara Bate, and Cate Gable!  You are the best Christmas elves ever!  Bless you each and every one!

The Neighborhood Watch

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

On Territory Road across from The ORF Meadow

Some years ago — more than twenty, actually — shortly after John Didion had been elected Pacific County Sheriff for the first time, Nyel and I hosted him at an informal meeting at our house here in Oysterville.  We asked if he would talk to interested Oysterville residents about neighborhood safety.

As I recall, it was a period of time during which there was concern about “squatters — possibly druggies” in one or two of the unoccupied second homes in the village.  Sheriff Didion was accompanied by one of his Deputies, Ray Harrison, who lived in Surside and who was to become a familiar presence in Oysterville.  At that meeting, Ray said he would increase his “drive-throughs” in the village and, indeed, he proved as good as his word.  We all felt well looked after as long as Ray was on the job.

Also, at that meeting, John and Ray talked about Neighborhood Watch programs and encouraged us to consider forming such a group.  They promised to help get us started and to support us in any way that they could.  Unfortunately, that idea never got beyond the talking stages here, but I think that maybe Surfside residents did organize a community safety group of some kind.  Perhaps it is still functioning.

Homeward Bound

I’m pretty sure we passed around a “sign-in sheet” at that meeting.  I don’t find  it here; I imagine that we gave it to John at the meeting’s conclusion.  Neither Nyel ‘nor I have a clear memory of exactly who was here, but my lasting impression is that most of our neighbors in “greater downtown Oysterville” attended.

Imagine our surprise yesterday when it was one of those very same “neighbors” whose picture showed up on the photos taken by Dan Driscoll’s surveillance camera!  It never, in all these years, would have occurred to me that a “Neigborhood Watch” endeavor might reveal the mischief of one of our own near neighbors, Michael Parker.  It puts a whole new spin on the concept of “Neighborhood Watch” doncha think?

Waiting for that other shoe to drop…

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

I’m pleased to “report” that the Driscoll Sign Thief of Oysterville is now known to the candidate and to the Sheriff’s Department.  Although Dan has given me his “blessing” to reveal the culprit’s name, I am choosing to wait until the Sheriff acts on Dan’s report.    As of yesterday evening, Dan has not received any word of “official” action.

Apparently, the latest sign removals were caught on camera — “loud and clear” you might say.  Dan called the Sheriff’s Department and a Deputy travelled to Oysterville Sea Farms to interview him and, presumably, to see the “evidence.”  One would assume that the next step would be to interview the person shown in the photograph.

Dan at Work

Dan also is hopeful of having the signs returned to him.  “I’ve had more than $1,000 worth of signs stolen in Oysterville,” he told me.  “I’d really like them to be returned.”

So far, however, Dan has not been apprised of “the rest of the story.”  The Sheriff’s Department has not indicated that the “other party” has been contacted nor has there been any word as to the whereabouts of the stolen signs.  Curious. isn’t it?

Based on Dan’s track record of tenacity and follow-through, I have confidence that the matter will eventually be resolved and that the rest of the story will be clarified.  Which is another great reason to vote for Dan for Commissioner.  If there is one thing Dan does NOT do, it is to ignore wrong-doing on the part of those in a position of public trust — in this case, some sort of official follow-through with regard to his complaint.  Stay tuned…

More Good News for Our Man, Dan!

Sunday, August 23rd, 2020

Jon Lind, left; Dan Driscoll, right

We were pleased to learn the other day that Jon Lind, who came in third in the race for Pacifc  County Commissioner’s #2 seat, has fully endorsed Dan Driscoll!  In a press release sent out on August 20th:

Independent Candidate Jon Lind is supporting Libertarian Candidate Dan Driscoll in his campaign to unseat two-term Democrat incumbent Frank Wolfe to represent district number 2 as Pacific County Commissioner. Lind’s support of Driscoll is highly valuable to Driscoll in District number 2.   It is expected to solidify the anti-incumbent vote.  In the recently certified results of the Primary run off,  56.93% of voters voted against the incumbent.  

Dan At The Office

The primary drew state-wide attention on this race because Driscoll set a record for the most votes received by a third party candidate in traditionally anti-third party Pacific County. Regardless of whether Libertarian challenger Driscoll or Democrat incumbent Wolfe prevails in the November county wide election, Driscoll is almost certain to top this record.

Put another way, incumbent Frank Wolfe received 1,595 votes or 42.49% in the Primary.  Dan Driscoll received 1,491 votes of 39.72% and Jon Lind received 646 or 17.21 percent.  With only a 104 vote difference betwween Frank and Dan, the endorsement by John should be a shoe-in but… we can-but-hope while we urge everyone to vote in the General Election.

Dan The Oyster Man!

In that election, unlike the  Primary, all of Pacific County will be voting for the Commissioner’s spot.  (In the Primary, of course, it was only voters in Dictrict #2 who could vote.)  So it is important for all of us to urge friends, relatives, co-workers etc. who live in the southern part of Peninsula, in Chinook, in Naselle, and in north county to vote for Dan in November.  (I tried to get a map to post here but, as in most other things in our county, the information is less than transparent.  Perhaps you will have better luck than I in finding exactly where the boundaries are.)

In any case, every eligible voter in Pacific County will have the opportunity to vote for Dan in the upcoming election.  He has my endorsement for oh! so many reasons — see my blog of July 12, 2020, “  You’ll no doubt have other great reasons to vote for Dan.  Do share them!  (I’m not sure his delicious oysters are a qualifying reason… but they certainly can’t hurt!)

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What lessons should we adults be learning?

Monday, August 10th, 2020

Julia Jefferson Espy on her wedding day, 1870

My great-grandmother, Julia Jefferson Espy, graduated from the University of Salem (now Willamette University) in 1869.  Immediately, she was hired — because she was the prettiest graduate goes the family story — by Oysterville School Board members Lewis Loomis and Robert Espy to teach at Oysterville’s one-room schoolhouse.  She was 18 years old.

Her classes numbered up to 50 and often included “married ladies and hulking young oystermen” who had never had an opportunity to learn the three R’s. I’ve always wondered if she accepted 44-year-old Major Espy’s proposal of marriage at the end of that first school year out of true love or as a graceful way to retire from the classroom.  After all, married women may have been among the student population, but they were not allowed to teach!

Between 1872 and 1887, Julia and Robert had seven children.  Julia chose to teach all of them at home for their primary years — until they could read and write and do basic math.  Once she was satisfied that they were off to a good start, they were sent to the new two-story school (1875-1905) which was situated on the same grounds as the present-day school building (1907-1957), now the home of the  Oysterville Community Club.

Oysterville Schoolhouse circa 1880

I’ve often wondered why Julia chose to home-school her youngsters.  Surely, in those days with no labor-saving devices and without household help (until the girls were older), she had little time to add teaching duties to her busy days.  However, if her belief in a “good start” was the key to successful advancement, she may well have been correct.  All of her children attended college (except for the youngest, Verona, who had a disorder akin to multiple scelorosis). The two other girls became teachers before they married.  Of the four boys, one was an attorney, one a mining engineer, one a water engineer, and one a banker.

I wonder what advice Julia would have for parents today — parent facing the prospect of children being “home-schooled” under very different circumstances than she had faced.  In her world, both parents worked but, for women, that work was usually done at home.  Most adults — women and men — took on teaching their children in one way or another as a matter of course.  Whether it was teaching farm chores or store-keeping or smithing or doctoring, the younger generation often got the basics from the adults of the community — sometimes before their formal education, sometimes after.

R.H. Espy Family, 1895

Education was definitely a community event.  Will we be embracing some of those methods again?  Can we?  Or are we too specialized now?  Too automated, computerized, technologic for parents to oversee the education of their own youngsters?  Especially all of a sudden, without preparation…

And yet… there are many families in our communities who have managed to home school successfully. What “secrets” do they have to share with the rest of the parent/school community?  What advice would our grands and our greats and our great-greats have for us?  Perhaps it’s time we try to find out.