Archive for the ‘Community Spirit’ Category

“One by Land; Two by Sea” on Wednesday!

Saturday, September 30th, 2023

Tucker Wachsmuth, Storyteller, 2014

Did you mark your calendar?  The second-ever History Forum will convene at the Oysterville Schoolhouse at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, October 4th.  Speakers will be three of us “old ducks” — Dobby Wiegardt, Tucker Wachsmuth, and yours truly — and we’ll be talking about a subject near and dear to our hearts!  In fact, if it weren’t for what we’ll be telling you, we might not have been here at all!

Dobby with his grandfather’s hats, 2019.

We hope that you’ll have questions about our presentations — and, of course, hope even more fervently that we or someone among those gathered has the answers — or at least suggestions of where to find out.  Even more fervently, we hope that there may be some others among us who can share stories about their own ancestors who arrived in this area in the last half of the nineteenth century!

There are absolutely no prerequisites to attendance at the History Forum beyond an interest in Pacific County and Southwest Washington history.  And, whether you come to listen or to question or to share, you are bound to take away at least some new understandings about our past — maybe even some aha moments that illuminate the present.  You never can tell when the old-timers get to telling their stories!



Friends, Family, Music, and Flowers

Saturday, September 16th, 2023

Jim Lee listens to Barbara Bate and Fred Carter.

It was a Saturday afternoon to remember.  At one o’clock friends and family of Marian Lee gathered at the Senior Center in Klipsan to visit, to eat, and to celebrate her life.  They listened to the music she enjoyed during her 100+ years, told stories about their favorite memories of Marian,  and shared a few hours of tears and laughter.  Marian would have loved it all!

The inimitable Barbara Bate played the piano, Fred Carter sang a variety of tunes all of which Marian would have remembered, and Robert Scherrer sang a song that touched many of us — I doubt that there was a dry eye.  (Later I asked him to sing it at my funeral or party or whatever — he said he would, so please hold him to it!  If only I knew the name of it, it might help!)  Diana Thompson’s summary of her mother’s life was fabulous!  Marian would have been proud of her and of her sisters and all of the grands and greats who were there!

One of Patricia Fagerland’s lovely dahlia bouquets.

After we’d dried our eyes and said our goodbyes, Vicki and I headed south to Ilwaco to catch the last hour of the Dahlia Show at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.  We were just in the nick of time.  Apparently there had been a “dismantling” announcement and exhibitors were starting to comply…  We whipped around in nothing flat and managed to see everything, though we couldn’t do much lingering.

We also saw a lot of folks we knew — so many dahlia growers!!!  I had no idea!  What fun!  I hope it will be an annual event!

P.S.  Late Breaking News:  The name of the song that Robert sang is “Please Pardon Me.”

It’s The Piano Season! Did you know?

Tuesday, August 15th, 2023

Colin Staub at a Push-Play Piano in Downtown Portland

The President of the Board of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation at the present time is Colin Staub.  He has been a part-time Oysterville resident for all of his 34 years.  He has worked in the oysters during the summers, spends as much time as possible at his family’s second home here in Oysterville, even bicycling now and again from his home in Portland,  and has performed at Vespers on numerous occasions — he is a mandolin player of some note.

Sometimes when he is in town he stops by to visit — an occurrence which I consider a great privilege.  And I must say, he never makes me feel two-and-a-half times his age (and then some) — not even when we occasionally get into the thorny subject of technology and the ORF website and other things I think I might have known about once but have given up that brain space to more immediate concerns.  Like how to keep my balance when walking over uneven terrain…

“The Old Rugged Cross”

For a few years now, when he’s in Oysterville, Colin has been playing the piano in the church — sometimes ragtime, but more recently, some of the hymns from the old Methodist hymnals we used to use for Vespers.   (Though he began on the violin as a young boy and now is teaching himself the piano, he still considers the mandolin his primary instrument.)   Yesterday, he wrote me this note: There are a dozen or so pianos set up in public places around Portland right now, and I’ve been making the rounds to play them all. I was playing “How Great Thou Art” and “The Old Rugged Cross,” the versions I learned in the Oysterville Church hymnal, downtown the other day, and a guy came up and started singing along. He was visiting from Atlanta and said he didn’t anticipate hearing gospel music in downtown Portland. The hymnals are coming in handy!

When I asked Colin more about those pianos, he wrote that they are put around town by a project called “Piano Push Play” Wow!
They get painted by local artists and placed in various places throughout the summer. It’s pretty cool and has been going on for 10 years or so. I’ve had numerous interesting encounters with people at the pianos, exchanged numbers, had impromptu duets, all sorts of things. Last year I emailed the founder about one particularly memorable conversation and she posted about it on their Instagram:

Piano at the Oysterville Church

There was one in particular that sticks in my mind, where I sat down to play a few boogie-woogie songs and noticed a woman sitting nearby who was crying and clearly not having a good day.  By the end of the first song I noticed she was tapping her feet, although still crying.  A couple songs later she came over to the piano and asked if I could teach her a couple chords, and we ended up having an impromptu piano lesson and talked about what she was going through.  She said it was the best unexpected thing to happen to her all day, and I thought it really illustrated the power of public music.

If you are in downtown Portland this summer, keep your eyes and ears open!  You may come across Colin playing some of those old-fashioned hymns he’s been learning at the Historic Oysterville Church!

Too Quiet On This Western Front!

Saturday, July 8th, 2023

Marta and Charlie

Charlie and Marta left a little after mid-day and it is all too quiet here at the house even though Chris-the-Mower-Man was here for an hour or so.  And I’ve set the hoses and hear the reassuring snick-snick-snick of the sprinklers magically greening the garden.  And I even put Cinderella to work, cleaning up a few crumbs left over from last night’s revelries.  But still… the silence is omnipresent.

How did the time go so quickly?  Twelve days and nights!  They told me they wanted to do whatever I needed so I put them to work bigtime with the things I cannot accomplish on my own — washing all the curtains, getting a head start on trimming rhododendrons for starters.  But still we laughed and talked and carried on as only family folk can do!

We chose this one!

Marta said she’d do all the cooking — and she did!  Charlie spent a day across the river with me — helping me choose a new kitchen stove and cheerfully accompanying me on various errands — to CostCo, to the Verizon Store, to Fred Meyers.  How much easier it was with him along!  How I wish that they both lived closer by.

We managed to take a few tentative steps toward the eventual disposition of the house and its contents. We went out to lunch and out to dinner, saw old friends, were treated to Marta singing with Fred, went to Vespers, and participated in The Honorary Oysterville Militia’s Fourth of July Cannon Salute.

Nyel’s Final Resting Place

Most importantly — and the real reason for this summer visit by my two beloved ones:  we placed Nyel’s ashes in the Oysterville Cemetery near the gravestone that he helped me design in the months before he died.  It was a fitting tribute to the gentlest of men and I was so grateful for the assistance of my son Charlie and bonus-daughter, Marta.  As much as I miss them right now in this overly quiet house, I can think of little else but how lucky I am!


Appetizers, Drinks, Friends and Music!

Friday, June 30th, 2023

One of the best Friday Nights EVER!  The food was great!  The drinks were fine!  Our friendships are strong!  But it was the music that made this a night to remember!  Fred and Marta had their guitars.  Cate brought her ukelele.  The three had not played together before but that is the magic of music and musicians — harmonies and solos and riffs and who-know-what-all.

There was just the right mix of songs we could sing along with —  Woody Guthrie, John Denver, Fleetwood Mac and Harry Bellefonte to name a few and some more esoteric selections that Marta, Cate, and Fred sang solo or in two and three-part harmony.  So fun!  And I had forgotten what a fine voice my son Charlie has.

All too soon (though it was later than usual) Cate began singing “The Owl’s Lullaby” — always the last song in her performances.  She had to leave to tend to her ailing dog and the rest of us sang on for a bit — though it wasn’t quite the same without her.

All in all, it was a memorable evening.  I always love the Friday Night Gatherings.  Music just makes them that much better!


Some things don’t change much, thankfully!

Thursday, May 25th, 2023

Memorial Day 1917

Oysterville is gearing up for Memorial Day Weekend — the biggest weekend of the year here in our little village.  Traditionally, it has been when families gather together to clean up the cemetery and decorate the graves of our forebears.  “Decoration Day” it was called from its earliest beginnings… until 1971.

Though the grave cleaning and decorating tradition goes back to our earliest settlements, it was during the years following the end of the Civil War in 1865, that so many American communities were tending to the remains and graves of an unprecedented number of war dead.

2014 Memorial Day, Oysterville Cemetery

Soon, the idea for an official, nation-wide holiday occurred on May 30, 1868 when Ohio Rep. James A Garfield, a former general and future U.S. president, addressed a crowd of 5,000 gathered at Arlington National Cemetery.  After his speech the 5,000 visitors made their way into the cemetery to visit the tens of thousands of graves in the newly formed cemetery.

Gradually over the following years, local municipalities and states adopted resolutions  to make Decoration Day an official holiday in their areas.  As time went on, “Memorial Day” began to supplant “Decoration Day” as the name of the holiday, and it soon became a day to honor all fallen American troops, not just those from the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1968 that “Memorial Day” became an official national holiday.

Here in Oysterville we’ve celebrated our loved ones at the cemetery for 150 years or more.  These days,  the weekend is replete with meetings (The Water Company, The Oysterville Restoration Foundation, The Cemetery Association) on Saturday.  Cemetery decorating occurs on Sunday.  The VFW gathering to honor the war dead occurs early on Monday followed by (since 2004) the firing of their cannon by The Honorary Oysterville Militia.

And all weekend long, it is a time for visiting and renewing old friendships, sharing meals and stories and remembering why it is we are so connected to this village  and to one another.


Have you read today’s “Observer” yet?

Wednesday, May 10th, 2023

Extra! Read all about it!

In answer to my own question, I have to say, “Only partly.” And those portions that I did read sent me through the gamut of emotions — disgust and distrust, anger and sadness, shame and anxiety.  Plus a good dollop or two of fear as I considered the implications  of  our young and totally inexperienced sheriff’s beliefs as outlined in the letter to the editor from Dave Sweblom of Raymond.  Scarey.

A bright spot was Ken Woodrich’s letter urging Ocean Park to incorporate.  I so hope that his words resonate with the leaders of what could be the largest municipality on the Peninsula.  Don’t you find it ludicrous, in this day and age, that we are still limited to three county commissioners just as we were in 1851 when Pacific County was formed and our population was 152, with 61 eligible voters?  Now,   our population is well over 23,000 and we still have three County Commissioners who (duh!) have far more responsibilities;  it will not be until our County population reaches 300,000 that we will be eligible for another commissioner.

The only answer for better oversight seems to be for a big chunk of the  population to remove themselves from the Commissioners’ jurisdiction by forming a municipality.  It would not only give autonomy to the new city (of Ocean Park) but, presumably, it would free up the rest of the County Commissioners a bit, giving them a chance to pay better attention to the needs of their constituents.

And then… the dreadful news of the Hospital Bond which failed by less than one-tenth of one percentage point.  I don’t know if the 60% passage requirement (the super majority) was mandated for that Bond, but I’m pretty sure it was not required for passage of “Ban the Boom.”  My understanding is that the super majority was an arbitrary requirement.  In the olden days, we simply called that “stacking the deck.”

Uncle Cecil’s Wheelbarrow by Earl Thollander

Well… I must get back to my reading.  If you get to Section B, do read my “Saints or Sinners” story and tell me if you think I should be less like “the talkative Espys” and more like Uncle  Cecil and Uncle Will.  Especially with regard to current times.


Hurry up Spring! Decoration Day’s a-comin’!

Tuesday, May 9th, 2023

A Slow Beginning for the Jean Maries

Finally!  The Jean Maries and their Rhodie friends are beginning to bloom.  But, except for the Mrs. G. W. Leaks, they are sort of spotty.  I’m thinking, “and so far, so has Spring been spotty.”  Not just “sort of” either.  VERY spotty!  I guess I should be thanking the flower goddesses that we have any blossoms at all!

And, of course, almost everything is a tad late but, I must say, trying mightily to catch up.  My dad’s birthday is May 12th (he’d be 113 this year) and the Jean Maries were always in full flower for his natal day.  I’m not sure they will be this year… but close!

Memorial Day 2009 – Espy Lot,  Oysterville Cemetery

And on the plus side — maybe we’ll have some of the late bloomers coming on at the end of the month in time for “Decoration Day” at the Cemetery.  (I really do like that name better than Memorial Day, don’t you?  Much more festive; not so somber.)

In “the olden days,” the whole town would turn out on Decoration Day, itself, and clean up the graveyard, putting flowers on the graves of loved ones and making sure that each stone was swept clean of pinecones and free from moss and encroaching grass.

Jason Huntley, Oysterville Cemetery 2010

Nowadays, the Oysterville Cemetery Association hires someone to mow  the grounds and keep the blow-down picked up, so most of us only need to go up a few days before Memorial Day to put out our flowers.  It always looks so welcoming on May 30th when the VFW comes to do their short ceremony, and the townsfolk gather to pay their respects to those who have preceded us.

It’s a tradition that will have more poignancy than ever for me this year.  I wonder how I will manage to make it through the playing of taps.


Let’s put a little less English on things!

Sunday, May 7th, 2023

In a report on the coronation of King Charles, today’s online morning edition of the New York Times said: “For many, however, the coronation was an excuse to cheer, wave Union Jacks and take part in the quintessentially English experience of getting wet together.”

Well, “getting wet together” may be a quintessentially English experience, but it’s certainly one that we here on the Peninsula understand very well.  And even though puts my “DNA Story” at 43% Scotland and 43% England/Northwestern Europe, my genes don’t seem to carry a great affinity for rain.  Not for standing around in it watching parades, anyway.

So far, though, it looks like today’s Loyalty Day Parade in Long Beach will NOT be viewed through a curtain of rain.  So far (at 7:00 a.m.) the forecast says “Mostly Cloudy” with only a 4% chance of rain — high temperature predicted to be 54º. “Practically tropical!” would have been Nyel’s wry comment.

Mary Lou Mandel, Long Beach Loyalty Day Parade c. 1980

Not that I’m planning to go to the parade this year.  In fact, I haven’t been for some time — maybe since Gordon Schoewe’s partner, Roy Gustafson, died in 2005  For years prior to that, an ever-growing group of us gathered at Roy’s van (parked in the pharmacy parking lot) and clapped, cheered, and toasted every parade participant — especially our friends and loved ones on floats, on foot, in trucks, cars, and on horseback!

I don’t remember being rained on over the thirty years or so we gathered and cheered.  Selective memory no doubt.  But I do remember the folks we cheered with and those we cheered for!  There was nothing like the Long Beach Loyalty Day Parade — until the Ocean Park Parade came along in July.

Fourth of July Parade – Ocean Park

Says the internet:  “In an average year in London,  one can expect 200 dry days out of 365 and a precipitation total of about 23 inches (585 mm) evenly distributed across the 12 months..  By comparison, -Long Beach, Washington gets 86 inches of rain, on average, per year. ”  Sorta makes me want to re-think the meaning of quintessential.

Question as ye might, but…

Saturday, May 6th, 2023

Churchyard – Ready for Spring and Summer

Depending upon the day, I’ve been told, “It’s Spring at last!” and “Nope!  No Spring this year!  We’ve gone straight from Winter to Summer!” Or even, “Do you think we have already headed into Fall?”

But I’m here to tell you that some years it’s just like that in Oysterville and the best way to tell which season it is has nothing to do with the weather at all.  It has everything to do with two important factors — the flags in the churchyard and the cannon on our croquet court.

Each year, along about the first week in May, that old flagpole across the street — the one in the churchyard that I can see from my west-facing windows — begins to look pretty lonely.  That’s when I used to ask Nyel if he could possibly find time to put up our flags — the American flag and the Washington State flag.  These days I call Tucker.  And last week: mission accomplished!  The flags are flying in the old churchyard!

Let The Celebrations Begin!

And not too long after that sigh of relief has been exhaled, I begin to worry about the lonely looking cement pad at the west end of our croquet court.  Again, these days it’s Tucker and one or both of his sons, Charley and Clark, I turn to.  “I think it’s about time to move the cannon out of its winter quarters (in our garage) and begin to ready ourselves for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July,”  say.  And today… mission accomplished!

Now, no matter the weather, it’s Flag and Cannon Season in Oysterville!  And it definitely feels like Celebration Times are a-coming!