Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

It’s Grandparent Season at the Beach!

Sunday, July 25th, 2021

The Grandkid Generation at the Red House — thanks, Anna Hook Spooner!

Having no grandchildren is a lot like growing up without siblings.  You don’t actually miss what you’ve never experienced, but you’ve done enough vicariously living in the moccasins of others that you know some of the parts — both good and not-so-good. But, mostly, the fun parts and, most especially,  the parts involving grandkids at the beach!

The first batch of grandkids here in Oysterville this summer were two families of Red House cousins.  They live in Sun Valley and in Seattle and, although they see one another occasionally during the year, it’s summertime in Oysterville when they really get “quality time” together.  (Not that they call it that, probably, but they might when they look back on those two weeks many years from now.)  Sad to say, Nyel and I only hooted and hollered as we drove by — all of us on different wave lengths this year.  We did see Grandpa Jim Hook briefly, though — on his way out of town for a few adult catch-up days at home.  Though he claimed “frazzled,” he looked great! Grandpa-ing definitely agrees with him.

Pelicans at Benson Beach – Photo by Opa Tucker Wachsmuth

Next up were Carol and Tucker.  This year they are spending a separate week of time with each of their four grandchildren.  Last week it was 10-year-old Gabi’s turn and oh! the places they went and the things they did!  Bensons-by-the-Beach for their (HUGE) pancake breakfast, Marsh’s Museum (probably more than once), Cannon Beach and Seaside, the new jetty to see the pelicans, Sherwood Forest out by Leadbetter Point to see Opa’s childhood campsite, Camp Tagum.  And so much more!

And today, Cousin Ruth and Cindy arrive with Ruth’s children and grandchildren.  They have been beaching it on the Peninsula since Thursday and are coming over for a look at the house and a family history lesson.  Imagine!  We may not be grandparents (or more like greats or great-greats) but we qualify as a part of Oysterville’s “living history.”  I love it!  (I wonder what the kids think…)

Happy 95th Gordon! (1926-2014)

Friday, July 23rd, 2021

Gordon In The Bath c. 1925

For the eighth consecutive year, the Gordon-and-Roy-Picnic Group gathered to pay tribute to Gordon, instigator, picnic planner, and martini maven extraordinaire.  There were lots of us missing besides Gore and Roar.  In fact, the only members of the old Picnic Group in attendance were Nyel and me and, as far as we know, the only other two still alive and kicking are Patty and Noel.  They, unfortunately, were otherwise occupied with a milestone of their own — Noel’s daughter was in town to celebrate her 60th.  Time flies!

But Gordon’s indomitable spirit and vast interests were  well represented, anyway.  His niece Karen and husband Bill were here from Sumner — full of stories about Gordon’s mother (“Grandma” to Karen) who lived to be almost 107!  Bill and Sue and Carol (with Tucker) were here representing the Mystery Book Club — a late-in-life group that Gordon helped found around the turn of the century.  (This one.)

Herb, Karen, Sydney at Gordon’s 95th!

Herb-the -Christmas-Elf came, too.  He was one of Gordon’s friends who helped him put up his incredible Christmas decorations during those final years that he could no longer quite manage by himself. I told Herb that Nyel and I are getting to that point, ourselves, and he said, “Just call!  I’d be glad to help!”

The food was picnicky beginning with hot dogs, chips, and pasta salad — Gordon would have loved it.  There was lemonade (Sorry, Gordon, no martinis!) and (of course) watermelon and cookies for dessert.  The Gordon stories were non-stop — most of them funny but a few eyes besides mine watered up a bit.  All-in-all it was a birthday to remember.  I think Gordon would have approved!

Carol, Nyel, and Tucker

The Very Best Part of A Book Talk

Sunday, July 18th, 2021

Sydney talks about Madam X at the Senior Center

Yesterday I gave a Book Talk about Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula at the Senior Center in Klipsan.  It was the third event in as many weekends and I didn’t have high expectations for attendance or sales.  However, what I didn’t factor in was how much fun I would have talking with the people who were there!

I met several women who read my blog every single day!  They asked after the chickens, were pleased to meet Farmer Nyel (who was helping Vicki sell books for me) and one expressed a desire to meet Tucker.  “I want to find out if he is related to the Glass family.  They were best friends to my husband and me.”  I know that Tucker is related to the Glass family but I don’t know if it’s the right Glass family.  Even so, I found myself saying, “Why don’t you come by the house sometime and we’ll walk over and I’ll introduce you.”  I hope she does.  She and I were “of an age” as they say, and had it not been for people waiting in line for my autograph, we probably could have spent the rest of the afternoon becoming best friends!

A Small but Mighty Interesting Audience

Actually, there were several encounters like that and I did think to myself, “Well, after all… it’s the Senior Center and I’m bound to meet a few soulmates here.  I should come more often…”  But, it wasn’t just ‘Senior Serendipity’.  Along came a good looking “young” (50s?) man named Paul who said that we are “sort of related.”  And, indeed we are!  My first cousins were brought up by his mother’s inlaws (got that?) in Minnesota in the 1930s.  Paul was visiting the Peninsula and had just happened upon the book signing and… here he was!

Sydney with Wallace and Charles, Ft. Canby, WA, 1938

As it turned out,  when  Nyel and I returned home a half hour or so later,  we saw Paul taking pictures up the street.  I hailed him, invited him in, and we spent a pleasant half hour looking at family pictures and sharing information about my cousins Wallace and Charles Pearson whose mother Suzita was my mother’s older sister.  As Sue was dying of pneumonia on December 27, 1932, she asked her mother (my grandmother) to send the boys to Lake City, Minnesota to the Pearsons, her husband’s people.  At that time her father (my grandfather)  was in a sanitorium recovering from a horrendous automobile accident and my grandmother, always frail and losing her sight, could not have coped with two young boys.  Even by pooling our information, there is much that Paul and I don’t know.  Time to get Cuzzin Ralph looking on once again!

And… even so, I sold a fair number of books.  But the best part of all (as usual) was meeting and talking with everyone!  Even my Facebook friend, Terry Eager. came all the way from Chinook to meet me in person and say “hello.”  Wow!  What a fun afternoon!


And suddenly… summer begins!

Saturday, July 17th, 2021

Sydney in Oysterville, Summer 1940

In the “olden days” of my childhood, summer in Oysterville meant visitors.  Lots and lots of visitors.  The relatives came from Portland and Puyallup and California and they usually came for two weeks or more.  Often, they “overlapped” and we were hard-pressed to find sleeping spots for everyone even though there were five bedrooms and all but one had double beds.

As I remember, the “overflow” relatives stayed at The Red House three properties to the north.  I’m no longer sure how many beds and bedrooms there are in that old house, but I think it can comfortably accommodate seventeen or eighteen people — more if there are a lot of little kids.

Many friends from afar visited, too, but they seemed to arrive more according to a “schedule” and so we devoted ourselves specifically to that group or that family.  I think the attitude about the relatives was that the houses belonged as much to them as to us — most, whether of my grandfather’s generation or my mother’s, had grown up here, after all.  There was always room and, as I remember, they immediately helped out by taking on any extra host and hostess duties when non-relatives arrived.

H.a. Espy Family Reunion 1943

I’ve been thinking about those days as we plan for the arrival next week of our bonus daughter extraordinaire, Marta. to be followed in short order by Randal Bays and Family, Cuzzin Ralph from Virginia, Cousin Alex and friend Katie from New York, Kuzzin Kris from Sacramento (who is actually staying at the Red House but we hope we get our share of her!) and then the Rose City Mixed Quartet!!!  And at the very beginning of this grand parade will be Cousin Ruth and Cindy from Mercer Island who are staying somewhere spiffy with a whole raft of children, grandchildren, and I don’t know who all.  I think our house is on the schedule for a “tour and history lesson.”

I can’t wait for it all to begin!  It will be like summers of old but “on steroids” as we are all eager to make up for the Sheltering Year that we hope against hope is over for good and all!  Now… if the sun will come out and the soft breezes blow — just as I remember from those olden days! — it will be a perfect summer, indeed!


Remembering Pam Dorrance

Saturday, June 5th, 2021

Last evening at our “Friday Night Gathering” (or “Salon” as Sturges often says) we spent time remembering our friend Pam.  We began by reading our most recent communication from Sturges, sent on June 2nd:

Our family is gathered with Pam at Swedish First Hill. Pam has fought a courageous fight these past three [weeks] but sadly we have lost.  She is fully sedated and unaware of what is happening. Late this afternoon we must take her off life support because there are no further options. It is terribly sad for all of us. She is a special person and the love of my life for over 60 years.
Our love to you both and all our friends from the “salon”, Sturges

Pam Dorrance, 2018

It was only a month or five weeks ago that she had been here with us, enjoying a glass of wine and taking over the hostess duties with a vengeance.  She was so tiny, yet so mighty and, when she insisted, “No, I can do it!” there was no arguing.

“She would never let me pass an appetizer,” Sue said.  “No matter how big the tray, she’d insist on doing it herself.”

“Yes,” I remembered, “with her big smile and that determined look in her eye, daring you to argue!”

“She always took special pains to take care of ME!” Nyel said.  “There she was, with her cane and a bit bent over, moving with difficulty.  I knew I was more mobile, could lift more, and do more —  even from my wheelchair — but if Pam wanted to do it… she did it!  And with a smile.”

I remembered the first time she showed me her fabulous garden and mentioned how much she enjoyed the deer who visited.  “We always put a saltlick out for them in winter,” she said.  “And I love having the rabbits come through, too.”

“She loved every living thing,” Cyndy added.  “She wouldn’t hurt a fly.  Literally!  Or a spider.  They all had her respect and protection.”

Vicki spoke of her generosity.  “I inadvertently got put in charge of the garden at the Lamp Camp in Long Beach when we were staying there a few years back.  I mentioned it to Pam one Friday night and the next thing I knew, she was bringing me all these wonderful starts from her garden!”

The stories continued.  The box of kleenex was passed around.  We spoke of Sturges and of their four daughters. Silently, we willed Oysterville’s spring breezes to carry them our love and sustaining thoughts.  It was one of our most difficult of Friday Nights… yet how fortunate we were to be able to gather together in friendship and remembrance.

if I never eat again…

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

The very best guests “to entertain” are the ones who come completely self-contained — in fact, though they might come to spend time with you under your very roof, it becomes questionable exactly who are hosts and who are guests.  This happens to us a lot AND WE LOVE IT!  Friends bring appetizers for Friday nights.  Loved ones bring all the fixin’s for lunch or for dinner.  Relatives come from foreign lands and cook their favorite national dishes in our kitchen!  We are SO spoiled.

The last two days took the “being guests in our own home” to unprecedented lengths.  (Well, not quite unprecedented – they’ve done this before.)  The Rose City Mixed Quartet came on Tuesday at noon, left the next day after lunch, and brought with them sleeping bags, pillows, towels and all other sleepover paraphernailia plus food for two lunches and one breakfast.  We had only to do Tuesday night dinner — and no clean-up.  WOW!

The menus went like this — sandwiches and all the accoutrements for Tuesday’s lunch, complements of Helen & Dale — which we set up outside for a glorious picnic, the season’s first.  Dinner (our contribution):  an appetizer of Dungeness crab, lasagna, tossed green salad, French bread and brownies from Cameron.  Breakfast,  aeblskivers* by Mark accompanied by thick-sliced ham and strawberries and green grapes. Lunch barbecued pulled pork sandwiches by Cameron (and husband Bill who, like the other spouses, was not among us) and broccoli slaw, followed by watermelon and the last of the brownies!

Their car pulled out around two o’clock but they were back at two ten to retrieve Cameron’s cell phone.  Nyel and I caught up on some emails and other paperwork (but alas I didn’t do a blog), couldn’t work up any interest in dinner, and were in bed by 7:00 p.m.  Conclusion:  It’s just exhausting to be the King and Queen — even for two days!

And did I say we loved! loved! loved! it?

*A word about æbleskivers– a Danish treat cooked in a special castiron pan (Mark brought two of them) which I would describe as a round, hollow pancake ball.  Break them open, fill them with butter and brown sugar or with maple syrup or with strawberry jam (we had all three options) and you are in Heaven.  Pure and simple.

Finding Uncle Al

Saturday, May 29th, 2021

Al Barela c. 2011

We didn’t hear from him at Christmas and he hasn’t been on FaceBook for a couple of years.   Al Barela –friend of 60+ years, artist extraordinaire, professor emeritas, San Jose State University.  Marta and Charlie (and me, too!) have always called him “Uncle Al” though he was wasn’t related — but we all choose to believe he is.

As Nyel and I have begun to think about “downsizing” — or at least of doing a little “estate planning” — I realized that I have five of Al’s paintings.  Four are on our walls; one is in the wings — waiting for a place to snuggle in.  All are large.  All are wonderful.  Some are quite personal.  Neither Charlie nor Mata has room for any of them, though Marta is trying to figure out how to keep one.  Somehow.

“Cyclist” by Al Barela, 1968

So, a few weeks ago during our Sunday evening Family Zoom Meeting, we brainstormed how to find Al (for starters) and, failing that, how to find where his collected works might be or if there is a gallery that has handled his paintings or… or… or. But mostly, we hoped to find Al.  I remembered that he had a nephew who went to Stanford some years (40?) years back but I had no name for him.  We thought Al might still have family in Albequerque which is where he grew up.  And I was pretty sure he was two or threee years older than I which would make him close to 90 so we were trepidatious.

Marta went to work contacting people named Barela on FaceBook.  She found a nephew (a different one) who, eventually,  responded to her very cautiously — protccting Al’s privacy — but giving us enough to indicate that Uncle Al was alive and living in Colorado!  And yesterday, the phone rang and there he was — that beloved, familiar voice!  We talked and talked and talked.

And now Nyel and I are discussing the feasibility of a road trip in the fall…

Talk, Laugh, Eat… and then do it some more!

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

Sydney and Dick at the Bistro

Our friend, Tricky, whose name is really Dick (and if you were in California in the 1950s you can probably fill in the backstory), came visiting from Bainbridge Island for a few days.  It was such a treat to see him!  The last time he was here was for the Milton Williams and Barbara Bate House Concert on February 9, 2020.

Nyel at the Bistro

It seems to me that we spent our time during his stay primarily on three activities — talking, laughing, and eating.  We had, of course, talked on the telephone  several times a month during the pandemic but even so… there’s nothing like seeing a wry expression or a look of disgust or the twinkle in the eyes of someone pulling your leg.  Phone calls just don’t cut it and (with apologies to the zoomers among us) neither do zoom visits.  Up-close-and-personal is the only way a “visit” makes complete sense, especially when you have a choice.

As for the eating part!  OMG!  “The Tricks” (Tricky’s nickname which, when you think about it, is a nickname for a nickname…) was here for a total of five meals.  Chef Nyel prepared the first three — spare ribs for dinner Tuesday, scrambled eggs (store bought, sad to say) with all the trimmings for breakfast Wednesday, and African Peanut Soup for lunch that same day.  To the Bistro in Astoria for dinner last night and a send-off breakfast this morning at the 42nd Street Cafe.  I can hardly waddle.

Noel and Patty at the Bistro


“…as ithers see us.”

Saturday, May 8th, 2021

Our Garden in Early May – Photo by Cate Gable

My take-away from Robert Burns’ 1786 poem, “To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church” has always been that we would be disabused of our pretensions if we could see ourselves through the eyes of others.  But, lately, Nyel and I have received or run across photographs of things near and dear to us that have simply given us a different perspective.  If there have been pretensions involved, they have yet to come clear.

Like the photo of our garden that Cate sent yesterday taken from the path to the east — a path seldom taken by us these days.  “Your yard is gorgeous!” said the accompanying note, and we had to concur. In this case it’s probably one of those “can’t see the garden for the grass that needs mowing” or “the weeds that need pulling.”  It is so lovely to look again!  Through Cate’s eyes!

Sydney at Greenridge c. 1962 — Photo by Bill LaRue

And then, midst the  “treasures” (NOT!) that we are clearing out of our nooks and crannies came some photos of me taken 50 or 60 years ago by my (then) photographer husband Bill La Rue (Marta’s Dad.)  I remember that I was getting ready for work, putting on my makeup, and he was somewhere behind me with his Hasselblad.  I was in a hurry and he was an annoyance.  There are six of those photos, each 7×9 inches, mounted on heavy cardstock.  Were they once on display somewhere?  I don’t really remember.  I don’t think I liked them much.  And now???  All I can think of  is “was I ever so young!?”

Come to think of it, that’s what’s so hard about this down-sizing and purging process — at least to me.  It’s coming to grips with how we “saw” things then and how we see them now.  After a lifetime, perspectives change.  I see myself and Robbie Burns’ “ithers” from a totally different point of view now.  A better one?  Not necessarily.  And does it make the sorting-and-discarding process easier?  Not that I’ve noticed.  Not so far, anyway  I wonder if everyone goes through these agonies when the time comes…



Oysterville’s Oyster Shell Telegraph!

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Oysterville Sea Farms, 2015 — A Bob Duke Photo

The Oyster Shell Telegraph has been working overtime here in the village.  Rumors have been flying — all about Oysterville Sea Farms!  Perhaps you have heard some of them, yourselves:

Dan is selling the business.
Oysterville Sea Farms has been leased.
Dan and Linda are moving!

So on Saturday… I messaged the source — our shouldabeen County Commissioner, Dan Driscoll —  and asked him flat out.

Northern Oyster Company 1940s

“Yes to all the above,” he said.  “Things are still developing.  Since OSF is no longer my story—I am leaving the telling of this story to new management. Linda and I are in Portland right now. The new management is running OSF tomorrow.  If you want, I can message you and the new manager and you can ask her any questions you have about OSF.”

I didn’t take him up on his offer.  I figured it would be better to come to grips with the news first.  “The Cannery” as we old-timers have called the building and the business(es) that it has housed, has been the northernmost anchor to Oysterville since 1939.  I was three that year when Dan’s grandfather, Ted Holway, along with Roy Kemmer and Glen Heckes, bought Eddie Sherwood’s Opening House and began the Northern Oyster Company.  After the Company moved to Nahcotta, Dan and his dad, Les Driscoll, sold fresh oysters there during summer vacations.  And, eventually, Dan started Oysterville Sea Farms, refurbishing the old cannery site and bringing the weathered buildings back to life.

From Dan’s FB Page!

Dan took well deserved pride in the fact that his was the last business in Oysterville that reflected the town’s beginnings.  He carried on the tradition of hiring locals to work out on the beds and in his tiny retail outlet, blending the old traditions with the up-to-date demands of his customers.  Next to Oysterville’s iconic old church, Oysterville Sea Farms was, without a doubt, the most popular place in town.

Yesterday I had an “Oysterville Visit” out on the street with my neighbor, Sue, who happens to be Dan’s aunt. And today I talked with  few more of the neighbors.  The Oyster Shell Telegraph continues to clicklety clack on the subject of Oysterville Sea Farms.  (Is it really going to be called Willapa Wild?)  Stay tuned…