Archive for the ‘From the Past’ Category

Oysterville: In joy, in sorrow, a safe harbor.

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

Bud Goulter

It’s been a week since my last entry in the Oysterville Daybook — a week of love and laughter, of deep sorrow and reminiscence, of outreach and introspection.  Our house has been filled with friends, new and old, and the village has hosted at least three weddings — at the church, at the schoolhouse, and at one of the neighbors’.

We’ve also lost our oldest, most colorful “character” — Bud Goulter.  He was 95 and, the last time I saw him (just a few weeks back at the post office) he asked after “Niles.” commented on the “newcomers” in town, and gave me a hug and a buss on the cheek!  Our meetings weren’t always so cordial through the years but, with the news of his passing, I’m glad about that last encounter.  A kind of closure to a lifetime of knowing one another’s families and foibles and skeletons in the closets.  I wondered, briefly, if I’m now Oysterville’s oldest citizen…  but I think it must be Charlotte by a few months.

Les and Ann Driscoll, Ava’s Parents

It wasn’t too many days later that our neighbor Sue told us that Ava, her neice, was gravely ill.  “Too young!” we thought.  We saw on Dan Driscoll’s facebook page that she had died; we’re not sure of the day.  Our hearts ache for all her family but most especially for her parents, Ann and Les.  It never seems that the order of things should allow a child to pre-decease the parents.  Words seems so inadequate… especially for lifelong neighbors in this tiny village.

Mark, Dale, Cameron, Helen, Sydney, Nyel

And in amongst the sorrow here… our friends Cameron, Dale, Helen, and Mark — the Rose City Mixed Quartet — arrived last Saturday.  They brought food for that evening, all-day Sunday, and Monday’s breakfast PLUS their sleeping bags (placed so carefully on the beds upstairs, I can’t tell that they were used at all) and their towels etc.  We laughed and visited and caught up with life-since-Covid and, to top it off, they did a House Concert for a small group here on Sunday evening.  What a gift they are in our lives!  I could hardly stand to say goodbye.

Barbara Canney – From Her FB Site

But… Barb to the rescue!  Barbara Canney, my friend since 1978 when my Uncle Willard “hired” her to organize our family documents and put me “in charge” as her mentor.  Our roles have reversed and yo-yoed over the years even though she lives in Massachussetts and we see each other less frequently than we would like.  She’s here for ten days and then her husband John is joining her for a mini-vacation.   And why is she here (you might wonder)?  Nyel hired her to help get my computer files (especially photos) in order.  It was my 85th birthday present but Covid interfered and so… here we are!  We laugh, we cry, we talk about old times and speculate about the future.  We might even get something done on the files!

OMG what a week!  I left out so much — and probably forgot a whole bunch, too.  Day by day blogging is oh so much easier and I hope I can get back on track.  Sometimes it’s hard when you live in Oysterville.

Not downsizing exactly. Maybe de-hoarding?

Saturday, February 26th, 2022

Posted In Bay House Mud Room 1981-1990, the years Bowser-the-Watch-Cat was on duty

For almost a year now, Nyel and I have been “downsizing.”  Or so we’ve called it.  But just now I looked up that word.  I found it was first used in 1975 and in North American usage it means to make something smaller as in: 1. make (a company or organization) smaller by eliminating staff positions;  2.move to a smaller place of residence.

But that’s not what’s happening here — not really.  Mostly, we are getting rid of “stuff” that has accumulated (how does that happen, anyway?) over the years and for which we no longer have plans, time, energy, or desire to use. Or, perhaps more to the point, stuff that we don’t want our loved ones stuck having to decide what to do with.

It sounds logical and do-able, until you factor in that we are the third generation of H.A. Espys to live in this house and the first two did no “downsizing” at all — at least not that you’d notice.  That old horse collar is still in the garage (which became storage for all those sorts of treasures when the barn was torn down).  And then, so carefully boxed up on my closet shelf, there is my grandmother’s wedding trousseau — all those lovely delicate silks, beginning to disintegrate with age and who really wants a corset with rusty fasteners, anyway?

Garry Baker and Sydney Stevens in “Done To Death” – a 1982 Peninsula Players Production

Some of the treasures, like my grandparents’ love letters (a file drawer full) and my great-grandmother’s advice to her children when they were away at secondary school — those have long since gone to the Espy Archive at the Washington State Research Center in Tacoma.  Occasionally we find more bits and pieces that we’ll take up on our next trip to see curator Ed Nolan.

But what of more recent “stuff” — newspapers and photos and announcements from recent years — stashed in boxes to be culled through for scrapbook treasures.  The scrapbooks didn’t all get made… and now they won’t.  So, each day I sort and scan those things of interest and pitch the rest.  I’m feeling like a hoarder trying to kick a habit.  I think we have about three dozen banker’s boxes left to go through.  Let’s see… at two weeks (minimum) per box, that’s…     Depressing is what that is!


A Lingerie Party for the Quinquagenarian!

Friday, February 25th, 2022

The year was 1986 and I was at the half-century mark.  So, of course, another party was in order!  It’s been a few memory-dimming years since then, so thank good ness I have pictures!  They were annotated (!) and pasted ever-so-carefully in a little hand-made booklet by quintessential party host Gordon Schoewe (who was undoubtedly given all sorts of encouragement by the always-quiet-and-sedate Roy Gustafson!)

Page One had this announcement:  KEEPING UP WITH YOU IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE and on the following pages were pictures of me (mostly) and of my nearest and dearest including Nyel, my mom and dad (OMG!  Did dad look a little dazed? And is mom hiding her eyes?), Patty and Noel, Kaye and Charlie, and several folks cowering out of camera range whose presence is known only by the odd hand or foot.

Bill and Dale — Parents of Boom-Boom!

My choice of Entertainment for the Evening seems to have been modeling each new gift of lingerie “and so forth” without benefit of removing anything I had previously acquired and certainly not anything I had worn to the party in the first place!  At one point I believe I was wearing three or four bras — if that which went on my head before the hat was, indeed, the underwire model I remember.  And “two-toned” panties — black lace in front and purple satin behind?  Where did these “friends” get this stuff — and did I mention that all of it was being re-cycled!  Not a new item among them.

Until, that is, we got to the purple satin spandex trousers.  They really truly were a size too small, but I don’t think that stopped me from wearing them to the next few parties.  Thankfully, there were no pictures taken of me in them.  Although… I’m really far from completing this downsizing project!  No telling what the next box will bring!

Unbelievable that a year or so later he married me anyway!





“Murder in Paradise”

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

Bernadette Laffite

Talk about a stroll down memory lane…  In the on-going downsizing effort, I ran across a little booklet put together by wickedly clever Gordon Schoewe after one of the Murder Mystery dinners that he and Roy Gustafson hosted in the ’80s.

Page One:  Bernadette Laffite (yours truly)  French-born garment manufacturer who lives in London’s West End.  Lafitte has made a fortune by producing, manufacturing, selling counterfeit designer jeans.  (Editor Gordon’s note:  “and perhaps wearing them!?”)

Malcolm Greeves

Page Two:  Malcolm Greeves (Nyel)  Greeves has just ended a six year tour with the “Pirates of Penzance” road company.  His starring role as the Pirate King afforded him the opportunity to purchase a country estate in Nottingham, England. Greeves shares the home with stacks of reviews and a parrot named Roger.  (Editor Cordon’s Note:   “or at least what’s left of the Parrot!”)

Sunny Bodine

Page Five Sunny Bodine (Pat Thomas) Leader of the female motorcycle gang Hell’s Belles, Ms. Bodine, a Berkeley graduate, gravitated to Oakland and her present position after seven years as an advertising executive in San Francisco.

Also with starring roles were Jorge Cortes (Noel Thomas); Martin St Crow (John Campiche); Gladys Mead (Val Campiche); and Brigette Petain (Marjorie Horner.)


Brigitte Petain

Jorge Cortes (Making his move?)

Martin St. Crow and Gladys Mead



It’s not the first time I’ve cried, Verna.

Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

Verna Oller, January 2007

When I saw the picture of Verna Oller on the front page of the Observer today — the picture I took of her back in 2007 —  I began to tear up.  I knew the article would be going over old information and putting yet a different spin on the justification for no pool in Long Beach.  I found I couldn’t blog about it again.  Instead, I’m re-posting a story I wrote almost twelve years ago.  Just a reminder that some things don’t change…no matter how much they should.

No Fanfare; Only a Swimming Pool
By Sydney Stevens
May 2010

In October 2007 when Verna Oller left her home of 73 years and moved a few miles away to the Circle of Life Adult Family Homes she said, “No more Wall Street Journal.”  She was looking forward to a final and full-time retirement and that included backing away from her careful handling of her investments –  all five million dollars worth!  For more than twenty-five years she had followed ins and outs of her investments in each day’s newspaper.  She had decided to give that a permanent rest.

That lasted about two months and then she made arrangements to have the newspaper delivered once again.  By then the economic recession was fully upon us and though Verna stuck by her resolve to no longer manage her investments, she monitored them every day.  She shook her head as she watched her five million dollars dip well below the four million dollar level, observing that we were in too much debt and that “they” were “a bunch of crooks.”  Then, finally, things began to turn around.

Verna was hopeful that she would live to see her funds restored in full.  That was not to be but, according to her trustee, Guy Glenn, she lived long enough to see that her money was making significant gains.  “And remember,” he adds, “her money is still working.”

Long Beach said “NO” to Verna’s pool!

In the weeks and months ahead, the arrangements that Verna specified will be worked out.  One million “off the top” will go to local education:  $500,000 to the Ocean Beach Education Foundation and $500,000 to the Verna S. Oller Foundation to be used for student scholarships and teacher grants, the terms of which she carefully specified.  The rest of the legacy will be put into the Verna S. Oller Aquatic Foundation.  Verna’s first desire was that those funds be used to build a public swimming pool in Long Beach.

 “One of the unusual things about Verna,” according to Andrea Noonan, Circle of Life Director, “was that she never looked back.  I never heard her say she missed her home or wished things were different now.  She was always looking and planning for the future.”

Astoria Aquatic Center – What Verna wanted for Long Beach

Verna’s legacy goes far beyond her four and a half million dollars. What she leaves us is the memory of her huge heart, of her generosity far beyond what might seem possible, and her amazing humility.  She absolutely insisted that her secret be kept until her death – and that even then, she wanted there to be no fanfare about it.  She wanted no obituary, no funeral or memorial service, nothing special.  Just a swimming pool and some help for our schools.



Changing times? Not that you’d notice!

Wednesday, February 9th, 2022

“Back in the day” some folks would call it, although it doesn’t seem all that long ago to me.  And the subject was oh so current.  It boiled down to “You can’t tell me what to wear… ” and “I have the right to…”

The subject at hand:  a clipping I ran across from Ilwaco High School’s Golden I dated October 6, 1993.  The article was written by Nora Rhoades.  Brigid Stucki was the newspaper adviser.

The new no hat rule states that no hats can be worn in the main building at all.  Although after school and at all games in the gym, they may be worn.
The reason students can wear them in the gym and at games is because they are required to go to school and not to games, also staff is dealing with the public; according to vice-principal Glenn Johnson.  The people responsible for this decision are the staff and administration.
“I don’t think so,” said Johnson about ever changing the no hat rule.
It’s not a punishment, according to Johnson,  The reasons for the new rule are as follow:  It is respectful to take your hat off in a building, and it was a classroom disruption because kids would hide other students’ hats or throw them.
Students have opinions on the new hat rule.
James Hennington, a sophomore said, “I do not like the no hat rule  It’s not necessary.”
“Don’t we have a right to wear what we want?” said Stacey Beasley, a senior.

It was around that period of time that teachers at Long Beach Elementary were discussing the pros and cons of requiring school uniforms.  Among the pros:

  • School uniforms create a level playing field among students, reducing peer pressure and bullying.
  • Wearing uniforms enhances school pride, unity, and community spirit.
  • Uniform policies save valuable class time because they are easier to enforce than a standard dress code.
  • School uniforms prevent the display of gang colors and insignia.

There actually weren’t many cons until the faculty felt it would only be “fair” if the adults in the school also wore the school uniform.  In the end, it was one of the teachers who had spent years amassing a wardrobe especially appropriate to the age group she taught and she did was unwilling to give it up.  (I don’t quite remember how the “level playing field” argument among the adults was handled.)

Obviously, it’s a problem we have yet to solve.  Even if health is the issue and masks are the requirement, we cannot agree.  Perhaps, whether the catalyst is hats or uniforms or masks, the basic question should be: is the welfare of the individual more important than that of the group?  And, if so, when?

The Last of the Wild West Characters?

Monday, February 7th, 2022

He had a foul mouth.  Elizabeth, our Bookvendor employee extraordinaire, found busy-work in the backroom when he came through the front door.  He was a biker, rode with the Hell’s Angels, was their PR man.  He was an Army Ranger in Vietnam, was a Hollywood screenwriter, and moved here in ’93. He got his meat at Reed & Hertig’s, lived in Chinook and then in Ilwaco, wrote more than 30 books, was nominated for a Pulitzer, and shot the man who killed his cat.  Chris Bunch.  (He was exonerated.)

I recently ran across the interview Ed Hunt did with Chris and his writing partner, Allan Cole.  I don’t really remember Allan but Chris was in the Bookvendor often in the nineties.  Maybe it was just to give Elizabeth (wonderfully proper and married to an Episcopal priest) a hard time.  He was flirty and dirty and rough around the edges — everyone’s bad boy.  The last of the Wild West characters.

If he knew you were a writer, he had nothing but praise and encouragement.  If he knew you cringed at his language, he poured it on.  His lady friend worked at the Seaview flower shop and sometimes he’d stop in to bring me a bouquet.  He was funny, outrageous, memorable, and a man of strong principals.  He died July 4, 2005 after a long battle with a lung ailment. He was 61.

 I was glad to re-read that news clipping and to “visit” with Chris once more.  He was the closest I’ll ever get to knowing a throwback to the days of the frontier.  Thanks, Ed Hunt, for the great interview with him — but I’m sorry you had to clean up his language!  It was one of his most colorful attributes!

Amazing What We “Disremember”

Friday, February 4th, 2022

Repairs In Progress
(Or RIP?)

I’ve been feeling sorta good — not smug exactly, as that is always a danger — just sorta good at having made excellent inroads on the downsizing of the back-forty.  This morning I was just finishing up a repair on a final scrapbook for the Heritage Museum  when I had a thought.  Followed by a sinking feeling.

The repair in question is to the Croquet Scrapbook for Years 1994, 1995, 1996 which suffered serious water damage when our upstairs hot water tank went berserk in 2002.  I’m trying to rebuild the worst pages and toward that end have found photographs for ’94 but not much for the other two years.  “Oh well,” I told myself.  “S*** happens.”

Boxes R Us

But then I thought of that closet in the “Pink Room” upstairs — the only bedroom closet that has any serious storage space.  Didn’t we store some early scrapbook “stuff” up there — stuff that was scheduled to be sorted and dealt with just about the time of the water heater failure all those years ago?  Yes, of course we did. And so, after checking with Nyel, I arranged to have our Infamous Lifting/Lugging/Schlepping Duo, Steve and John, come for drinks and dinner and a little upstairs/downstairs exercise.  “About six boxes,” said I.

THEN I decided to mount the killer stairs and have a look.  TWENTY-ONE BOXES!  OMG!  Big Bankers Boxes.  And other even bigger boxes. Funny how the mind adjusts itself as time goes by…  OMG!

It made my heart sing!

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022

The Sanctuary

Every once in a while something comes along that just makes my heart sing.  It’s usually unexpected and not a really big deal.  Except to me.  Today it was a bit of  gray paint!

Every other Tuesday is errand day for us — usually on both sides of the river.  So, as we drove through Chinook this afternoon at the requisite 35 mph (and have you ever noticed that this is the ONLY area in our neck of the woods where EVERYbody obeys the speed limit?), we noticed that the dear old Sanctuary Restaurant was getting a fresh coat of paint!  A soft, foggy gray! I almost stopped the car and got out to give the painters a round of applause.

Fisher Poet Geno Leech

I think we’ve been holding our breath all these years since it closed.  Not that we’ve even hoped that Geno and Joanne Leech would open it again.  It was a magical one-time experience, their restaurant, and I don’t think it could ever happen the same way again.  But oh! how I hoped that the building would get some TLC.

We used to go there with my folks and with Gordon and Roy and with so many of our friends and loved ones who are now gone.  How we enjoyed the Swedish meatballs and the desserts with lingonberries and the wonderful fresh fresh fish.  Once in a great while, Geno would treat us to one of his poems and, if we lingered past closing time, Joanne might come a sit with us for a while.

Elegant Joanne Leech

In later years, I’d take my mom to Little Ocean Annie’s, their “casual restaurant” as Fodor’s Travel Talk Forum called it.   We’d have fish and chips and, though dementia had stolen so much of mom’s ability to talk, her eyes still sparkled as she ate.

Originally, the building was  a Methodist Church and parsonage built in 1916. I don’t really remember that, though I probably passed it coming and going to the ferry in long-ago years.  I think I heard that the building sold a while back — one of those bittersweet bits of information that the passing years seem to bring too frequently.  I don’t know what the future holds for the lovely old structure, but I hope my heart continues singing as I pass her by every now and again!

Back View of Sanctuary



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If it weren’t for John Marshall’s letter…

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

Oyster Schooner Louisa Morrison

Yesterday’s email brought an inquiry from a man in Seattle regarding  something I had written — a remark about many of the oldest homes in Oysterville being built of redwood lumber brought up as ballast on the old oyster schooners.   “Why bring redwood up to the Washington coast?” he asked.  “It’s like bringing coals to Newcastle. I don’t know much about the historical ecology of the peninsula. Was there a dense forest of classic PNW trees?

I thought it was a great question.  I told him that, yes, we had plenty of forests.  However, in those very early days (the 1860s) there was no mill nearby but, even more important might have been what those old growth forests were like.  And I sent him a copy of this letter written from Oysterville in 1863 by John Marshall to his wife in New York:

Pioneer Loggers

Mary it does me good to write your name for it does appear that I am talking to you…
I am getting out timber to build a house for John Morgan.  I go in the woods and look for trees suitable for house but can’t find them they are so bige
[sic].  They are from 150 feet to 200 feet high and from 3 feet through to 6 feet and it is so much labor to get them they stand so close together that we can’t hardly get through them.  I never saw such woods until I came to this country.  Here we can’t see anything else.
People here own claims of 100 acres and 300 and can’t get land enough cleared to raise a few potatoes to eat.  They have to ship them it is so hard to clear off the land.
Mary keepe a good hart we will see one another again.  Give my love to you all…
I remain your True Husband, John Marshall

Tom Crellin House, 1869

John’s letter is a great reminder, at least to me, that when we look back in time, we must be cautious not to carry along any of the present-day with us.  In this case, not the way our forests look now; not our easy access to tools, especially power tools; not the availability of heavy machinery; and definitely not the ease of getting to the job site!

John Marshall was here just a little more than 150 years ago.  I wonder how hard it will be for people in 2175 to imagine back to our time and have an understanding of why we make the choices we do.  I think I’m happy we won’t be here to find out.