Archive for the ‘From the Past’ Category

Me too, Stephanie! Me too!

Thursday, October 20th, 2022

Isaac Alonzo Clark (1828-1906) – Co-Founder of Oysterville

My friend Stephanie wrote yesterday, “All of Sydney Stevens’ blogs are interesting, but I particularly like the ones about Oysterville history.”  I appreciated that comment for several reasons but mostly because I’ve been thinking about gathering together some of the stories about “Oysterville Characters” to take a look at our history through the eyes of those who created it.

My first thought was of the earliest codgers and crones I know about — those who were around in the Pioneer Days when my Great Grandfather, R. H. Espy, was still around.  Then,  I began to think ahead, generation by generation.

Papa and Aunt Dora when they were young – 1896

My Great Aunt Dora, R. H.’s oldest child, had some great tales of the characters who were around during her childhood in the 1870s and ’80s.  Come to think of it, so did her brother, my own beloved Papa.  As I have remarked before, though, his stories were more about the “saints” while Aunt Dora favored telling about the “sinners.”  They all expose aspects of Oysterville’s history that should be told and retold (in my opinion) so the human side of things doesn’t get sanitized or changed as our culture and sensibilities morph ever-onward.

When it comes to my mother’s generation, it gets harder.  These are people I knew and, no matter their foibles or forcefulness, I’m not sure how objective my stories of them would be.  Ditto when it comes to Oystervillians of my own generation.  Can I tell their stories capturing their unique force and influence on our little village.  Can my words ever express the joy one feels at hearing a certain neighbor’s laughter from afar or the “here we go again” feeling when another neighbor sets his jaw and “starts in” on an old sore point?

Helen Thompson (Heckes), c. 1927

But… does that really matter?   Is the point to be objective or to capture the uniqueness of some truly special, maybe even quirky, individuals as I have known them?    So far, I’m still pondering — at least regarding some of the more recent “characters” of our village.    And, no.  I’m not interested in changing the names or circumstances.  That removes some of the most important history.  And like Stephanie, that’s the part I like best.

Some things don’t change…

Tuesday, October 11th, 2022

John Didion, Pacific County Sheriff 1998-2010

Last week’s paper, our esteemed Chinook Observer — the  October 5, 2022 issue — was hard for me from the first cursory glance.  “Serial rapist faces life ‘treatment’ on remote island – Sheriff Didion tried to warn county” was the week’s top story.

And just below it — “Grayland killer gets 21 years in prison – Emotional families make contrasting pleas.”

Certainly not the community news I was hoping to delve into in our faithful weekly periodical.  And, probably, not the news they would choose to deliver.  But the news is the news…  And, once again, I miss my friend John Didion.

I set the papers aside and directed my attention to some file folders I was reorganizing.  “Newspapers” said the label and the very first article dated October 14, 1892 (130 years old this very month) was from the front page of the South Bend Journal.  Here is what it said:

The would-be Wife Murderer of Ilwaco, Sentenced to Three Years Imprisonment
Astoria, Or, Oct. 12 — W.W. Ward was today sentenced to three years and four months in the penitentiary.  The court stated in passing sentence, that it was his intention to give Ward the full limit of the law, but his children had come to him in tears pleading for leniency for their father, and that they would be more miserable than their father were he to be given the full sentence of the law. Hence the light sentence.

Now known as “The Murakami House,” this building at 270th and Sandridge in Nahcotta was the original Pacific Journal building in Oysterville and was moved to its present location (then Sealand) in 1892. Photo Credit – Stephanie Frieze

Ward ran a saloon at Sealand for some time but with the removal of the Pacific Journal to Ilwaco, he had to close up on account of lack of patronage.  He afterwards engaged in business in Ilwaco.  The crime for which he was sentenced was that of shooting his wife.  He had some trouble with his wife and they had separated.  Both were in attendance on celebration of Gray’s discovery of the Columbia river, held in Astoria last May, and on the morning of May 12, as Mrs.  Ward was leaving the dining room of the Hotel  Northern her husband fired four times at her wounding her severely but not fatally.  He was promptly arrested and as he was being taken away he expressed the wish that he could “finish her.”

So… there you have it.  Some things don’t change, as I stated at the get-go.  On the other hand… quite a few things have changed, apparently, whether for better or worse is hard to tell.  All of which makes me wish we could read “the rest of the story!”

That grassy swath by our house…

Monday, October 10th, 2022

Clay Street – sign barely visible this autumn day

All my life and, as far as I know, all my mother’s life, that grassy swath south of our house has been called “the lane.”  Never mind that it’s on current maps as “Clay Street.”  And never mind that my own grandfather Harry Espy and his cronies Dewitt Stoner , Horace Wirt, and young Charles Nelson designated it “Clay Street” on that composite map of Historic Oysterville that they put together for Charles Fitzpatrick in 1946.

Those “Old Oysterville Boys” had been here since the 1870s (except Charlie Nelson who wasn’t born until 1883) and, presumably, some of them well remembered what their own parents had to say about Oysterville’s beginnings in 1854.  I’d give a passel to know just what they they grew up calling the three “Lanes” between the beginning of Territory Road and the Oysterville Road — the lanes they so carefully named “Clay Street,” “Merchant Street,” and “Division Street.”

The names of both Merchant and Division Streets make sense considering that along or near the former were located Patterson’s Boat Shop, The Stevens Hotel, Osborn Goulter’s Butcher Shop, and the John Crellin Store — probably as dense a gathering of “merchants” as anywhere in town.  Division Street marked the southern boundary of I.A. Clark’s original Oysterville Donation Land Claim filed in 1865 and the northern boundary of the Stevens Addition filed by Gilbert Stevens in 1875.  

High Tide on Clay Street, February 12, 2017

And, Clay Street?  As far as I know, there was never anyone named “Clay” living in Oysterville, nor was there ever a mineral deposit of clay or clay-like soil in this area.  But… I would love to know more if the facts turn up.  In my memory, that grassy sward from the road to the bay between our place and Holways’ was simply and forever, before and after, “The Lane.”

So, now we may be at the part where we look at usage.  First, it’s important to note that all three lanes/streets are designated Pacific County right-of-ways.  I have always understood this to be for the benefit of the Willapa Bay oystermen.  Should they need access to the Bay. the roads exist for that purpose.  When I was a child, I do remember Ted Holway or Glen Heckes or Bob Kemmer using one or another of the roads to haul things (a skiff?  a load of oysters?) up to “the road” (which, now of course, is called Territory Road as it was back in Pioneer Times.)

Holways’ Horse, Prince, In The Lane – 1947

These days, the lanes are mainly used  for parking, of cars, that is — by the owners who live adjacent to them and, in the case of Clay Street, by visitors to the village who have few other parking options.  No one objects as long as, if needed, a car or pickup can get through to the bay.

However, I do rather object to a fairly recent usage — holding weddings in the lane (ahem, on Clay Street.)  The latest one, a group from Everett I believe, came a few weeks ago, blocked the width of the lane with long white benches six or seven rows deep, effectively barricading access from all directions.  The pastor, set up a microphone and amps and proceeded with a very long and intrusive (at least into my house) service followed by hymn singing etc.  As far as I know, all of this was done without permission and served as a rather direct slap in the face to the Oysterville Restoration Foundation who rent out the Historic Oysterville Church very reasonably to help defray the maintenance costs of the 1892 structure. I’m not just sure that other villages or towns welcome weddings or other ceremonies on their properties without any “aye,” “yes,” or “no” from SOMEone, and I doubt very much whether the greensward south of our house, be it called “Lane” or “Street,” was intended for that purpose.


And then there was “the day after…”

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022

A Reasonable Facsimile — at least as I remember.

So… there was one important part of our wedding story that I left out of yesterday’s blog.  It happened the following day — on Monday, September 14, 1987…

But first, a little background.  The Croquet Gala on the day we were married was the third (of sixteen) such events and was a fund-raiser for the relatively new Water Music Festival.  I’m not sure now whether Ann Kischner or Pat Thomas was the President of WMF, but it was Ann who asked if they could sponsor a kid’s team.  And so it was that Michelle Kischner, a third grader in my 1st/2nd/23rd grade class as Ocean Park Elementary was at the Gala when Nyel and I were married.

After the ceremony, I was wondering what in the world to do with the nosegay that Gordon had given me as a wedding bouquet when I spied Michelle.  “Would you like this?” I asked.  “Oh! Yes!”  (Did she actually jump up and down?)

1987/1988 !st/2nd/3rd Grade Class, Ocean Park Elementary — Spring 1988

“And can I take it to school tomorrow for sharing?”
“In a brown paper bag as usual?”
“And will you let me tell about your wedding?  You will still pretend to be Mrs, LaRue until I share, okay?”
“And can we have sharing at the usual time — just before lunch?”
“And it will be a secret until then?”

I answered every question in the affirmative and Michelle and I had our plan in place.  The next morning she placed her brown paper bag on the shelf above the coat hooks, the bell rang, the kids took their seats, and our school week began.  I took attendance, as usual.  I took the lunch count, as usual.  And I was about to begin working with them on our Daily Newsletter, as usual,when Michelle popped up from her seat and approached me, motioning for me to bend down so she could  urgently whisper… “Can we have sharing NOW?”

Nyel and Michele, April 2022

And, of course, we did!  Michelle shared first — I was afraid she’d explode if she had to wait another minute!  Her news was an absolute sensation, of course, and I don’t really remember what happened next.  Lots of hugs, I think.  (And I should say here that most of the kids knew Nyel from the previous school year– he usually accompanied us on field trips and, besides, it’s a small community… everyone knows everyone, or so it seems. )

Years later, when Josh and Michelle were married, she and I lamented that the nosegay wasn’t still around.  It would have been fun to give it a place in the wedding of  Mr. and Mrs. (now Dr. and Dr.) Rogers!  A “place,” that is, besides the one in our hearts!

Oh no! Not more treasures!

Sunday, September 11th, 2022

“Self,” I said to myself… “It’s high time to get on with this downsizing project!”  It’s a project Nyel and I began several years ago with an eye to leaving the house in understandable condition when it’s our time to shuffle off. “Understandable” translates to getting rid of all of our personal “stuff” — those keepsakes and photos and endless file folders of written material that will mean nothing to those who will be here next.

We made good progress and between the things that went to museum archives and collections, the things that are designated for family members, the things that we took to thrift stores and Good Will, and the detritus we threw out, we  probably redistributed 80% of the items in the garage and our back forty storage area.  But even so, what remains seems daunting.

I began this morning with a heavy cardboard box labeled Dale’s Photos etc. ’98? “Piece of cake,” I thought to myself.  “Those were the years when mom was at Golden Sands and later at the nursing home.  I probably took most of those pictures myself.  They’ll be easy to cull…”

And the first thing I ran across was an envelope sent from Williams, Arizona on March 22, 1931 — addressed to “Miss Dale Espy” in Redlands California and written in my father’s familiar handwriting  Postage: 2 cents.  It turned out  to be a letter written after my not-yet-dad and a friend had hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back while on Spring Break from the University of Redlands.  Two weeks later, on Easter Sunday (April 5th), Dale Espy and Bill Little would announce their engagement.

Hard on the heels of that treasure, I ran across a postcard in my own tidy 22-year-old’s handwriting sent from Perugia, Italy on March 8, 1958.  The picture on the front was of Michelangelo’s “David” and I reported that we (Charlie’s dad and I)) were still crazy about Italy and that “Quad (which was Charlie’s toddler- nickname) is fine.”

Maybe it’s going to take longer to go through this box than expected…

Joe Krysowaty, where are you?

Saturday, July 23rd, 2022

Joe’s Postcard

Two, maybe three, times a year a card comes addressed to our post office box to Nyel and me — with both names spelled correctly!  It is always a parallel universe postcard — we don’t even have to read the message to know that it’s from our friend Joe Krysowaty.  Maybe they are drawn by Joe, himself.  We’ve never been sure and there seems no way to ask.

At the crux of the problem: we lost track of Joe years ago and there is no return address.  His latest card came just this past week, addressed to both Nyel and me and it begins, as always, Greetings from PortlandHoping you are both healthy & happy…

Cutthroat Croquet Time!

We first met Joe in 1992 when he came to our 9th Annual Croquet and Champagne Gala as guests of my cousin Alice Sibley.  With Joe was his friend Ernie Nazario and their wives (who were sisters) Kate and Sarah Enroth.  The four came to almost every Croquet Gala after that and were on the winning teams in 1992, 1993, 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000.  They called themselves “The Contenders” and the years they didn’t take first place were usually years they decided not to play.

Early on, they asked us if they could hold a “Cutthroat Croquet Game” right after play was ended for the day but before the Awards Ceremony had begun.  It became an annual event in its own right — a no-holds-barred, bribe-the-judges and every-player-out-for-himself sort of game that raised additional money for the  charity of the day.  It was wildly popular.

Back In The Day

2000 was the last year of croquet but not the last year we saw Joe — or at least I don’t think so.  I have a dim memory that he came to see Nyel at Emanuel Hospital the Christmas we learned that Nyel had congestive heart failure.  But, honestly…  I’m no longer sure.

What I am sure of is that we have loved getting Joe’s cards and I would give almost anything to be able to tell him that Nyel and I spoke of him (of them, really) often.  Of course, I want to tell him that Nyel is no longer with us but, even more, I want Joe to know how much pleasure he has given us both over the years with his cards — for, of course, with every card came a whole host of fabulous memories.  Thanks, Joe.  I’ll keep on looking for you!

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