Archive for the ‘From the Past’ Category

We had to trash 1991.

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

Sad to say, 1991 is history, scrapbook-wise.  That hot water heater disaster of 2002 was hardest on this particular volume — perhaps because, atypically for my scrapbooks,  it had lots of news clippings in it.  That printers’ ink and newsprint didn’t survive the soaking – some pages (actually, many) even molded somwhere along the way.  My usual picture-filled scrapbooks seemed to do much better.

In the news that year — a threatened statewide teacher strike during which about half of the OBSD teachers joined in a march on Olympia.  Another biggee was that Gordon’s cousin, Jeanne Gammel, was fired as Manager of the Port of Peninsula by a 10-man Board of Directors and the  next week, Daughter of the Pioneer Charlotte Davis wrote, “Where were the women?” in Jeanne’s defense.  Jeanne’s “crime” seemed to be too much interest in having the Port help local communities!  (Wow!  How I wish Jeanne were still around to see how they’ve come a full 180º since then!)

There was one real treasure, however, tucked in the back of the scrapbook.  A “Happy Birthday from the 1-2-3 Class of 1990-91” to me!  Each page of the little booklet contained a birthday wish and drawing from one of my students.  “My birthday wish to you is…  a dog,” said Parker Hill; “… a million dollars,” said Adam Lindsley; “… a necklace and a bouquet of flowers,” said Lindsay Newell; “… a new pair of purple shoes,” said Marina Koontz; “… it will never rain for you,” said Travis Wentworth; “… a nice vacation,” said Daniel Duffy; “…a trailer,” said Jason Moore; “a plant,” said Carson Kemmer;   “… a new dress,” said Katie Downer;  And on it went.  I loved it then and now, 30 years later, I love it still!

These were the treasures that made teaching the best job EVER!  And, these are the treasures that make downsizing so impossible.

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…

“…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…



From Champagne to Salad Greens!

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

Nyel, Bill (my dad) and Noel Around The Champagne Table – 1988

Recycling, refurbishing, renewing.  Nyel is adamant about all of it.  Including repurposing.  Today’s (read “this week’s” or possibly “this month’s”) project deals with an old galvanized washtub.

Neither of us remember where that washtub came from.  Maybe it has been on the premises since my grandparents’ time.  Certainly, it has seen better days.  There are holes in the bottom and dents on the sides.  It definitely has character.

Getting Ready for the Salad Greens!

For years we used it to hold champagne bottles nestled in ice — a hallmark of our Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Galas (1984- 2002).  For the past two decades, though, it has been sitting atop a metal storage cupboard in the garage and has been the repository for between-seasons Christmas tree stands and other sometimes-necessities of the household.

Today that old, leaky washtub is headed for Nyel’s new kitchen garden where it will be filled with topsoil and compost and planted with little green onion sets and several kinds of lettuces.  Salads-in-a-Tub within steps of the dinner table!  I don’t think as many people will be bellying up to it now as in its glamorous champagne past, though.

On the other hand, it’s likely to get a little too much attention from our girls.  Those chickens do love to peck and poke in the soil and I know they’ll be excited about a “new” container to explore.  I wonder if Nyel has a Chicken Discouragement Plan in mind.

Authors and Food and Recipes, Oh My!

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

We are deep into the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series by Robert Crais.  Set in current-day Los Angeles, the plots deal with all manner of current-day cultural problems, the protagonists are tough yet quirky, and there is a huge dollop of humor in each book.  Plus, there is a sizeable food component throughout.  I almost have it in mind to write to Mr. Crais and ask if he has considered doing an Elvis Cole (or Joe Pike, for the vegetarian readers) cookbook.

Probably a cheeky thought.  But I do feel that I have one of those six-degrees-of-separation relationships with Robert Crais.  In 2009, Nyel and I surprised Charlie with a visit to the final production of “Fuggetaboudit” — a play by his writing partner, the late Gordon Bressack,in which Charlie had a leading role.

As it turned out, Charlie had been invited to a graduation party that night for the daughter of his building contractor, Gene.  He gave Gene a call, asked if could bring along two old folks from Oysterville, and we spent a fabulous evening at a huge outdoor barbecue with a hundred or so of Gene’s family and friends.  We felt like we’d known everyone for years and during a long discussion with Gene, himself, (when it came out that I was a writer) he told us that he had done a lot of work for a local writer of detective novels — “a guy named Robert Crais.”

So, you see?  Armed with that much background material, maybe I could write Mr. Crais and suggest that he do a cookbook along the lines of “The Nero Wolfe Cookbook” by Rex Stout.  And perhaps I could urge him to do it soon — before everyone else is trying to reconstruct the dishes referred to throughout his stories.  That’s what happened to the non-existent Spenser Cookbook that Robert Parker spoke of but never managed to write.  Just sayin’.

So… how to begin?  “Dear Mr. Crais, We almost know each other…”

Of Stewart Brand and Coleman White

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Stewart Brand, Stewart Brand 10/09/1973 – by Peter Breinig/San Francisco Chronicle

I had them conflated in my dream — Coleman White’s signature on a notecard and memories of a young Stewart Brand as I knew him in the 1960s.  I woke up confused, asking Nyel where our copies of the Whole Earth Catalog are.  “Over there on the shelf,” he said.  Funny how you cease to see what is in front of you all the time.

Back in the early 60s, some years before he got the idea for The Whole Earth Catalog, Stewart was part of a photography seminar that met at our house in Castro Valley.  The seminars were connected with a long-distance learning class by Rochester Institute’s Minor White at California School for the Arts in San Francisco.  My husband, Bill LaRue, Minor’s summertime assistant, was the West Coast facilitator for that class.  The group met once or twice a month in the evenings in our living room.  I was “the little woman” who kept them in coffee and cookies and secluded from interruptions.  Somehow I became friends with only two of the group — Helen Nestor of Berkeley and Stewart of San Francisco.  I remember both of them as being kind and inclusive, even though I tried to be invisible (as instructed).

The last time I saw Stewart  was on a trip to the Bay Area about the time that Ossie and his sons-in-law, the Mack Brothers, began building my house on the bay.  Stewart and I met at a coffee shop in Sausalito near his houseboat.  We talked about living gently on the land and I remember telling him that I had considered solar and wind power — even purchased a wind turbine — but felt it would be too difficult for me to manage as a single woman.  Surprisingly, he agreed with me, and made me feel better about staying on the grid.  Bless him.

Coleman White (1944-2019)

Coleman and Sally White moved to the Peninsula in the mid-80s — Coleman having left his bright-lights-of-Broadway career at the perfect time to become Director of the Peninsula Players.  Lawrence Lessard had just moved to Hawaii and the Players were in need.  I can’t remember how many shows Coleman directed — only that both Nyel and I were in several of them and found him to be kind and insightful.  They weren’t here long — opened their B&B, the Boreas Inn, enrolled their young son Caton at Ocean Park’s multi-grade school, and then moved to Port Townsend all in the blink of an eye.  Or so those eight years seem in retrospect.

I don’t know why I confused those two men in my dream.  They were both tall and slim, both imaginative and thoughtful, both good listeners.   Come to think of it… a lot like Nyel.  Go figure.



drawers, trap doors & other unmentionables

Monday, February 1st, 2021

Women’s Underdrawers – l. knitted silk 1810-1820; r. lawn,1820

A reference in yesterday’s Daybook entry prompted this comment from Cate:  “Ok, What exactly are “papa’s under drawers”?  I have to admit this sounds a little unsavory.”

Really?  I thought everybody knew what “underdrawers” were.  But maybe you had to grow up around older people of a few generations back.  Especially older people with a country background.  I think today we would simply call underdrawers “long underwear” — a one-piece, long-sleeved garment that buttoned down the front and had a “trap door” behind.  I seem to remember that my grandfather’s had a fly in front, but maybe they just buttoned clear to the crotch.  It wasn’t something a little girl would take note of and I only saw them on the clothesline on washday.

From the 1902 Sears Roebuck catalog

From the 1902 Sears Roebuck Catalog

I think  underdrawers were also known as “union suits.”  By whatever name, they were apparently first created in the 19th century for women in an effort to replace more constricting undergarments such as corsets.  They were comfortable and soon became popular among men, as well.  I associate them with winter and cold weather.  I know that my grandmother wore silk bloomers when she was a girl — I still have the pair that was part of her 1897 wedding trousseau.  I imagine that her underwear evolved from from that time until her death in 1954.  I’m not so sure about Papa’s.

All of this made me wonder why I was familiar with the term “underdrawers” and Cate was not.  And it made me wonder what my dear Granny (or even Papa) would have thought about bikini briefs and thongs.  The mind boggles…

Change comes slowly, yet all too fast…

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

Ten houses border the east side of Territory Road between the old ‘S’ curve and Oysterville Road.  Except for one or two of the newest ones, they all face Willapa Bay and beyond their front porches and gardens is a great swath of marshy meadowland.  There, the grasses grow as tall as I am in the summer, sheltering nesting birds and providing food and cover for other tiny creatures seldom seen.  In winter, the puddles and ponds left by the rains and high tides attract ducks and geese.  Our chickens cluck at them and they quack and honk in return.  And all year ’round the bear and deer and coyotes call the meadows their own.

Bear in the Meadow

Until recently, the meadows hadn’t changed much in a hundred years.  Before that, though, when Oysterville was new and when the shoreline was a bit farther out, there were three more streets parallel to Territory Road (which was then called Fourth Street.)  In front of our house at various times were a ball park, the Whealdon Slaughter House, the Loomis and Patterson Boat Shop and the residence of the Federspiel family.  In front of the homes north of us were  a saloon,  the Methodist Church, the Pacific Journal building, another boat shop — and probably more.  My grandfather, Charlie Nelson, Dewitt Stoner and Horace Wirt all remembered and told Charles Fitzpatrick so he could draw a composite map.

Some of the buildings may still have been there in my mother’s childhood, but by the time I came along they were all gone.  The only difference between my memories of the meadows and what I see out my windows  today are the fences.   There aren’t any there now.  When I was little, most of the meadows of Oysterville were edged with barbed wire.  That’s because almost everyone had a horse or two — mostly for their kids.

Main Street/Boulevard

My  grandfather still had one remaining workhorse from his farming days — Countess, who was often pastured in front of our house or in the meadow south of Holways’ place.  Now… no kids, no farms, no horses, no fences.  Even the last of the old fence posts are gone.

I notice, too that even the meadows, themselves,  are disappearing.   Three or four houses north of us, Main Street has been mowed to boulevard proportions for several blocks; as it has widened, the meadow has narrowed.  And, from the southeast corner of Territory and Oysterville Roads and all the way to the shore line, a fence has gone up along the verge as the owners of the old Stoner place slowly incorporate the meadow into garden areas.

I know that change happens and we must make way for progress.  But it saddens me that the character of the village as I have known if for so long is changing.  Too, I’m always curious about why people are attracted to our little hamlet and then set out to make it different from the way they found it.  It must have something to do with wanting to leave our mark.  I console myself that in another hundred years it will all be different once again.

When your computer shows signs of dementia…

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

February 3, 2019 – From Cyndy Hayward

Yesterday, my much younger (and very much sharper) neighbor wrote to me  after reading my blog in which I had stated that we’d last had snow in Oysterville in 2017 or maybe 2014: I am attaching a picture taken February 3, 2019, from Merchant St. looking toward your property.  There was glorious, deep snow on the 3th and the 4th of that year.  I’m a little surprised that you don’t remember, since it was in your birthday month.

The fact that I didn’t remember — birthday month notwithstanding! — didn’t seem a bit surprising, actually.  My forgetter is much better these days than ever before.  But what did bother me (a lot!) was that I had done a search on my blogs — all 3,919 of them! — for the word “snow” and the most recent ones to show up were in the two aforementioned years.  No blogs that mentioned snow later than 2017.   But here was a gorgeous photograph from Cyndy to say otherwise.

February 4, 2019 – Photo by Sydney Stevens

After receiving her enail, I repeated my search with the same result — nada!  But snow is unusual in Oysterville; surely I would have written about it.  So I then looked for the precise dates she had mentioned and… up popped a blog titled “Of White Snow and Sooty Sweeps” complete with my own snow pictures taken in 2019!  I was amazed and annoyed at the same time.  There was the word “snow” as big as life right in the blog’s title and my computer’s search function had totally ignored it.  It’s one thing for me to forget, but an entirely different matter for my trusty computer to do so.  I DEPEND upon its memory and its cleverness as my own abilities along those lines diminish.

I flashed back to the late eighties (I think) when Sue Anderson, Janet Morrison, and I travelled back and forth to Longview every week to take a computer class.  We were trying to learn something about MS-DOS (I think); it was long before Windows and Word were available (maybe).  About the only thing I remember from those lessons is “garbage in, garbage out.”  Not helpful right now.  Whether of not I want to classify my February 4, 2019 blog as “garbage,” it went in but wouldn’t show itself on demand.  A lot like my own, personal memory of when we last had snow in Oysterville.

Disconcerting, to say the least.  Maybe what they say about the human brain also applies to computers — after so many years, there is just too much information to sort through and so some of it is “forgotten.”  Damn!  So much for the robotic hope for the future.  Fuggedaboudit!

Our County’s Political History – just sayin’…

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

In today’s Observer,  there was a statement about our County’s political history that caught my eye. “The County used to be the bluest shade of Democrat blue.” That must have been written by a newcomer to the County, thought I.  But, I have to concede that even the term “newcomer” is open to historical interpretation.  So, I thought I’d just correct the record a bit.

From the time Washington achieved statehood in 1889, Pacific County was on record as strongly Republican.  That wouldn’t change for another thirty or forty years. But on November 11, 1932, the Pacific Tribune ran this article:


Pacific County Votes Democratic For First Time
The Democratic donkey turned out to be a wild and wicked jackass in this election. Even Pacific County went Democratic for the first time in a million years and the State of Washington turned Democratic even to the extent of
defeating the old timers at Olympia…Not  a Republican will be left in Olympia but N.D. Showalter, superintendent of schools, and the Democrats did not have anyone against him.
Roosevelt carried the state by 100,000 majority… The state elective officers bowed down to the Democrats by majorities ranging from 20,000 to 50,000, being carried away in the general demand for a change. It is reported that Fred Norman is the only Republican senator elected to the legislature and the Democrats will be in full control at Olympia as well as Washington, D.C .
It was not an election, it was a revolution!


When the Sou’wester reprinted this article in 1981, Editor Larry Weathers added:  The election of 1932 was a milestone in county politics, but to be truthful, it was to be another ten years before local residents completely switched their loyalties to the Democratic Party.

I should probably add that both the Democratic and Republican parties have changed a great deal over the ensuing years which may account for some of the switched allegiances.  Or so I understand. In the early 1900s and beyond, my grandfather was a staunch Republican.  By the time I came along in 1936, his children were leaning toward the “other side” and now, there are no elephants left among his descendants as far as I know — just “wild and wicked jackasses” to quote that long-ago Ilwaco Tribune article.  Ahem.