Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category

Outta (or into?) the mouths of…

Saturday, October 2nd, 2021

Sam Wachsmuth — From his Mom’s FB Page


“If I only have one hour to live, I would be in class because it feels like eternity!”  So reports Tucker and Carol’s daughter-in-law Mary Wachsmuth with regard to her nine-year-old son, Sam.   She posted his comment and his picture on FaceBook yesterday.  I LOVED it!

Sam has the unusual (I think) distinction of having been delivered by his own father, Clark.  Furthermore, he sports the middle name, Hawkeye — not in the Natty Bumpo sense of James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel, The Last of the Mohicans.  No.  Sammy’s name is Hawkeye as in the Alan Alda MASH character who, as it happens, was given the nickname by his father who did, in fact. take it from The Last of the Mohicans, the only book he had ever read.  I LOVE that, too!

 I don’t know how Sammy feels about it.  It’s probably too soon to ask him.  It takes time to become even a little bit objective about such things.  Sam would probably be more inclined to go along with any positive remarks I might make about his food choices when left to his own devices.  For many of us, he became a kind of food-hero (don’t tell him!) at the Oysterville Regatta Dinner  three years ago.

Sam During the Virtual Schooldays of 2020

As had become the custom, the dinner (read: banquet) took place in Sam’s Aunt Lina’s front yard and was presented buffet-style for the enjoyment of all the Regatta participants, their families, and the residents of greater downtown Oysterville.  Among the food choices that evening were corn chowder, black bean and sweet potato soup, dueling beef briskets (one by Sam’s Uncle Charley, and one by Lina’s husband,  Uncle Dave) or maybe those were the year before, four(!) different kinds of vegan enchiladas, beef enchiladas, homemade refried beans, tossed salad, chocolate cake, almond cake, and cheesecake.  Whew!

Sam looked over all the choices and waited patiently as each guest filled a plate (maybe more than once).  Then, quick-as-a-wink,   Sam chose one of those big, oval paper bowls, poured in a generous mound of peanut M&Ms, buried them in a mountain of whipped cream topping, and proceeded to a quiet corner enjoy his “dinner.”  Lest there be no questions about a healthy boy’s appetite (and priorities), for dessert Sam helped himself to a giant slice of chocolate cake and smothered it, too, with whipped cream!   What a guy!


October 18, 1980…

Friday, August 27th, 2021

Artist Unknown — Mrs. Stevens’ 1st/2nd/3rd Grade Class c. 1992

Dear Mrs. LaRue,
Do you know the Halloween parade?  In this parade can I holed youer hand because Im scared of clowns?
From Ruth

Looking back is oh! so bittersweet.  Not because of what was said, but because of what I can’t remember.  Did I hold her hand?  Did I even go to the parade?  And who was Ruth?  Did she move away?  I honestly don’t remember ever having taught a student named Ruth.  I am so sorry…  I wonder if she is out there somewhere and if she remembers the parade or the clowns… or me.


Walking That Old Memory Lane… Again.

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

1976 Letter from Jose Flores

The packet was full to bursting and was labeled “Student Work/Notes.”  The first one out of the envelope was a letter to me dated 10-1-76.  It was signed “your friend José Flores” and had been mailed from Mexico City:
Dear Mrs. LaRue,
I’m José and me and my family wish for you that be fine and too a happy new year.  I’m sorry because you didn’t been the day that we went to Hayward and I wish that you have readed the message that me and my sisters did put in the board.  I like to give you the thanks for your attentions for me in the school, for last I like that you come to Mexico and to my house to meet my family… your friend José Flores, good by.

José included his address, even the apartment number, so I could visit.  Even after all these years the tears did come.  I wish I could remember him more clearly — a second grader, in my class for only a month or two as I recall.  How I hope I wrote him!

1991 Letter from First Grader Tom Holgate

Another letter — this one from 1991 — begins Circle one:  Messy or Good Job
Dear Teacher, I am happy after Christmas the first graders get to be editors.  I practice at home.  Me and Carson made a bet that I would or wouldn’t make a mistake on my first try.  We bet $1.00.  Your friend, Tom Holgate, Grade 1.

Red-headed Tom Holgate — as bright as a new penny!  I think he was in my multigrade class for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.  Carson (Kemmer), too.  I wonder who won the bet.  It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Tom had won.  I wonder if either one of them remembers now…

There were also a number of pictures from of  Nyel and me.  Several of them had us smiling broadly giving one another a fist-bump.  Go figure.

And, in case you’re wondering.  I haven’t made a dent in that packet.  Nor have I managed to do any “downsizing” of the contents…  I’m too busy being tangled up in a web of emotions.  How glad I am that I kept these treasures!

1992 Picture of Mr. & Mrs. S. by Katie Downer


Listening/Interpreting… Who’s in sync?

Saturday, April 4th, 2020

“Think, think, think.”

I’m finding that there are people putting the accent on the “wrong syl-lah-ble” (at least from my viewpoint) with regard to the health directives given to us by Governor Inslee.  I guess it’s a personality thing — like seeing the glass half empty or half full.

In the first place, maybe my interpretation of “directive” is stronger than some others who are treating his words more like “suggestions.”  I can see why.  I think he has been much  too “soft” especially with regard to the circumstances appropriate for going outside.  To be fair, the Governor has tried to be firmer since seeing that people are still crowding the streets of our cities and paying little heed to his stay-at-home order.  But… still not firm enough to my way of thinking.

Now, the order has been extended until May 4 with the caveat that it may be even longer.  And still Inslee is careful to say that can Washingtonians can continue to go for walks, runs, and bike rides outside if they maintain a six-foot distance from others.  In my mind, he continues to give the inch that prompts people to take the mile.

How many legs?

For me, Long Beach School’s current “We’re going on a bear hunt” is the perfect (and downright appalling) example of pushing the envelope.  The instructions from the staff to our community’s adults are:  “Place a bear in your window, on your porch or fence or anywhere children can safely see it from a distance.”

And to kids:  “Walk or drive your neighborhoods and count and classify your sightings.  How many bears can you find?  What color are they?  How big, how small?  Are they stuffed or drawn?  Did you spot other stuffed animals in windows, too?”

Bringing Fresh Air Indoors

I appreciate the intent — an educational counting/classification activity that also gets kids out in the fresh air.  It’s the “out” part I object to.  In my mind, now is not the time and the activity is fraught with pitfalls.  Why not have a similar activity inside the house?  Instead of bears, make it legs — table legs, chair legs, legs on toys…  Fresh air is a good thing, but not quite this way and probably not right now.  Not when the risks are so high and people are so likely to relax their attention.

And why don’t the instructions at least include “wear a mask” and “keep a six foot distance from those you meet.”   I’m only glad I’m no longer teaching and don’t have to “own” that activity.   I can only hope that the activity is rescinded before it leads to an outcome none of us want.

Which state are we in, anyway?

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

Marta at 14, 1968

Marta must have been about ten and Charlie eight when we all went on a camping trip to New Mexico.  Our ultimate goal was to visit our friend Corina Santistevan in Taos but we also spent time on the way to and from in Prescott, Arizona where our friends Fred and Frances Sommer lived.

My memories about the details are a bit dim now.  I’m pretty sure that we visited a few of the National Parks and maybe took time to go to the Grand Canyon.  I do remember that Corina took us to visit friends in the Taos Pueblo and we were treated to warm bread just removed from the outdoor oven or “horno” as it is properly called.

A Horno in Taos

The other thing I especially remember about that trip is Marta’s curiosity about the various state lines we crossed.  “But how do we really know that we’re in Arizona now?  It looks just the same as California.”  No amount of pointing out signs like “Entering Arizona” or “Entering New Mexico” really helped her understand such an arbitrary concept.

She and I talked about that not too long ago.  “Yep!” she laughed.  “I still wonder about those abstract concepts.”  Charlie, on the other hand, accepted without comment any explanations we gave about natural boundaries and decisions by congress and measurements by surveyors.  I’m not sure he really cared one way or another.  But Marta wanted some sort of physical evidence.

Charlie at 12 or 13 (c. 1968/1969)

I thought about all that yesterday when we learned that we were now in “a state of emergency.”  I wondered what ten-year-old Marta, the literal thinker, would have made of that.  Would she have asked (quite sensibly, I believe) “How can you tell?”  Would she have wondered if we’d be adding another star to all the flags?  And would there be a governor in charge?  Would someone be voting on the rules for this new state called Emergency?

It was hard enough to explain about Arizona’s state line.  I don’t know if I could have answered her questions about this new state of Emergency.   Actually… not then and not now.

Remembering Their Words

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
Sydney with 2nd Grader, Southgate School, Hayward, CA - 1962

Sydney with 2nd Grader, Southgate School, Hayward, CA – 1962

It happens more than I’d like these days.  I woke up feeling tired – not refreshed.  And we have a lot on our plate today.  I thought of Allegra Tasaki, the little mite of a six-year-old who once said after a long field trip day, “When I feel tired, I just reach into my energy pouch.  For a refill.”  That was fifty-some years ago and I’ve tried to live by that piece of wisdom ever since.

It might have been during the same period of time that another feisty first-grader joined our class along about Christmastime.  He also was tiny, but unlike Allegra and the rest of his classmates, he came equipped with a giant-sized chip on his shoulder.  The very first day he was with us there was a fire drill.  The kids streamed into line and headed toward the door as we had practiced – all except Alonzo who stood but stubbornly refused to join us.

As the others paused and waited, I walked over to him and took his hand to urge him along.  Maybe not quite ‘took,’ though.  Instantly he pulled away and shouted at the top of his voice “Get your hands off me you white honky bitch!”  There was a stunned silence in the already quiet classroom and then one of the bigger boys broke rank, took the hand that Alonzo had pulled away from me and dragged him into line.

Charlie at Three, Claremont Day School, 1959

Charlie at Three, Claremont Daycare – 1959

Alonzo and his family moved during Christmas vacation so there isn’t “a rest” of this story.  Only that I have never forgotten his fiery anger and hostility and have never ceased wondering what happened to that little boy – what kind of man he grew to be.  Could we have made a difference in his attitude or his life had he been with us a little longer? And what lessons could he have taught us?

One other bit of kid wisdom comes to mind this morning.  When my son was three or four and attending Claremont Daycare in Berkeley, the teacher asked the kids, “Who knows what you call it when two people sing the same song at the same time?”  Charlie raised his hand and eagerly answered, “A coincidence.”  More words to live by.

I’m not sure how any of these kid-isms might be related.  But they must be, somehow.  Everything is.

It probably wasn’t an accident…

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

a-is-for-apple0002For the forty (well, 39 minus four months) years I taught school, I found it to be my saving grace during times of trouble – any kind of trouble.  Personal or otherwise.  You can’t be immersed in the education of twenty or thirty first/second/third graders and be stewing about your own problems.

So it may not have just been happenstance yesterday that I began cleaning out yet another box in our back forty in the eternal effort to ‘downsize.’  This one was labeled “School Stuff” and, as it turned out, it was full of kid-made books from the early 1990s.  Of course, I read them all cover-to-cover and, so far anyway, have resisted the urge to put them back in the box and return it to the shelf.  “So far” are the operable words.

class-booklet-on-eggs0012From a book called “Vegetables.”
My favorite vegetable is corn.  I cannot eat corn on the cob because I don’t have any front teeth.  I love it with butter and salt.  By Elias Wolfgang Patten, Third Grade.
I do not like peas.  I do not like potato skins.  I do not like tomatoes.  I don’t think I’m a vegetable fan – except for beans!  Kyle Homes, Third Grade.

From “Dinosaur Stories by The 1-2-3 Class.”
I have a pet dinosaur and he is nice.  I found him in a chicken egg.  His name is Nick.  It is a Compsognathus.  He lives in a motel.  We have walkie-talkies to talk to each other.  He eats trees.  By Carson Kemmer.
I had a pet dinosaur and he spilled his cereal.  Oh! Oh!  Mom’s coming.  Hide!  The dinosaur got in trouble.  He will be careful next time.  By Parker Hill.

class-book-of-fairy-talesFrom “A is for Australia” by The 1-2-3 Class, 1993.
F is for the Flying Doctor Service.  It goes to the outback in emergencies because there are no ambulances there.  By Robby Olson.
O is for Outback.  The outback is the middle of Australia.  It is huge.  Hardly anyone lives there.  By Charlotte Rutherford.
U is for unusual.  Australia has many unusual animals.  By Brittany Staten, 1st grade.

It probably wasn’t an accident that I spent most of the afternoon reading and remembering.  I especially thought about our daily class meetings when we sat criss-cross-apple-sauce on the carpet and talked things over. We talked about the things that mattered to us and how to fix hurt feelings and best ways to console as well as to celebrate.  We learned to care about each other and to work around our differences.

If I could, I’d call for our country to come together for a class meeting…

The Great Oysterville Scavenger Hunt

Saturday, August 27th, 2016
On to the Next Clue!

On to the Next Clue!

Take eleven eager children ages two through nine, one experienced Pied Piper, forty-seven well-placed clues and an Oysterville Setting from the ‘Y’ to the cannery, plus a number of doting parents and a bright sunny day and you have the makings of the best Oysterville Scavenger Hunt ever!  (Although, some of those parents who participated in similar hunts a generation ago, led by the same Pied Piper, might argue about which of the many they remember as ‘greatest.’)

Tucker Wachsmuth, of course, is Oysterville’s quintessential Pied Piper (perhaps with a bit of Peter Pan thrown in).  He spent much of yesterday preparing the clues – a combination of photographs and verbal directions.  The photos were of familiar places in Oysterville, taken more-or-less from a kid’s-eye-view, but made a bit difficult to recognize by being in black-and-white rather than in color.  On each, a small red dot marked the spot where the next clue could be found.

Clue:  Church Doorknob

Clue: Church Doorknob

The kids worked together and there was a lot of sharing going on.  “Here, Willa, it’s your turn” I heard Kahrs say as he handed her the clue he’d found.  Three-year-old Sammy Wachsmuth kept up (sort of) by pedaling his two-wheeler-with-training-wheels just as fast as he could go. Two-year-old Bo Bemis ran out of steam right in the middle of the road and lay down for a quick nap, only to be scooped up by his watchful dad who said something like, “Okay, buddy, I think you’re done,” and headed back to the Red House with him.

We felt it a privilege that the only clue placed on private property was in our yard – probably because all but the two visiting kids have been here many times.  Besides the visitors, the kids included seven Red House Cousins and two Wachsmuth grandchildren – all sixth generation Oystervillians!  ‘Our’ clue, a piece of folded white paper, was tucked partially under the base of our old pitcher pump, clearly visible from our front porch.  I think it’s still there!

Overlooked Clue

Overlooked Clue

“Yes, I don’t know what happened there,’ said Tucker.  “They missed several clues but got to the final prize anyway.”  Hidden under a couple of sawbucks in Tucker’s backyard (the clue was to ‘Find X X’) was a small wooden box with the lid screwed on.

The Winners!

The Winners!

As Tucker told us last night at our usual Friday Night Gathering, “I said, ‘I have the key’ and held up a Phillips head Screwdriver.  By then there were only six kids left in the game and each took a turn until they had the lid off.”

Inside were twenty-two dollars in a combination of Susan B. Anthony dollars, Kennedy half-dollars, and one-dollar bills.  “I thought about having something like ice cream bars for the prize but decided they were too difficult to hide,” laughed Tucker.  “So I thought two dollars apiece might be okay.”  As it turned out, maybe it was winners-take-all.  Tucker wasn’t sure how the money got divvied up.

But it was the fun that wasn’t divided up at all.  There seemed to be plenty for everyone to have their share and then some.  Especially for our wonderful Pied Piper of Oysterville!

Gearing Up For February

Sunday, January 31st, 2016
As of tomorrow...

As of tomorrow…

I don’t put much stock in those cutesy phrases and “words to live by.” I avoid wearing tee shirts with catch phrases or rallying cries and I shudder at some of the sentiments and mottoes my friends post on Facebook. But I have to say that my “Keep Calm and Carry On” calendar for 2016 contains monthly aphorisms that are pretty much perfect.

Granted… tomorrow marks the beginning of only the second month of twelve. Even so, I took a peek and the words seem perfect! “The Best Way Out Is Always Through.” Since my birthday is at the (almost-but-not-quite) end of the month, and considering that 80 is a biggee, and knowing furthermore that I will be sharing the day with Nick Codega who would have been 29… I feel that February’s words to live by are pretty much spot on.

This year, sharing my birth date with my young former neighbor, Nick, has a whole new meaning. His memorial service will be at 1:00 at the Oysterville Church, right across the street from our house. I imagine the little old building will be full-to-overflowing and Nyel and I plan to be there early to assure ourselves of seats. Being there, as Father Tom Williams has always said, “is the least we can do, is the most we can do, is all we can do.”

Oysterville Kids - The Freshley Girls and Nick

Oysterville Kids – The Freshley Girls and Nick

It will be hard to shift gears in order to celebrate my own birthday later in the day. I am hopeful that in the time it takes to leave the church, cross the street, and enter the house I will be able to make the transition. “The Best Way Out Is Always Through” seem to be the very words that will help. I hope so.

A Show of Hands, Please!

Saturday, October 17th, 2015
Adelaide's at the Taylor Hotel by Jean Stamper

Adelaide’s at the Taylor Hotel by Jean Stamper

Our Friday night gathering was huge last night – one of those times when there were five or six conversations going all at once. The hostess in me was pleased; the participant in me was frustrated. So many interesting conversations; such a limited capacity for hearing them all!

However, before things got crowded, Cyndy Hayward asked the early-arrivers to do a little bit of brainstorming about Adelaide’s – in particular, the bookstore part. She, as the founder-and-still-owner of that portion of the shop, is eager to keep the bookstore intact. She was wondering if it couldn’t become a co-operative endeavor with people volunteering one day a week, for instance, and someone else taking over the management…

Lotties New Beach Towel by Petra Mathers

Lottie’s New Beach Towel by Petra Mathers

There was a lot of enthusiasm generated and lots of fanciful ideas. I like mine the best, of course, and here it is: Volunteers would each take charge of one genre – mysteries, romance, history, poetry, etc. I want the children’s section. I’d order the books, stock the shelves, do the PR and be there one day a week – probably Saturdays so I could have Saturday Morning Story Hour for children (and adults, too!)

I’d start with the “Lottie Books.” They are a series of books for young children set in this very area. Everyone, young and old, who lives here should be familiar with them! They are award-winning books and were written and illustrated by Petra Mathers who lives across the river. I think there are six in the series beginning with Lottie’s New Beach Towel in which we learn that Lottie and her friend Herbie live right here in Oysterville!

The Nickle Plated Beauty by Patricia Beatty

The Nickle-Plated Beauty by Patricia Beatty

And, I would definitely read, on a continuing basis, The Nickle-Plated Beauty by Patricia Beatty – the best introduction to local history for kids that I know of. I read it to every class I taught here – that makes 23 times! – and I never tire of the antics of the fictional Kimball family who lived in Ocean Park in the 1880s. I even recommend it to adults new to the area. I think it comes under that fanciful heading of ‘Books I Wish I’d Written’ – a sentiment I wrote to Mrs. Beatty many years ago.

Well… it’s all “pie in the sky” as my mom used to say – easy to dream about, difficult to put in place. We wish Cyndy well in her efforts to save both the Books and the Coffee aspects of Adelaide’s as Joel and Katie Uram move out next week and on to other things. I hope Cyndy can find just the right formula. She’s open to ideas so, if you have a bright one, contact her at