Archive for the ‘Oysterville School’ Category

What lessons should we adults be learning?

Monday, August 10th, 2020

Julia Jefferson Espy on her wedding day, 1870

My great-grandmother, Julia Jefferson Espy, graduated from the University of Salem (now Willamette University) in 1869.  Immediately, she was hired — because she was the prettiest graduate goes the family story — by Oysterville School Board members Lewis Loomis and Robert Espy to teach at Oysterville’s one-room schoolhouse.  She was 18 years old.

Her classes numbered up to 50 and often included “married ladies and hulking young oystermen” who had never had an opportunity to learn the three R’s. I’ve always wondered if she accepted 44-year-old Major Espy’s proposal of marriage at the end of that first school year out of true love or as a graceful way to retire from the classroom.  After all, married women may have been among the student population, but they were not allowed to teach!

Between 1872 and 1887, Julia and Robert had seven children.  Julia chose to teach all of them at home for their primary years — until they could read and write and do basic math.  Once she was satisfied that they were off to a good start, they were sent to the new two-story school (1875-1905) which was situated on the same grounds as the present-day school building (1907-1957), now the home of the  Oysterville Community Club.

Oysterville Schoolhouse circa 1880

I’ve often wondered why Julia chose to home-school her youngsters.  Surely, in those days with no labor-saving devices and without household help (until the girls were older), she had little time to add teaching duties to her busy days.  However, if her belief in a “good start” was the key to successful advancement, she may well have been correct.  All of her children attended college (except for the youngest, Verona, who had a disorder akin to multiple scelorosis). The two other girls became teachers before they married.  Of the four boys, one was an attorney, one a mining engineer, one a water engineer, and one a banker.

I wonder what advice Julia would have for parents today — parent facing the prospect of children being “home-schooled” under very different circumstances than she had faced.  In her world, both parents worked but, for women, that work was usually done at home.  Most adults — women and men — took on teaching their children in one way or another as a matter of course.  Whether it was teaching farm chores or store-keeping or smithing or doctoring, the younger generation often got the basics from the adults of the community — sometimes before their formal education, sometimes after.

R.H. Espy Family, 1895

Education was definitely a community event.  Will we be embracing some of those methods again?  Can we?  Or are we too specialized now?  Too automated, computerized, technologic for parents to oversee the education of their own youngsters?  Especially all of a sudden, without preparation…

And yet… there are many families in our communities who have managed to home school successfully. What “secrets” do they have to share with the rest of the parent/school community?  What advice would our grands and our greats and our great-greats have for us?  Perhaps it’s time we try to find out.

Do teens keep diaries in this day and age?

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Harry Albert Espy c. 1890

I’ve been re-reading my grandfather’s 1890 diary in an effort to corroborate a few facts for a book I’m working on.  What I really need is the 1892 volume which I think I turned over to the Washington State Historical Society some thirty years ago with the rest of the family papers.  How this 1890 volume was overlooked, I don’t know.  It’s not the only such item, of course — it’s a big house with lots of hidey-holes and, though I need to gather up some recently discovered bits and pieces and take them to Tacoma, for now I’m enjoying the opportunity to meet my then thirteen-year-old grandfather.

His entries were brief and, unfortunately, were in pencil which is fast fading.  Fortunately for posterity, though, Willard made a copy of Papa’s 1893 diary — laboriously typed on his old manual typewriter.  I should do the same for this earlier volume, before it becomes completely illegible.  Not that the entries were earth-shaking in any way.  But they gave a clear picture of life in Oysterville 130 years ago.  By way of example, here are a few entries by Harry Albert Espy, age 13:

March 1 – I paid J.P. Musgrave $1.00 for which I got a receipt.  I now have a bank account with Mamma: Credits $26.00 Debit $1.00.

March 2 – I went to prayer meeting this evening.  The subject for this time is:  Will God accept my excuses.

Oysterville School 1875-1907

March 3 – I borrowed $00.05 from Ferdinand [Ferdinand Nelson, a schoolmate] this morning to buy peanuts.
At noon just as I was coming out of the School House, Henry Olsen let me have $1.75 to send and get a years subscription of the
Youths Companion for him.

March 4 -Papa borrowed $.05 from me today. [ marked Paid.]
I paid Mamma $.50 this evening on my debt of $1.00..  I now owe $.50.  Ed [his older brother] and I made $1.35 today.  I got $.65 of it.
I did not lock the chickens up last night and one is gone.

March 5 – There were three horses kept in our barn last night.  One belonged to Jacobson and two to Tinker.
Ed took five men to the terminus
[in Nahcotta] this evening.  He received $3.00.  I got $1.00 as I did his work for him.

March 6 – The hen that was missing Tuesday came to feed this morning.
The three horses that were kept in our barn Tuesday night were kept there last night also.

H.A. Espy’s 1890 Diary

And so go the entries  through the spring and early summer.  He speaks of “killing a beef” and “killing 2 ewes” and of going to Astoria where he purchased “a suit, a pair of shoes, a hat, cravat, two overshirts, pair of suspenders and a pair of drawers for $15.”    (I can’t help but wonder if those are the clothes he is wearing in his 1890 photograph.I

All very interesting — more than I remember my own pathetic diary entries being.  I wonder if teens keep diaries these days.  And, if they do, how different their entries must be!

There’s Still Space Available at OSA!

Saturday, July 20th, 2019

Sydney c. 1944

When I was a kid in Oysterville seven or eight decades ago, summers were all about freedom and being outside and playing and exploring.  My memories are filled with picking blackberries in the meadow,  of finding the baby crabs that lived under the ballast rocks at the bay, of talking with Jimmy Anderson when he walked into town for his “fresh” can of milk each day.  The days were long, though the summers, too short.

Too, for part of each summer I attended Camp Willapa which was run by family friend Dorothy Elliott.  Although there were “rules” and “schedules” it’s the fabulous adventures I remember — the three-or-four-day canoe trips over to Long Island or up the Naselle.  Or camping at Beard’s Hollow or fishing off the end of the old wooden Nahcotta Dock.  There were animals to care for — bunnies and ducks and horses and goats — and new kids to meet who would become life-long friends.

The Oysterville School – Home of Oysterville Science Academy

I thought about all that when I received a note yesterday from a former Oysterville Science Academy student.  This is what it said:  OSA was one of my favorite camps! I loved participating in this weeklong camp for many reasons. One of them was meeting so many interesting people! We got to meet a blind wood worker, and many other awesome crafts people and scientists! Another great thing that happened was being able to go outside as much as we did! We got to go on little field trips, play in a tree fort, run around, and hang! We had great fun with an abacus and geography stars! My aunt got to talk to us about her Mars mission, which was really special. OSA was a great experience and I think others will enjoy it as much as me and my friends did!

This will be the fifth year of the three-week-long Oysterville Science Academy.  Each year I have taken great pleasure in seeing and hearing children’s voices over in the school yard.  (The Oysterville School has been closed for lack of students since 1957!!)  I have marveled at descriptions of their “process-driven” curriculum — presenting the building blocks of science (observation, classification,inference, measurement, etc.) while meeting experts and investigation the world (Oysterville!) around them.

OSA Students in Lab Coats, 2016

But I never quite equated it with summer camp.  And, yet… how did I miss that!  I am told there are still spaces available for this year’s Academy which will be held August 12 – August 20.   Incoming or outgoing fourth graders are the target participants.  If you know of a likely candidate — a neighbor, a friend’s child or grandchild — please spread the word.  It’s free!  It’s fun!  And it’s state-of-the-art science in an old-fashioned, historic setting.  Would that I were nine again!

For further information, contact Diane Buttrell at or 360-214-1267.  Hurry!  Time flies in summer!


Check and Double-Check

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Schoolhouse Clock

Robin Cody will speak at the Oysterville Schoolhouse at 10:00 tomorrow morning.  Ten ayem.  Thanks to one of my bright-eyed readers, I am pointing out a disparity between what appeared in the e-Edition of the Chinook Observer this past week and what I wrote in my blog.  The time noted in the Observer (in an article written by me, I’m sorry to say) was wrong, wrong, wrong.  I am not to be fully trusted, especially when it comes to numbers.

I have not yet checked today’s paper so I don’t know if they were able to get the error corrected before they went to press.  I did see that it was corrected in the online paper after my desperate eleventh-hour plea yesterday morning.  But, if you are reading this and plan to go, please double-check your calendar notation and adjust your plans if you need to!

Numbers and I are at odds.  I don’t think that’s always been the case.  I didn’t have any trouble learning my street address in first grade – 1320 Versailles Avenue.  Or my phone number – LAkehurst 2- 2378.  But something must have happened along about the time I got my social security number.  That was 66 years ago and I still can’t remember all those numbers!  Or my cell number, for that matter.  I can remember my address and my landline number. Period. Oh, and my birthdate in both words and numbers!  Yay!

Screenshot: Robin Cody Article, Chinook Observer Online

I look on in amazement when Nyel rattles off his various numbers AND my various numbers without drawing breath.  How does he do that?  On the other hand, he never worries about being late… and sometimes he is.  I drive him crazy wanting to leave extra time for flat tires and mudslides.  I’m almost always early.  Maybe that’s just in case.  Just in case I got the time screwed up.  Again.

Double-check, please.  Robin Cody.  Oysterville Schoolhouse. 10 o’clock.  Thursday, February 1st. Seating is limited.  Get there early.  And take into account the “Men Working” slowdown on the back road.  See you there!

Taking Flight in Oysterville!

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Steve and the Test Pilot

You could have heard a pin drop.  The classroom absolutely thrummed with  concentration.  Twelve young scientists hard at work making… paper airplanes!

It was about 9:30 yesterday morning and I had walked over to the Oysterville School at Diane Buttrell’s invitation.  “Come on over to the Science Academy and see what the kids are up to.”  It was an open invitation and it just happened that yesterday was the day that one of my Oysterville neighbors, Steve Romero, was serving as GE, Guest Expert.

I’m not sure precisely what his topic was – I walked in after the class had begun.  But it seemed like an engineering class to me – or a class in aerodynamics.  Already, after just a half hour into their day, the fourth graders were using terms such as ‘lift’ and ‘thrust’ and ‘nosecones’ and ‘ailerons’.  One youngster served as the test pilot – with Captain status.  They were experimenting with shapes and designs – what did wider wings do?  How about narrower?  Double wings?

Did a plane with a blunt nose do better than one with a pointy nose?  One young scientist attached a paper clip to his plane’s nose.  “Oh!  Good idea!  Let’s see what the extra weight does,” Steve encouraged.   And how about a bigger body?  Or more ailerons?  What if we turn the ailerons up?  Or down?

Diane Buttrell, Founder and CEO – Oysterville Science Academy

In between, the GE suggested kids speculate, analyze, predict, experiment.  He wrote findings on the board – dictated by his fourth-grade engineering crew.  Good results: a happy face.  Poor results: the opposite. How do you spell aileron?  Someone look it up, please.  And all the while, he complimented, expressed amazement, gave suggestions and tested some of the planes himself.  And dignified every single response! When a student chose to not follow directions, Steve pointed out the innovation that had been made and praised that, too.

A teacher extraordinaire!  In the 39 years I taught elementary school, I had many opportunities to observe other teachers – student teachers, colleagues, master teachers, college demonstration teachers.  Great teachers, poor teachers, mediocre teachers.  Steve Romero could hang out his shingle with the best of the best. Why am I not surprised?    This is a man who does well at whatever he sets hand and mind to.

The Oysterville School

Last winter, for instance, he decided to learn how to make pottery – bought the clay, bought the glaze, bought the wheel, set up the garage…  His pots are fabulous!  He’s interested in wines, especially champagnes.  His collection has been sampled by a French champagne vintner.  For nearly two decades he had his own software company in Portland and was recently bought out by e-Bay.  He grows mushrooms in the woods behind his house and, along with his wife, Martie, made fabulous macramé curtains for the windows in their new house.

Is there anything Steve Romero won’t try or doesn’t enjoy?  If there is, he hasn’t let us in on it yet.  He never ceases to amaze.  And those Oysterville Science Academy kids were one lucky group of engineering students yesterday!  I doubt that they have even an inkling.  But I have no doubt that the lesson designing paper airplanes will be long remembered.

See you at the schoolhouse Thursday!

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Oysterville Schoolhouse 2008

The current series of Schoolhouse Lectures here in Oysterville are drawing record numbers of folks from the greater community – close to standing room only, in fact.  Who’d a thunk it? Three years ago, when Diane Buttrell had the idea of holding a series of “old fashioned Town Meetings and Lectures” at the Historic Oysterville Schoolhouse, she asked me to do a little write-up for the paper.  I wasn’t quite sure what her concept was and, after asking for clarification, I still felt foggy about it.

“They aren’t really ‘Town Meetings’ in the traditional sense,” she told me.  “And they won’t be strictly lectures.  More like eye-opening get-togethers among friends.”  In retrospect, I’m not sure even Diane realized how those ‘get-togethers’ would gather momentum and become an every-other-Thursday ‘event’ throughout the greater community.  “I’ll see you at the schoolhouse Thursday,” has become a commonplace expression from one end of the Peninsula to the other.

Diane Buttrell

That first series of talks back in the spring of 2014 had a loosely thought-out theme based on Diane’s desire to provide an opportunity for us community members to meet and talk with some of our amazing neighbors.  “Most of us probably aren’t aware of the broad range of experience and expertise we have in our midst!” she said.

The very first speaker was geoscientist/engineer, Dr. Clayton Ralph Nichols, at the time, Chairman of the National Academy of Science Committee on Earth Resources.  “I doubt that many people know that as Al Gore made his initial presentations on climate change, it was ‘our’ Clay Nichols who was asked to talk with him about the complexities of the subject,” Buttrell says.  “That’s something that just doesn’t come up in everyday conversation.”

Jim Sayce Back in the Day c. 1985

And so it went.  Each week for six weeks we saw a new (and often unknown) side of friends and neighbors. Predictably, we wanted more.  Diane has enthusiastically complied by organizing a fall and spring series each year – sometimes with a clear theme, sometimes as general as the current focus on “local lore.”  Thus far, forty-some speakers have shared their expertise and memories with audiences that have grown and grown.  The Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum is taping each session and, in addition to adding them to their oral history archive, they are making them available on YouTube.  Who knew?

This week Jim Sayce, Executive Director of the Pacific County Economic Development Council, will talk about “Growing Up Local.”  Jim has lived here for all but ten of his 62 years and his memories are mostly through his ears! And to find out what that’s all about – see you at the Oysterville Schoolhouse at ten o’clock Thursday morning!

Down Memory Lane with Sue Holway

Friday, November 4th, 2016
The Holway Family, Next Door Neighbors

The Holway Family, Next Door Neighbors

I was so glad that Nyel and I didn’t have to be in Portland until mid-afternoon yesterday.  It meant that we were able to go to neighbor Susan Holway’s ‘talk’ at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.  We’ve missed several of the others during this Fall Series, mostly because of doctoring issues, and I was especially glad to go to this one.

Sue, of course, is almost a decade younger than I.  Plus she lived here full-time and, except for one glorious year, I was only a summer kid.  Yet, “her” Oysterville and mine overlap in all the most important aspects – the people who lived here, how no one locked their doors and we walked right in, how everyone shared and helped one another.  Her final remarks, a poignant wish that the old Oysterville spirit could be rekindled, will stick with me for a long time.  No one could have said it better.

Sydney and Johnny, 1939

Sydney and Johnny, 1939

Sue’s older brother, Johnny, was the one who was my age.  He was just a week younger but, summer by summer, he grew taller and smarter than all the rest of us.  Susan mentioned yesterday that, when school consolidation happened, the kids from Oysterville’s one room schoolhouse turned out to be the valedictorians and salutatorians.  She might have been talking about her own class, but I could relate to that.  Ten years earlier, in my seventh grade class at Ocean Park School, we had considered Johnny Holway and Vernon Andrews geniuses.  Especially in math, as I remember.

We had to leave just a tad early so we missed the question and answer period, if there was one.  I think I would have asked Sue when she thought Oysterville began to change away from that all-inclusive, neighbor-helping-neighbor village that we both remember.  More importantly, I’d have asked her how she thinks we can get it back.

OCC: A Long History of Perks and Pleasures

Friday, August 26th, 2016
OCC Board Minutes - August 2016

OCC Board Minutes – August 2016

There are a good many perks that come along with membership in the Oysterville Community Club (OCC), not the least of which are Secretary Peter Janke’s Board Minutes that appear by cyber-magic once a month on my computer.  Besides being a quick way to catch up on schoolhouse doin’s, there is always an eye-catching photograph – sometimes a historic image, sometimes one taken by Peter, himself.  No matter what, they give me image envy!

This morning’s newsletter featured a picture of Lina Wachsmuth and Oysterville Regatta winners Tucker Wachsmuth and Chris Fuller with their first-place trophies (wood carvings made by Tucker who says he never imagined in his “wildest dreams” that he would be winning one of them!)  And, on the second page are pictures of the final day of the Oysterville Science Academy which has been sponsored by the OCC for two years running.

OCC Board Minutes, June 2016

OCC Board Minutes –  June 2016

Included, too, is a calendar featuring other upcoming events at the schoolhouse including the General Meeting and Potluck scheduled for October 15th and the traditional Community Christmas Party the afternoon of December 10th.   Diane Buttrell’s proposal for the Fall 2016 Oysterville Town Hall and Lecture Series (September 8th – November 17th) was approved – another of the popular events sponsored by the OCC.

Throughout the year, the schoolhouse and grounds are the site of art fairs, wedding receptions, family reunions and all manner of public and private events.  It is by renting out the facility and by their minimal membership dues that the OCC is able to fund the day-to-day maintenance and upkeep of the historic little building.

The Oysterville School - Under OCC Stewardship since 1957

The Oysterville School – Under OCC Stewardship since 1957

And speaking of history – the OCC can trace its roots clear back to the early 1900s when the women of Oysterville (“The Sewing Circle”) met in one another’s homes to work on sewing and knitting projects and to keep abreast of community news and needs.  In 1925 they organized more formally calling themselves “The Oysterville Women’s Club” and, in 1940 became “The Oysterville Improvement Club” concentrating their efforts toward the war effort.  In 1957, the group re-established itself once again, opening membership to all residents of the village and the greater community.  It was at that point that the group leased the recently vacated school building from the Ocean Beach School District and, calling themselves the Oysterville Community Club, they are still going strong.,

For anyone interested in the helping toward the maintenance of the iconic old building and in the community outreach programs sponsored by the OCC, I can only say, “join!”  Membership is a bargain and the perks are (as they say) priceless!

Gearing Up for School

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016
Gin after cutting her bangs - a year or so ago

Gin after cutting her bangs – a year or so ago

My lively seven-going-on-eight-year-old cousin (2nd, twice removed) Gin came calling the other day.  She and her brother are here in Oysterville for their last visit before school starts.  “We’ve already done our school shopping…”

“It feels kinda sad,” she told me, lamenting that summer is on the wane.  Then she dashed off to see if there were any eggs that needed collecting and was back not long afterwards asking to use our outdoor faucet to fill her super-duper water gun.  “We’re going to ambush the Bemis Boys,” she told Nyel.  Those are her first cousins who were arriving shortly from Sun Valley.

School Street

School Street

Amazingly, we are gearing up for school here in Oysterville, as well.  Just yesterday Diane Buttrell sent me the schedule for the Fall 2016 Schoolhouse Lecture Series.  It will be the fifth semi-annual series she has organized and hosted and she’s asked if I will again do some write-ups for the paper.  I see by the dates that I’d better get cracking.  The theme is “Local Lore” and those who will be presenting the talks are:

9/8: Bud Goulter
9/22: Dobbie Wiegardt
10/6: Michael Parker
10/20: Ernie Soule
11/3: Susan Holway
11/17: Tom Downer

Be sure to mark your calendars – every other Thursday, September 8th through November 17th at 10:00 a.m.  I’ve already marked mine!

It Was a Matter of ‘Thwarted at Every Turn!’

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
Betsy Millard

Betsy Millard, Director of the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum

Doncha hate it when your best intentions go awry?  Not once but twice so far for me when it comes to giving folks a heads up about Betsy Millard’s talk on Thursday, March 31st at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.

I actually made an appointment with Betsy.  We met in her office at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco and I interviewed her for a little article that was to appear in the paper last week on the 23rd – plenty of time to let people know the who, what, why, when, where of it.

But, the paper came out and… nothing.  It happens.  Things get mislaid in the last minute shuffle.  So, I resubmitted the story and picture (just in case it was a consequence of ‘lost’ rather than ‘mislaid’) and I even called to make sure they got it.  Tomorrow will tell the tale and I hope it isn’t too late.

I thought, for insurance purposes, that I would devote today’s blog to Betsy’s scheduled appearance – had the facts at the forefront of mind and fingertips – only to discover that we had no internet service this morning.  Wotthehell?  Apparently, the gods did not want me to spread the word!  Not just then anyway.

Schoolhouse Clock

Lectures Start at 10:00 by the Schoolhouse Clock

What I was really sorry about was that readers might not learn about Betsy’s incredible professional background.  I touched on it a little in my Observer story – enough so that I hope people will ask her a few leading questions at the schoolhouse on Thursday.  Otherwise, I’m not at all sure that Betsy will share some of her interesting past.  She’s usually not one to look back; her focus is almost always on ‘the now’ and ‘the next.’

Those traits, of course, are what make her such a successful Director.  Not that she isn’t ever mindful of the past.  History, after all, is the name of the game.  But… getting to her personal history might take a little prodding.

At the time of this writing, though, my fondest desire was to prod the internet.  My server said that it wasn’t not just me – “a wide-reaching” problem they said,  and they were working on it.  However, I am an optimist by nature and I chose to think that whatever was the matter would soon be corrected.  If not, I could only hope that the usual Peninsula Telegraph Service, word-of-mouth, would prevail.   Even now, it’s a viable thought.