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And I almost threw it away!

Monday, March 4th, 2024

John F. Kennedy ran against Richard Nixon in 1960

This was the 15th presidential primary election I’ve voted in and the only time I actually thought that the election folks hadn’t included a ballot in the envelope.  I finally realized that the piece of paper I thought was an “instruction sheet” was the ballot with the candidates listed in a non-descript type-size amidst a lot of other nonsense that I wasn’t interested in reading.  I actually put it in the “throw-away” pile, until I realized that it MUST be the ballot and looked at it very carefully.

I don’t remember this being a problem before… but wait.  I think we used to have caucuses.  I don’t remember when that stopped.  I think that I quit being interested in Washington State presidential primaries when we went to the top two primary system which apparently is very popular with other voters.  I have to be reminded every four years that it is all about political parties at this point and not until the actual election can you vote your conscience, even if it doesn’t run to party lines. Seems all too convoluted to me.

Helen Richardson Espy, c. 1908

I am reminded of a letter written by my grandmother, Helen Richardson Espy, on Tuesday, November 3, 1914.  She was writing to her oldest child, Medora, who was away at school:

Dear Daughter:  This has been election day and some way it has been strenuous.  Papa, Mr. Stoner and Mr. Goulter have charge of the polls.  Mrs. Stoner took the men up their noon meal and I sent dinner tonight.  Our stove has been smoking to beat its record, and I had an awful time getting anything cooked.  To top it off, your three year old brother went off with little Albert Andrews today and had an undress parade right down Fourth Street.  I was so provoked.  They were not together fifteen minutes.  This happened while I was off voting.  Willard has been threatened with dire results if he went ever since their last “undress parade” so I punished him this time and think he is duly impressed.  It just goes to show that women belong at home and not at election polls.

Oysterville Schoolhouse – Our Traditional Polling Place

Despite the wry tone of the letter, my grandmother took her responsibility seriously and was undoubtedly pleased that women had won the right to vote in Washington in 1910 – a full ten years before the 19th amendment granted that same right to women across the nation.  She was not a stranger to the political process or to the issues of the times.  She had been an active behind-the-scenes helpmate to my grandfather during his years in the Washington State Senate. In fact, in the election of 1920, she actually had her first (and maybe only) paid job working at the Oysterville polling place.

In those days (and for all subsequent years until the current mail-in-vote process), the people of the Oysterville precinct voted at the schoolhouse.  My first experience voting there occurred shortly after I had moved here full-time in 1978.  After years of voting in the anonymous-feeling polling places of suburban California, I finally felt a grassroots connectedness here.  I miss that.



On being the oldest one in the room.

Saturday, February 3rd, 2024

I wonder if I’ll ever get used to being the oldest one in most of the gatherings I attend.  Not only that, I’m often the only one whose family has lived here through six generations, me being within the fourth one!  Increasingly, I find that in discussions about “recent” history — especially about the history here in Oysterville. our memories are not always in sync and “recent” is a completely subjective and relative term.  ‘

Even more difficult is that I get the distinct feeling that when my recollections are different from everyone else’s that I’m being just a tad patronized as in “she’s just a bit confused.”  So, usually, I avoid these discussions and just listen while the group comes to whatever creative conclusion might work for them.  Last night, though, I sort of forgot my resolve and got into it with several of the Friday Nighters about a situation I remembered very well but the others… not so much.   But none of the rest of them were living here when it happened.

Counting me, there were 12 of us here — half of us living in Oysterville, the other half living south or west of the village.  It was mostly the Oysterville folks who got into the discussion though everyone was interested.  It had to do with the old Bard-Heim Dairy Barn (long gone) and Polly Friedlander’s house (still anchoring the north end of the Oysterville National Historic District.)

The statement was made that Polly’s house was built so that the glass breezeway between the two main buildings would give a “see-through” view of the old Bard-Heim Barn which had been built on the property in 1930.

“Yes,” said I (foolishly), “but the barn had blown down in a storm well before the house was built.

Many voices weighed it.  “No.  That’s not true.”  “Polly told me, herself.”  “That’s exactly why the house was built that way.”

“Maybe it was designed with that idea in mind,” I said (being foolisher and foolisher!) “but the barn blew down long before the house was built.”  And I proceeded to tell about Polly’s attempts to keep the barn standing by hiring a Barn Guru of some sort who was supposed to be propping up the building but, as it turned out, he was painting totems to the barn gods on the posts and beams that had not yet rotted out.  “They would protect the barn,” he told Polly.

I, of course, could not come up with exact dates so I backed off — feeling inept in front of so many younger and more certain voices.  Today I searched my files and found a clipping from an old Chinook Observer showing the barn with this caption:  “The landscape of Oysterville was forever changed during a 1990 storm when the 60-year-old Bard Heim Dairy Barn blew down, a victim of years of deferred maintenance and neglect. It was one of the last barns in the area and had come to symbolize the generations of farmers who had tended the uplands while their neighbors had worked the oyster tidelands in the little community by the bay”

And, I found a copy of an email sent to me by Polly on December 12, 2004,  about a decade after the house was completed:  ...the Bardheim Cottage was built in 1994 as I mentioned.  It is on the property dominated by the Bardheim Barn for so many years.  The fenced garden was created in the corral and the decayed fence replicated.  It was one of the two first houses built under the current Design Review Guidelines.

Yep!  I feel better now.  Sometimes when I’m outnumbered like I was last night, I feel like maybe I am slipping a cog or two.  Well, at least I know now that I wasn’t when it came to THAT particular issue!


Lotsa rockin’ ‘n rollin’ here last night!

Friday, January 12th, 2024

Stan Wilson – back in the day

This old house was either enjoying a good shaking and jiving last night or it was trying to give me a gust-by-gust weather report!  I woke up at least a half a dozen times to banging and rattling upstairs — the balcony door not latched or maybe a bedroom door catching a cross-draft just right.  And believe me, in this 1869 house there are lots of drafts, cross and otherwise!

Despite my frequent wake-ups, I felt rested by the time of the last big blow about six this morning.  So, I got up and prowled around, thankful that we still had power and wondering where all the noise was coming from.  AND with not one but two(!) songs rattling around in my head,  Not unusual in itself.  I often wake up with a hum or a song ready to burst forth.  But these were old folksongs that I hadn’t thought of since the early 1960s — when Odetta was playing in the Bay Area and her friend Maggie Rebhen used to gather a group of us too-old-to-be-hippies together to sing and play music far into the night.

The Kingston Trio – In Our College Days

I wonder what prompted them?  I hope I was dreaming about some of those old hungry i days — of Josh White and Stan Wilson, of the Kingston Trio and Professor Irwin Corey.  Maybe even Joan Baez.  Sweet memories — but unexpected after the shake, rattle, and roll of this old house!  Just goes to show you – every day (and every night) is an adventure when you live in Oysterville!

Logger Talk! Doncha just love it?

Friday, January 5th, 2024

My friend Mark Petersen wrote a note about yesterday’s blog:  “I’m an old logger, but I cut logs in the mountains of central California, up the hill from Twain Harte. That was a cat-skinning operation of the Hatler family for whom I was a limber/bucker. Not the same as what was done on the peninsula there, y’know.”

His comment reminded me of a short piece the Shoalwater Storytellers used to do about loggers and their wonderfully provocative vocabulary.  The story was based on a poem (I think) but for the life of me I cannot remember the author.  An online search gave me yet another version of the same story which I post here, hoping that a reader will know of the original and give me a shout-out. (This version was posted on the The Forestry Forum in 2003.)

Once upon a time, so legend has it, an injured logger was brought to a hospital, which may have been in New Westminster, or maybe Snohomish, or perhaps it was Tillamook. In any case, the head nurse asked him how the accident had happened. “Nurse” said he, “It was this way: I was setting chokers on the candy side and was just hooking onto a big blue butt when the rigging slinger says to let her go. The hooker yelled Hi! to the punk, the punk jerked the wire, the puncher opened her wide, and. . . well, Nurse, here I am.” This wasn’t too clear to the nurse. “But,” she said, “I don’t understand.” The logger sat up in his cot. “Damned if I do, either,” he replied, “unless that haywire rigging slinger was crazy.”

I imagine that most occupations have their own special vocabulary and “in-house” expressions, but I can’t imagine a more colorful lexicon than that of loggers (or lumberjacks as they are likely called east of the Rockies).  Actually, I’m not sure if that truly is the difference between a “lumberjack” and a logger.  The online dictionary says:  “The term lumberjack is primarily historical; logger is used by workers in the 21st century. When lumberjack is used, it usually refers to a logger from an earlier time before the advent of chainsaws, feller-bunchers and other modern logging equipment.”

So… there you have it!  I sure do wish we could get an old-time logger to come to our next History Forum and give us a lesson in LoggerTalk.  And, for that matter, maybe someone to come in LoggerDuds so we could see what corks (spelled c-a-u-l-k-s) worn on the feet look like and, also, modelling stagged pants (to keep them from fouling in your corks.)

One of the best known logger poets of this area was Woodrow J. Gifford (1912-1996) who lived in Seaview. If you know of others still living, bring them to our next History Forum!


Will I see you at the schoolhouse tomorrow?

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024

Subsistence Farming, Ocean Park, WA – Early 1900s — Dobby Wiegardt Collection

I’m not sure if we were thinking clearly when we planned tomorrow’s History Forum.  We’ll be taking a look at the beginnings of agriculture and farming in Pacific County — a great topic and surprisingly complex and interesting, but… on the 3rd day of January???  When we’re still feeling completely overstuffed and waddly after the bounties of our 21st century holiday?  I’m not sure if, replete as we are, we can be properly impressed by the hardships our ancestors faced just to raise a patch of potatoes in this wilderness area of the 1850s.

Or maybe, it will work the other way for me.  Perhaps learning about their ingenuity and tenacity will inspire me to think about renewing a small patch of Nyel’s old “kitchen garden.”  Maybe such a 2024 project will seem less daunting when I learn more about the challenges faced by my forebears.  I do remember my grandfather back in the 1940s and ’50s working in his vegetable garden in the very same area of the yard.  He was an old man by then, his dairy farm but a memory, but still he was drawn to the tasks involved in providing food for his family.

Papa in His Garden 1948

And, thinking of Papa and his garden reminds me  that when his last horse, Countess, died in 1944, my uncle Willard began his ‘Family Man’ column (in Good Housekeeping Magazine) by quoting Papa’s letter: “It was a relief for her to be gone,” he says (Countess was past thirty), but she wanted to live and so I wanted her to. She was the last animate tie to the old ranch, when you boys were on it with me.” Her death reminds him, he says, that he is lonesome and old.

Willard went on to say that the letter made him see a herd of four-legged ghosts – the horses Empress, Fanny and Prince, Blaze and Lassy and many of the cows as well.  He remembered that when Papa got sick and had to give up the ranch, he had kept the animals that would not sell and they had died one by one.  Countess was the last and only the summer before had become so feeble that she could not pull the harrow across the garden plot so Papa had unhitched her and pulled it himself.

The enormity of that image — with all its implications — is what draws me again and again to learn of the lives of our forebears.  Stocking my pantry from a shopping trip to CostCo or Jack’s pales by comparison.

The Last Friday of 2023 in pictures… again!

Saturday, December 30th, 2023


Tucker sent a few more pictures of our Friday Night Gathering so I’m posting them here for posterity.  (And because today has been more of the same — visiting, eating, visiting, drinking, remembering, planning and repeat!

Sam and Sydney

Alex and the boys cooked breakfast — had to do two batches of bacon since Alex ate the first batch while Sam (or maybe it was Jack) was cooking the potatoes.  “We just needed the bacon grease for the potatoes,” someone said.  “Oh!  You wanted more bacon to go with the eggs?” came another voice.  “No problem.  We have plenty of bacon.”  And we did.

Later they walked up to Oysterville Sea Farms and had a snack or two,  Then to the cemetery to place flowers on the graves in the Espy plot.  And in the evening — food again!  At the Depot — Alex and Sam treated.  Kathleen, the boy’s mother, joined us and regaled us with stories of Jack’s mis-spent youth with running commentary by the miscreant, himself.

Sam and Fred

Another lovely day with my extended family!  I am replete.


Today we said “goodbye” to Lee Crowley.

Tuesday, December 19th, 2023

Lee Paul Crowley left us on December 13th.  His funeral was today at the Peninsula Church Center — well attended as you might imagine.  Lee had lived here for his entire 86 years.  But, for that very reason, there weren’t as many people as you might expect — so many have gone on before him.

Even I missed his service — a doctor’s appointment, wouldn’t you know.  But I made it to the reception at the Cranberry Museum in plenty of time to give Melinda a hug and to meet so many of their friends and relatives who had gathered to remember and to reminisce.

I’m not even sure how long I’d known Lee.  It wasn’t for very many years and for that I’m sorry.  And yet, in a small community like ours, I felt connected.  He was named after his parents’ all-time favorite Peninsula doctor, Lee Paul.  That’s a name I grew up with in a way, for even though Dr. Paul was gone from here long before I was born (and before Lee was born, too), my mother often spoke of him.  If there was a serious problem, he would come to Oysterville (on his horse, if I remember the stories correctly.)  Otherwise, he’d speak to my grandmother (who had seven youngsters) over the telephone, she telling symptoms and what she thought should be done, he agreeing or adjusting and often “deputizing” her to involve the school teacher if the ailment was running rampant among the village children.  Dr. Paul was a demi-god in my mother’s childhood.  And some of that rubbed off a bit by osmosis when I finally met his namesake.

Too, my friend-since-childhood here in Oysterville, Larry Freshley,  was in the same class as Lee — two years behind me, I think.  Although I did go to 7th grade here, I was at Ocean Park School while Larry was in 5th grade in Oysterville and Lee was probably at Long Beach School… and yet, we had mutual friends because that’s the way it is on the Peninsula.

I’ll miss the twinkle in Lee’s eyes and his gentlemanly ways.  I’ll miss his determination, his perseverance, and his kindness.  I’ll miss the times Nyel and I went to breakfast at the 42nd Street Cafe with Lee and Melinda and Ardell and Malcolm… Nyel and Lee stoic about their physical ailments, but always ready to give one of the rest of us a bad time about something.

Missing our friends and loved ones.  It’s the hardest part of growing old.


“First Wednesday” is coming right up!

Monday, December 4th, 2023

Oysterville Schoolhouse

The first Wednesday of each month is when our newly launched Pacific County History Forum meets at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.  And, as I was writing the title for this blog, I realized that it’s also the day that my monthly column is published in the Chinook Observer!  So, all-in-all, first Wednesdays are always  Red Letter Days for me!  I’d very much like each one to be memorable for you as well — especially if you are interested in the history of our very special corner of the world!

This week — on Wednesday, December 6th from 10 to 12 at the Oysterville School — will be our fourth-ever History Forum.  The focus will be on oysters and clams — oysters because they were the first industry of the area, continuously growing (ahem!) and morphing for more than 170 years!  Razor clams because they have been important to the growth of the area for just about as many years — maybe even more — but not as an “industry” in quite the same sense as their mollusk relatives in the bay.

To lead our discussion Wednesday will be two veterans of the oyster and clam business, Dobby Wiegardt and Tucker Wachsmuth.  Both are descendants of some of the first oystermen on our bay and they have a wealth of tradition and stories to share. In addition, we are hopeful that there will be some other long-time oystermen and clamdiggers among those attending who will join in the conversation.

Map of Historic Oysterville

Memories from our own “olden days” are fast disappearing and this is an opportunity to keep the stories alive.  I do hope you come to listen and to contribute if you can.  I am mostly hopeful that this is the subject that will put us over the edge — from speakers and audience to a true forum with many of us sharing what seems pertinent or interesting or just plain quirky.

And as far as my column goes — all I can say is I hope you are able to  “willingly suspend your disbelief” just long enough to consider possibilities that may be present right here in Beautiful Downtown Oysterville!  Or perhaps in other special places that have meaning for you.  Or maybe you already have!


My Techno-Tipping Point Looms Ever Closer

Saturday, November 18th, 2023

I am sick of the scams.  More importantly, I’m sick of spending my time trying to determine which are scams and which are real.  They come by email, by text and on Facebook.  Yes,  and speaking of Facebook, I can no longer tell which of my “Friends” are real and which are imposters who have hacked into friends’ accounts or mine.  It is all beyond annoying and I am beginning to weigh the benefits of computer usage against the daily disruption to my peace of mind.

Furthermore, “vexing” doesn’t half express my reaction to the fact that it seems to be up to individual users of the internet to protect themselves from the scammers.  I had a quick “look around” to see what, if anything, the internet, itself, is doing on our behalf.  Here was a typical “response” to my question: “People are losing more money to scammers than ever before. Here’s how to keep yourself safe.” And then… yada, yada, yada — mostly telling me who is most likely to get scammed,  I fully expected this to be us old folks… but no.  It’s Generation Z — those born between the mid-1990s and Mid- 2010s.  (The rise in Social Media seems to be the culprit here.)

And, I might add, if you want to really make yourself crazy, Google “Internet Governance” to learn more about this situation. The article begins:  “Internet governance consists of a system of laws, rules, policies and practices that dictate how its board members manage and oversee the affairs of any internet related – regulatory body.”  Almost immediately comes this sentence: “No one person, company, organization or government runs the Internet. It is a globally distributed network comprising many voluntarily interconnected autonomous networks. It operates without a central governing body with each constituent network setting and enforcing its own policies.”

Yep.  Crazy-making information that didn’t really reassure me.  In fact — the opposite.  Lists and lists of ways I must be ever vigilant which translates in my mind to hours and hours of time when I could be using my pre-electric typewriter, hand-delivering my copy to the paper or mailing my manuscripts to a publisher.  (Risking, of course, their refusal to accept such old-fashioned submissions.)

I’m still pondering.  It’s all beyond annoying.




Sometimes you just have to wonder…

Sunday, October 22nd, 2023

Sydney and Pete Heckes, 1939

I ran across some old pictures today — many of them taken here in Oysterville during the summers of my childhood.  And, I’m glad to report that (as I’ve always remembered) it looks as though it was sunny and warm here all during those long, lazy days.  I am curious, though, about what we were doing and why someone (probably my dad) thought that whatever it was should be documented for posterity.

Sydney and Johnny Holway, 1939

Was I using Pete’s head to keep my balance?  And were those dandelions gone to seed that we were playing in?  Or the remnants of Papa’s garden? I think it was in front of this (my grandparents’) house where I now live and I’m quite sure that there was just a big empty field  surrounding the house, both of my grandparents being too old to care for lawns and garden beds.

Sydney, Ready for Summer 1940

And what were Johnny and I doing with those toy boats?  Did we go down to the bay and play with them as the tide came in?  Was one of them really mine or was Johnny sharing with me?  It wouldn’t be very many years before my Holway choice of playmates would be Ruth and John would be off with the other boys of the village.  But, when we were three-and-a-half, we looked to be pretty companionable.  And judging by the neat garden beds, we must have been outside of the Holways’ house, not my grandparents’ across the lane.

And how about those very chic dark glasses I was sporting on my way to the Heckes house?  At least I think that was me, though I have no memory of ever having had bangs.  Or dark glasses either for that matter.  I’m pretty sure, though,  that’s one of the Monterey Cyprus trees behind me (or whoever the glamour girl is!)