Archive for the ‘Willard R. Espy’ Category

Yesterday I spent with my grandmother…

Wednesday, March 27th, 2024

Helen & Harry Espy, 1947

No sooner had I turned on the bedside lamp and checked the time yesterday morning than the power went out!  Damn!  And I had overslept, too.  I’d be hard pressed to get through my long list of “todo’s” even without all the amenities… like a shower and a hot cup of coffee to get my day underway.  On the other hand… no internet, so I needn’t worry about half the things on my list.  Not yet.

I dressed by flashlight, had a long drink of water (always in stock in the pantry against such “emergencies”) and called the PUD just in case they had news.  Yep.  A car hit a power pole and the substations in Ocean Park and Oysterville were adversely affected,  The estimate was early afternoon before we were back in the 21st  century.  No details about the accident, but it couldn’t be good considering the damage it caused.

I built a fire in the library fireplace to stave off the cold and wished (for just a minute) that I could go back in time a couple of generations,  My grandmother would be firing up the wood cookstove in the kitchen and stirring the embers in the pot-bellied stove in the nursery — warming that room up for the youngest of her six children, for in my mind it was 1912 or so.

1912 – The Espy Children (Dale, Willard, Edwin, Mona, Suzita, Medora)

The three older girls, Medora (13), Sue (9),  and Mona (8) slept upstairs now that they were all school-age, but the three youngest, Edwin (4), Willard (2) and my mother Dale (1) shared a huge pull-down Murphy Bed in the Nursery — the most easterly room in the house,  Papa, who went to bed late, always banked the fired in the woodstove before joining Mama upstairs, so the little ones would be warm throughout the rest of the night.

When the coffee was ready, Mama carried it to the nursery where the tin coffeepot sat on the stove all day long and Papa refilled his cup periodically when he came in from the dairy barn or the meadow or the cream-separating building or wherever his many chores took him.  How I wished we still had that woodstove… but alas!  My folks had gentrified that room in the 1979s, getting rid of the old stove and having a fireplace built there instead.  Great for cozy ambiance, but not for a practical heating surface when our electricity fails us.

I had been planning to work on the computer all day, communicating with my new webmaster (who is in Alabama!) as we begin working on my new website.  But 1912 had rather limited amenities in that direction so I decided to do what I don’t get to do very often these days — just sit around and read.  Thank goodness for Kindles!  Despite it’s many windows, this house is not very well lit inside — at least not by natural light.  Maybe it’s those 11-foot ceilings that seem to trap in the gloom. even when the sun is shining fairly consistently — as it was on that particular day.  My Kindle was perfect and I escaped into a Jack Reacher book with ‘nary a guilty thought about my website.

H.A.Espy Children on Danny, 1924

Even so, I was glad I didn’t have to fire up the kerosene lamps and read by their smoky light — and even gladder that I wouldn’t have to wash the lamp chimneys in the morning.  I wondered what my grandmother would have thought of such a modern convenience — though with a family of six to wash and clean and cook and sew for, I really doubt that she had much time for reading.  Mom and Willard used to laugh at the memory of her taking a book out to the outhouse for a half hour or so now and then — the one place she wouldn’t be disturbed.  But, of course, there were no toddlers by then.

She always said that the years that the babies were little were the best years of all.  (That babies were Edwin, Willard, and my mom; Mona and Sue were “the girls” and Albert (who died at 4-1/2) and Medora — the two first born — were “the children.”  I loved to hear Gtanny’s stories —  how Edwin thought that God was shooting deer when it thundered and how Willard liked nothing better (from the time he was three) than to take the biggest book he could carry out to the road and lie down in the middle and read.  Horses and carts and walkers worked around him.  And yes… he was reading at three, finished 8th grade at 10 and high school at 14.  What a guy!

As for mom — she was a Tomboy through and through — and no wonder.  There were thirteen kids her age who lived in town but she was the only girl  She remembered spending many-a-time chasing after the boys  when they were trying to ditch her — but then she grew up a bit and the story changed…

It was really a lovely day, yesterday.  Back in 1912.  But how lucky we are that the power came on in time for a hot dinner, electric stove notwithstanding.  Lights!  Heat! The magic of 2024!  I only wish I could share a day of now-time with my hard-working, soft-spoken granny.  I’m sure I didn’t half appreciate her but I was lucky to have her in my life until I was in my second year of college.  I hope I told her how much she meant to me…

 

And way before me was my Uncle Willard!

Monday, March 25th, 2024

Cornelius Kistemacher died September 17, 1943 so it is possible that Willard’s story about him appeared in this December 1943 issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine.

Just when I think that I’ve turned over every scrap of the “family papers” to the Washington State Research Center, I seem to run into something else.  Today it was a story that my Uncle Willard Espy (“Wede” t0 friends and family) wrote  for a column called “Family Man” for Good Housekeeping Magazine in the 1940s.  I tried to see if any of those stories are now online or if Good Housekeeping still exists.  As far as I can tell, they are not but it does.  I hope they don’t mind if I excerpt a little from one of Wede’s columns for this Blog:

A letter from the folks in Oysterville tells me that my old friend Mr. Kistemacher has died.  I feel especially sorry about it because when we were out there last summer we never visited him at his home.  I meant to sit with Hilda in his kitchen and drink green beer while his Edison phonograph played ‘Turkey in the Straw”  and Mr. Kistemacher accompanied the music very exactly and mournfully on an ocarina, doing a curious stately pelican dance, his big Dutch nose hooked over the instrument and his red cheeks bunched up like two wizened little apples.  But he was out the day we called, and it is too late now.  I suppose you would have called Mr. Kistemacher a ‘character,’ Oysterville used to be a great place for characters, and some are there yet…

Mr. Kistemacher was Gladys Kistemacher’s father — which made him Bud Goulter’s maternal grandfather.  In Marie Oesting’s  1988 book, “Oysterville  Cemetery Sketches,” she related two stories about him.  The first was by Helen Heckes:  “That’s Glady Goulter’s father.  He was a little Dutchman.  Rather excitable.  He just sputtered when he talked.  But he grew peonies, something I’ve tried to do ever since; I can’t make them grow.  But he had beautiful peonies.”

Bud Goulter

And Les Wilson had this to say to Marie about Mr. Kistemacher:  “He made real good home brew.  I used to work with a guy — off and on — on the mail trucks.  The North Beach Transit Company had a truck, 2 trucks, that they hauled mail and supplies.  I’d go with this guy, and that’s where we’d end up, was up at old Kisty’s and take up chicken feet, whatnot,  He always had a bottle of home brew there for us  This was just hops and malt with plenty of sugar in it; it had quite a kick to it.  We’d usually end up the last delivery with him, and then we’d have a beer or two.”

I was especially pleased  to note that Wede had called this series “Characters, God Bless Them!”  I think he would have loved my “Saints or Sinners? Characters of Pacific County” running weekly in the Chinook Observer  — and would probably have had a good many to add to the series!

 

September 13, 1987 seems so short ago.

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

September 13, 1987

Thirty-six years ago today

Nyel and I were married

At Croquet.

Gordon was my Bridesmaid,

Roy was Best Man.

Joel Penoyar did the honors

Much to Willard’s chagrin!

Wedding Picture by Kati Downer

It was a surprise to everyone

Except to my son Charlie

My mother had the vapors

Dad had another drink.

I gave Michelle my bouquet

And she took it to class for sharing,

Proceeds?  To Water Music that year.

It was the best wedding ever!

Wedding Pillow from The Franks

From a book that never came to be…

Tuesday, June 13th, 2023

Willard Espy, circa 1940

I ran across a fat folder of typewritten pages — some apparently in order, some definitely missing, and all with crossed out sentences and margin notes in my Uncle Willard’s handwriting.  I believe that they are part of one (or more) drafts about his growing up years in Oysterville during the teens and twenties of the last century.  His working title: “Past Perfect.”

I’ve read other versions and probably this one, too, and am always saddened that he never finished the book.  More than that, I miss listening to him and my mother and their brother Ed, reminiscing around our library fire.  I wish I could take my own readers back to the 1940s and ’50s with me so we could listen together.  But for now, I’ll quote a few paragraphs from these old, delightful pages and hope you’ll catch some of the magic, too.

Mona at 7 or 8 — 1911

Because my sister Suzita is dead, it is significant to me that at eight she spat into pop’s boot, and was condignly spanked.  Because my sister Mona is dead, it is part of me that at the age of three she slept with her hands over her ears “to keep the dreams out.”  I like Suzita for wearying of her chores:  “Please, God,” she prayed, “send me four legs and a wing.”  I like her for empathizing with the Almighty, whose white robes she considered impractical; “Dear Santa,” she wrote, “please send God a pair of coveralls for Christmas.”

But how am I to find significance in the anecdotes shared by my brother Ed, my sister Dale, and myself, all still very much alive  Ed, before he could walk, crawled daily to the pigpen, where he would press is face against the chicken wire and grunt.  What communication am I to infer from that?

Edwin Espy, 1915

When the Espys took a steamer from Astoria to San Francisco in 1915 to attend the World’s Fair, Ed, then six, watched the exciting bustle on the lower deck, and asked wistfully, “Can’t we pay extra and go steerage?”…

There must be a moral, too, in the absoluteness of Ed’s childhood honesty.  Sent to count the cows, he returned with a total of twenty-four and a half.  “Why not twenty-five?” asked pop.  “Daisy was behind a huckleberry bush,” replied Ed.

Dale, two years eleven months

Dale was a curly-haired, great-eyed, towhead whose hair grew darker as she approached adolescence. As the youngest, and a girl at that, she was subject to sore trials.  Her curls were ordinarily covered by a woolen cap and since all three of us wore overalls or coveralls except on dress-up occasions, there were times when her femininity did not instantly appear.  When a visitor exclaimed, “Three fine little boys!” Dale objected:  “I am not a little boy,” she said; “I am a little girl.”

In fact she was the only little girl in town, and none of the thirteen little boys would demean himself by playing with her in public.  One of our principle diversions was to try to hide where Dale could not find us; in our effort to escape her we even created a private club room in the dead heart of an enormous gorse bush.  But she always managed to hunt us down.

I wonder if present day five and six-year-olds will have as wonderful memories of these days fifty years hence.

Willard, Edwin, Dale in 1916

 

 

 

 

NOW WHY I ASK YOU

Thursday, February 17th, 2022

Willard and Louise c. 1980

Now why I ask you
Do won and won make too
And why I ask some more
Do too and too make for
And why I further state
Do for and for make ate?
Won too for ate they go
But why I do not know.
–Willard Espy

Downsizing in this household is endlessly fun!  Today it was an envelope of “ditties” sent by Willard’s wife Louise when she, in her turn, was downsizing!

Maybe it’s not too late.

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

Omak Me Yours Tonight – 2nd Edition, 1993

As I read yet another interesting bit of misinformation about my family — this time on a FB posting — I wished I had a nickel for every incorrect piece of news, history, rumor or piece of hearsay that I’ve run across in print. It used to be that “in print” mostly meant in newspapers, magazines and other periodicals, or books by authors who were not fully informed.  (The latter has included me as well as some of my writer-relatives and we usually categorize such errors under “shit happens'”)

Nevertheless… I have not yet learned to be totally philosophical about it.  The latest piece of “new information” came to me this morning and concerned my redoubtable uncle Willard R. Espy and his 1973/1993 book Omak Me Yours Tonight or Ilwaco Million Miles for one of Your Smiles.  The posting was full of praise for the epoch poem subtitled, A Ballard of Washington State, crediting it as the official Washington State poem.   How I wish that were true and, even more, how I wish that had happened in Willard’s lifetime.  He’d have loved it! .

Willard did approach a few of the movers and shakers he knew, among them Slade Gorton, as we were gearing up for Washington’s centennial celebration in 1989, pitching the idea of using Omak in some capacity at that time.  There were no takers and I remember lamenting with him on th9e shortsightedness of the planners in leaving out that aspect of the arts.  In my own opinion, the simple fact that a Native Son had written a poem about our state’s place names AND. that said, a poem about our indigenous people, should have made it a shoe-in.  Besides which, the 24 whimsical illustrations by Roy McKie, are collectors’ items in their own right!  (We have the originals, if you are interested.)

Omak Illustration #22 of #24 by Roy McKie

But, I don’t know that our state has ever been very heavily into the arts — or not the literate arts, at least.  Even the position of Poet Laureate of Washington (unrelated to the possibility of a state poem) was not created by the Washington State Legislature until 2007, eight years after Willard’s death and is accompanied (some years) with a yearly honorarium (now) of $20,000.  On the other hand, the position of Poet Laureate for the United States was first created in 1937 and the current yearly stipend is $35,000.

Well… there you have it!  I wonder if I should collect some of these bits of misinformation and write a book about them.  Maybe it’s not too late to correct the record.  Though, once the errors are out there, can they ever be retracted?  And does anyone really care?

He didn’t suffer fools gladly.

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Willard 1914

My Uncle Willard was thoughtful, kind, and unfailingly understanding.  But he did not suffer fools gladly, no matter what Paul had to say in his letters to the Church at Corinth (The Holy Bible, King James Version: 2nd Corinthians 11:1-21).  When a reporter at Newsweek erroneously located the Long Beach Peninsula (placing it on the Olympic Peninsula) in late November 1982, Willard wrote a “straightening out” letter.  He received this response dated March 8, 1983:

Dear Mr. Espy:
Thank you for your response to “Glorious Food” (Nov. 29).  We’re sorry that you found our “Olympic Peninsula, Wash.” subtitle for the section in this piece that mentioned the Ark and Shelburne restaurants misleading.  While we were not unaware that the southernmost end of the Olympic Peninsula is called the Long Beach Peninsula, we decided to go with the broader geographical designation that can be applied to this area.  We do appreciate the concern with accuracy, and the interest in
Newsweek, however, that prompted you to write.  We hope you will continue to follow our coverage.
Sincerely, Jannica Hurwitt for the Editors

Willard 1940

Willard’s response, written March 1983:

I have your kind response of March 8 to a letter I wrote last year about a factual error in your otherwise excellent November article “Glorious Food.”  But I did not find the title in question “misleading.”  It was simply wrong.
Even more appalling is your extraordinary statement that “we were not unaware that the southernmost end of the Olympic Peninsula is called the Long Beach peninsula.”  If there is any authority in existence that says the entire west coast of the state of Washington is known as the Olympic peninsula, do cite it to me.  The Long Beach peninsula is no more part of  the Olympic peninsula than it is part of Baja California.

Willard 1981

To make a bad matter worse, you say you deliberately “decided to go with the broader geographical designation that can be applied (my underlining) to this area.”  Of course it can be; you can apply the term “Olympic peninsula” to the moon.  But on what authority?  By stretching matters, you could justify calling the entire northwestern part of Washington, with Aberdeen at the southern extremity and Olympia at the southeastern, the Olympic peninsula, but that is the limit.  The Long Beach peninsula, as you will see clearly from the enclosed map, is a discrete entity.  To make a mistake is much more forgivable than to pretend it was no mistake, or at worst just a difference of opinion.
If you can cite an accepted authority that says the Long Beach peninsula is part of the Olympic peninsula, I’ll buy you lunch.  And if you can’t, I think you should buy me one.
Sincerely, Willard R. Espy

I doubt very much if any lunch was forthcoming.  I also doubt if there was an apology, but I could be wrong.  The two letters quoted above are all that I have found regarding the matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 11:1-21

I was wrong! And I’m so glad I was! (i think)

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021

WHO Award, 1978: Sydney M. LaRue

For years I’ve harbored a teeny tiny bit of jealousy for a number of disparate people — my mother, Isaac Asimov, Virginia Williams Jones, and every single one of Willard’s grandchildren among others.   And the reason?  My venerable uncle Willard (who we mostly called “Wede”), at one time or another, wrote  a poem specifically for each of them.  In my mother’s case — more than one.  And although he always told me I was his favorite niece (never mind that I was his ONLY niece), he never wrote a poem for me.

Or so I’ve thought for a very long time.  And then… in this cursed and blessed cleaning out project, I ran into this note from the man himself.  Dated 2 May, 1978, it said:

Dear Sydney:
I understand that certain ceremonies in your honor have recently occurred  Having tried, but failed to make myself part of them, I send you this wistful tribute:

 

Willard Espy, 1975

You try hard to reach her;
No matter, she’ll scorn ya —

The most famous teacher
In North California!

You beg, you beseech her;
She’ll widdle upon ya —
The most famous teacher
In North California!

Oh… and the “ceremonies” he mentions?   I was awarded the 1978  WHO (We Honor our Own) Award by the California Teachers’ Association, Alcosta Service Center and Hayward Unified Teacher’s Association.  I can’t be sure after all these these years exactly what it was for but I know it was NOT for widdling.

All I can say is, be careful what you wish for.

Polishing and Fluffing in Anticipation

Friday, June 4th, 2021

Willard’s  four great-grandsons with their mom, Kathleen – 2004

I’ve been tidying up — polishing silver, directing Cinderella, and even doing a bit of dusting here and there — while Nyel has been planning menus and ordering last minute food items!  Charlie is on his way up from Los Angeles and the Willard Espy cousins are headed our way from points east and north.  The family (or at least a part of it) is gathering!  I am beside myself with excitement.

Willard and Dale, August 1914

We haven’t seen Charlie since Christmas 2019.  And, I suddenly realized, Willard’s grands and greats were here in January 2020, shortly after Charlie left.  They just missed one another that time so it will be the first time that Willard’s grandson Alex and my son Charlie (2nd cousins) have ever met.  Charlie and Alex’s sons — Max, Sam, Jack and Ben — did meet back in 2004 at Oysterville’s sesquicentennial, though it’s doubtful that any of them remember.  However, Charlie will meet Max’s wife, Micah, and Alex’s young daughter, Maddie, for the first time Monday.  Most of them will be staying here until a week from today.  Missing due to a health problem will be Alex’s mother, Mona, Willard’s oldest (by six minutes?) daughter and my beloved first cousin.  Damn!

Helen and Harry Espy on their 50th Wedding Anniversary, 1947

And oh how I wish Willard and my mother were here for this get-together.  They would both be so pleased.  And my grandparents, Harry Albert and Helen Richardson Espy — great-grandgrands to Charlie and Alex and  great-greats to the rest!  Oh my!  If their ears could burn, I’m sure they would do so.  I expect that we’ll be telling and re-telling all sorts of familty stories, some familiar to us all and some not so much.

I can hardly wait!

Due Diligence with Capital D’s

Tuesday, April 6th, 2021

Cover Design by Mark Nero

The 12″x 12″x 5½” box arrived by priority mail day before yesterday.  It was heavy — $21.90 worth of heavy — and mailed from Seattle by Marilyn Nero.  Perhaps you remember her?  She and her husband Mark Nero ran the Cranberry Press which had an Oysterville address but was physically located in the 1990s in Ocean Park — in the  area where Anita’s Coastal Cafe has been in recent years.

The Cranberry Press was an elegant operation.  They did small, specialty press runs and my uncle Willard had them publish his book Skulduggery on Shoalwater Bay (illustrated by Nancy Lloyd) in 1998, the year before he died.  The book design and typography were by Mark, himself.  His expertise in those areas are part of what made Cranberry Press special.

Original Cover Design on Printmaking Stone

Sometime in the early 2000’s, Mark and Marilyn moved — to Arizona, I think.   Some years later, Mark wrote and asked if Nyel and I would like to purchase (at wholesale) the remaining copies of the book.  Even though we no longer had the Bookvendor, we did buy the copies.  Several years after that Mark sent a package of still more of the books– this time no charge.  He said he was going out of business.

Last February (2020), I received another message concerning Skulduggery — this time from Marilyn Nero.  She said that Mark had passed away several years previously and she was closing up the studio.  Did I want “a collection of paperwork and original correspondence regarding the publication in 1998 of Willard Espy’s book, Skulduggery?”  She said she’d send it when the weather warmed up and that she was moving to Seattle…

Detail from Original Skulduggery Cover Art

I am so grateful for Marilyn’s diligence in returning these materials to me.  Willard’s original, typewritten manuscript, corrections and commentary on correspondece from both Louise and Willard, plus the cover design on lithographic limestone (I think) were included in the package.  Plus a few more copies of  the book.

I will be taking them up to the Washington Historical Society Research Center to be added to Willard’s section of the Espy Family Archive.  Maybe when the weather warms up a bit…