Archive for the ‘Winter in Oysterville’ Category


Thursday, February 29th, 2024

February 29, 2024

Gobsmacked Sydney Laden With Birthday Wishes From Tucker And Carol!

This is a (totally inadequate) THANK YOU to my many friends, loved ones, acquaintances, blog-followers. book fans, and others who sent me birthday greetings on my Facebook Timeline yesterday.  I haven’t even had time to read them through properly yet, but I just want you and the world to learn how touched I am by your birthday wishes.  Some of you, I’m sorry to say, I don’t even really “know” and some of you I’ve only admired from afar for years, not dreaming that you knew of me at all!  Wow!

Also, I wish to give a special shout-out — and on behalf of all my writer friends — to those of you who mentioned my articles and columns in the paper, my blogs, or even my books.  For those of us who never expect NYT Best Seller status but write because we are passionate about our subject no matter how limited the readership, it is so lovely to get feed-back now and then.  I honestly have little idea whether  anyone reads my “words of wisdom” and I loved the affirmation from some of you!

As for my Big Piano Key Day — I spent it almost exactly as intended.  I didn’t want to do anything but hole up in my office and write, surfacing now and then for refills on coffee and for a bit of food.  In my excitement at this rare opportunity, I even forgot to put out the garbage (oh well!) but I did take phone calls and text messages — mainly because a friend had been taken to Portland in the wee hours yesterday and was undergoing open heart surgery for most of the morning.  The updates were infrequent but I didn’t want to miss any and the latest news is that she came through with flying colors.

In answering the phone, however, I scored many other birthday greetings — at least four of them in song from musician friends in Oregon, Washington and Arizona!  What a delight!  One call was from Tucker who asked if he could come over
for just a minute.  He sounded stressed and I was concerned about Carol who has been laying low with a cold, so I said,

Me with Marta and Charlie last summer — we didn’t get a zoom shot last night.

“Sure.”  He dashed between the raindrops bearing a dozen long-stemmed red roses, a birthday-frosted cupcake with a special candle, a lighter-gizmo for said candle, and a handmade card!  AND he was apologetic about the flowers because he had had to choose them, Carol being a bit out of commission.  OMG!  I was so touched.  Plus he took a picture — several of them at my insistence — after all I hadn’t even taken time to wash my face, let alone put on a bit of makeup all day!

But I did accomplish some writing tasks that were important to me and so the day was super-successful.  It wasn’t until my “Zoom Birthday Party” with Charlie and Marta last evening that I was aware of all the Facebook greetings.  “Mom, do you know that you have over 90 birthday greetings on your timeline?” Charlie asked.  And this morning when I finally took a look, the number was 100!  Gobsmacked is all I can say!  Gobsmacked and Thank You All!

Taking another look… with love!

Monday, February 19th, 2024

February 19. 2024

Kitchen As Seen From Stairway

A blog reader wrote me the other day and said she remembered “my” house (now belonging to my cousin Lina and her husband Dave):  I remember seeing this house and reading about it in one of the Northwest Home books. It was so charming…

I was touched — both that she would remember and that she would contact me!  The book she referred to is Northwest Style: Interior Design and Architecture in the Pacific Northwest by Ann Wall Frank with photographs by Michael Mathers, ©1999, Chronicle Books.  I scanned my bookshelves and found the book, rereading what the author with the improbable name of Ann Frank had written about the house all those years ago.

This cabin is a miniature house with a maximin story; a place where five rivers and a million memories meet.  A few feet eyond a moss-encrusted gate, an evocative shape rises like a gothic dollhouse from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, so intimate with its environment that it becomes a private world.

The Living Room

I remember being a bit aghast at that first paragraph when I saw the book for the first time.  Yes, the gate was moss-encrusted, but almost 1,000 feet from the house and unseen beyond the road’s curve into the trees.  But, actually, the rest was close to accurate — after all, the original design was by Noel Thomas who, in those years, was making museum-quality miniature houses with his wife Pat.  And “a million memories”… at least!

The author went on a few paragraphs later with a more literal, less fanciful description which I think more closely fit my own feelings about the house:  The 900 square-foot cottage is a departure from the quaint romantic vernacular of Oysterville’s old Victorian houses, most of which are made of California redwood, reused from the ballasts of ships that arrived for trade.  With its cedar board- and- batten siding, simple A-frame open floor plan, and rustic charm, it is more reminiscent of the fish canneries, covered bridges, boathouses, and old barns of the region.

Yes.  That’s more the feeling I had about the house.  Except I wish she had understood what ballast was.  The redwood siding for the old homes in Oysterville WAS the ballast on the oyster schooners coming up from San Francisco.  Ballast might be anything from lumber to pianos to top hats or potatoes that the storekeepers had ordered from the Captain on his last voyage north (maybe two or three weeks before).  That cargo was used as ballast to help control the ship’s stability and to ensure safe passage.

But… the photographs are wonderful… and right now bittersweet.  Michael asked for an “introduction” to the house the first time Nyel and I met him back in 1998.  And, within that rule that says the world gets smaller and smaller, Lina and Petra probably crossed paths years ago in Portland when Tucker and Carol owned a toy shop just down the way from Tucker’s cousin’s bookstore where Petra worked!

The Book


When the east wind visits Oysterville…

Friday, February 16th, 2024

Friday, February 16, 2014

Fireside Evenings — Perfect!

I’m not crazy about the wind.  Especially the east wind.  It’s always in a such a great hurry to rush across the bay and through the cracks and crannies of this old house.    Our “state of the art” heat pump doesn’t have a chance.

The outside thermometer says it’s 46°  and the online wind chill report says it’s 42°.  Which only goes to show, you can’t trust technology.

The best quote about the East Wind:  “There is no good in arguing with the inevitable. The only argument available with an east wind is to put on your overcoat!” (James Russell Lowell.)

Actually, it’s my warm, plushy bathrobe I have on over all my clothes!  On days like this, I often think of my grandparents living here in the years before electricity.  There were fireplaces in the living room and library, a wood cook stove in the kitchen, and a pot-bellied wood stove in the most easterly room in the house — the room they called “the nursery” for it could be kept the warmest (probably with the exception of the kitchen) and was where the youngest children slept until they were old enough to go to school.  “Even so,” my mother said, “Papa kept the fire going all night and we rushed downstairs to dress by that old woodstove on winter mornings.”

On Friday, January 15, 1916, my grandmother wrote to her oldest daughter who was away at boarding school in Portland:

Medora, 1915

My Dear Medora,
     We had not had any weather before you left, compared with this week – It has been fierce!
Papa and I have been worried about your health and comfort. We were quite relieved to hear that Ruth had let you have scarf and sweater. Papa was disgusted to find your rubbers. We certainly hope you are keeping dry feet and taking care of yourself. The “town” has been coasting every night and of course Sue has gone. We will be glad when this unusual spell has passed, tho it shows no signs of leaving yet. In fact, snow is falling at intervals today and the wind howls.
 I have a pair of papa’s underdrawers over mine today. Papa insisted and I am glad he did, for I feel warmer.
We certainly miss you. It was such a comfort having you home. Don’t do any risky things dear. Remember what you mean to us and take no chances with your precious self.
                                                                  Always with love, Mama

As it turned out, this would be Mama’s last letter to Medora who died two days later of a cerebral hemorrhage,  It had nothing to do with the weather, but may have a lot to do with my dislike of that cold east wind,

“A fine double-breasted sort of woman!”

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

Brother and Sister Ed and Dora Espy at their graduation from Grace Seminary in Centralia, 1892

February 15, 2024

The highest compliment that my Great Aunt Dora Espy Wilson could pay to another woman was to refer to her as “a fine double-breasted sort of woman!”  As a youngster, I always wondered exactly what she meant by that, but it was certainly clear that it was praise of the highest order.

I thought of that today when I received a note from a woman in Lake Oswego, Oregon who wrote: …I am a volunteer at the Oswego Heritage Council in Lake Oswego, Oregon.  I am working on an exhibit about women in Oswego history and came across your website while researching Dora Espy Wilson.  As you likely know, she was born in Oysterville in 1872 to Robert and Julia Ann (Jefferson) Espy.  She moved to Oregon by 1895 and to Oswego by 1910.  Here she was active in the women’s club and served on the school board.  Though she was prominent in our town, we have no image of her either in the collection of the Heritage Council or the Lake Oswego Public Library. 

Dora Espy Wilson, on her return from Hawaii aboard the S .S. Lurline, c. 1951

I have a number of photographs of Aunt Dora, a few of which even give a hint as to her larger-than-life personality.  I sent them on to the volunteer and hope that she will find them useful.  I also asked for more information about the exhibit.  We have a good many relatives in the Portland area who might be interested in seeing it and learning a bit more about that era of her life.

I only know that her husband, King Wilson, was the Mayor of Lake Oswego but I’m not surprised that she was on the school board,  She had attended McMinnville College and Bellingham Normal School and had taught school for two years here in Pacific County before marrying King in 1895,  In addition, they had three children during their years in Lake Oswego, so I’m sure that she had a great interest in the schools both professionally and as a young mother.

Although she asked me for pictures, the volunteer did not ask for any of the particulars about Aunt Dora’s background or personality.  So perhaps this will be a totally “new look” at Aunt Dora.  Stay tuned.


The strangest valentine companion yet!

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

February 14, 2024

My Valentine

I certainly didn’t plan my day the way it turned out.  Nor did I intend to spend it with this particular companion.  But, sometimes, you just need to do whatever is required and hope that it beats whatever the alternative might be.

It was a day spent trying to iron out kinks in my new computer.  And, truth to tell, my own kinks, as well.  I am the first to admit that if it looks different, I am immediately in a world of hurt and I am here to tell you that Windows 11 looks different from Windows 10.  BIGTIME!!  Though my son Charlie says he doesn’t remember that being the case.  Well, what can I say?  He’s the previous generation and that much closer to the realities of the 21st century.

The Interfering Printer

Worst of all,  it didn’t automatically embrace all of my programs and it seemed that I was stymied at every turn.  Yesterday I took it to the Computer Doctor who fixed it right up and took pains to review several “changes” with me. More than once.  I came right home and practiced and all seemed well.

But, first thing this morning, I needed to print something for the first time since TBC (The Big Change.)  For whatever reason (and don’t bother to tell me the possibilities — you may as well speak Greek or Chinese) I couldn’t fix it.  The Computer Doctor worked on it remotely and finally had to make a house call. Thinking one of the printer ports was wonky, he tried to get it to work wirelessly.  Nada.  And then… don’t ask.  I certainly didn’t.  We were up and running and I almost feel confident that I can proceed without more travail.

Compatibility at Last!

I’m trying to send good messages to this new computer — love messages for Valentine’s Day.  If you are able to read this lament (which I’m trying mightily to disguise as a love letter) you will know that so far, so good!

Here’s hoping  your Valentine Day was terrific and that your Valentine wasn’t as recalcitrant as mine!

Calling all fishers with tales to tell!

Tuesday, February 13th, 2024

A story waiting to be told!

The March 6th History Forum will be taking a look at fishing in Pacific County — fresh water, saltwater, by lines and nets and baskets and traps from the traditions of  our local Chinooks to the development of the commercial and sports fishing that we know today.  Hopefully, we’ll take a look at the changes in processing and conservation, as well. This is an “All-Call” to any and all who have stories to tell and memories to share about an industry and an avocation that touches all of us who live in Pacific County.

Fishing on Sand Island

Wrote Lucile McDonald in her Coast Country (Binfords & Mort, 1966):  “The Chinooks carried on trade in dried salmon, sturgeon, smelt, and seal meat taken from their own waters; dentalium shells from the Strait of Juan de Fuca; dried shellfish, strung on sticks, from Willapa Bay… The men fashioned the cedar-log canoes and the women dried berries and blubber.  To this day Pacific County is noted for some of these products — salmon, oysters, and cranberries;, and ‘chinook’ is a well-known word to Western fisherman.”

But, how have the old ways changed over the years — for the Chinooks and for the settlers who began arriving in the 1850s?  (And, I can’t help adding. as I consider all of the new construction in our area:  the “settlers” are still arriving.)   There are among us, fishers whose parents and grandparents were also fishers. and who have grown up with the stories of the past and, perhaps, struggled with the changes in this traditional, yet viable and ever-evolving industry.  I do so hope we can get a few to come to our History Forum to share their stories.

At First Salmon Ceremony 2023

Please help spread the word!  Invite the fishers you know to join us on the first Wednesday of March  — from 10 to 12 at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.  Perhaps they remember the Salmon Derbies that took place from 1948 through the late ’50s at Derbyville near McGowan.  Or maybe you were one of the lucky Ocean Beach High School kids who worked at the hatchery in Chinook.  Or maybe you know someone who is a devoted fisher along the banks of Black Lake or perhaps a retired gillnetter or an avid sports fisherman.  Or maybe you know someone who works for Fish and Game who could add their part of the picture.

Thus far,  award-winning author Irene Martin of Skamokawa plans to join us, hopefully with her husband Kent who is a fourth-generation Columbia River gillnetter.  The two of them fished together in Alaska, the Columbia River, and Willapa Bay for over forty years.  Kent is a fourth-generation Columbia  River gillnetter.  I can’t wait to hear their stories.  And as many others as we can gather ’round!  Mark your calendar and talk it up!


Grief Therapy? Try working on your income tax!

Monday, February 12th, 2024

February 12, 2024

Published in 1998 “Thank you for giving Lottie a home,” the letter said.

“They” say the grieving process can take two years or more.  Some say there are five stages to get through.  Some say there are seven.  And dealing with a suicide, they say, is different.  No one talks about a double suicide, perhaps as many as ten years in the planning, to be done when both parties were “at the top of their game” and “in the peak of health” with everything pre-arranged right down to leaving their home to their cat-sitter so the cats would have the security of a home they had known for years.  And the provision for friends — a letter mailed to arrive after it was all a done deal.  My letter began, “Dear Sydney, It’s time to say goodbye.” Followed by a few thank yous for shared good times and favors.  Handwritten on a page from a lined yellow note pad.  Two signatures.  Over and out.  No forewarning — not ever.

Birthday Visitors- August 2017

Depending on whose list you look at, the first stage in grieving should be “shock” or “denial.”  Sorry.  Once again, I don’t fit the mold.  My reaction was anger pure and simple.  It still is — with quite a dollop of bitterness.  All I could/can think about is what a selfish, uncaring thing to do.  And why did they tell Nyel (and me) so many times that they admired how we dealt with his years of illness and injury?  Admired us?  Or thought we were examples of what they chose not to deal with?  Certainly we weren’t “the role models” they said we were.  They were liars.  Frauds.  Not the good friends we thought they were.

On Two Legs with Michael and Petra, 2014

Still… I’m trying to cut them a little slack.  Perhaps they didn’t truly believe (though they said they did) that we are all connected — that our lives and the way we live them are intertwined on this earth — that we need one another and that faith and charity and all the rest of it can only be expressed with and to the rest of humanity.  How selfish to check out when they were in their prime, flipping off those of us who loved them.  Yes, I’m angry.  I doubt that I’ll ever move past that.

Or, actually, maybe I have already done so — if there’s a stage of grief called irony.  When the letter arrived, I had just begun to pull together all those pieces of “stuff” that I need to send my CPA.  Yes!  It’s income tax time and as I work on it I wonder if that was one of the many things they “took care of” before they checked out. Or did they just blow off that responsibility along with their friendships?  Was their grand gesture just a giant copout?  (If you are tempted to answer… don’t.)  We were good friends (or so I thought) for a quarter of a century and for almost half that time they were secretly planning their time “to say goodbye.”


Standing Room Only Tonight in Ilwaco!

Saturday, February 10th, 2024

Joel Underwood

When you’re one of the shorter ones, it’s hard to see everybody in an SRO crowd but, even so, it seemed like everyone I knew was at the Joel Underwood concert tonight in Ilwaco.  The event was a benefit for the Ilwaco crabbers whose crab pots were lost and whose livelihoods were threatened in the devastating fire at the Ilwaco Landing two weeks ago — just days before their season was to open.

The concert was held at the River City Playhouse in Ilwaco, the venue arranged for and organized by Sue and Bill Svendsen of the Performing Arts Center, Long Beach.  And although it was billed as a Joel Underwood Concert, four other musicians joined him on stage during the course of the evening. “I gave each of them a call,” said Joel, “and each of them said ‘yes’ before I finished asking!”

The communities of the Peninsula (and beyond) were well represented  — scores of people there to support the crabbers and to hear Joel’s amazing music.  We weren’t expecting bonus musicians and the enthusiasm increased (which seemed impossible) as each additional player came onstage.  Steve Frost, Daryl Beau, Barney Petrine, and Don King each played, sometimes singly and sometimes with Joel and, finally, in a grand finale, they all played together!  Wow!

Left to Right: Don King, Barney Petrine, Joel Underwood, Daryl Beau, Steve Frost

And, of course, Joel saw to it that the audience also got into the act.  We sang, a bit tentatively at first, but eventually our voices rang out and… were there a few dance steps happening here and there?  “Mr. Bojangles” and “If I Had A Boat” were probably my favorites.  Or maybe best was Joel’s rendition of “The Frozen Logger” reworked as “The Frozen Crabber” in honor of the occasion.

All in all, it was a fabulous evening!  I enjoyed every minute of it and it seems a bonus, indeed, that it was all for a good cause!  And, to my neighbor Cyndy, a special shoutout for treating me to a great evening which included an early gourmet dinner and being chauffeured in her all-electric (and a bit mystifying) car!  Who’da thunk I’d be so lucky?

And which stories would you choose to tell?

Friday, February 9th, 2024

Plywood Mill

I’ve been thinking a lot about our February 6th History Forum — the one on logging that I wrote about on February 7th.  Like many who attended, my expectation (and, truth to tell, my hope) was to hear from old loggers about their experiences in the woods as high- climbers and choke-setters and whistle-punks.  Instead, we heard a lot about the corporate era of logging — the rise of Weyerhaeuser, Crown Zellerbach, and Rayonier in the 1930s and the gigantic impact of new materials developed in the 1940s making the manufacture of plywood and other modern building materials possible.

Not quite the romantic logging stories some of us were hoping for.  But wait!  Haven’t I been the one urging my readers and friends and history buffs to write down their history — if for no other reason than to record it for their own children and grandchildren.  And that’s exactly what Mr. Nott has done with “The Logging Eras of Pacific County Washington.”   Not as romantic sounding, perhaps, as stories about the Spruce Division during World War I, but it’s history that will soon be lost as we march ever more quickly toward replacing our forest products with those that are of  manmade materials.

Columbus Day Storm — A Game-Changer

Yes! Roy Nott had exactly the right idea and Steve Rogers is already working toward publication of  Mr. Nott’s treatise in the next Sou’wester.  Maybe in time for distribution at the Annual Meeting of the Pacific County Historical Society!  And how’s that for perpetuating the history of Pacific County!  Three Cheers for the History Forum, for Roy Nott, and for Sou’wester Editor-in-Chief Steve Rogers!

All I can say is, “More  More!”

Despite Murphy’s First Law…

Wednesday, February 7th, 2024

Logging Truck – Spruce Division

Today’s History Forum was one of the best yet — not necessarily subject-wise (although that was fabulous) and not necessarily because of the visual aids (there were technical problems).  But this Forum, our sixth, definitely involved the most participation– conversations, questions and answers, “show and tell” items, and general give and take — of any of our Forums to date.  We are all finally getting the hang of what a Forum is!

According to the OED, A forum is a place, situation or group where ideas and views on a particular subject can be exchanged.  A History Forum is a community for historians and history enthusiasts.  And that was us today in the proverbial nutshell — about thirty-five of us, I think, although it never occurred to me to count.  Among those who spoke of their experience in the timber/logging industry was Steve Rogers of South Bend who described himself as “the son of a son of a logger’ and whose father had the last logging operation on Long Island here in Shoalwater Bay.

Roy Nott of Aberdeen  — whose career with Weyerhaeuser began at their Raymond Sawmill pulling lumber — which he described as “the most boring job he ever had.”  But he stuck with it,  He was a contract logging supervisor for Weyerhaeuser after college and his responsibilities included the Deep River and Naselle areas.  He managed the logging operations for Rayonier on the Northern Olympic Peninsula and went on to become the VP, Pulp and Forest Products for Rayonier with an office in Stamford, Connecticut. — but has since spanned the globe and some 50+ years.  He shared a paper he wrote, “The Logging Eras of Pacific County, Washington,” and I suspect that we will eventually see it as an issue of The Sou’wester, Pacific County Historical Society’s quarterly magazine.

Jean Nitzel of Surfside, after listening to some of the exchanges between members of that corporate lumber world, described her husband Bill’s work as “a real logger” — a choker setter who worked day-in and day-out in the Naselle area, “unless it snowed,” she said.  She remembered a period in the sixties when it snowed for an unprecedented time here in Pacific County “and he got a full two-week vacation!”  Debby Halliburton of Ocean Park talked about another aspect of the industry —  a box factory that literally kept Cathlamet from becoming a ghost town during the Depression.  It’s importance went far beyond the paychecks that people earned– “it created the basis for a real sense of community>”

And Bob Rose talked about the logging operation(s) on the Rose Ranch which has ‘s celebrated its centennial year.  “There were times,” he said, ” when the dairy business was more or less subsidized by our logging operation, even though it’s fairly small.” Dave Williams and Steve Rogers spoke a bit about the forestry conservation efforts of Columbia Land Trust and there was general discussion about the effect of climate change on the growth of “traditional” species and what that might mean for the future.

It was a rich discussion and the time flew by.  Quietly, back in the northwest corner Michael Lemeshko recorded the Forum and he says it should be up on YouTube by Saturday.  Murphy’s First Law, “Anything That Can Go Wrong Will Go Wrong” had struck just as the Forum began when Steve’s Power Point Program could not be run on Michael’s computer and we are all hopeful that the remaining techy magic was working properly. You can check it out by Googling Pacific County History Forum on YouTube!