Christmas Fever in Oysterville

Dec 19, 2011 | 2 comments

Ilwaco as seen from Yellow Bluff, 1915

     Between coughing fits and feverish sleep, I’ve been re-reading Charlotte and Edgar Davis’s They Remembered series.  The books probably wouldn’t qualify for any great literary awards, but they are a fabulous documentation of the early families here on the beach.
     I am particularly interested in the accounts of the early Finns in Ilwaco.  Presented as oral histories, the stories tell of the ancestors of many people I know in the community and of many of the school kids I taught at Hilltop and Long Beach Schools.  They are names familiar to all of us who live here – Saari and Harju, Leback and Koski, Kary and Kaino and on and on.  In Volume II, there is “a partial list of names of heads of Finnish families in Ilwaco” as well as Wayne Koski could remember on March 9, 1982.  Eighty-seven names!  Eighty-seven households!
     Every reminiscence tells of the hard work these families had, first of all, in getting here, and secondly, in establishing themselves in a pioneer outpost so far from their native land.  Most arrived in the 1870s and the stories were told more than a hundred years later by the next generation, or the next.  They tell of their parents’ and grandparents’ struggles and of their own childhoods, working with their parents building fishtraps, building boats, building their houses, knitting nets, going to school and on to college, and always of working, working, working alongside their families and neighbors.
     In between my reading and sleeping bouts, I try to catch up with my email.  One of my far-away friends wrote that she was having difficulty delivering a Christmas gift of toys to an immigrant family.  The school had put them on the “needy list” but the family had taken themselves off.  What to do???  In my feverish reverie I realized that not a single one of the Finnish remembrances I’d been reading included the words “play” or “games” or “toys.”  What a different time and place we’ve come to.


  1. Marion Freshley

    Glad you have found something interesting to read while you’re ‘down for the count’. Let’s hope you will be feeling much better soon as it sounds like you have so much to do and be involved in. You would think the good ol’ flu shot would protect you from your type of illness. Guess nothing is 100% sure.

  2. Stephanie Frieze

    Sorry you’re under the weather, Sydney, but your reading material sounds facinating and I hope you’re well soon. I think I may have told you that we’ve found old Finnish newspapers in different places in our Ilwaco house which was built in 1881. Some were plastered on the walls in the closet under that staircase and some had been used to “level” the kitchen floor when new flooring was put in. When we removed the five layers and found the newspapers we donated them to the Heritage Museum.

    Drink lots of water and get well soon!


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