Down Memory Lane – On Gravel Roads

Sep 21, 2015 | 2 comments

The Wirt House, 1939

The Wirt House, 1939

I ran across a picture of the old Wirt House where my friends Johnny and Ruthie Holway lived when I first knew them. I still think of it as “across the lane” from us – probably because we always used the side door not the front door on what is now Territory Road. I remember every inch of that house even though it was replaced by the current house back in the late forties.

Stackpole Harbor

At the End of Stackpole Road

What struck me most about the photograph, though, was the gravel road in front. The picture was taken in 1939 – part of a WPA project documenting rural areas. I’ve been trying to remember when the road was finally paved. Probably Jim Sayce knows. He’s good at remembering things like that.

And when did Stackpole Road get graveled? I remember when it was still just sand and there were hardly any houses along the way at all. We would drive out there in my grandfather’s old Plymouth – usually for a picnic at The Point. Even though it seemed a long way north of Oysterville, it wasn’t as far as it is now with all the accretion. And, of course, there wasn’t a wildlife refuge or a state park there in those days.

North of Joe John's Road, c.1946

North of Joe John’s Road, c.1946

The changes I notice most, though, are along Sandridge between Joe Johns Road and Oysterville. They have all happened so gradually and over so much time that I can hardly remember when there were just meadows and forests for most of the way – until the Espy Ranch House. Nowadays, when people ask me which house that was, I’m hard pressed to tell them. No longer is it ‘the only house just beyond Oysterville.’

Thank goodness for these old photographs! I wish there were more. We’ve put on a lot of miles since those days of gravel roads and I’m grateful for opportunities to travel down them once again.


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Roads, like life, were slower then. Was life slower because of the roads or were people more present in life and not in a great rush to the end of the road and life?

  2. Jim


    Some thoughts:

    The road from Stackpole to the sandy parking lot at Leadbetter was very poor in the late 60’s, a potholed water filled snake with casual rocks. There were two incentives for access not on beach. One was the USCG telegraph line and the second was a visual aid to navigation marker. The telegraph line creation is likely the benchmark and as it went up the front road I’m guessing the late 30’s, early 40’s would be gravel era and timed with rock pit creation. Mom said that OP was all quaint sandy roads (except for state highway) into early ’50’s. All of Stackpole Road to Stackpole was gravel when I was in high school and I damned near jiggled my 56 Ford pickup off the curves trying to power slide around them on the washboard surface. FYI It became part of “state highway” about 15 or so years ago when SR 103 was extended from OP to Bay Avenue to Sandridge to Oysterville Weather Beach Road to Stackpole. The surface was first chip sealed quite a while ago early ’80’s? (layer of oil-based tar/asphaltum mixture covered/rolled with a layer of small gravel).

    I (you?) need to do research on that. The first north road from Oysterville Weather Beach might have been Hine’s Ranch (other than beach access). Now that’d be some fun research.


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