I shoulda paid more attention…

Jan 13, 2020 | 0 comments

H.A. Espy Windmill c. 1920

In my school days, I was much more interested in words than in numbers.  English and Creative Writing, yes.  Math and Science, not so much.  Maybe that’s why, in my teaching years, I was most comfortable with the primary grades.  Whole numbers and addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, I could handle.  Basic science, especially biology and the natural world, yes.  Physics… no way.  I could scarcely teach the principals of those seven simple machines.  You remember…  inclined plane, lever, wedge, wheel and axle, pulley, and screw.

So it is, that all these years later, I still don’t understand how the windmill in our front yard during my mother’s childhood pumped the water from the well up to the rain barrels on the roof.  I do understand how the water in those rain barrels supplied my grandmother with cold running water at the kitchen faucet — water she could use to fill the tank in her wood cook stove to heat for washing dishes, clothes, and family members.  Gravity feed I get.

H.A. Espy House, circa 1930 — note windmill and rain barrels

I imagine that the same up-to-the-rain-barrels and down-to-the-bathroom principles might have been applied so that the family could have had a flush toilet.  But they didn’t.  Not until FDR’s rural electrification project got as far as Oysterville in 1936.  That year the family installed an electric pump on the east porch and their first-ever flush toilet.  But, for many years, they kept the outhouse “just in case.”

I’m thinking about all of this because of my current book research,  I’m trying to understand why a house built in 1913 in Ocean Park included a “modern” half bath on the second floor.    Did Ocean Park get electricity earlier than Oysterville? Was there a windmill on the property?  Was there another way to manage the water flow?

I really should have paid better attention to those basic science lessons.  As it is, I think I’ll give our plumber friend Don Anderson a call.  Maybe he can explain some of those fundamental physics mysteries to me.


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