Keeping Up With the Mainstream

Apr 21, 2014 | 0 comments

Heckes Inn c. 1930

Heckes Inn c. 1930

Ever since one of our neighbors made a disparaging remark about the “new” Oysterville (but didn’t explain what that meant) I’ve been thinking about the changes I’ve seen here during my lifetime.  Like all the other aspects of life, one thing just morphs into another and the demarcation line between what is and what was is blurry at best.

Take, for instance, the Heckes Boarding House.  I can just barely remember it. It was owned and operated by four elderly sisters and their families.  They also had boarding houses in Portland – two of them.  Those were year ‘round but the one here in Oysterville operated only in the summertime.  It was one of the last vestiges of the era when families from the city “removed to the beach” for the summer to take advantage of the fresh sea breezes and good home-cooked meals.

Wachsmuth Cottages Postcard

Wachsmuth Cottages – 1939

In the city, boarding houses were also an inexpensive living arrangement for single women or men, for young people just starting out and for older people no longer able to live completely independently.  On the flip side, running such an establishment allowed families with large homes to utilize the rooms and to make a little income.  Also called “Rooming Houses” or “Guest Houses,” it is estimated that between a third and a half of urban residents were either boarders or took boarders into their homes as urbanization burgeoned in the mid-nineteenth century.

Some historians view boarding houses as a necessary but adolescent stage in American life, which existed until suburbia took off in the post-war years. In recent times, zoning ordinances and building codes have changed the face of “low-cost housing” and boarding houses are no longer a prevalent way of life.

Here in Oysterville, the Boarding House closed after World War II and gradually the term “summer visitors” meant something different from the people who came and stayed each year at the Heckes Inn. About the same time, our standard of living had improved enough so that even working-class families were able to afford to buy a little cottage or cabin or could come for short stay in an auto-court.  I can’t remember exactly when we began to use the term “part-time resident” or when transportation had improved enough that the Peninsula became a “year round destination” for visitors.

Nor, without a crystal ball, can I see what we are gradually becoming now.  In whatever direction we head, I’m sure we won’t be alone.  We are still off the beaten path, but we seem to parallel the mainstream as we evolve.  I don’t know if that’s a comforting thought or not.  It’s just the way it is.

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