“Oyster Growers” Part One

Mar 2, 2012 | 1 comment

"Willapa Bay Oysters" Episode Two

      Oystering is a hard business – physically hard – and it’s done in the cold and in the wet, sometimes in the dark and often in the mud.  It involves lifting and heaving, shoveling and hoisting.  All that is made abundantly clear in Keith Cox’s latest DVD, “Willapa Bay Oysters.”  Yet, when I finished watching it yesterday I actually felt warm and glow-y all over.
      The focus in this second episode of what is to be a seven-disc series is families – the oyster families of Willapa Bay.  Some have worked out on our bay for five generations. Men in their seventies and eighties were interviewed;  the toddlers just coming up were filmed;  most of the footage was done on the job.
      Keith has gone beyond showing the families.  He shows us the family connections, as well – the Heckes, Kemmer, Stamp families: all related; the Holway, Sheldon, Driscoll families: all related.  And he points out that those particular families got their start here in Oysterville where their fathers (or now grandfathers and great-grandfathers, depending which generation you’re talking to), Glen Heckes, Bob Kemmer and Ted Holway began Northern Oyster Company back in 1939.
      The ‘newcomers’ to the business are introduced, as well, and even workers who aren’t related by blood speak of a family feeling, of loyalty and camaraderie toward the business and their co-workers.  Many have been doing their jobs for decades which belies the oft heard expression “it’s a young man’s job.”  And their comments put in clear perspective the subtitle to Keith’s series, “more than an oyster, it’s a quality of life.”
      Again, I loved it that I knew so many of those filmed.  Among them were childhood playmates, an old heart-throb or two, and grown men who were once my students.  I loved it that I was ‘introduced’ to people previously known to me only by reputation.  I loved seeing ‘up close and personal’ what goes on just beyond my windows every day of the year.
      And, I have to confess, I felt just a twinge of jealousy.  Not of anyone here and now, but of the historians of the future.  Years from now they will get to see and hear what is happening at this point in time on Willapa Bay.  How often I have wished that I could listen to the voices of my own ancestors, see how they moved, watch their expressions, see them interact with others.  It’s every historian’s dream!
      And, one more family note – as I watched the credits I saw that Jeremie Murfin did the music that played behind the main titles and credits.  Jeremie grew up on the peninsula and is Keith’s first cousin!  Great music and another family bond documented for posterity.
       For more information about this great series — maybe even to see some of your own family members, check out www.willapabaydocs.com.


1 Comment

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Thank you for sharing this, Sydney. And now I have the Willapa Hills’ Oysterville Road running through my head. I’ve got to borrow Linda’s CD. Thanks again for another enlightening post.


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