Oysterville – A Safe Haven?

Nov 17, 2015 | 3 comments


Stormy Morning in Downtown Oysterville

As the chilling news of ISIS and its plans continues to unfold in the aftermath of the Paris bombings, I wonder how ‘safe’ any of us feels. Yesterday, between rain showers, I walked out our gate and looked up and down the street. Not a soul or a vestige of life was to be seen. Surely, I thought, deserted old Oysterville is one of the safest places to be in these uncertain times.

But then, my thoughts flew back to my childhood and World War II. We were living in Alameda, California and my mother worked for General Engineering Shipyards. There were nightly blackouts and we sang “When the lights come on again, all over the world…” But, even so, my mother worried about her beloved Oysterville.

Papa in his Victory Garden

Papa in his Victory Garden

My Uncle Willard, living in far-off New York worried, too. Three days after President Roosevelt requested a declaration of war in his “Day of Infamy” speech, Willard wrote to my grandparents: Oysterville is near enough to the mouth of the Columbia so that you may see some excitement. I think you will be safe. If it ever appears that Ossining [NY] would be safer, come back here.

And, less than a year later, he would write: We were amazed at reports of impending bombings and actual blackouts in the Oysterville area. New York is talking about practice blackouts, but it hasn’t gotten beyond the talk stage yet… The ‘bombings’ Willard wrote about referred to the activity on the bay where practice targets had been set up for use by bombardier trainees flying out of McChord Airforce Base.

WWII Beach Patrol

WWII Beach Patrol

My own memories involve the barbed-wire barricades at the beach approaches and the occasional glimpses of the Coast Guard beach patrols on their horses that were kept at their ‘base’ at the Moby Dick Hotel. Our Japanese friends ‘disappeared,’ my grandfather’s vegetable garden was suddenly being called a “victory garden” and, “for the war effort,” we kids saved the tinfoil that was part of the packaging on cigarettes. (Unfortunately, no one in my family smoked so my sources were limited.)

No… I don’t know that Oysterville is “safe.” It wasn’t really safe then and I doubt that it is now. Is anyplace?


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    I love Mary Garvey’s song about the blackouts.

    After 9/11 my mother was terrified that Al Quida would sail up the Columbia. I know they closed the light houses to the public for a while, which only fed her fear. I tried to reassure her that Al Quida had no navy. During the Baltimore riots she feared black rioting in Ilwaco. Two people don’t make a riot. I think I miss the Cold War. At least the enemy was defined and seemed to adhere to a decency that mutual destruction preserved. Now there’s no telling from whence the threat will come. I do believe that girls ought to have to register for the draft. Wow. I’m rambling. If ISIS comes to Tacoma, I’m heading to the beach.

  2. Diane Buttrell

    Thanks, Sydney.
    Perhaps the Oysterville Town Hall and Lecture Series needs to consider some serious issues.

  3. Nancy Holden

    My cousin Phil and I would go to the high dune in Ocean Park and dig what we called bunkers — get inside and many times watched the Coast Guard Beach Control on horses.


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