And what would he say now, 100 years later?

May 6th, 2022

E.B. White

E.B. White wrote a lot of books.  Books for children.  Books for adults.  Books for writers wanting to improve their skills.  My favorite — and probably yours, too — is Charlotte’s Web.

By all accounts, White was a shy man and writing didn’t always come easily to him.  According to one report, from September 1922 to June 1923, (he was 23/24) he was a cub reporter for The Seattle Times. On one occasion, when White was stuck writing a story, a Times editor said, “Just say the words.” He was fired from the Times and later wrote for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer before a stint in Alaska on a fireboat.

In 1924, after a few years “out west” White returned to New York City. When The New Yorker was founded in 1925, White submitted manuscripts to it and received offers to become a staff writer.  However, it took months to convince him to come to a meeting at the office and additional weeks to convince him to work on the premises. Eventually, he agreed to work in the office on Thursdays.

His contemporary, James Thurber, said of him:  Most of us, out of a politeness made up of faint curiosity and profound resignation, go out to meet the smiling stranger with a gesture of surrender and a fixed grin, but White has always taken to the fire escape. He has avoided the Man in the Reception Room as he has avoided the interviewer, the photographer, the microphone, the rostrum, the literary tea, and the Stork Club. His life is his own. He is the only writer of prominence I know of who could walk through the Algonquin lobby or between the tables at Jack and Charlie’s and be recognized only by his friends.

Although I will never forget Wilbur or Fern or Templeton, I did lose sight of the fact that Mr. White had spent time in the Northwest.  It was running across the following poem that prompted today’s blog:

Our Own History

Long ago
Things were slow
Down by Elliott Bay.
Cougar tracks
One room shacks
‘Neath the forest lay.
Minus fears
thought they’d start a town:
Lumber mills
Homes on hills
Street cars up and down.
Things went right
Over night
Sprang a heap big city,
Trade was good
Fish and wood
Added to the kitty.
Here we are
Gates ajar
Ships upon the way;
Mighty well
Just to dwell
Down by Elliott Bay.
    E.B. White, 1922

Why I used to read the local news…

May 5th, 2022

1960s Political Cartoon

Operable words:  “used to.”  Until recently — actually, until yesterday’s issue — our local paper was the one bright spot in the vast field of journalistic endeavor that makes itself available weekly, daily, even minute-by-minute via every intrusive vehicle the communication world has yet imagined.  But yesterday, though the newspaper arrived online, in my email, and in my post office mailbox, I could find very little to read with any sort of appreciation.

Take the news about the bond failure.  On the face of it: good news to me.  But as I read the reporter’s account and found that he mentioned “Ocean Beach School”… that was the end of my appreciation.  If a seasoned reporter cannot keep the names of our four schools straight, how accurate is the rest of his reporting???   And when one of the voters’ concerns was specifically the importance of community schools, just which community is the Ocean Beach School in, anyway?  I mean how hard is it to remember that it’s Ocean Park School, located in a community of that same name.  (Or did I miss yet another name change in our area?)

1960s Political Cartoon

And then that whole Cold War “Fallout Shelter” and “Dark Bunker” stuff in the “Peninsula Life” Section?  It’s probably just me, but I lived through all of that in the 1960s.  It was stressful then and I don’t find reliving it informative or useful or less stressful now.  We learned nothing from those years, as far as I can tell, except how to stir the pot and get the public upset enough to further support the war machine.  But that’s just me… an old lady wondering what progress, if any, we’ve made in my 86-year-long lifetime.

1960s Political Cartoon

Until now, I’ve always found the Observer a breath of fresh air.  It reminds me that there are many wonderful people doing remarkable things in our small corner of the world.  It even leads me to believe that we are not alone — that other rural areas (and even pockets of the metro areas) share many of our positive values and their residents work hard to keep focused on what they can do to help their neighbors and make things better right here at home.

Perhaps I’m just going through a bad patch and missed the good news.  I hope that’s the situation — or, worst case scenario, that the Observer, itself, was having a bad week.


Once Again, Right On Schedule!

May 4th, 2022

Mrs. G.W. Leak – May 1, 2022

Mrs. G.W. Leak is holding forth in all her glory in our garden.  She’s grown so tall over the years that she now lords it over all the others, but they don’t seem to mind a bit.  Some ladies just seem to command everyone else’s respect.  In our garden, it’s definitely Mrs. G. W. Leak!

But everyone — from the most robust to the most delicate — are joining the “look at me” chorus.  Even Nyel’s lilacs are out — not quite in full bloom and not quite in full fragrance.  But soon!  I can’t wait to fill the house with their heady perfume.

Nyel’s Lilacs

The Jean Maries (properly called “Jean Marie de Montague Rhododendrons) are budding out, little by little — letting us know that they’ll be in full bloom by May 12th — my father’s birthday!  Hard to believe he’d be 112 this year and has been gone since he was 82!  Of all the reminders he left behind, I think it is the Jean Maries that tug at my heartstrings the most.  He loved the color and was always inordinately pleased when they came out “on time” which makes me think that his birthday blooming each year was more  a happy accident than specifically planned when he and Paul Clark planted them all those years ago.

Jean Marie’s First Blossoms – May 1, 2022

Dad’s other favorites were the York Roses — perhaps actually called the “York and Lancaster Rose,” named for their red and white stripes symbolizing the Lancasters and Tudors, respectively, in England’s War of the Roses, 1455-1487.  They are now confined to six big tubs whereas they once marched down a center bed in the garden, dividing Willard’s Croquet Court from Dad’s traditional lawn-surrounded-by-flower-beds.  The York Roses seem to like the tubs, though.  Already there is a bud on one of the bushes — about two months early by my reckoning!  I wonder what that signifies… if anything.

Cat’s Fur To Make Kittens’ Britches

May 2nd, 2022

I don’t know what got me onto thinking about cat idioms today.  Perhaps it was Marta telling us last night that she had been cat sitting “two darling kitties who know me well but are so aloof!  They will NOT be won over by cuddling, though I’ve been sitting with them and trying for at least five years!”

Or maybe it was Charlie saying that FINALLY Lupe has been a bit playful with Rosencrantz, her newish little brother who wants so much to be friends but, until yesterday, has been rebuffed at every attempt.  Yes, I’ve had cats and kittens on my mind!

So, when I woke up to the gentle pitter-patter of raindrops, it’s probably no wonder I thought, “at least it’s not coming down cats and dogs…”  And then I was off and running.  I thought about our back forty and how there is finally “room enough to swing a cat.”  And I began to think about other cat expressions — “letting the cat out of the bag” and “Cat got your tongue?” and, of course, “It’s the cat’s meow.”

There are a gazillion of them.  How about “that’s the cat’s pajamas!” and “purring with pleasure” or “looking like something the cat dragged in.”  Then there is something that happens a lot when  you’re trying to organize a bunch of toddlers — you know: it’s a lot like “herding cats.”

And, for heaven’s sake, don’t act too nervous or you’ll be compared to “a cat on a hot tin roof” — (not the play by Tennessee Williams, though).  There’s the old “cat and mouse game” and, of course, “while the cat’s away, the mice will play!”

There are probably many more that I don’t know or have forgotten.  But, never mind.  Even one or two of them beats the initialisms that we have all fallen into of late — DYNA?

What goes around, comes around.

May 1st, 2022

My grandmother, Helen Richardson at 18– the year before she married Harry Espy in 1897

At our Friday Night gathering, the conversation drifted around to language and how our use of it is changing.  We lamented that the kids of today who aren’t learning cursive will never get to read the love letters of their grandparents.

“WHAT???  WOULD YOU WANT THEM TO?” came from Fred.  And, since I have no grandchildren, I couldn’t answer with complete honesty.  I could only say that I learned a lot about the 1890s by reading the letters my own grandparents exchanged during their courtship in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I think Fred would find them pretty tame!

We then segued into a discussion about the breakdown of vocabulary — using letters to represent words, like BTW and WTF and a host of other increasingly used shortcuts to writing (and speaking.)  But, I’m here to tell you that P.G. Wodehouse was using similar “shorthand” in his books written in the 1920s and ’30s and I don’t see that our vocabulary has suffered unduly in the last hundred years.  In fact, it has no doubt expanded the possibilities.

From Wikipedia:  Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE (/wodhaos/WOOD-howss;;  15 October 1881 – 14 February 1975) was an English author and one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century. His creations include the feather-brained Bertie Wooster  and his sagacious valet, Jeeves…

I am just re-reading Wodehouse’s 1934 novel, The Code of the Woosters and came upon these (somewhat subtle) examples of the Wodehouse minimalism:

I spoke with satirical bitterness, and I should have thought that anyone could have seen that satirical bitterness was what I was speaking with, but she Merely looked at me with admiration and approval.
“You are clever, Bertie.  That’s exactly it.  Of course, you needn’t wear a mask”

“You don’t think it would help me throw myself into the part?” I said, with sb., as before.

So there you have it!  I can’t really think that Wodehouse limited our expansion of English language.  But that’s just IMHO.

No they didn’t, Mr. Webb! L.B. didn’t “win”!

April 30th, 2022

Gathering at the Pacific House, 1870.

This morning I stopped by the Heritage Museum and enjoyed a walk around their April 9- July 9 exhibit “The Grand Hotels of the North Beach Peninsula.”  I felt like I was visiting old friends — so many familiar photographs of the old hotels of Long Beach and, I’m happy to report, of the Pacific House in Oysterville and the Taylor Hotel in Ocean Park, as well.  The information, too, was well-known — from Lucile McDonald’s Coast Country as well as from many Sou’wester magazine articles and from the extensive files of CPHM.

Bringing it all to life were mannequins in period costumes — so evocative of more genteel and civil times! — and the fabulous carriage, an 1890s “Roof Seat Break” — on loan from the Northwest Carriage Museum in Raymond. If you’ve ever dreamed of going back in time for a weekend get-away, this may be the closest you’ll ever come to it!

Crew of the Alice at the Taylor Hotel, 1909

I have to say, though, that when I read Patrick Webb’s article about the exhibit in the Observer a few weeks ago, I was just a wee bit put off by his statement: “North Beach” was the name that entrepreneurs used in brochures and on maps. But eventually — a story for another day — “Long Beach” won.) Well, maybe more than “a wee bit put off.”   I was sure that the staff at CPHM made no such claim (and I was right!) but I was disgusted with that lack of knowledge about our Peninsula by one of our finest local feature writers.  I can’t imagine how he missed this very basic information about a place he claims to love.

I do hope my readers know better.  But, just in case you might need a bit of review, here is an excerpt from one of my 2013 blogs, “The Long and the North of It:”
If there’s one thing I’ve always hung my Historical Hat on, it’s the official versus the popular name of this Peninsula.  In almost everything I write, I find a way to point out that according to the United States Board on Geographic Names (under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior), our little finger of land is still legally and officially the North Beach Peninsula.  It is only due to a vigorous public relations campaign mounted by the city of Long Beach in the early twentieth century that we are now shown on local and regional maps as “Long” rather than “North.”

Portland Hotel, Long Beach c.1900

In the  Introduction to Legendary Locals, for instance I point out in the Introduction: The tiny finger of land in the southwestern-most corner of Washington State is popularly known as the Long Beach Peninsula.  Officially, however, it is still the ‘North Beach Peninsula,’ so-named because it stretches northward from the mouth of the Columbia as opposed to the Oregon beaches to the south.   By whatever name, it is an area that gives rise to rugged individualists, independent thinkers, creative dreamers, and innovative problem-solvers.

So, if you happen to see Mr. Webb (or anyone else who may be confused about the official (and legal) name of this sandspit we cherish, please recommend this post!  You’ll be furthering the cause of History, to say nothing of Accuracy in Reporting!

When you’re out of excuses…

April 29th, 2022

                        …just blame the supply chain.

This is “almost-but-not-quite the final version of the cover. (What do you think has changed?)

At least that’s what I think is happening these days.  It doesn’t seem to matter what the item is or whether it is slow in arriving, late, unobtainable, not in stock, back-ordered or just not being manufactured at all.  Ask the “why” question  (or the “where” or “when” question) and the answer will be basically two words: SUPPLY CHAIN.  My response (if only in my head) is also two words:  BULL PUCKY!

So, today, when I wrote the editor of my forthcoming (publication date: May 2nd) book for Arcadia Press, The Ghostly Tales of the Long Beach Peninsula and asked when I might expect copies, why was I not surprised at the answer:

Yes! Copies are forthcoming! As with most industries around the world, we’ve been hit with supply-chain delays. The books hit the warehouse a few days ago (weeks behind schedule). But many have already shipped, and the rest will do so this weekend. So fingers crossed you should have books by mid-next week.  Please let me know if they’re still MIA by the end of the week. I’m sorry about this. It’s truly maddening but out of our control.

One Version of The Supply Chain

I’d sincerely like to blame Mrs. Crouch for this one.  I have visions of her gumming up the works at the printer’s just to draw a little more attention to herself and to the other ghostly characters in the book.  But… I’m sure there are other books involved in the supply chain slowdown — not just mine (or, as she would prefer to have it, not just Mrs. Crouch’s!)

Keep your fingers crossed.  And if you should have an encounter with Mrs. C., please let her know that this is the book that will introduce her to the younger readers of Peninsula history.  She really needs to be a bit more gracious!


The Perfect Nonsensical Dinner Choice!

April 28th, 2022

We went out to dinner at El Compadre with Carol and Tucker Tuesday night and, against all odds for Nyel, it was the perfect restaurant choice.  But… first a little background:

One of the side effects of eliminating as much excess fluid as possible from Nyel’s system — (the congestive part of congestive heart failure) is that he is no longer producing saliva.  Lack of saliva leads to all sorts of other problems like being more prone to cavities and having mouth lesions or bleeding ulcers on lips and gums and soft palate.

So far, he has not had any cavities but the blood from the lesions sometimes covers his teeth and he looks vampire-ish and scary — to say nothing of his own pain and discomfort trying to eat!  The dentist gave him some sample mouthwash (which didn’t seem to have any effect) so we’ve gone back to my grandmother’s cure-all for mouth injuries — a mouthwash of warm salt water three to five times a day which, I must say, has helped a lot.  Meanwhile, his cardiologist has backed off some of his diuretics so we hope to see an improvement in saliva production soon.

All these travails notwithstanding, Nyel very much wanted to take Tucker and Carol out to dinner as a very small token of our appreciation for all their TLC during these last few months.  Tucker’s favorite restaurant on the Peninsula is El Compadre so that’s where we headed Tuesday evening.

Say what???  Mexican food and mouth lesions?  That doesn’t sound like the perfect combination by any means.  But it was!  Nyel ordered the bean and cheese burrito with rice and refried beans (as did Carol and I) and it was perfecto!  Not too spicy.  Not too crunchy! It was absolutely grand.  The only think I felt badly about was that Nyel couldn’t try the chips and salsa.  THE BEST EVER.  I ate his share and mine, as well!

And I’m happy to report that his mouth felt and looked better Wednesday and continues to improve!!!  So… Cinco de Mayo is coming up and, besides, El Compadre is not only open but does take-out every day of the week!  ¡¡Olé!!


An Old-fashioned Sunday Afternoon…

April 25th, 2022


Erik and Pat Fagerland came visiting yesterday.  We did some serious “catching up” with family news, with personal concerns and achievements, and just with the usual guzz’n’gossip that a long-time friendship entails.  It was THE BEST and reminded me of Sunday afternoons of my childhood when my grandparents sat in this very same room visiting with their friends and loved ones.  If these wall could talk, oh the stories they could tell and the warm embraces of friendship they could share!

Barb: My belated birthday present!!

April 24th, 2022

Barbara Canney – From Her FB Site

For my 85th birthday in 2021, Nyel’s gift was to have my friend Barbara Canney of Cohasset, MASS, come and organize my files — computer files or hard copy files, my choice.

(Background: in 1980, my Uncle Willard arranged for Barb — who was about to begin her Senior Project at Evergreen — to come and catalogue the Espy Family Papers.  He agreed to pay her a stipend for one academic quarter; the project took her a year and a half and became the foundation for the Espy Archive, now housed at the WSHS Archive Center.  I was her “mentor” during that project… )

What a FABULOUS gift!  And who would be better qualified to dive into the morass that loosley qualify as “my files”?  In that long-ago year and a half that Barb was here, we became fast friends and have remained so — never mind that a continent and family obligations etc. etc. separate us.

The Canney Family, 2014

Unfortunately, though, Covid and other health issues have intervened and my gift has yet to be delivered, but… NOW, FINALLY Barb has her ticket and will arrive May 17th!  St. Patrick’s Day!  She’ll be here for a week and then her husband John will join her for a week-long vacation here in the place where they did their courting long ago.

I am SO excited!  Never mind that I need to organize my office so that Barb can organize my files.  And never mind that we’re not sure if she should start with documents or photographs.  And never mind that, like her initial work on the Espy papers, this week should segue into several years…  It’s a start.  And so much more!

My husband has the best idea for presents…ever!!!