Oysterville’s Red Light District

Apr 18, 2014 | 4 comments

Lou's Place

Lou’s Place

The other day at our 160th celebration, when Ronnie Biggs mentioned that he remembered Oysterville’s Red Light District, he got quite a laugh.  But, he was serious.  I dare say all of us who were kids here in the 1940s and ‘50s remember it.  But ‘it’ wasn’t so much a “district” as it was “Lou Mitchel’s Place.”  And, I can’t speak for Ron, but I had absolutely no idea why she had that oyster shell light fixture with the bright red light bulb on her front porch.

Lou lived in the tiny little house – really more of a shack in those days – at the ‘S Curve’ right at the southern entrance to Oysterville.  I remember that she had hennaed hair and a gravelly voice and was old.  (In retrospect, she may have been in her fifties or sixties but, of course, anyone over 30 was in the ‘old’ category to us kids.)

Berry Boxes

Berry Boxes

I knew her mostly as “The Berry Lady.”  When the blackberries got ripe, Lou would have stacks of berry boxes on her porch – or maybe in her living room – and we would bring our full buckets to her and fill up as many of those little containers as we could.  I wish I could remember how much we got per basket.  Maybe five cents.  Whatever the amount, it was enough to keep us picking day after day and learning not to eat our profits as we worked.

Sometimes, after our berry transactions were over, we’d hang around and visit with Lou.  She told us wonderful stories about her days in Alaska and we got to calling her “Klondike Kate,” a name she seemed to like.  I’m sure some one of our parents had used that term when referring to her; I don’t think any of us had ever heard of the original Klondike Kate, the wannabe vaudeville actress of the Klondike Gold Rush years.


Without Wiring or Bulb

Sometimes when we were visiting with Lou, some man would drive up to pay her a call.  Then our story hour would be over for the day and Lou would shoo us on home.  Maybe some of the other kids knew what was going on, but the penny never dropped for me until years later.  I think I was already a young married mother when I asked my own mom (probably in a self-righteous tone), “Did you know what was going on down at Lou’s?  Why did all of you parents let us kids hang around there?”

My mother’s laughing reply was, “Why not?  She was always good to you kids, wasn’t she?”  As usual, my mom was absolutely right.


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    An ancient profession to be sure when so few professions were available to women, but I’d never thought of it in terms of the little communities on the Peninsula!

  2. Nancy

    What a share! Well thought through and written. I can visualize you and the other “kids” enamored by and with the stories she told. And, I LOVED your mother’s reply. I think of your mom often, and with great appreciation and affection for the person she was. “In her mother’s hat she lives….”

  3. Greg

    So, is THIS the “old Oysterville” that a cranky neighbor of ours is missing?? LOL!

  4. Jenny

    What a great story, Sydney! I love stories about youthful naiveté when told by a great storyteller…


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