Romance on the Bay

Nov 1, 2015 | 10 comments

Tokeland Oyster Station by Charlotte Davis

Tokeland Oyster Station by Charlotte Davis

I’ve always thought of our Willapa Bay as ‘romantic’ –in the sense of a setting for “heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry and romantic exploits,” but not so much in terms of “romantic love,” although probably a lot of that has occurred, too. I especially like the stories of the early oystermen and their lovely sailboats, called “plungers.” Their feats of derring-do are wonderful to hear about.

And, a bit later, in the first years of gasoline engines, when getting from here to there wasn’t quite so dependent upon weather and distances, there were the oyster houses. Imagine living in a house that was high and dry when the tide was out but with its floor at water level when the tide was in! If that isn’t romantic, I don’t know what is. Even better than living on a houseboat!

Inside an Oyster Station

Inside an Oyster Station

At one time there were seven or eight oyster houses on the bay. They were built by the big oyster companies at strategic places on their beds for several reasons. First, they became look-out posts against the ongoing possibility of poaching. And, second, they put an oyster crew right where they needed to be for picking, culling, grading and readying bushel baskets of oysters to be picked up for shipment

Charlotte Herrold Davis and her twin sister Catherine Herrold Troeh both told wonderful stories about spending summers at the Tokeland Oyster Station in the 1920s. It was where their father worked year ‘round and their mother and the six children joined him when school was out each June, livint upstairs over the culling room.

Murakami Oyster Station

Murakami Oyster Station

Oysterman Richard Kenitsu Murakami (1914-2005) was born in an oyster house and didn’t spend a night on dry land until he was eight years old! He later became manager In 1936 he became manager of the family owned Eagle Oyster Packing Company and when they sold to Coast Oyster Co. Richard continued as district manager until his retirement in 1992.

"The Ark at Camp Willapa" 1960, as seen from the bay

“The Ark at Camp Willapa” 1960, as seen from the bay

Except for one, the oyster stations are all gone now – victims of time, weather and benign neglect. The only existing one I know of still serves as the main building on the old Camp Willapa (now Sherwood Forest) property. Dorothy Elliott got it for a song in the late 1920s and had it hauled up onto dry land. She converted it for use as her living quarters when she was ‘in residence’ during the years she owned the summer camp on Willapa Bay.

I love the photographs and the stories and the memories… They all add up to my kind of romance!

10 Comments

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Was not Richard Murakami interned during WWII?

    Reply
    • sydney
    • sydney

      Yes. As were all of our neighbors with Japanese heritage in Pacific County. There were no exceptions, at least as far as I know.

      Reply
    • Keith Cox

      There is a great resource about Japanese Americans and their experiences if you go to http://www.Densho.org

      Many many interviews or “living histories” have been captured, including an interview with Richard Murakami, where you can hear all about his life.

      Once at Densho.org click on the tab at the top “Archives” Then on the next page to the left click a button titled “Densho Digital Archive” – you can then sign in as a guest by clicking the “sign in as a guest” button (smile), then to the left click on “search” and type in Richard Murakami, all the different parts of his interview come up. Free to listen too!!!

      When working on my oyster documentary project about Willapa Bay oystering, I actually used this as a resource and even got Densho’s permission to include a clip of Richard’s interview in my project.

      Great resource, and it can answer your question Stephanie (smile)

      Reply
    • Keith Cox

      but yes Richard went to Tule Lake Encampment.

      If you check out the interview listen to clip 31 he mentions that he had an officer point a “gun to his head” at the Palix River…

      Reply
      • Keith Cox

        Tulelake (not Tule Lake)

        Reply
  2. Keith Cox

    The New Washington Oyster Co. Station House also still exists, and is used as a shop now on dry land at the Herrold family property on Cougar Bend. I know the Interpretive Center in Nahcotta is modeled after a Station House, but am not 100% but I do believe it was possibly modeled after the “Murakami Oyster Station” pictured here in your blog Sydney

    Reply
    • sydney

      Thanks, Keith! Glad to know there is another Oyster Station still in use.

      Reply
      • Keith Cox

        On the Preservation Edition Collection of my project, there is a segment where Giro Nakagawa gives a tour of the New Washington Oyster Co. Station. Also in the interviews section on the bonus dvd, there is a great interview with Giro Nakagawa, where he describes his tough WWII time on the bay and getting sent to a camp. It was moving for me to do the interview, and hear him share the stories. All available on the DVD set which you have Sydney if you want to check it out.

        Reply
        • sydney

          I’m so glad (again!) that you did your Oystermen project, Keith! Thanks again and again and again!

          Reply

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