Posts Tagged ‘Historic Oysterville Post Office’

The Shape of Summer in Oysterville

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

A Sign of Summer

Even though Oystervillains [sic] are a fiercely independent lot, there has always been a certain “shape” to summer — especially over the last several decades.  There are certain events and activities that take place each year and, whether or not you participate, they seem to be markers along our path to autumn.

Here, at least since the late ’70s, “The Summer Season” begins on Father’s Day with the first Summer Music Vespers program at the church.  From then until Labor Day weekend, the focus of each Sunday (at least for some of us) is the hour spent with friends and neighbors and visitors from afar in song and fellowship.  Though each Sunday is unique, each also follows a similar structure: a story and welcoming message from a member of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation;  a short message from a pastor from the greater area; a forty-minute musical presentation by local or visiting musicians; two or three hymns sung by the congregation; the passing of collection baskets (donations to be used for maintenace and upkeep of the old building).

In July, the focus is at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.  That’s usually the month that the Oysterville Community Club sponsors the highly popular Artisan’s Fair — a three day event featuring artists and craftsfolk from all over the Peninsula and drawing dozens of tourists in addition to  locals!  Such a lovely time for “catching up” on the creative accomplishments of our many talented Peninsula friends and neighbors!

In August, the Oysterville Regatta occurs — always on a Saturday (for maximum participation), always in the afternoon (for the wind), and always at the most judicious time of the tide as determined by Chief Skipper Tucker Wachsmuth.  For the landlubbers in town (like us) the dinner afterwards, prepared by Carol W. and daughter Lina, is a particular highlight.  The entire town is invited plus all the regatta participants and their families plus musicians plus… Fabulous!

Sweet Memories – Regatta Day 2012

And, of course, the days of summer are punctuated by two or three weddings a month at the church and by picnics and barbecues and family reunions throughout the village.  There is always a special feeling of friendship and sociability here in summertime.

This year, though… not so much!  Summer has lost its shape entirely.  We console ourselves that we are not alone in that regard and that Oysterville and the rest of the world will soon look back on this as the Summer of Masks and Social Distancing — a once-in-a-lifetime aberration here and everywhere.

When Wednesday Was Hump Day

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

Postcard of Oysterville Post Office  Outide and Inside

For years (probably since I retired in 2001) I’ve considered Wednesday “Paper Day.”  It’s the day the Chinook Observer is published and arrives early in the morning in my mailbox at the Oysterville Post Office.  Lately, since we’ve been sheltering, Wednesday has become “Mail Day.”  It’s not that I don’t go other days, but I’m spasmodic about it.  I always go for my mail on Wednesdays.

When I was working, some people called Wednesday, “Hump Day.”  I didn’t much like that most years — not unless it was one of those years when the class coming through was extra difficult.  (We used to attribute those classes to a conception year when the water was bad, for some reason…  Ask an old teacher if you don’t believe me.)

“Wednesday’s the day we sweep the floor…”

Mostly though, I didn’t like the term “Hump Day.”  I really loved my job and there were never enough days in the week to do all the fun things I wanted to do — especially as the years went by and the demands of from the State became more time-consuming.  And less appropriate for educating kids… but that’s another story.

In the old nursery rhyme, “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush,” Wednesday was the day we “swept the floor.”  Maybe by 1965 when hump day became popular, we were more likely to have wall-to-wall carpets and vacuuming wasn’t quite the focus it had been in mid-19th century when it first showed up.

An earlier days-of-the-week song, going back at least to the arrival of the Mayflower, was  “Wash on Monday.”  The duties of each day differed a bit from the Mulberry Bush version that most “Mother Goose” books include:

From “The Nursery Rhymes of England”

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Bake on Wednesday,
Brew on Thursday,
Churn on Friday,
Mend on Saturday,
Go to meeting on Sunday.

It seems to me that, if we’d been taught the “Wash on Monday” rhyme, the focus would have been on Thursday rather than Wednesday… As in forget hump day.  Whatcha brewin’ tomorrow?


Back In Our Wild, Wild West Days

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Given all of our country’s gun problems and controversies these days, I was a bit startled to see a full-page reproduction of an advertisement for “Reliable Revolvers” in an old Sou’wester magazine. Actually, the ad appeared on the back cover of the Summer-Autumn 1979 issue without explanation.  It is not clear where or when it originated and I can only surmise that the editor (also not named) of this particular issue felt it went with the rest of the magazine’s content.

The issue was called “The Town of Chinook” and about half of its 40 pages deal with “History of the Chinook Post Office.” Among its pages is another interesting ad, also from the Sadler Pub. Co., Baltimore, MD. For “Post-Office Cabinets and Cases.”  It says, in part:  The rental from boxes in Post-offices where the salary is less than $1,000 belongs to the Postmaster.  They can, therefore, increase their income very materially by having their offices fitted up in an Attractive manner.  The money received from rentals alone will pay for a Cabinet in a few months.  With this in view…

I had no idea that the rental money from post office boxes once was considered supplementary income for postmasters on the low end of the pay scale.  I wonder if that was the case with our wonderful little old-fashioned post-boxes.  These days, for those of us who have no postal delivery service available, there is no rental fee charged.  I don’t know about other situations, but I’m pretty sure that rental revenue no longer goes into the postmaster’s pocket.  Hopefully, our postmasters make an adequate living wage these days without having to “fit up” their place of work to eek out a bit more income!

But, back to the “Reliable Revolvers” ad.  When I realized that this advertisement was targeting (ahem) postal workers specifically, I immediately thought, “Wow!  That puts a whole new spin on the expression, Going Postal.”  Perhaps you remember when that phrase originated.  It was back in 1986 in Edmond, Oklahoma when 14 employees were shot and killed and six were wounded by Patrick Sherrill, a postman who then committed suicide. And to think that a century or so beforehand, postal supply companies were offering weapons for sale!

Mailboxes at the Oysterville Post Office

On the other hand, it wasn’t all that long ago that an Oysterville postmaster revealed to me that she always carried a gun when she went on her daily noontime walks.  I was horrified.  I think she was the first person who ever confided in me about routinely ‘carrying’ a revolver.  She said that she simply didn’t trust the drivers who might slow down and threaten her in some way.  I chalked it up to paranoia.  However, I was careful not to slow down for a talk with her if I happened to drive by her on her walks.  Just sayin’…

But now, I’m wondering if it’s a historic tradition among postal employees to be armed.  I’m hoping some of my friends in ‘the biz’ will weigh in and tell us that this advertisement is a historic aberration and not since the days of Wells Fargo and the Pony Express have postal workers routinely carried weapons as part of their jobs.  YIKES!

Oysterville’s Seventeenth Postmaster

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Jean Smith, Oysterville Postmater 2002-2012

Mescal Jean Smith, always known to us by her middle name, died last week at her home in Tygh Valley, Oregon.  Her daughter-in-law kindly called to let us know.  Though Jean and John moved from Oysterville almost six years ago, I feel Jean’s absence more since that phone call than in all the years since they left.  Somehow, they have remained ‘present’ despite our sporadic communication.

Jean and John came to Oysterville in 1984.  They bought the Oysterville Store/Post Office Building as well as the old Andrews house next door.  I don’t know if Jean had aspirations to become the postmaster at that time or not.  I think Mary Munsey was still in charge of the mail in those days and then came Casey Killingsworth who we dubbed “The Singing Postmaster.”

John and Jean Smith, 2012

Meanwhile, Jean and John (but mostly Jean) ran the store.  John was still working in Oregon; for years we saw him only on the weekends.    By the time John finally retired and moved to Oysterville full-time in 2001, Jean was working as the PMR (Postmaster Replacement) at the Post Office as well as keeping an eye on the store.

Somehow, she also had time to grow tubs full of gorgeous tulips, nip outside to give doggie treats to her canine friends, and wave hello to the neighbors on her noontime walks through town.  She had worked and walked her way into our community and into our hearts and had brought John right along with her.

Soon, in 2002, she was officially appointed Oysterville Postmaster and John was minding the store full-time.  It was a natural division of labor and it seemed as though it had always been that way.  Indeed, now, almost two decades later, there are many store customers and postal patrons who don’t remember life ‘BJJ” – before Jean and John.

Jean Cuts Farewell Cake, 2012

“How is John doing?” I asked during the phone call.  Jean had written some time back that he had been diagnosed with “Beginning Alzheimer’s.”

“Not very well,” Jean’s daughter-in-law replied.  It wasn’t clear that he fully understood that Jean had died.  “His son will be taking him to Arizona to live with them,” she said. And we were quiet for a while.

I asked if I could do any calling – to let people know.  “There’s someone I called who said she’d post a notice at the Post Office,” she said.  “And we are going to gather up there at Jean’s Beach, probably in July, to scatter her ashes.  We want all her friends to come.”

I’m not really sure where Jean’s Beach is, but we plan to be there.

Mail Call! – Always fun in Oysterville!

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Mailboxes at the Oysterville Post Office

It’s probably similar at little post offices throughout the world.  Our Oysterville P.O. is a gathering place for the locals – nowadays, not so much ‘gathering’ as ‘see-you-as-I’m-passing-through – and it’s a collection/disbursement area for news and rumors (now called ‘fake news’) and gossip.  And, of course, there’s the mail.

Over the years, we’ve had some strange items in our post office box.  Take the letter that was sent to my folks from a friend in England.  It was addressed properly except that instead of WA, there were periods after each letter: W.A.  That little mistake was compounded by the omission of U.S.A.  The letter took several months to get here.  First it went to Western Australia, according to the cancellation stamps on the envelope.  A notation said, “Not here.  Try West Africa.”  The next note said, “Try the U.S.” and that, apparently did the trick!

Even in my great-grandparents’ time, there were interesting mail stories.  In 1893, the Oysterville postmaster received this letter – the first indication that the erstwhile Baptist preacher (who had skipped town to avoid arrest for his wife’s possible murder) was also a bigamist.

Tom and Sam Andrews Store and Post Office, c. 1900

…I am the ferst [sic] wife of one Josiah Crouch.  I was married to him the 5 day of August in 1885 at St. Joseph, Mo. County Buccanan [sic].  In 1888 he left me at Havensville Kans and I understand that he went to Ark. In 1889 he married a woman by the name of Tedden at Gladstone Ark as I had too [sic] letters from D.P. Tedden the father of his last wife.  I have a little girl 7 years old.  I have written some letter [sic] to Ilwaco with my one [own] handis [hands] no forgery.  I have send [sic] letter [sic] a copy of Mr. Teddens letter and a stat ment [statement] nad [and] copy of the married [sic] lissen [license] to T.H. Parks at Ilwaco Wash if you wish to see thum[sic] you can write to him yours respectfully Mrs. Tillie Crouch

Mail from Japan

Not too long ago, there was another curious bit of mail in our postal box.  Apparently, it was from Japan and was addressed to:

The Tourist Information Center of Oysterville Town.
Oysterville – Town.
Washington – State.
Willapa – Bay.
Pacific Ocean.
South west – Olympic City.
South west — Washington.
North west – U.S.A.
To: U.S.A.

 We love going for the mail.  We never know what the next surprise might be!

Help Me to Understand

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Oysterville Store and Post Office c. 1940

The U.S. Post Office is at it again.  Oysterville is under attack.  It’s not quite like it was last time when we were one of many small, rural Post Offices being considered for closure.  No, this time our little Post Office will be staying open but we will be losing our Postmaster, Steve Fricks.  He will be replaced by someone new.

It’s not that Steve wants to leave.  Far from it.  This is his ‘dream’ job – close to home, part-time, pleasant (if a bit quirky) working conditions, and friendly (also a bit quirky) postal patrons.  From my viewpoint on the opposite side of that little postal window, Steve is a perfect fit for Oysterville – always pleasant, informative, and helpful – especially with some of us elderly folks who might need assistance in carrying a package or in understanding which mailing method might be best.

Postmaster Jean Smith, w008

Steve is the seventeenth Postmaster in Oysterville’s history.  I think that’s a remarkably small number considering ours is the oldest continuously operated post office in Washington, beginning on April 29, 1858 with Isaac A. Clark as Postmaster.  Several of Oysterville’s oldest residents remember the five who proceeded Steve– Minnie Andrews, Muriel Wright, Mary Munsey, Casey Killingsworth, and Jean Smith. I think that they all stayed until they retired or left of their own volition.  Not so Steve.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have the story quite straight.  I had heard from a friend that her friend was applying for the Oysterville postal position.  “That can’t be right,” said I, but upon checking with Steve, I found it was absolutely true.  “I am being transferred to Ocean Park,” he told me, “but not by choice.”

Mailboxes at the Oysterville Post Office

It seems that someone (actually two someones) in Ocean Park are moving ‘up’ to positions in other post offices.  Somehow, that means that Steve has to be offered one of those jobs – a “step up” but a step he doesn’t want to take.  If he refuses, his employment with the Post Office is over for now.  He can reapply in X number of years.  Apparently, it’s a union rule, designed to ‘protect’ workers from being passed over when jobs become available.

Say what???  I thought Unions were for the protection of employees…  Bureaucracy with a capital B if you ask me.  “What can we do?” I asked Steve.  “I don’t think anything,” was the reply.  Probably not, but I’m determined to lodge a complaint, anyway, beginning with a call to “Chris” at the Ocean Park Post Office.  I believe he is Steve’s immediate supervisor.  I know that it will be less than useful but maybe I can find out who the Postal Union contact for this area might be and call that person, too.   Maybe we all should.

Foiled again and out of touch as usual!

Saturday, March 12th, 2016
Picture Postcard

Picture Postcard

I was feeling a little smug which is never a good sign… but, for once in my life I had sent out birthday thank yous in a timely manner. My mother would have been proud. And even though cards and gifts had become separated in all the surprise party excitement, I was feeling pretty confident that I had sent the appropriate appreciative notes to all but one or two people. (If you are one of those, let me know!)

Bert Andrews picking up the Oysterville Mail in Nahcotta, 1915

Bert Andrews picking up the Oysterville Mail in Nahcotta, 1915

So when I walked into the Oysterville Post Office yesterday and Steve-the-Postmaster held up a familiar looking postcard and said, “You owe me fourteen cents,” I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It took some explaining on his part for me to understand that two of the recipients of my cards live here in town and before Steve could deliver the cards, he needed to collect seven cents for each one.

“YIKES! Do you mean there will be postage due on all those thank you notes I sent out? I am mortified!”

Good until 1952

Good until 1952

“Well,” he said, “It probably depends on the post office. Some will collect it; some won’t.”

I, of course, blame Nyel.  (Always easier.) He had assured me that those left-over stamps with the polar bears on them were still good. And well they should have been! They cost twenty-eight cents each. Who knew that mailing a postcard now costs thirty-five cents!

I wish I could have this discussion with my mom. I wonder if she would be so insistent upon written thank yous these days as she was when I was a kid. Not that I’m stuck back in the penny postcard days. But thirty-five cents! In my salad days I could have bought a pack of cigarettes with that amount of money and had change left over for twelve postcards! Granted, they tell me cigarettes cost seven or eight dollars a pack now, so I guess the inflation of stamps is within reason… but still…

The Biggest Event of the Day in Oysterville

Monday, June 16th, 2014
Oysterville Store and Post Office c. 1940

Oysterville Store and Post Office c. 1940

“Getting the mail” is a Big Deal in Oysterville. I don’t remember mail being an ‘event’ in other places that I’ve lived – places where the mail is delivered house-to-house every day. In fact, in my childhood in Alameda, I think the mail came twice a day. It was placed in the mailbox on the wall of the front porch and whoever came home first scooped it up and put it on the kitchen table.

In Oysterville, though, it seems to me that the mail was the most important event of the day. First there was the scramble in the household to finish up any correspondence or other items that needed to go with my grandfather (“Papa”) to the post office. While he waited, he often trimmed his beard or mustache although, come to think of it, it was probably the other way around – I, having collected all the outgoing mail standing on one foot and then the other waiting for him.

Then we would climb in his old Plymouth and he would drive (“like a bat out of hell” one of the neighbors often remarked, rudely I thought) to Minnie and Bert’s store and post office. I don’t remember ever walking that distance with Papa; we always went by car and, in memory at least, so did everybody else.

Inside the Oysterville Post Office, 2010

Inside the Oysterville Post Office, 2010

There would follow a very long time of buying and affixing stamps, collecting ‘our’ mail (which was never even glanced at until we got home) and discussing any late-breaking village news with postmistress Minnie and any other neighbors who were on their way in or out of the post office. I remember that part as interminable and I have no doubt that anyone still living who remembers my grandfather has a like-feeling about those visits. Oh how he loved to talk!

I don’t think we went into the store very often – not unless Bert was there and Papa wanted to say “hello.” On those occasions, I’m sure I stood on the little step-stool (provided for kids like me) and looked into the rounded-glass topped candy case, but I have few memories of getting any treats. Actually, then like now, I wasn’t very crazy about sweets.

Then, home we went and headed for the nursery (which today would be called the family room) to read the mail. Everyone stopped what they were doing and gathered round. Unless the incoming mail was of a very personal or private nature, everything was read aloud by the recipient. I never gave that a thought as a child, but I imagine that it was a habit Papa acquired as my grandmother gradually lost her sight. By my day, she was blind and the daily mail was a high point of the morning.

Harry and Helen Espy in the Nursery by Hilda Cole Espy, 1947

Harry and Helen Espy in the Nursery by Hilda Cole Espy, 1947

And it wasn’t just straight-ahead reading. Each bit of information was discussed and digested right down to the way it was written, the various possibilities of meaning and so on. On paper days – in those days, the Chinook Observer and the Ilwaco Tribune which came one on a Tuesday and one on a Friday I thinkPapa might hit the highlights but then the rest of us would leave to go about the day’s activities. I can still see Papa sitting at his desk, totally absorbed by the news and often chuckling at “some fool thing” one of the editors had said.

In a way, Nyel and I follow in that same tradition. Usually, it’s he who drives to the post office and comes home with a “Mail Call!” announcement, and we take a coffee break to open and read whatever has come our way – mostly bills and junk mail these days. And on paper day, he’s the one perusing the ads and the police blotter and the editorial page. Some things don’t change much in Oysterville. Thank goodness!

A Walk to the Post Office

Friday, September 20th, 2013
Store and Post Office 2006

Oysterville Store and Post Office, 2006

Most mornings we review our plans for the day over coffee – where and what our meals will be, what appointments we have, what projects we’ll work on.  We also decide whether or not we’ll walk to get our mail, assuming we’ll be in town and that the weather is fairly cooperative.

It’s less than half a mile from our house to the Oysterville Post Office and, even if we make it an easy stroll, it only should only take ten or fifteen minutes.  If we hurry, we can make it there and back with our mail and maybe a bag of chips from the store in twenty.  Having said that, though, it usually takes forty-five minutes to an hour, depending upon the number of “Oysterville Meetings” along the way.

Another Oysterville Meeting

Another Oysterville Meeting

Day before yesterday we left the house at 9:30 and got back at 11:30.  Two hours!  The day was beautiful and everyone in the world seemed to be out and about.  Right off the bat we ran into Tucker at the corner of Territory Road and School Street.  We talked to him about progress on his house – the sheet rocking is done and the tapers are there.  He’s arranging for the next step which is the siding.

While we were still talking, Cyndy came along in her car, headed back to her temporary home after checking on building progress on her new place.  We spent a few minutes talking about the Willapa Bay Artist in Residence pilot program which is in progress right now, and about the Open House they will be having Saturday afternoon.

We had scarcely rounded the corner onto Oysterville Road before a van approached us and Nyel said, “It’s the cousins!”  Sure enough, it was the Ross Family – Ken, the Cape D. Park Ranger, his wife Marijka, their three kids, Max, Madison and Mason, and Marijka’s folks.  We did a short “how’s it going” visit while cars went around us, and we learned that they are completely moved in now and that Ken is no longer the newest kid on the block, job-wise.

Post Office Boxes

Oysterville Post Office

From that point we had no further encounters until we were leaving the Post Office.  Charlie Talbott was there and asked on behalf of his dad how one goes about making a donation to the Oysterville Cemetery.  We talked for quite a bit about our little cemetery, why his folks chose it for their final resting place, and what each of us might or might not do when the time comes.  It’s an unusual way to get to know someone, but I did feel like I was better acquainted with Charlie as we said, “See you later.”

The walk homeward was uneventful until just in front of the Stoner house when a car approached, slowed down, and an attractive woman passenger said, “Hi, Sydney!”  It turned out to be Karen Garrett who used to live in the area but was visiting from Hawaii.  I’d never have recognized her (Face Blindness again!) but we had a short catch-up visit, especially regarding a neighbor who has recently been diagnosed with cancer.

It was only a hop homeward then, but as we approached the last little way we saw Tucker again, this time with his wife, Carol.   So, of course, we had to spend a few minutes for the last ‘meeting’ of the morning! Hard to believe that by then it was almost lunchtime!

“A one-legged Indian sawed out a tune…”

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Brian O'ConnorLast night we got to talking about unforgettable “music experiences” we have had – times when we’ve just happened to be in a place where people spontaneously gathered and began to play or sing.  For me, it was at a little roadside café on the way to Yosemite back in the 1960s.

They were open for breakfast and lunch only, and we were among their last customers of the day.  About halfway through our meal, we noticed that the waitress had quit clearing tables and had brought her fiddle from somewhere behind the counter.  Then a guy at the corner table opened his guitar case and a few folks drifted in through the back door bringing their instruments… and suddenly we were surrounded by glorious, spontaneous music.

Greg talked about a similar experience.  “I had never been in Appalachia,” he said, “but that’s what it felt like.”  I knew exactly what he meant – probably a stereotype, but a really great one to my way of thinking.  For each of us, miles and years apart, it was a time that left a deep impression.  (Which reminds me, I forgot to mention the movie “The Songcatcher” to him…)

Then Greg shared his dream that the garage attached to the Oysterville Store might become some sort of a music venue eventually.  “I could lock up the store, open the garage doors, and people could just come on in…  It’s a great space.  Beautiful wooden floors.  It would be a perfect place for spontaneous musical gatherings…”

Then he asked the five dollar question (at least in my mind.)  “Did those sorts of music sessions ever happen here in Oysterville that you remember?  Or that you’ve heard of?  Is there a musical tradition here?”  Hmmm.  All I remember from my childhood was the envy I felt because my friends had to practice the piano!  I SO wanted to take lessons but that never happened.

Nyel remembered that mom’s friend Edith Olson talked about William Fisher who played the violin.  “He didn’t sing,” she would say.  “But, oh he was good.”  She said her favorite tune was “Hair in the Beans.”  That was pretty much before my time, though.  William Fisher has been in the cemetery since 1942.

Hootenanny Program My Great Aunt Dora remembered “a one-legged Indian who sawed out a tune on his fiddle” for the dances in the hall above the saloon when she was a little girl.  That was even longer ago – back in the 1880s. Not that she ever got to go, mind you.  But sometimes she would go with her father (who owned the building) to get things ready beforehand.   She never said whether or not they told her mother that they lingered to hear the music.

I don’t know if ‘Greg’s Garage Fantasy’ will come to fruition or not.  I hope so!  On another note (ahem!), tomorrow’s Vesper service at the church is going to be a hootenanny!  Not exactly spontaneous, but certainly unrehearsed, singing-wise.  I don’t know if Oysterville ever saw hootenannies back in the day, but it’s our former postmaster Casey Killingsworth and Family who are putting it all together for tomorrow – so the Oysterville connection is strong, indeed.  It’s sure to be another music experience to remember.