“The Beach”

Mar 9, 2011 | 3 comments

North Beach Peninsula Map, Circa 1940

     All of us who live in Oysterville know just what our far-away friends mean when they tell us they’re coming to “the beach.”  The Long Beach Peninsula, as it is now incorrectly known, is simply “the beach” to tens of thousands of people who come here to clam or to vacation or to visit their friends and relatives.
     It has been that way since the Oregon Trail days when the inland valleys of Oregon Territory began to be settled.  In the hot summers, a hundred years and more before air conditioning, the pioneers sought relief from the heat by visiting the coast.  From the beginning, the cooling breezes of the ocean drew them to our peninsula – not because this particular bit of coast was more desirable than the beaches to the south.  Our beach was simply more accessible
     In those years, when the only transportation routes were by water, travelers with a coastal destination in mind came down the Columbia River to its mouth and proceeded north.  There, 28 miles of long, flat, sandy beach stretched before them.  Unlike the rocky shoreline to the south, the north beach could be easily traveled by wagon or stagecoach.  It was not long before enterprising Lewis Loomis built his little narrow gauge railroad from Ilwaco to Nahcotta, making travel along the peninsula even easier.
     It seemed natural to refer to our stretch of the ocean as the “North Beach” and, soon, the entire area was known as the North Beach Peninsula.  And so it continues to be officially known by the United States Board on Geographic Names.  North Beach is also what it is persistently called by those of us who feel a bit bullied by the city of Long Beach, the main movers and shakers for changing the name.
     So far, their efforts have fallen on deaf ears in the world of officialdom.  As a practical matter, however, the various Resort Associations, Chambers of Commerce, and Merchant Associations have been successful in popularizing the name “Long Beach Peninsula.”  They’ve been working on it since the 1930s.
     Like many of our common practices and popular beliefs, truth and correctness are not necessarily the first considerations – especially when it comes to promotion and advertising.  Bottom line is, and probably always will be, the almighty dollar.  Meanwhile, in subtle ways we continue to morph memory and, ultimately, history.  I lament.

3 Comments

  1. Don Stotts

    Proud to be part of the legacy of beautiful North Beach!

    Reply
  2. Jim Courtnier

    Hmmm, North Beach, I like it! But isn’t there already a “North Beach” area near Ocean Shores?

    Reply
    • sydney

      Yes, there probably is, although I don’t know if it’s an “official” name and probably is a Johnny-come-lately in comparison to our North Beach. I found an entire explanation about Washington beaches online and they even dilineate an area called “Cranberry Beaches,” apparently in the Hoquiam area. Who knew? And, of course, they call us the “Long Beach” Peninsula. I suspect the site is yet another tourism promotion. A bigger problem, of course, came along with the advent of Statehood and the later development of roads. Being in the southwest corner of the state with access from north and south as well as from the east, North Beach Peninsula no longer seems logical. Not unless, of course, you understand the historical context. And, as you know, I’m all about history!

      Reply

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