The Best Mail Day of the Week

Aug 5, 2010 | 3 comments

Looking Bayward on Clay Street

     I look forward to Wednesdays.  When I was teaching we considered it ‘Hump Day’ but now that I am retired I think of it as “Chinook Observer Day.”  No matter what else our post office box contains on Wednesdays – and usually it’s just junk mail – the Observer is always there with its promise of news and entertainment.  Yesterday was no exception.
     Usually, I scan the headlines and do a quick read of the articles that interest me.  If I’m expecting one of my own stories to be printed, I look for that.  I take a look at the Community Calendar, check the obituaries for people I know, and read the editorials, letters to the editor, and the regular columns.  Meanwhile, Nyel is reading the police blotter, the court news, and the ads.  Then, the paper sits on the kitchen table ready to be purused more carefully at odd moments during the days that follow.
     Of course, I’m always on the lookout for news of Oysterville.  In Cate Gable’s column yesterday I was rewarded with a wonderful description her recent walk through the village:  A meander along the wide grassy paths between the bayside houses and the bay – this, almost more than anything, gives a sense of an older and calmer world…”  I couldn’t agree more!
     The “grassy paths” she refers to are what we call “the lanes.”  They are actually county roads that are maintained by their adjacent property owners.  They lead from Territory Road to the bay and there are three of them:  Clay Street, Merchant Street, and Division Street.  Perhaps what makes them give that old-fashioned feel to the village is that, except for the occasional oysterman driving a vehicle as close to the bay as possible, the lanes are mainly used by pedestrians.  They help put Oysterville on a more human footing (so to speak.)
      The other bit of news that caught my eye was the front page headline: “Commercial oyster set fails on bay for 6th straight year.”  That is a serious situation.  For my recent book Oysterville, I did a lot of research about oyster sets and know only too well that the fate of the industry can hang on their success or failure.  Historically, failure of natural sets in our bay have had disastrous economic and environmental results.
     However, I was puzzled by the term “commercial oyster set.”  It’s the first time I’ve seen the word “commercial” used in conjunction with a set.  I understand what commercial vs. sport fishing is.  And I understand what a commercial vs. a recreational enterprise of any kind is.  But to the best of my knowledge, all the oysters in the bay are part of one commercial enterprise or another.  There is no recreational or sport oystering.  So why specify a “commercial” set?  Either there’s a set or there isn’t and it affects every oyster in the bay. Or am I missing something here?  It’s on my ever-growing list of things to find out about.  Maybe, because that list usually gets longer on Observer day, I should call it my “Wednesday List.”


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    When I was a child there were TWO newspapers each week. Besides the Chinook Observer, which is still looked forward to by our family, there was the Ilwaco Tribune. Both papers contained what basically amounted to gossip columns and were both written by late Seaview resident Amy Walker. Whenever our family came to my grandparents beach house in Seaview Amy would get wind of it and we’d make the papers next issues along with who had been married, what the brides-maids wore, what food was served, etc. It is amazing that the Peninsula was able to support TWO newspapers, but then there was little television (none in my grandparents’ house) so the newstand at Sugarman’s Store in Seaview provided pocket books, comic books and, of course, the local newspapers.

    Two weeks ago the Observer carried a story about oystering and I noticed the term “commercial set,” too. Like you I wondered if anyone oystered for sport or to put food on the table like the Chinooks did. I have to agree that a trip to Oysterville is a relaxing step back in time.

    • sydney

      Those were the days, alright! The ‘North End News’ was written by Marjut Howard for a number of years. I can’t remember who else wrote it, but it occurs to me that those gossip columns fulfilled the same niche that Facebook does these days. We were able to keep up with the comings and goings of our friends all over the peninsula. Of course, there weren’t so many of us living here then.

  2. Stephanie K. Frieze

    You are very right about one of the functions of a hometown newspaper. Originally it was the common green and the town crier. As technology has moved on the green has become bigger and bigger and we can know what people are doing on the other side of the world. With luck we will begin to feel more alike and less dissimilar.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *