The Village Handymen

Nov 24, 2013 | 3 comments

Exhibit at the Astoria City Hall (1)

“Astoria at Work” by Michael Mathers at Astoria City Hall

On Friday we spent a half hour or so roaming the halls of the Astoria City Hall.  We were taking in the exhibit “Astoria at Work” by photographer Michael Mathers.  I didn’t count the number of photographs – there were dozens; they lined the walls of the hallways on all three floors of the building.  They showed the workers of Astoria at every imaginable work site and doing every conceivable job.  There were firemen and engineers and preservationists and secretaries.  They were at computers and on the tops of buildings and underground – anywhere the work of keeping Astoria going required them to be.  It’s a fabulous exhibit!

As I enjoyed the images and thought about what it takes to keep a city going, I couldn’t help but make a few comparisons with Oysterville. Without the benefit of a city crew like Astoria, or even like Long Beach or Ilwaco, we depend upon each other to keep things up and running.  There is always something that needs fixing or replacing – potholes in the cemetery road to be filled, overgrown rhododendrons around the Oysterville sign to be trimmed, grass in the lanes to be mowed.  In a little village the size of ours, everyone pitches in to keep the infrastructure going.

But there are always things beyond ‘the usual’ that require expertise or special tools or time or strength that we might not have to offer.  Then we look to a handyman who is available in a timely manner and who has some expertise in a variety of areas.  A jack-of-all-trades kind of guy.  It also helps a lot if he is willing and cheerful and reliable.

Kids on new porch

Oysterville School 1907

When my mother was a little girl, the village handyman was red-whiskered George Lehman.  Or, at least, he was the go-to-man to round up a stray cow, repair a barn door, or even build the belfry for the school house.  “Mr. Lehman,” as my mother always called him, drove the mail wagon and, presumably, was available for those spur-of-the-moment emergencies that no one else had time to do.  When my grandfather was out of town for one reason or another, it was Mr. Lehman who kept an eye on things around the dairy farm and checked in with my grandmother to see what she might need.

When I moved to the Peninsula full-time in the 1970s, Bob Meadows was the man who could and would willingly do any odd job from burning a brush pile to plucking a mess of ducks.  He lived in the house next to the church, more-or-less with his chickens, and my folks always called him “Old Bob.”  Always, that is, until my mother discovered that he and she had been born the same year.  Suddenly, he was just plain “Bob.”

Oysterville Street Sign

Oysterville Street Sign

More recently, Ocean Park resident Tom Douglas has become the ‘man about town’ in Oysterville.  He is a skilled carpenter but can and will do just about anything that needs doing.  Yesterday he relocated the Clay Street sign, hopefully to a place that visiting RVs won’t be constantly knocking it over.  A week or so ago, he took his long ladder into the church and spent several hours removing the mildew that had appeared when the furnace gave up.

And, speaking of that pesky furnace – it has quit again.  Parts have been ordered.  No doubt the mildew is re-forming as we speak.  It’s a great comfort that Tom knows the drill. Besides that, he loves these old buildings, appreciates their history and the workmanship that created them.  A great bonus is that he is perpetually cheerful and always has a smile.  Lucky us in Oysterville!


  1. Caroline Miller

    You gotta love a handyman. Where would be be without them? In a leaking house, that’s what.

  2. Greg

    Cannot say enough for Tom. He builds whatever I draw to perfection. Down to the 1/16th of an inch. A real local character, too. He smokes fish, finds the best mushrooms, and fills in a newcomer like me with everything I need to know to sound like a long-timer here in the Oysterville Store. (Shhh, tell no one!).

  3. Stephanie Frieze

    It is important that we educate some handy-people to continue to help those of us somewhat handicapped! The push is for college, but there’s a need for more hands-on folks. I hope the furnace gets fixed STAT. There’s snow in the forecast for Sunday/Monday.


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