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Guest column: Celebrate our Peninsula’s ‘Seven Wonders’

By ROBERT BRAKE

For the Observer

Published on November 14, 2017 4:37PM

Does this Long Beach mermaid qualify as “a wonder”?

ROBERT BRAKE PHOTOS

Does this Long Beach mermaid qualify as “a wonder”?

The tiny Briscoe Cemetery is one of many historical sites on the Long Beach Peninsula.

The tiny Briscoe Cemetery is one of many historical sites on the Long Beach Peninsula.

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Oh, yeah! What’s so special about your Peninsula?

A visitor to the Peninsula recently teased me with that query.

Having resided in Ocean Park for 18 years, I told him about seven special sites that make a visit to our end-of-the-world Peninsula special.

• After arriving here in September 1999, my curiosity compelled me to turn at 116th Street, Long Beach, to view a tiny cemetery, that of the “cantankerous farmer” and highly-respected Judge John Briscoe. The first probate judge of Pacific County and representative to the territorial legislature, Briscoe was buried in a small grave in 1901. (See photo.)

According to Oysterville historian Sydney Stevens, Briscoe devotees like Michael Lemeshko have worked to assure proper maintenance and even formed a Friends of the Briscoe Burying Ground group which operates under the CPHM 501(c)3 umbrella. Now, that’s unusual.

• Oysterville is a remarkable village on the National Historic Register with its original one-room schoolhouse and church still in use for community events. The Oysterville Post Office is the oldest continually-operating post office in Washington and residents receive mail only at that post office.

For some years the post office was managed by singer/poet Casey Killingsworth, the “poetic postmaster” I wrote about in a feature story for the Daily News.

And don’t forget that Oysterville was once the county seat with a college, two hotels, and a weekly newspaper. Alas, the county seat documents were stolen by raiders in 1893 and taken to South Bend. Remarkable village.

• The oldest continually-operating retail store in Washington, Jack’s Country Store, is for many tourists a must-visit establishment, with an inventory rivaling Fred Meyers, a great hardware department, terrific service and a bevy of unusual items.

It’s a store where you can look up a lot to discover old-fashioned washtubs and pails and lots of flags you just can’t find elsewhere. I wrote a feature story about Jack’s for the Daily News just 10 months after settling in Ocean Park. Tourists still flock to Jack’s for a shopping adventure.

• The Long Beach Peninsula beach, 28 miles in extent, is (reputedly) the longest continuous beach in the United States and the world’s largest drivable beach.

During inland heat waves, thousands flock to our beaches. Many revel in our kite festivals, fireworks displays, and other events like sand castle contests and pet parades. Whoopee!

• Many tourists come here to explore the Lewis and Clark story. They can enjoy Clark’s Tree, the whale memorial sculpture and numerous interpretive exhibits along the 8-plus-mile Discovery Trail.

• Of course, tourist-town aficionados must visit Marsh’s Free Museum in Long Beach to marvel at Jake the Alligator Man, on display in apparently mummified condition.

Originally acquired for $750 in 1967 from an antique store, Jake has acquired a cult-like following in Northwestern culture.

His 75th birthday party, celebrated annually in August, features car shows, bachelor parties, bridal contests, and live music. Bumper stickers featuring Jake can be commonly seen throughout Washington and Oregon. A must-visit site for tourist-trap fans.

• And last (drum roll please), the Mermaid Inn, featuring its once-hotly-debated mermaid statue. According to Chinook Observer editor, Matt Winters, the mermaid was originally downtown next to the Long Beach Tavern until about 1985, when it was divested to the 8-unit motel in north Long Beach. (See photo.)

In a letter to the editor, a woman criticized the mermaid and brought it up at a city council meeting. ‘Twas a Brouhaha. Though there was widespread agreement that it was ugly, she took it further, calling it “pornographic, vulgar, lewd, ugly, provocative and degrading to women.” Picky, picky, picky! Winters suggested that it later emerged that the complaining woman had mental health issues.

When my son David first ventured from San Francisco to our peninsula, he enjoyed the beaches, Lewis and Clark memorabilia, occasional bear sightings and the like. But the two items that really caught his eye and generated major adrenalin were the go-carts and the mermaid. No accounting for David’s good taste.

Note: there is a Mermaid Inn in Vancouver, B. C., one in New York City, and nine in England. But none of them can rival ours.

There you have it, seven peninsula “wonders” that distinguish or sometimes embarrass us.

Do bear in mind that our total population (2010 census) stands at just 8,500, short of big-city Astoria’s 9,800. In addition to the seven “wonders of the peninsula” I’ve described, our small population sustains a disproportionate number of churches, thrift shops, RV parks and real estate agencies. Amazing!

No doubt we live in a fascinating place. Makes me wonder why anyone would ever want to leave it.

Reach permanent Peninsula resident Robert Brake at oobear@centurytel.net



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