In the fall of 1937 I married the young man who had spent a few years driving down the gravelly, dusty Sandridge road in his Model-T Ford to see me.
He told me that "if he met another car, it was considered a traffic jam." No other suitable road existed at that time between Long Beach and Ocean Park. There was a rutted sandy trail running alongside the railroad bed, across the grassy treeless prairie, connecting Cranberry Road to Klipsan Beach. It was private property, fenced in various sections for grazing cattle. If one drove that rough route, he was required to open and close the many gates along the way; it wasn't worth the effort.
I became Mrs. Charles Robert "Bob" Beechey, and we moved into a little house in Ocean Park. At that time Long Beach and Ocean Park were close-knit communities concerned for the most part with schools and churches. We were still in the middle of the Depression and money was a scarce commodity.
I needed to get acquainted in my new surroundings. I had met one of Bob's "summer" friends (her parents owned summer cottages here), a lovely young lady named Vivian Smith. Arthur Matthews was Bob's best friend and duck hunting buddy and was often at our house. Vivian came to visit us, even when her folks weren't here to stay, in our less than luxurious house (we had an outside "John"). We thought she came to see us, when all the time her eyes were on Art. She confessed to that when they announced their engagement.
In 1935 during the Roosevelt administration, Prohibition was repealed. It hadn't bothered my family either way, but it put a lot of Peninsula entrepreneurs out of business; they were manufacturing and selling their wares. Bob always said, "The guys had to wear identity badges to keep from selling to one another." At that time, Arthur Matthews was in the process of trying to establish the first tavern in Ocean Park. Ocean Park had been platted as a 250 acre Methodist church camp, and all deeds contained the words, "No liquor shall be allowed on these premises." This made the situation a bit more difficult, but thirsty tourists as well as locals prevailed; Art's Tavern was the forerunner of Doc's today. His tavern was on the south side of the main street, near where the old train depot used to be; then there was a gas station next to Trondson's Store; Mom's Pie Shop was west of that. On the north side was Fuquas Restaurant; the menu relied on what Motts' little meat market next door had to offer that day. It was rumored that he baked the pork roast and the beef roast in the same pan. I could not say for sure if that were true for we could not afford to dine out (we were adding a bathroom to our house). Next to Motts' was the post office and then Clark's Grocery Store (once Pearson's, then Ed's) and further west was The Taylor Hotel. I am sure that shipping food here was a major problem because there was a lack of refrigeration. Ones' dinner guests had to partake of what the town had to offer: maybe no lettuce for a salad. Bob and Art had the entire bay frontage to hunt for there were no homes there then, and it helped solve our problem. I cooked many, many duck dinners. I was cooking a duck dinner for my brother and sister-in-law when the news came over the radio that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
I was still getting acquainted and was invited to Agnes Pearson's new home for an afternoon social event. I found out that it was a Village Club meeting and the election of officers for the coming year. Suddenly I realized they were electing me president! I was dumbfounded, I didn't want it for I did not feel capable; but no one else wanted it either - so I was stuck. Later I learned that the club was rather new, and they were operating a small lending library in a building adjacent to the Trondson and Peterson store. (That whole block is Jack's Country Store now). They also wanted the local children to use it for a recreation area after school and on weekends. In that same year when the Trondson store burned to the ground and the whole block was destroyed, the library was moved to a little office in the new school. From then on the library was the obligation of the Village Club until Pacific County took over.
At that time hot lunches for school children were starting to be funded by our government. Children need good food in order to study well, and many in those hard times were not getting enough to eat. The government supplied the surplus food (purchased from farmers who were not able to sell their crops elsewhere) as well as a cook's salary to any school that wanted to participate. Ocean Park had not yet joined the program, but I was familiar with what Long Beach had. There was an unfinished room in the new school building; all the plywood was there, but there was no money to hire the men to install it. We needed some volunteers. When the new room at the schoolhouse was finished, the school board provided a stove and a sink and Mrs. Searle was hired to be the cook - the hot lunch program was underway. Each child could have a bowl of soup, baked beans or something similar each day. Mrs. Searle lived nearby and was able to cook the meal at home and transport it to the school in large containers. From then on the hot lunch program for children was a major concern for the Village Club.
While I was in the process of going after those volunteers, I was driving a bumpy, tree-rooted lane (a far cry from the side roads we have today) and although I was going very slowly. I accidentally collided with a tree. I didn't think it had caused any damage. Later, when I got home and while I was still a bit jittery from the tree episode, Bob and Art had just returned from a duck-hunting trip. I was in the kitchen when I heard a loud bang; I rushed into the living room to see what had happened, and there was Art with a sheepish look on his face. He had gone into a corner to eject the shells from his gun and shot a hole in our floor. Fortunately it was a single floor, not much damage was done, and we used that little hole in the floor for our radio antenna until we did major remodeling on our house. Later when Bob drove the car, he asked me what had happened and I was surprised to hear that it had bent the frame on our Model A. We had to get another car.
We had no streetlights and at night if you wanted to go over to the main street, you were in danger of walking ankle-deep in mud and water. Having a couple of streetlights would help a great deal. The power company said they would supply the poles if we could defray the cost of the rest. The only way to get what we needed was to go door to door and beg, and so we did; we were fortunate enough to get two streetlights. People did not have much in those days, but they were always willing to share what they had.
There were only two churches in Ocean Park at that time: the Methodist and Adventist churches. Because I was a member of the Methodist church and they had a large room that was often used for community activities, I was often involved in volunteer work there as well. I had a Sunday school class and was later a den mother. 4-H Clubs were very popular around Pacific County in those day, more so than Scouting, mainly because there was no entrance fee or no uniform to buy. The girls in my Sunday school class wanted to join such a group, and I volunteered to be their leader. We were not a farming community so we chose home-making, which included cooking and sewing. They were delightful girls, and for four years we had the opportunity to go to Pullman and attend the annual 4H conference held there on the campus of Washington State College. It was a learning experience for all of us. Those "girls" are still my friends, but they are now in their 80s! Those still living on the Peninsula are Dorothy Williams and Francis O'Neal.
Pearl Harbor changed our lives completely. A dream of living in Alaska was coming true for Bob. There were many construction jobs offered there; they were building a large airfield outside of Juneau, as well as many other things necessary for the war effort. We decided he would go up, find a job and send for me. After he had the job, they told him his wife would not be allowed to come. They needed many, many, men to do all the work, but Alaska was still a primitive area and there were no facilities for all the families. Bob was afraid he would be stuck up there for the duration of the war without me, so he came home. Then he was called into the military service. He took his basic training in Virginia and was sent to Paris, Texas. I joined him in Texas, and later when he was sent to school in Milwaukee, Wisc. I came home when he went overseas. There he had a "tour" of Europe, (not the luxurious kind, however). He started out in North Africa, was sent up through Sicily, Italy, France, Germany and Austria. When he came home, I joined him in Texas again. While he was overseas, I went to work. The oyster industry was booming because of meat rationing and sales to the military and they needed help (the men were gone) and even someone like me could be useful. I learned to open oysters. With that job I was not obligated to stay if I wanted to go and be with Bob. The great day came when he was discharged and Ocean Park was where we wanted to be. We had to start over. Some of our friends had profited from the war, but we had less than before. That was the fate of most returning ex-servicemen.
Ocean Park was going through a great change; many ex-service men and their wives were looking for a place to settle and were coming here. Mrs. Agnes Pearson, in her thoughtful way, learned about these women through her husband, who was the postmaster and invited some of us to another afternoon social affair. There I met several ladies, including Elizabeth, "Lib" Moore and Barbara Strong. The Village Clubs' hot lunch program had expanded to a full meal, and we had a great new cook Mrs. McClintock. Lib and Barbara, and many others joined in with all the work of the Village Club from then on and we did many good things for the school and community. Lib always laughs about the time she was elected president; she was home visiting her parents in Texas at the time.
Our carnivals were a huge success and we netted a thousand dollars on some of them. That was a lot of money in those days. Some of us became so involved with our volunteering that Lib and I thought we should do something just for fun. We contacted Mrs. Russell at the Moby Dick Hotel and she offered to let us use her premises and serve us a light lunch; we used Agnes Pearson's example and welcomed all the newcomers in the area. Someone suggested we call it the Ad-Lib Club. Because of the ages of those women, we hosted many-a baby shower. We stopped only when Mrs. Russell sold the hotel.
The Trondson store fire made everyone realize the need for a fire department. Bob helped Charley Fitzpatrick, our Peninsula photographer, construct the first makeshift fire truck. Charley was the first fire chief. That little volunteer fire department was such a success and was so respected in Ocean Park, it eventually evolved into what we have today. And if you want to view their equipment and vehicles, watch our local parades. Our resident barber, Jack McDonald, was one of those volunteers. If you were a customer getting a haircut and the siren blew, he was out of there! You had to wait until he returned to finish the job. I asked him recently if anyone had complained about it and he told me that only one man did. He said, "When I got back I was able to tell that man it had been his garage that had been on fire."
During the war, our friends Art and Vivian decided to sell the tavern and go into the oyster business with Vivian's brother Russell Smith. After getting it all set up, they couldn't get the telephone line they needed. The small telephone company in Ilwaco could not keep up with the wartime demands because they lacked the capital. The older, established oyster companies had telephones, and they were shocked to find that they could not. Of course they complained; but the lack of telephones meant no orders, and no orders meant they had to fold. When Roy Sheldon heard about it, he had an idea. We had some war plane alert stations along the oceanfront and although it was required they did not have telephones either. He did some calling and the little phone company (there were more reasons, I'm sure) was forced to merge with a much larger one. Mr. Howerton, the telephone company owner, later told Roy he was very angry with him (Roy always had someone mad at him), but later Howerton apologized and told him, "It was the best thing that could have happened to me." His capital increased immensely and the new company was the forerunner of what we have today. After Art and Russ Smith quit the oyster business, they had very successful businesses: Art in carpentry and Russ in masonry.
Bob was always interested in boats; over the years of our marriage we have had four of them: two for use on Willapa Bay and two for ocean fishing. I always got seasick so I did not have much to do with them, but he loved being on the ocean. The boats we had for the bay were a tug he used for towing barges and the other a little gill-net boat he had later in life that he called The Last Chance. The Vicki L and the Reaper were ocean-fishing vessels, and they were used for salmon, tuna and crab fishing. Bob would fish in the summer months and do carpenter work or road construction in the winter. We started our family in 1946; we have a son Dennis and a daughter Kathleen. Because Kathy was born with a kidney problem (as well as being accident prone), I did not work outside the home. I had to be available for the many trips to the doctor's office or the hospital at all times.
The Peninsula did not have much to offer in the way of entertainment in those days. We had to make our own. We could go to the movies but there were not as many public dances as before. Most of us still liked to dance so we rented the Rhine Hall in Long Beach. Each couple brought part of our dinner (they were all great cooks), and we danced to a jukebox. This was great fun for a few years until the building was sold. Canasta was a popular game and we played it with our good friends Art and Vivian over a cup and coffee and a piece of cake. We girls spent many hours laughing at, and with, those two guys. They both had a great sense of humor. And when they got together they were extremely funny. Dorothy Tronson Williams always said that someone should have been under the table taping all that banter because now it is lost forever. We can remember some, but very little.
After the war many of the ex-servicemen were interested in flying and owning small planes. An airport for that purpose was built at Klipsan and a former Air Force pilot came here to teach anyone who was interested to fly. Many local men decided to learn flying and, of course, that included Bob. He obtained a land and float pilot license and enjoyed the experience very much. I was a "white knuckle" passenger at the time, but I did enjoy flying over the Peninsula with him. Evidently that hobby became too expensive for many of the guys so that little airport is now covered with trees and Golden Sands and the Senior Center were built on part of the property.
Winter storms raised havoc with the boats and barges on Willapa Bay in the little Nahcotta mooring basin. Some of our major cannery owners were thinking of leaving this area and establishing their businesses elsewhere. It would have been a great loss for it was at that time a major source of income for local families. Roy Sheldon got involved, of course, and through him we learned about this potential problem and knew something had to be done. It took a bit of effort to get the Port of Peninsula to use what funds they had to build a breakwater that was badly needed, but that left no money for a loading dock.
In our young lives we learned that when one was faced with necessity - good citizens volunteer. Those volunteers spent months with nothing but salvaged materials (from worn-out structures along the bay) building a loading dock. Much of that dock is still being used. Plans are now underway for the port to build a much needed first class cargo dock. However, there are no volunteers involved; even the board members get paid for their services.
When Bonner Bailey planned the development of Surfside, he included construction of a canal. The property at that time was low-lying, sandy, grassy and treeless prairie. By building a canal the soil was forced up on each side filling the low spots, taking care of drainage and making the area suitable for building homes. Bon hired Bob one winter to operate the dredge that was doing the job. Bob told me that several local residents would stop by and tell him, "This will never work." Evidently they were wrong. Several acres of land adjacent to the land being developed belonged to the state of Washington and the developers knew that a golf course would be desirable. They were able to lease the land from the state for that purpose and started laying out the greens and fairways. We had one of our worst winters that year and they found that in their original plans they had placed their greens in the wrong places. It was a blessing, however, for they were able to make changes; now one can play that course all winter long. Bob and I spent a great deal of our time playing golf there; golf is such healthy entertainment. Both of us liked the walking and the companionship. When Bob got so he couldn't walk, he got a cart and when he couldn't do that any longer, he drove up the beach every morning and had coffee with "the boys."
When one greedy developer came here, he tried to take over the golf course with plans not amenable to Pacific County, the fire department and most local citizens. We were able to get rid of him when he was arrested and fined $80,000 for a shady deal in Oregon. The golf course now has good management and has made many improvements including a new clubhouse.
We were outgrowing our high school building. It was being used for too many students and was therefore a fire hazard. Money was so tight that the only way to solve the overcrowding problem was by consolidating all of our schools. It was a tough issue for the smaller schools and there was a lot of opposition. An advisory committee was formed of delegates from each school community, and I was invited to be one from Ocean Park. Most people wanted the new school to be centrally located, but there was just one big problem. If we built the new school we needed with the funds allotted, there would be nothing left to purchase the land. The Ilwaco district was the only one that had extra land available; we had no other choice.
After I served two years as P.T.A. president of our consolidated schools, I decided that I was getting older, my children were out of the nest and I wanted more freedom to play golf and bridge. Bob thought so also. I even quit serving on the election board where I had been an inspector for about 40 years. That changed a bit when a gentleman appeared at my door one day. I was then recovering from a broken leg I got while trying to ride a neighbor's Honda moped; it fell over on me when I hit a pile of sand on the lot next door where Bob and Arthur were building our new home. His name was Floyd Perry. The strange thing about meeting him was that in the many days we discussed the condition of the Taylor Ocean Park Cemetery, he became interested in the house we lived in and eventually planned to sell. He went over to the new house under construction and asked Bob about it. Bob always had to joke, and he told him, "The only thing that is holding that house together is the termites holding hands." He bought the house anyway! Although he only lived 10 more years, the house is still standing.
Floyd told me that he had always been interested in cemeteries and our Taylor Ocean Park cemetery was in deplorable condition. He was right. The cemetery was the property of Ocean Park because it had been a donation to us from the Taylor heirs. A five man board of local men had managed it; however some were deceased, one had moved away. Lee Weigardt, the one surviving member of that board, and his wife Virginia were keeping all the records. Taking care of gravesites had been left to surviving family members, but as time went on there were no surviving members living here. Clearing away all the accumulated brush was going to be a gigantic job. I told him about what they did in the "old days;" they got volunteers. The men would be recruited to do the hard labor, the women would bring coffee and a hearty lunch, and the work would get done. I told him if he would get the men, I would supply the women and the food. Mr. Perry not only recruited a huge number of men and boys, but they came with an amazing amount of equipment as well. It took only four such days to accomplish an unbelievable amount of work; we even uncovered some graves we had not seen before. The women fed the men well and pulled weeds and cleaned gravesites.
A new board had to be elected, and at the meetings that were held they asked me to be president. I agreed only when Floyd Perry declined. We set up a system for getting donations; the sale of gravesites does not cover improvements, or even keeping the grass mowed each summer. Many more improvements have been done by volunteers, including up-dating all records. When people discovered all the improvements, they were generous with their donations. We purchased the two adjoining lots for future use with the funds that had been saved over the years. We are proud of our cemetery. Now we have a very accomplished board.
Our life in Ocean Park was never dull; we enjoyed all that this unusual place had to offer. We dug clams all summer (the limit was 36). We could drive the beach in our old Ford pickup when the wind was blowing at gale force searching for glass balls that rolled in with the tide. We went at night when the tide was coming in; one had to know how to avoid the surf. We found so many, our children when they were very young sold them from our yard in the summer. We took for granted what Bob called "eating off the top shelf for we had clams, crabs (at first we raked them from tide pools on the beach), oysters, and salmon all the time. He also said, "When the tide is out, the table is set." After we had sold our last boat. The Reaper, Bob went to work with Art doing carpentry work which included building a new house for Art and one for us. When they built a new one for a Mr. Glebb, he told me that he regretted seeing it finished because they had comically entertained him all the time the house was being built.
We had been married 63 years when Bob passed away. Our children are living part-time in Guatemala and we have one grandson in California. In order to communicate I had to learn to operate a computer. I am so happy I did because I use it every day. Many of our old friends are gone now and I have made many new ones (much younger ones, of course, for almost everyone is younger than I am). I like to learn new things and their community involvement and intelligence keeps my brain active. My older widow friends and I see each other most every day; we enjoy going to the Eagles on Friday and Saturday nights for dinner (they are all volunteers over there). We go at 5 o'clock and are home at 7 and we have had a "night out."
I still have a very busy life and although I am 89, I still like to cook, do my own housework, and play duplicate bridge. I haven't changed my mind one bit for I still think the Peninsula is the only place to live!