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Long Beach, Washington

A wonderful resort town

January 18, 2022

Although there is no definitive answer as to when something becomes a tradition, I can state unequivocally that my family has a tradition to visit this Washington State city at least once a year; we’ve been doing so for generations now.

My daughter under the World’s Longest Beach sign 2009

The city of Long Beach was incorporated 100 years ago today on January 18, 1922. We go to the Infallible Wikipedia for a bit of history:

“Long Beach began when Henry Harrison Tinker bought a land claim from Charles E. Reed in 1880. He platted the town and called it ‘Tinkerville.’ (snip) From 1889 to 1930, a narrow gauge railroad called the Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company ran up the whole peninsula.

The Long Beach depot was built between First and Second Streets on the east side of the track, which ran north along ‘B’ Street. A major destination in Long Beach was Tinker’s Hotel, later renamed the Long Beach Hotel, and built very close to the station. (snip)

Photo from: Unknown author – From old postcard, postmark on back states mailed July 31, 1909
Long Beach, Washington, ca 1909, looking north along the line of the Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company, at an early tourist area called “Rubberneck Row”.

The boardwalk area near the station was known as ‘Rubberneck Row.’ Businesses existing in August 1911 that can be identified along Rubberneck Row from photographs (see images in this article) include, on the west side of the tracks, an establishment advertising ‘Baths’ (possibly the Crystal Baths, an indoor swimming pool), Milton York Candies, a ‘Postal Shop,’ and a soda fountain just across from the station advertising ‘Milk Shake.’”

This description of Long Beach could, in many ways, fit nearly any small beach resort town throughout the United States. Hotels and eateries were soon joined by shops and activities all designed with the seasonal tourist in mind.

The cousins with Marsh’s Free Museum in the background. 2010

Over the years, attractions in Long Beach have come to include carnival rides, an arcade, museums, go carts, bike and surrey rentals, mini golf, and horseback rides. No doubt I’ve missed an attraction or three.

Riding the mopeds 2005

Driving through downtown Long Beach is one of those traditions which has to be honored upon arrival. In summertime, the main drag through town is a visual feast, awash in brightly colored kites and flags, firmly tethered, usually slapping in the near constant wind. The storefronts display a rainbow of souvenir products: clothes, beach toys, and every knickknack imaginable.

Flower boxes spill over in a confusion of pinks, purples, and green, inviting visitors to sit on the adjacent benches and rest for a moment or two. Tourists stroll along, licking ice cream cones, snacking on elephant ears, or savoring a doughnut from the local bakery.

The main draw for Long Beach is, however, found in its name: beach. At the north end of the business district, a left turn brings into view the large arch which proclaims that you have arrived at The World’s Longest Beach. Ahead of you are sand dunes and, finally, the mighty Pacific Ocean.

Having a sizzling good time visiting some of the sights a few years back

My first trip to Long Beach was 1961… at least that’s the first preserved photographic evidence. There are 8 mm home movies of our family along with my parent’s good friends,Walt and Barbara Lloid, and their family at Long Beach that summer.

While that was the only time we vacationed with the Lloid’s, over the next ten to fifteen years, we went every summer, joining my grandparents, who also stayed at the Klipsan Beach cottages. Every day of those two weeks was an adventure for a child: digging in the sand, playing at the ocean’s edge, beach fires every night.

But the special days were those when we drove to downtown Long Beach. We would visit Marsh’s Free Museum, drive the bumper cars and go to the carnival, see the World’s Largest Frying Pan, and buy candy at Milton York. It was a highlight of every visit.

By my own estimation, I’ve been to Long Beach at least once a year for 50 of the last 61 years. My parents gave our family a gift beyond compare when, in 1991, they decided to purchase a condominium at Long Beach. That year, my sister and I took our (then) two children – ages two and one and a half – to the beach and thus brought another generation into our long family tradition.

It would be impossible to encapsulate every single experience at Long Beach in this article. Even as I contemplated what to write, I simply could not pluck the most memorable event from the dozens which floated to the top.

Surry fun with the hubby and kids 2003

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. When I put Long Beach on my article calendar, I noted that it dovetailed with a planned trip with the hubby and sister. Great, I thought, I can get a current photo. We arrived on Wednesday, January 12, took care of some condo business, walked on the beach, met up with some friends, and then nature said ‘here’s your experience.’ On Friday, January 14,  a mostly underwater volcano in Tonga erupted, it produced tsunami waves which spread across the Pacific Ocean. We heard the news on Friday night just before bed.

The author January 13, 2022

It didn’t take long for the Infallible Wikipedia to share:

“The National Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami advisory along the West Coast of the United States and British Columbia, Canada. The advisory contained all U.S. areas along the West Coast from Southern California to Alaska. Beaches were closed, and coastal residents were requested to move to higher grounds. A surfing contest with over 100 participants was cancelled in Santa Cruz, California. Tsunami waves measuring 0.30–0.61 metres (1–2 ft) were expected to hit the shores as early as 7:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (UTC−8) along the Central Coast. San Francisco was expected to receive waves at 8:10. The highest tsunami waves are expected one to two hours after the arrival of the first waves. A tsunami advisory was put in place for the entirety of Hawaii. Advisories in Canada were issued along the North and Central coasts of British Columbia, along with the Haida Gwaii archipelago and Vancouver Island. No evacuation order was issued, but people were urged to avoid beaches and marinas. The warning level was low due to the height of reported waves, as they were below the 91 centimetres (36 in) threshold which would warrant an upgrade.

National Weather Service alert from January 15, 2022

Anyone who has been on the west coast has, no doubt seen, the blue tsunami evacuation route signs. I had considered, many times, what my strategy would be IF a tsunami were ever to come ashore while I was at Long Beach. Which is why I was always careful to have my wallet, car keys, shoes, and any other ‘can’t live without’ items next to the bed each night. Even if I was only going for a walk to the beach I always had the car key, ID and a credit card ‘just in case’ safely zipped in a pocket.

As I lay in bed about to go to sleep, I wondered if that would be the night when the sirens would wake us and we’d have to evacuate. Thankfully, that was not the case. We did have to leave fairly early the next morning so we did not get to see any of the impacts.

And, although it wasn’t a full tsunami event, yet another Long Beach experience is added to the already rich storehouse of memories. Thanks Mother Nature, that was enough excitement for 2022.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Beach%2C_Washington

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Hunga_Tonga_eruption_and_tsunami#:~:text=After%20being%20relatively%20inactive%20since%202014%2C%20the%20Hunga,about%2070%20km%20%2845%20mi%29%20from%20the%20volcano.

Leavenworth, Washington

Bavarian Village in the Cascade Mountains

December 21, 2021

This time of year it’s easy to find ‘lists’ of the best holiday and Christmas towns in the U.S. For those who live in Washington State, it’s no surprise to find Leavenworth always on those lists.

A view of downtown Leavenworth during the Christmas light festival, courtesy of Seattlerefined.com

It was named, a few years ago, as the ultimate holiday town by the A&E TV network. No wonder, then, that the place has been overrun in recent years with tourists – especially during November and December.

The Leavenworth story began in 1892 when lumber was king. A sawmill was located on the Wenatchee River and the Great Northern Railway established its terminal there; the last stop before the climb up and over Steven’s Pass to Seattle.

Downtown looking west 1953

The town thrived for several decades until the railway moved the terminal to Wenatchee in 1925. Over the course of the next 25 years the lumber mills closed and residents – with no hope of employment – moved away, leaving much of the town boarded up and abandoned.

Leavenworth could have followed the fate of other small towns, withering away into historical obscurity. But thanks to the vision of two Seattle businessmen, a plan was hatched. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“The city looked to tourism and recreation as a major economy as early as 1929, when they opened a ski jump. In 1962, the Project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement For Everyone) Committee was formed in partnership with the University of Washington to investigate strategies to revitalize the struggling logging town. The theme town idea was created by two Seattle businessmen, Ted Price and Bob Rodgers, who had bought a failing cafe on Highway 2 in 1960. Price was chair of the Project LIFE tourism subcommittee, and in 1965 the pair led a trip to a Danish-themed town, Solvang, California, to build support for the idea. The first building to be remodeled in the Bavarian style was the Chikamin Hotel, which owner LaVerne Peterson renamed the Edelweiss after the state flower of Bavaria.”

Perhaps the thing which was most compelling for the Bavarian theme is Leavenworth’s incredible natural scenery. At an elevation of 1,170 feet, Leavenworth is noted for its Continental Mediterranean climate. Summer days are primarily sunny and hot but with cool, crisp nights. Winters are typically cold and snowy.

The snowiest winter on record in Leavenworth occurred in 1968-69 when over 18 feet of snow accumulated. The most snow in a single month was December 1996 with 92.3 inches – yes, that’s nearly 8 feet of snow! A typical YEAR is 90 inches.

The mountains to the west rise precipitously, becoming the perfect backdrop for an Alps-like village. In the winter, the picturesque slopes and snow covered trees and hills causes one to stop and ponder.

Leavenworth has, in many ways, become a victim of its success. So popular is the destination that hotel rooms are sold out – often a year or more in advance – for the big festivals and finding a place to park becomes impossible. Seattleites (a generic description of anyone from the Westside of the Cascade mountains) have in recent decades discovered the Bavarian village and cars stream across the mountains in search of a magical experience.

Aerial view of the Icicle Village Resort. The wedding was held on just the otherside of the fence past the pool… lower right of the photo to the left of the parking lot.

As a girl growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s in Yakima, visiting Leavenworth was NOT a thing. The first time I stayed in Leavenworth was when my sister and I hatched a plan to celebrate New Year’s eve there on December 31, 1999 – to ring in the year 2000 (I wrote about that here.)

In the ensuing years, we made the occasional trip to Leavenworth but never again in December. Until this past weekend.

My daughter – having survived the Y2K scare during that 1999 trip – and her fiancé decided they wanted to get married someplace in Washington where there would (they hoped!) be snow. Thus Leavenworth was chosen as the perfect spot. Waaaaaay back in March 2019 right after getting engaged, they visited Leavenworth and reserved their venue at the Icicle Village Resort for December 19th… 2020.

The planning commenced. Save the Date postcards were mailed. A wedding dress was purchased. Attendants secured. All was coming together right up until March 2020 when the world shut down.

There’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to change plans. The ‘wedding’ did happen on December 19, 2020 but with a total of five people present besides the bride and groom: the officiant, the maid of honor, the best man, a photographer, and a videographer.

As the bride’s mother I was not happy with this but also being a realist did not lament over it but resolved to make the best of the situation. As did my daughter and new son in law.

Determination took over and no way were they going to let a little thing like the world being shut down (eat your heart out Y2K – 2020 said ‘hold my beer.’) to stop them from having the wedding event of their dreams.

Fast forward to December 2021. The Pandemic still raged and yet people had finally figured out that the world continued on despite it all.

Thus it was we found ourselves in Leavenworth on Friday, December 17th, preparing for a party. We rehearsed and then picked our way down icy streets to downtown to eat German style sausages and raise glasses of beer (except me – I don’t do beer). The younger folks continued on to a couple other locations while the hubby and I walked back to the resort.

Within a short time of our arrival back, I looked out our window – which had that perfect view of the mountains to the west – and noted that snow had started to fall.

The mothers of the groom and the bride taking care of the garbage bags for chair coverings.

The next morning, the snow continued. Both Stevens and Snoqualmie passes were closed for a time and about a dozen guests opted out.

Even so, just before 4 p.m., those who had made the trek, arrived for the OUTDOOR wedding. Worried about the comfort of the guests, my niece’s husband had graciously – at my behest – gone and purchased white garbage bags so everyone would have dry chairs to sit on. I stood, in my formal dress and snow boots, at where they entered and handed bags to every single person!

And then it was time… first the groom’s mother was escorted down the aisle and then me. The snow fell as if in snow globe, everything blanketed in glittery white.

Next came the officiant and our son-in-law. Then the train of groomsmen followed by the bridesmaids bedecked in shades of blue.

Then, at last, we all stood, turned and watched as my daughter – looking every bit a Bavarian fairytale princess – swept down the aisle on her father’s arm. And I was so very glad she had persisted in her desire to have not one – but two – weddings. It was a magical moment which I will carry with me the rest of my days.

It occurred to me that along the way, Leavenworth would forever hold a special place in our family’s history; an exclamation point for a few important events. I have a suspicion that there’s a whole bunch of Washingtonians who feel the same way.

The Bavarian Bride escorted by her proud Padre.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leavenworth%2C_Washington

https://www.historylink.org/File/9475

https://bestlifeonline.com/american-christmas-towns/

The three other Washington State ‘theme’ towns pictured on Facebook are: Winthrop, Lynden, and La Conner

Washington Wineries

The State takes it’s place in viticulture

September 21, 2021

View of Mount Adams from the Red Willow Vineyard. The vineyard has, historically, produced grapes for Columbia Winery but now grows for a variety of other wineries.

With over 940 wineries and 14 distinct American Viticultural Areas, Washington State is one of the most diverse grape growing regions in the world. The majority of grapes are grown in the rich valley’s East of the Cascade Mountains in a climate which is just about perfect for the crop.

Although Washington’s earliest settlers planted grapes at Fort Vancouver in 1825, it is unknown if they used them for wine production. By the 1860’s and 70’s both Italian and German immigrants were planting grapes and producing wine.

With the advent of prohibition – Washington State was an early adopter in 1917 – every commercial winery went out of business.

It wasn’t until the late 1960’s when the fine wines which have made the state a leading producer finally emerged.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

This map shows the various AVA’s

 “The roots of the modern Washington wine industry can be traced to the middle of the 20th century when a group of professors from the University of Washington turned their home winemaking operation into a commercial endeavor and founded Associated Vintners (later renamed Columbia Winery) and focused on producing premium wines. The Nawico and Pommerelle wineries were merged into a new winery that would eventually become Chateau Ste Michelle. Both Chateau Ste Michelle and Associated Vintners became the driving force in premium wine production for the early modern Washington wine industry.”

During the 1970’s new vineyards proliferated from Yakima to Walla Walla, Goldendale to Grand Coulee. Today there are over 80 different grape varieties grown in the state.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Washington produces a full spectrum of wines ranging from mass-produced to premium boutique wines. It also produces nearly every style of wine including rosé, sparkling, fruit, fortified, still and late harvest dessert wines. Some years can even produce favorable conditions for ice wine production. In 2006, The Wine Advocate gave two perfect scores of 100 points for Cabernet Sauvignon wines made by Quilceda Creek Vintners using grapes from several Washington AVAs. Only 15 other American wines have ever been scored so highly by The Wine Advocate, all from California. Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is the largest producer in the state, owning more than a third of all vineyard land in Washington.”

Chateau Ste Michelle Rieslings have been a staple in the household for decades

For the complete experience, one should do a tour of some of the Eastern Washington vineyards. The hubby and I did such an event waaaaay back in the early 1980’s when there were only a handful of wineries to visit. Along with my parents – with my teetotaler mother behind the wheel – we started the day by driving down to Patterson from Yakima and going to Chateau Ste. Michelle.

In those days the people running the tasting rooms had not yet been overwhelmed with wine enthusiasts and were eager to share a variety of wines – all for free.

At that first stop the guy behind the bar must have decided I was cute because it seemed that my tasting glass was filled fuller than either my Dad’s or hubby’s glasses. Not wanting to be rude or waste perfectly good wine, I drank all the wine he gave me, which was at least three different varieties.

What a fun day that turned out to be. I was buzzed before we left Ste. Michelle to work our way back north. I know there were other stops, but I couldn’t tell you where.

There was another memorable trip with a group of friends who – during the past 30 years – formed a monthly luncheon group. One year we decided it would be fun to do a girls’ only weekend wine tour. We rented several hotel rooms, arranged for a limousine, and away we went.

All over the lower Yakima valley the limo carried us to a variety of wineries. Some were fancy and others were converted barns. We sampled reds and whites, sweet and ice wines. Everything was going great until  the driver of the limousine we had rented informed us that she was lost!

For those who have ever traveled around the dirt roads of Eastern Washington, you will know that most of the roads follow the contour of the land OR they go in straight lines and then go at 90 degree angles tracing the edges of farms. It’s easy to get turned around.

The Benches Vineyard near Pasco on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

We were someplace east of Benton City and the one person who had grown up in the region was pressed into service as the navigator. Yes, that would be yours truly. A half hour later, I directed the driver well enough that we emerged from our wilderness wanderings, finally back on track.

The driver felt so bad about getting lost that she agreed to pick us up at our hotel later and transport us to dinner. It was a bonus!

Last year, I had an idea to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary with an Eastern Washington wine tour… sadly, the hubby and I had to postpone due to the Covid shut downs.

I have a hunch that when we do get to do the tour, there will be more wineries to visit than we could go to in a weekend, a week, a month, or even a year. Cheers!

A few links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_wine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chateau_Ste._Michelle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Winery

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Willow_Vineyard#:~:text=Red%20Willow%20Vineyard%20is%20a%20grape%20-growing%20estate,Yakima%20Valley%20AVA%2C%20within%20the%20Yakama%20Indian%20Reservation.

https://longshadows.com/vineyards/the-benches-at-wallula

Sonic Boom

A great day in Seattle History

June 1, 2021

Dennis Johnson. Jack Sikma. Gus Williams. ‘Downtown’ Freddie Brown. Paul Silas. Lennie Wilkens.

On June 1, 1979, these were the names on the lips of every Washingtonian as the Seattle Supersonics won their first and only National Basketball Association championship.

The 1979 Championship Team

The team was formed as part of the NBA expansion in 1967. The early years, while perhaps full of hope for the team, found the franchise consistently finishing near the bottom.

But the team and the fans were undaunted because Seattle was a basketball kind of town. It was the arrival of Bill Russell in 1973 that started the team on the path to glory. The next year the team made its first entry to the playoffs, losing in the Conference playoff round to the San Francisco Warriors.

For the next three years the excitement grew. At least until the disastrous 1976-77 season. The following year Bill Russell was gone as head coach and replaced by Bob Hopkins (who was, coincidentally, an assistant coach and Russell’s cousin). Hopkins was a catastrophe, being fired mid-year in the wake of a 5-17 start.

What happened next was, perhaps, a miracle. Lennie Wilkens, who had been a Sonics player and then head coach for a few years prior to Russell, returned and took the fairytale team all the way to the NBA finals.

The team lost the 1978 title in the 7 game series to the Washington Bullets.

Seattle SuperSonics’ Dennis Johnson (24) soars to the basket past the Chicago Bulls’ Mickey Johnson, right, on March 17, 1979. (seattlepi.com file)

Basketball fever, however, now gripped Seattle, the team and fans alike certain that the championship ring was within their grasp. At the close of the 1978-79 regular season, Seattle was atop the Western Conference and entered the playoffs with a 52-30 win/loss record.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In the playoffs, the SuperSonics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the Semifinals, then defeated the Phoenix Suns in seven games in the Conference Finals to reach the NBA Finals for a second consecutive season in a rematch of the 1978 NBA Finals, facing the defending NBA champion Washington Bullets whom they had lost to in seven games. The Sonics would go on to avenge their NBA Finals loss and defeat the Bullets in five games, winning their first and only NBA championship. Dennis Johnson was named the NBA Finals MVP.

This was Seattle’s first professional sports championship since the Seattle Metropolitans victory in the Stanley Cup in 1917.”

It was a moment never to be repeated. The Sonics did, in 1996, once again reach the NBA championship game where they lost the series 4-2 to the Chicago Bulls.

In 2008 the unthinkable happened. Seattle’s beloved team had been sold to an Oklahoma City consortium led by businessman Clay Bennett (ie – the most hated man in Seattle, perhaps tied with Ken Behring, former owner of the Seahawks who attempted a similar move with the Hawks). When unable to produce the blackmail money funding to build a new arena, professional basketball left Seattle.

The hubby – then the boyfriend – and I had been dating for less than a month on June 1, 1979. I had come over to Seattle from Yakima and was staying with my older brother and his wife in Ballard. That evening, all four of us had dinner and then we all watched the game.

It was a perfect late spring day. The temperature by 8:30 p.m. was an ideal 75 degrees, down from a high of 84 that day. When the final shot dropped through the net and the Sonics were the world champions it was as if the entire city of Seattle erupted in celebration.

Massive crowds came out for the Sonics

Like everyone else, we went outside and on to the back deck of their house which sported a territorial view to the west. In the distance we watched as aerial fireworks burst above downtown Ballard; a cacophony of honking horns – both car and air – marked the moment.

Never had I witnessed such a shared joy as in that moment. We sat on the deck steps for quite some time as the festivities continued. It was well past sunset when the final horns and fireworks faded away.

The Sonics were our team, our guys. By then we had the Seahawks but it would be decades before they won their championship. The only real game in town in 1979 was basketball. It was glorious. And no slick Oklahoma City flimflam man will ever be able to steal that moment from us.

A couple of links for those who want to know more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1978%E2%80%9379_Seattle_SuperSonics_season

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1979_NBA_Finals

The Facebook answers: Seahawks (blue and green), Mariners (A different blue and green), Sonics, UW Huskys (purple and gold), WSU Cougars (crimson and gray), and the Gonzaga Bulldogs (blue and red)

EEE 161 Rides Again

The Ford Mustang, redux

March 9, 2021

It was on March 9, 1964 when the first Mustang automobile rolled off the assembly line at Ford Motor company’s Dearborn, Michigan plant. Today, the Mustang continues as one of the best selling and most popular cars ever produced by Ford.

For those who have been reading my blog for several years, you may recall that three years ago I posted about the 1965 Mustang here: https://barbaradevore.com/2018/04/17/1965-ford-mustang/

Today’s Tuesday Newsday is going to be a bit of a departure, as I have nothing particularly new from the Infallible Wikipedia to share on this topic. You can, of course, go there and read up on everything you might hope to learn about the Mustang.

1965 White Mustang convertible

What I do know is that the Mustang was a huge hit from the day it launched and has spawned clubs for owners, like the Mustang Club of America, matchbox cars, models, and an almost cult like following for the distinctively designed vehicle.

As with the Volkswagen beetle, or the Porsche, or the Corvette, the Mustang’s of the 1960’s are instantly recognizable and highly collectible.

While the majority of the early Mustangs have ended up in junk yards and recycled, some have been lucky enough to survive down through the years. This is the story of one such Mustang.

We pick up the story of the Mustang my Dad purchased slightly used circa 1966. It is now July 11, 2020 and my father has been gone just over 10 months. Despite being in the middle of the Covid Pandemic, I have estate business to tend to and have traveled to Yakima and am staying with my sister. Her home is situated in the middle of apple, cherry, and pear orchards just west of Selah – a smaller city four miles north of Yakima. Yakima County boasts a population of just under 250,000 people so it is not huge, but is certainly not small either.

On this particular Saturday it’s sunny and warm with a high in the low 90’s. In the mid-afternoon the two of us drive down into Selah with a load of items to be donated to Goodwill. From there we head south to a Safeway store in Yakima for a few dinner items. Our intended route is actually a big circle as we head to her place via the ‘back’ way which is to travel west on highway 12, then north on Old Naches Highway, and finally head east up Mapleway Road.

My sister is driving and we are, as is our nature, chatting away. Just as we reach the crest the hill I notice a white convertible about 500 yards ahead of us. It’s distinctive Mustang back end causes me to blurt out, “Look, it’s Dad’s car.”

A wave of nostalgia washes over me. Oh those summers when we drove around with that black rag top down, flirting with boys during forbidden runs up and down Yakima Avenue, not a care in the world with real life still a few years away.

A moment in time captured…. it was May 28, 1973. My sister (in the purple), my best friend Pam, and me were headed out early that morning to take the Mustang to the Yakima Memorial Day parade. We belonged to the Rainbow Girls and were riding in the parade. Also in the photo are my Mom supervising and my Dad working to put the cover over the stored top.

Of course, I didn’t really think it WAS my dad’s car. After all, he had sold the car in the 1980’s and the family lost track of it over the years. Realistically, what were the chances the car still existed? Even so, I urged my sister to get a little closer so we could at least see the license plate. She obliged and I strained my eyes to make out the letters and numbers.

EEE 161.*

“It IS dad’s car!” I exclaim. “Follow him!”

The Mustang, now at a stop sign where the main road goes right, turns. A minute later we are at the same spot and also turn right. A minute after that, we sail past the road which leads to my sister’s house and are headed back down into Selah, retracing our route from earlier.

On we go, now in hot pursuit of Dad’s car.

“I want to talk to him,” I tell her. From behind we can tell it’s a middle aged man sporting a baseball cap driving the car.

We travel past the school, city hall, the bank, the telephone company, and turn north on Wenas Road. My eyes are fixed on the Mustang wondering just how far he’s going to drive. From my perspective, it didn’t matter. Catching up with him was my goal; being with the car once again important somehow.

My sister pulls into the left lane to try and get up next to the car but then the driver signals a right turn into the parking lot of the True Value hardware store. We sail past.

It takes us several minutes to get turned around but at last we pull up next to the parked – and now empty – car and wait for the driver to return.

Not wanting to be creepy or draw suspicion, I force myself to sit and wait. And wait. And, after five interminable minutes our quarry emerges from the store headed to his car which was once my Dad’s car.

I climb out of the passenger seat of my sister’s vehicle and step forward, catching his attention.

“This will be the weirdest conversation you’ve had all week,” I say and then continue, “But this was my Dad’s car.”

“Really? He must have sold it to my Mom back in the early 1980’s. What was his name?”

“Vincent DeVore. I’ve never forgiven him for selling it.”

This elicits a chuckle. I forge on. “Unfortunately my dad passed at the end of October. But I think it would please him to see what great shape the Mustang is in.”

“I’m sorry about your Dad. My mom died in December. The car was stored in her garage until January when it came to me.  She had the leather seats recovered and the whole thing has been repainted. She used to take it to the classic car shows. She loved this car.”

“It looks amazing,” I say and mean it.

“Yeah. I learned to drive in this car,” he says and to which I reply, “So did I! It was the best.”

What then followed was the snapping of a couple of photos of both my sister and I with the car. We also learned that he lives less than a mile from my sister and is the neighbor of my brother-in-law’s best friend. And that day was the first day he’d had the car out and driving around with the top down, reliving just for a short time, his sweet teenage memories in the car of his – and my youth.

My sister enjoying being reunited with EEE 161.
Maybe next time I’ll get to sit in the car once again

As for me, it was only one of several surreal events following my Dad’s death. In a way I found it comforting and, every once in a while, am reminded that even though Dad is gone, his spirit lives on.

*In 1958, license plates in Washington were assigned by county. All plates in Yakima County started with the letter “E.” The Mustang’s plate was likely issued new with the car in 1965. Visit this website for how this all worked. http://staff.washington.edu/islade/counties/index.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Mustang

Mount Rainier

The Mountain Is Out

March 2, 2021

The Mountain Is Out.

These four words, for anyone who grew up or has lived in the Greater Puget Sound region, mean but one thing: it’s a clear day and from all vantage points, one can see Mount Rainier.

Photo taken by the author one cold January 1980 morning near Graham, Washington

Of all the natural features which define Washington State it is, arguably, Mount Rainier which is most associated with the state. And is it any wonder? At 14,411 feet it is one of the highest peaks in the United States. What gives Mt. Rainier its prominence, literally, is the fact that you can see an uninterrupted 13,210 feet of the volcano, making it the largest mountain in the contiguous 48 United States and the fourth largest mountain on the North American continent.

It was on March 2, 1899, when Mount Rainier National Park was established as the nation’s fourth national park (after Yellowstone, Sequoia, and Yosemite).

My parents on the White Pass ski lift headed up for a hike.

The Infallible Wikipedia provides us with some fascinating geologic facts:

“Mount Rainier is a stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc that consists of lava flows, debris flows, and pyroclastic ejecta and flows. Its early volcanic deposits are estimated at more than 840,000 years old and are part of the Lily Formation (about 2.9 million to 840,000 years ago). The early deposits formed a ‘proto-Rainier’ or an ancestral cone prior to the present-day cone. The present cone is more than 500,000 years old.

The volcano is highly eroded, with glaciers on its slopes, and appears to be made mostly of andesite. Rainier likely once stood even higher than today at about 16,000 ft (4,900 m) before a major debris avalanche and the resulting Osceola Mudflow approximately 5,000 years ago. In the past, Rainier has had large debris avalanches, and has also produced enormous lahars (volcanic mudflows), due to the large amount of glacial ice present. Its lahars have reached all the way to Puget Sound, a distance of more than 30 mi (48 km).

The hole in the middle is the entry to the Paradise Ice Caves

Around 5,000 years ago, a large chunk of the volcano slid away and that debris avalanche helped to produce the massive Osceola Mudflow, which went all the way to the site of present-day Tacoma and south Seattle. This massive avalanche of rock and ice removed the top 1,600 ft (500 m) of Rainier, bringing its height down to around 14,100 ft (4,300 m). About 530 to 550 years ago, the Electron Mudflow occurred, although this was not as large-scale as the Osceola Mudflow.

After the major collapse approximately 5,000 years ago, subsequent eruptions of lava and tephra built up the modern summit cone until about as recently as 1,000 years ago. As many as 11 Holocene tephra layers have been found.

In the world of geology, a thousand years is like a blink of the eye. Which is one reason why Mount Rainier is one of 16 mountains worldwide known as ‘Decade Volcanoes.’ To put it succinctly, it means that these volcanoes have given indications that they are likely to erupt AND they are located in areas where an eruption would no doubt result in catastrophic property destruction and/or a large loss of life. 

With my parents at the Paradise Ice Caves early 1980’s

That could mean that we will witness such an eruption of Mt. Rainier in our lifetime or, perhaps, it will be hundreds of years from now.

It’s hard to imagine Mt. Rainier as being any different than how it’s been during my lifetime. I simply cannot recall a time when I did not know of it. Perhaps my earliest memory would be on a trip from Yakima to Long Beach, Washington with my family including my grandmother – my Dad’s mother – in the 1960’s.

The most direct route to the coast was via White Pass which, coincidentally, follows a route just south of the southeast park entrance. And there is this spot on the other side of the summit where you come around the corner and, on a clear day, feel as if you can touch it. Over the years that moment has always been the one which says ‘welcome to Western Washington.’ My grandmother snapped a photo from the back seat of the car. It was only the first of many photos I have of the mountain.

I would venture that I’ve driven through the National Park well over 100 times and have visited both Sunrise and Paradise multiple times. Back in the early 1980’s, the hubby and I – along with my parents – hiked up to the Paradise ice caves. It was a truly ethereal experience to be standing in a blue translucent cave made of ice. Today, they are gone.

The hubby in 1980 something on one of many trips to the mountain.

As a newspaper reporter in Eatonville in 1979-80, I learned that the folks in Pierce County think of Mount Rainier as ‘theirs.’ Afterall, it was originally named Tahoma or Tacoma by the natives of the area. And it dominates the region. 

One summer evening shortly after I moved to Eatonville, I was on the phone with one of the town council members to ask him a few questions about a story I was working on. It was around 8:30 p.m. and getting on towards sunset. We were talking when all of the sudden he says, “Strawberry Ice Cream.”

“Excuse me,” I replied, “What’s this about strawberry ice cream?”

“The mountain,” he replied, “Looks just like strawberry ice cream… and then it will be blueberry.”

And so it did. Although I didn’t have a view from my place of the mountain like he did, it only took a few steps outside my apartment and to the north for me to have a nice view of Pierce county’s ice cream ‘Sundae.’

White Pass viewpoint with the hubby in 2016. On this particular day we were treated to a phenomenon known as lenticular clouds.

But it was on a trip from Nashville to Seattle a few years ago which reminded me that not everyone understands what an impact Mount Rainier has on those who see and enjoy it regularly. I was seated on the aisle and as we approached Seattle, I knew we would be passing the mountain to the north. As its massive white flanks came into view through one of the windows a row down and across the aisle, I craned my neck for a look. My frustration grew as the couple directly across from me kept their window covering closed. No longer able to hold back I said to them, “You really should open your window. Mount Rainier is right next to us.”

The man slid the opening up and both he and his wife exclaimed over how close and how immense it was.

Then he proceeded to say to me “Are you sure that’s Mount Rainier?”

I suppressed a laugh at the absurdity of the question. It’s easily one of the most recognizable peaks in the world, especially when you are right next to it and its larger than life.

“Trust me,” I replied, “I grew up here and that most definitely is Mount Rainier. Isn’t it nice for the mountain to be out today?”

Like A Song on the Radio

Thank you, Mr. Marconi

June 2, 2020

 

Marconi RadioThere is a saying that he who gets to the patent office first matters more than who invented it. This is likely true for the invention of radio. Guglielmo Marconi – first to the patent office – filed on June 2, 1896, eclipsing others also working on the budding technology.

The story begins decades earlier and, as is often the case, the Infallible Wikipedia sums it up:

“The idea of wireless communication predates the discovery of ‘radio’ with experiments in ‘wireless telegraphy’ via inductive and capacitive induction and transmission through the ground, water, and even train tracks from the 1830s on. James Clerk Maxwell showed in theoretical and mathematical form in 1864 that electromagnetic waves could propagate through free space. It is likely that the first intentional transmission of a signal by means of electromagnetic waves was performed in an experiment by David Edward Hughes around 1880, although this was considered to be induction at the time. In 1888 Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was able to conclusively prove transmitted airborne electromagnetic waves in an experiment confirming Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism.”

Fascinated by the possibility of transmitting sounds via Hertzian (as radio waves were called at the time) waves, Marconi began experiments building the equipment needed in the attic of his home. He was only 20 years old.

“A breakthrough came in the summer of 1895, when Marconi found that much greater range could be achieved after he raised the height of his antenna and, borrowing from a technique used in wired telegraphy, grounded his transmitter and receiver. With these improvements, the system was capable of transmitting signals up to 2 miles (3.2 km) and over hills. The monopole antenna reduced the frequency of the waves compared to the dipole antennas used by Hertz, and radiated vertically polarized radio waves which could travel longer distances. By this point, he concluded that a device could become capable of spanning greater distances, with additional funding and research, and would prove valuable both commercially and militarily. Marconi’s experimental apparatus proved to be the first engineering-complete, commercially successful radio transmission system.”

Encouraged by his parents, he left Italy for England – his mother accompanied him – and was able to gain the interest of the British Government and, eventually, financial backing. While Marconi’s system was used primarily for short distance maritime communications at first, his company continued to experiment and expand the distance the radio waves traveled. It was Marconi’s system which made it possible for 700 passengers aboard the Titanic to be rescued.

GE F-96

My brother had a radio like this one given to him by our grandparents. His is currently in a storage locker… this beauty belongs to someone who graciously posted it on the internet.

Innovation in radio proceeded at an amazing pace with the commercial side of it soon eclipsing the more mundane maritime uses. By 1938 four of every five homes had a radio. Families gathered around for favorite programs, whether they were music, ‘theater,’ or the news of the day. The radio became an essential part of society.

 

All of today’s wireless digital communications via phones, pads, and portable computers, began with the invention of the radio.

Marconi – along with Karl Braun – shared the 1909 Nobel Prize “for their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy.”

transistor radio

My sister was the queen of the transistor radio with one nearly glued to her ear for several years.

By the 1960’s, despite the fairly recent addition of commercial television, radio was still king. Especially for teenagers. It was radio which helped foment the rock and roll revolution; it was radio which unified the baby boom generation. Every town seemed to have at least one radio station and the wise ones were spinning the popular teen records of the day.

 

In Yakima – where I grew up – there were three stations of note in the later 1960’s and early 1970’s. I remember my dad always wanting to listen to KIT. At 1280 on the dial it featured news and WWII era music. As a card-carrying teen that was not on my list of cool radio stations. There were, however, two stations I listened to: KMWX and KQOT.

Being that I kept a diary (note to my younger self – what you wrote about was mostly ridiculous) and that listening to the radio was so important, I recorded this gem from April 25, 1971:

“Today was Pete’s Birthday. He liked the Grippu Sue and I gave him.* We went on Daylight Savings, so it stays light till almost 8:30. That means KQOT stays on the air until 7:45 and on May 1st, they will stay on until 8:30. That means I get to hear Neal Gray all through the ‘Sommer.’ (Sommer? Get it? Bob Sommers D.J.) YEA!”

Three days later, I posted this entry:

“Today was an interesting day, you see, today was Patty Hooper’s dog’s birthday, so I told her I would dedicate “Me and You and a Dog named Boo” to her dog, Sairy, if I could get through… well I got through and dedicated it but it is really weird to hear Bob Sommer’s voice on the radio and telephone, then your own. Patty was listening and called right after the song was over. Command Performance is kind of fun.”

It was, apparently, about this time that I became radio obsessed, even going so far (Two days after that!) to try to figure out the trick for getting through to the D.J.’s. For one of my dialing adventures, it took me… 292 times to get through.

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The author at age 14 in my room. Cassette recorder, radio (it was an older one my parents had). I’m not sure where the clock radio is… and you can see my blue 1972 diary off to the side. I was kinda messy.

The rest of the 1971 diary has occasional references to the two radio stations. What I do recall during those years is sitting on the bed in my room, listening to the radio and waiting for my favorite songs. I cannot recall what sort of radio it was, but it was my daily companion. I was given a cassette tape recorder for my 13th birthday, and a new clock radio for my 14th. Together they afforded me the opportunity to ‘record’ songs when they came on the air. Many a tape was filled with badly recorded favorite songs AND, often, the D.J.’s playing the live requests. Those tapes were played over and over.

 

In today’s world, the importance of radio for young people has faded. Kids pop in their earbuds and open their Spotify or Pandora** apps on their phones; in an instant their favorite songs begin to play. Somehow I think they are missing out on the experience of calling the radio station, requesting ‘the’ song, and then listening for hours to hear it.

I’ve included a video of Al Stewart’s ‘Song on the Radio’ as it seems to capture the spirit of the 1970’s

For those of us who grew up during AM radio’s golden age of rock and roll we did not realize at the time that it wouldn’t always be that way. No doubt there will be more amazing innovations for wireless digital communications and, one day, I imagine the teens of today will pine for the good ole days. It’s the way of the world.

 

*I have no idea what this thing was… in another entry I write that the gripper is ‘a big blow up plastic hand.’ Who knew?

**It’s highly likely that Spotify and Pandora are ‘last year’s’ hot apps. I await correction from those in the know.

A couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_radio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guglielmo_Marconi

KQOT operated as a ‘rock’ station from 1962 until 1979 and is now Christian station KYAK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KYAK

 

Hummingbirds!

May 19, 2020

If You Fill It, They Will Come

hummingbird 2011 003

Anna’s Hummingbird is a year round resident of Western Washington. The author took this photo in her backyard in 2011.

As one drives through the suburbs this time of year, it is hard to not notice the red topped and bottomed glass or plastic bottles hanging from eaves and hooks.

With apologies to the movie ‘Field of Dreams,’ those of us who hang these bottles know, “If you fill it, they will come.”

Beginning in the middle of March, one sure sign that spring is here is the arrival of hummingbirds.

These tiny birds – the smallest of any bird species – are born entertainers. When they find a food source they will defend it with vigor, putting on a show of swoops and dives, as they zoom to and from the feeder. If one sits quietly nearby, the birds may hover and look at you, or will be observed pausing mid-air before flying off in a burst of speed.

They are truly amazing creatures. There are 338 known species, the majority of which are found in South America. In fact there are as many as 140 different species which co-exist with each other in the Andes range. It is likely the species originated on that continent and have spread from there to North America.

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Calliope Hummingbird photo from the internet

black chinned hummer

Black Chinned Hummingbird photo from the internet

Only a few hummingbird types are usually found in Washington State: Anna’s, Rufous, Black-Chinned, and Calliope. A couple other species have been spotted, but their visits are considered accidental.

There are a number of things which make the birds unique.  One is the enlarged brain region responsible for vision. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The enlargement of this region responsible for visual processing indicates an enhanced ability for perception and processing of fast-moving visual stimuli which hummingbirds encounter during rapid forward flight, insect foraging, competitive interactions, and high-speed courtship.”

Additionally, hummingbirds have developed in such a way that they can adapt – in flight – to environmental factors such as wind. Wikipedia continues:

“While hovering, the visual system of a hummingbird is able to separate apparent motion caused by the movement of the hummingbird itself from motions caused by external sources, such as an approaching predator. In natural settings full of highly complex background motion, hummingbirds are able to precisely hover in place by rapid coordination of vision with body position.”

The article does go way down into the weeds with technical terms and scientific explanation; worth the longer read to learn more about these tiny acrobats. One of the most interesting aspects of hummingbirds, I think, is their ability to slow their metabolism enough to go into a state of hibernation.

“The metabolism of hummingbirds can slow at night or at any time when food is not readily available: the birds enter a hibernatory, deep-sleep state (known as torpor) to prevent energy reserves from falling to a critical level. During nighttime torpor, body temperature falls from 40 to 18 °C, with heart and breathing rates both slowed dramatically (heart rate to roughly 50 to 180 beats per minute from its daytime rate of higher than 1000).

During torpor, to prevent dehydration, the GFR ceases, preserving needed compounds such as glucose, water, and nutrients. Further, body mass declines throughout nocturnal torpor at a rate of 0.04 g per hour, amounting to about 10% of weight loss each night. The circulating hormone, corticosterone, is one signal that arouses a hummingbird from torpor.

Use and duration of torpor vary among hummingbird species and are affected by whether a dominant bird defends territory, with nonterritorial subordinate birds having longer periods of torpor.”

Just outside my window there are at least four or five of my favorite birds providing me with inspiration.  Occasionally one will zip past my open window, a barely recognizable streak. On beyond – in the tree next to our house I watch as they perch at the top of slender branches. The Anna’s hummingbirds are also known for their vocal chirps, some of which sound like the warning beep of a smoke detector whose battery has worn out.

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Anna’s hummingbird at our feeder in winter

Winter20112012 008

Our cat Purr watching the show from inside the warm house

I first started feeding them in the 1980’s, putting up the feeders in early spring and retiring them in late August. For years I had understood the birds to be seasonal visitors. Then – some ten years ago – I noticed they were still outside my window in the fall. So I kept refilling their food source. And the birds stayed all winter.

In my reading I learned that only the Anna’s variety will remain year round in the mostly temperate climate of Western Washington.

When we moved to Mount Vernon two years ago, of course I put out the feeder in hopes of attracting a few birds. It worked. This year – without the need to be in Yakima half the time – I upped the stakes. For Mother’s Day my son gave me two additional feeders of a design which I had recently purchased and found it encouraged more birds to participate. With three active feeders, I am now cooking nectar about once a day!

I do believe we have three of the four species here: Anna’s, Rufous, and Black-Chinned. It’s possible the other is here also, but further observation is required.

Occasionally I will have a hummingbird hover just outside the window of my second story office. This occurred once last week and its message was clear: our feeder is empty. When I arrived downstairs and checked, the bird was correct. It was time to carry out my part of the bargain… fill it and they will stay.

I shot this video clip last night. Walked out on our front step and this bird flew right at me, intent on warning me off! The video is a little choppy because it was within inches of my face, coming at me with its beak… the sound you hear is it ‘popping’ it’s tail feathers to make that clicking noise. 

A few links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummingbird

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hummingbird_species

https://www.beautyofbirds.com/hummingbirdswashingtonstate.html

Century 21 Exposition

April 21, 2020

… All Roads lead to Seattle

Century_21_Exposition_logo1The year was 1962. The space race was a real thing. And Americans everywhere were awed by the spectacle of extra-terrestrial travel to the moon and beyond.

And no event summed up America’s love affair with technology, space, and the future more than the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle which opened on April 21st.

The idea had been hatched seven years earlier. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The fair was originally conceived at a Washington Athletic Club luncheon in 1955 to 8130b5bdb8adfdbd937324996d49da37mark the 50th anniversary of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition , but it soon became clear that that date was too ambitious. With the Space Race underway and Boeing having ‘put Seattle on the map’ as ‘an aerospace city’, a major theme of the fair was to show that ‘the United States was not really ‘behind’ the Soviet Union in the realms of science and space’. As a result, the themes of space, science, and the future completely trumped the earlier conception of a ‘Festival of the [American] West’.”

Science and technology became the primary focus of the fair. Companies from around the U.S. exhibited a variety of ‘future’ products with a push, particularly, focused on the home of the future. For 13 minutes of pure Seattleite amusement, you can take a trip back in time in this video from Bell Telephone touting how easy communication would one day be. Had they only known…

https://ia800300.us.archive.org/31/items/Century21964/Century21964_512kb.mp4

But it was the space race between the United States and the USSR which was the story which coalesced into my hubby’s family lore.

Gherman Titov was a Soviet cosmonaut and the second man to orbit the earth in outer space. Think of him as the Russian equivalent of John Glenn; a hero in his country. HistoryLink.org – a Washington State history site – chronicles that visit:

“May 5 was incredibly hectic at the Century 21 Exposition, thanks to a visit from Russian cosmonaut Major Gherman Titov, who attracted some of the largest crowds the fair had seen since its opening on April 21. At times, the diminutive 5-foot 4-inch Titov found it hard to see anything other than the Space Needle, as taller spectators gathered around him, hoping to glimpse or photograph one of the few men that had been in outer space. Scores of news reporters compounded the crush.

c21_titov1

Gherman Titov with a few Camp Fire Girls who were there on May 5, 1962.

The Russian cosmonaut wasn’t the only one to gather crowds. More than 10,000 Camp Fire Girls were on hand to dedicate the World’s Fair flagpoles, funded by candy mint sales. An estimated 20,000 people — more than a quarter of the day’s total attendance of 75,758 — were there to take part in Camp Fire Girl celebrations. Because of the large crowds, Century 21 Exposition manager Ewen Dingwall (1913-1996) announced that starting May 12, the fair would open an hour earlier each day, at 9:00.

Throughout the day Titov signed autograph books and handed out color photos of himself, especially to children. At one point he handed his photo to a baby in a stroller.”

The baby in the stroller? My husband’s younger sister, Liz!

Back in the 1980’s – when I heard this story for the first time – I contacted the Seattle PI and was able to get a photo of Liz with the cosmonaut. We then framed it and gave that to her as a present. Unfortunately, the photo is stowed away in a box in the attic of the family home… and no one is brave enough to navigate the bat guano to go find it. I will be looking through my physical archives to see if I kept a copy.

In speaking with my Mother in Law, Jean, yesterday, she shared the following:

“We were there that day because I took our older daughter’s Campfire Group. We heard the Cosmonaut was on the grounds and we went out of our way to avoid all that, but ran right in to it. He bent down and talked to Liz who was in a stroller. She was little at that time (editor’s note – she was a few days shy of her first birthday). Normally, I would not take that many in a crowd – there were at least 10 Campfire Girls with us.”

My Mother in Law is looking to see if a copy of the newspaper article and photo might be in their file cabinet. Of course Liz remembers nothing of that day.

As I was putting together the story for this week’s blog, I was reminded of how there are days in our lives which become significant but we do not recognize it at the time. Family events like these highlight how crucial it is to stop and reflect on events which impact our lives.

I was six that year and I know that my family traveled to Seattle from Yakima for the event. But I cannot recall what we did or any specifics about it. I do know that the day it opened was my dad’s 39th birthday…now 58 years ago. Just last year on April 21st, all my siblings, their spouses, and two of my nieces, gathered together at the Adult Family Home where my dad had recently moved, to celebrate his 96th birthday. It was a lovely day and perfect weather.

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My Dad’s 96th birthday, April 21, 2019, with his four children

Dad had told me that he didn’t want to celebrate his birthday. But my sister and I insisted and promised it would be ‘just’ family. We ignored his protests and proceeded anyway.

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Dad (and my sister) with his last birthday cake

Dad rallied for the event and seemed to enjoy the cake, the cards, and a few small presents. Turns out that we were all glad we did. Six months and three days later he was gone.

Carpe Diem!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century_21_Exposition

https://www.historylink.org/File/10104

Salt and Pepper

I have a few items of memorabilia from the Century 21 Exposition. My most prized is a pair of aluminum salt and pepper shakers shaped like the Space Needle. The top of one is shown here.

Daffodil Days

March 17, 2020

Solo DaffodilA harbinger of spring, this particular flower is one of the earliest to appear during the first weeks of March.

The Narcissus – also known as daffodil and jonquil – has been cultivated for centuries. People are drawn to its sunny shades; a welcome splash of color at the end of winter.

A member of the Amaryllis family, its showy blossom reminds one of a face surrounded by a large bonnet.  There are thousands of varieties, ranging from tiny clusters of white and yellow flowers, as well as fist sized blossoms in brilliant yellow. Less common blooms can also include combinations of orange and pink.

It was believed, at one time, that the bulb contained cancer curing properties. In fact, the bulb actually contains toxins which can lead to illness and, in rare cases, death if ingested. Rather than getting into the tall weeds in regards to that, here’s a link to the Infallible Wikipedia for those who wish to learn more:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissus_(plant)

Mt. Baker and Daffodils

Skagit Valley daffodils with Mt. Baker in the distance. March 16, 2020

The Narcissus is so popular and so prevalent, that authors have for years used it in their works.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Shakespeare, who frequently uses flower imagery, refers to daffodils twice in The Winter’s Tale  and also The Two Noble Kinsmen. Robert Herrick alludes to their association with death in a number of poems. Among the English romantic movement writers none is better known than William Wordsworth’s short 1804 poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud which has become linked in the popular mind with the daffodils that form its main image. Wordsworth also included the daffodil in other poems. Yet the description given of daffodils by his sister, Dorothy is just as poetic, if not wordsworth-lonely-daffodils2-500x334more so, just that her poetry was prose and appears almost an unconscious imitation of the first section of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (see Greek culture, above). Among their contemporaries, Keats refers to daffodils among those things capable of bringing ‘joy forever’.”

That’s pretty high praise for a flower!

I always think of the third week of March as the season of the daffodil. While I cannot recall when, exactly, I became aware of the flower, I have always rejoiced when I see their heads pop up from the cold ground, knowing that winter is losing its grip.

My most memorable daffodil experience occurred one lovely spring afternoon in March 1993. I had been out running errands. In my company that day were my three year old son and a belly so large that it was near bursting.

We arrived back at our house sometime after 3:30 p.m. My in-laws were there; ready to provide care for the three year old as my official ‘due date’ was March 19th.

Weary after hours of errands, I sat down for a few minutes but could tell something was not right. A few minutes later, at 4 pm, I feared that my water had broken.

Now, with child number one, I had not experienced natural labor. He was a stubborn one and it took hours and hours along with a labor inducing drug to convince him to arrive.

Those who say that Pitocin and the natural hormone released by a mother’s body during labor are the same, don’t know what they are talking about. Which is why I wanted to avoid its use with child number two.

I went up to the bedroom and called the Doctor’s office, hoping that I could go in and have them check to see if, in fact, my water had broken. Nope. I was instructed to go to the hospital.

The next ten minutes involved tears, calling the hubby to tell him that he needed to come home and take me, and more tears as I wrapped my head around the situation. I assured the hubby during our call that he had plenty of time since I was not experiencing any labor pains. The tears were caused by my anticipation of a 22 hour ordeal similar to the first labor which would involve an IV drip of Pitocin.

Packing was a slow process (have I mentioned how huge I was?) as I gathered all my needed items together and, anyway, I figured I had time. As I was puttering around the bedroom and the bathroom, I kept having these ‘twinges.’ Didn’t think much about it until it occurred to my thick brain that it might be natural contractions, something I had not experienced the first time.

So I timed the twinges… and they were two minutes apart. Wow. I took my now packed bag downstairs and told my mother in law, who was standing in the kitchen, the news about the time between contractions. And then the first big one hit.

The next thing I did was step over to the sink and grip the counter, breathing through the event as best I could. On the other side of the window in our backyard my focus landed on the clusters of bright yellow blooms.

At the end of the contraction my mother-in-law exclaimed, “How soon will he get home? I didn’t sign up to be a midwife!”

And so it went for probably another 15 minutes, me gripping the counter in front of the sink as if it were a life preserver, daffodils swimming before my eyes. Soon the hubby arrived and a flurry of activity ensued with hasty goodbyes to the in laws and our eldest child, then what seemed an excruciatingly long  trip to the hospital, and admittance.

Daffodil princess

Daughter in search of daffodils March 2010 – ten years ago

Three and half hours from the onset of labor, at 7:30 p.m., our daughter was born (without any artificial labor inducing drugs OR any pain relief as there was no time!).

The next day, looking out my window at the landscaping across the street from the hospital, I could see daffodils; bunch after bunch greeted us all along the streets as we drove home with our new baby.

My daughter and I cherish the daffodil as our shared flower, a symbol of spring, new life, and connection from mother to child. Happy Birthday to you, my beloved mid-March child!