Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halloween at Port Gamble

It would seem that more and more commercial areas are providing "safe and sane" Halloween visiting areas, those spots where parents can send their kids and feel confident that trick or treating will not result in razor blades in apples, although it's been years since I've heard of anyone dong that. Most of those commercial areas, though, have become so overrun that what many of us grandparents remember from our youth is no longer taking place, and instead the goblins are running from store to store, grabbing what they can get and heading on home in a short time.

Port Angeles, for instance, has been doing this for so many years that it has grown to the point that a business needs over 2500 pieces of candy (or whatever else is being given out) to still be able to pass the gifts to the last visitor. I saw a sign at the Silverdale Mall yesterday which said they are no longer carrying on the tradition. No explanation, but having been the owner of a downtown business I can see the frustration of trying to preserve a tradition which seems to be out of hand.

So what does all this have to do with the small town of Port Gamble? A lot!! I mentioned earlier that most places are no longer having the events that we grandparents remember from our youth. You are probably a grandparent if you remember  "dunking for apples" (especially if you actually did it), or pressing cider, or even hay rides. Small towns did those sorts of things, and as I've said just a few times, Port Gamble is certainly a small town. There are fewer and fewer such places, but this one is proud to stand and invite kids and parents from throughout the area to join in on the fun and visit us on Halloween for fun as much as for candy.

Don't get me wrong, this "tradition" of inviting goblins on Halloween is just a few years old for Port Gamble, but it is growing,  and plans are to keep it going. So on Halloween, from 1pm  to 5pm, parents and young kids (there is no age limit, but you can tell from the "1 pm to 5 pm" that we are dealing with fairly young kids rather than middle schoolers) are invited to come to Port Gamble and join in the fun. Each business will not only have a gift for each visitor, but it will have to be earned through a game of some kind. Maybe it will be a mask that has to be painted; or maybe a "fish" caught from the other  side of a screen, or maybe a photograph to be taken home and shown to the rest of the family, or maybe a crank on a cider press to get real, fresh cider. We won't tell; you will just have to find out for yourself.

Yes, it's always a lot easier to give kids a ride to the nearest shopping center and turn them loose for a couple of hours to fill their bags with sugar. But while those kids of yours are still with you why not come and watch them having fun. Why, we might even have a treat for you!!!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is street repair easy to get in your town?

This is one of those quick posts which could easily be replace with a photo, but it happened so fast that I nearly blinked and missed it.

I awoke yesterday am (yes, brother, it was still am) to the awful noise of buildings being torn down, or maybe it was Mike cleaning his bbq cooker with a new kind of scraper, or perhaps it was the sound of yet another car missing the 15 mph turn and scraping its way over the cliff (2 since we moved here seven months ago, but that's another post).

The worst of the noise soon quit and I forgot about it until I got to the post office, when Laura (the postmaster, and she is indeed a master with the post office, but that too is another story) asked me what that noise was coming from the quilt store. I might have panicked, matching some horrible grinding noises with the quilt store, but since I have found no cause for panic yet at Port Gamble, I wasn't going to start now. So I promised her a full report, and headed toward the noise and  the quilts.

I soon found what the noise was. Half the street was torn up and being loaded into a truck to be hauled away. For what reason? I assumed because of faulty underground wiring or septic system, or some part of the grid work under the street that was failing. I've been told that the streets belong to the county, so I assumed that the failure was near catastrophic. And then I saw Tom, our chief of maintenance, and as always I expected a full and accurate report, and I got it.

Have you ever noticed that every once in a while a slab of asphalt will get some cracking in it, perhaps from some soft dirt underneath, or perhaps some heavy trucks from above? The asphalt is still good, can be driven on for years, and no one replaces the street because it LOOKS bad. No, but they do replace the street at Port Gamble when it is becoming rough in an area heavily frequented by wheel chairs, like in front of the pavilion  where many of the weddings are held.

This is soooo typical Port Gamble. Streets are a problem? Fix them. Don't haggle with some agency about whose responsibility it is, just do it. Do it right, of course, and do it when the problem is small, of course, but take care of it. And  so the problems are small because they are taken care of ... early. As a future  user of a wheel chair, I appreciate that attitude.

Sorry you can't move here  quite  yet, my friends, but the rentals are full ... not one house rental available. Is it any wonder that is the case when they take care of the buildings as well as they take care of the streets? And speaking of rentals, the only commercial building available above the waterfront is the Walker/Ames Building, the largest of the business buildings. All other commercial buildings are full. You ought to come by and check out this place ... full WINTER and summer.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Staying a lady in a man's world.

Early on I said that one of the things I most wanted to do with this blog was talk about some of the people who work here; they seem so unique to me in their attitude about work, in their enthusiasm, in their work ethic, that it seems  (as many people tell me) that I'm living in an amusement park, or maybe in a TV show.

I've also noticed what appears to be a bit of a bias in hiring. Most (but not all) employees of the shops here are female. Most (but not all) employees of the maintenance crew (hired by the people who own everything, and thus maintain everything) are male. I'm not going to even try to explain why so many of the shops seem to hire only females, but I can sort of undersand why the crew that repairs buildings, mows huge fields,  builds fences, etc.  are male ... it's physically challenging work! But there is one exception. And I've figured out how this lady keeps up with the men -- she works smart, as well as hard.

Her name is Kathy. Several years ago she was settled into a job she liked, lived in a place she liked (Grapevine) and as she was preparing to move into her 40's, she felt pretty good about things. Until the company she work for discovered what many others before it had .. the cheap labor of China. What a dilemma, from having it made to having to start over in no time at all.

So back to college it seemed would make sense, facing that system 20 years later than most. And what to take for a subject? Her interest  was in horticulture,  but where was a school and where were the jobs? She was advised to consider carpentry, where she could see the possibilities, where a college was waiting (Olympic College), but she couldn't see the future.

So into it she went, full speed ahead, not looking back, and now,  if you want to see someone who landed on her feet, check Kathy. Three years ago, which must have been about the time she was through school, she got employment right where she lived, at Port Gamble. And it is rarely that I have seen someone fit her job and fit with her fellow employees as well as she does..

Her hoticulture interest? Have you seen the planter box in the front of the quilt store? The one I get credit for? Not so. Since she came to work here she has been "just cramming flowers in as I find them." CRAMMING!!! With such attention to color, size, season?

And working "smart" as well as hard? Have you ever seen sheets of "slotwall" (not drywall) that are sheets of a hardwood with slots across the face to hold display cases on. I don't know what they weigh, but I would never manage to hoist them on regular basis. I watched Bill and Kathy in the quilt store one day when it was under construction. I watched as Bill hoisted one of the slotwall 4x8 sheets from a pile to the wall, and held it while Kathy leveled it, pushed it into place, then hit it with the nail gun while Bill finally wiped his brow. I could see it was not going to be Bill's favorite day that week.

But then, what a surprise. Kathy walked over to the pile, with the same difficulty lifted the next sheet, walked it over to its place and held it while Bill leveled it, pushed it into place, and hit it with the nail gun. And don't kid yourself. If its true that men sweat and women glow, she glowed as much as Bill sweated. When I  asked her what the trick was to getting the board up, she gave me the oldest answer in the book, "You have to work smart, not hard."

So what is this woman among men like when she's not at work? One of the guys going out for a beer? No way. She says she goes home to her "girl cave" with all the girlie frills that a lady could want. I haven't seen her house, but I can only picture the pinks she painted it, the flowered print wall paper, the smell of lavender, and of course the cookies in the cookie jar.

And those would not just be any cookies. She attended a potluck a few weeks ago, and about the time she arrived there the word was out that Kathy had brought her cheesecake. Never mind that she had brought a dessert and the appetizers weren't even out yet. No, as soon as someone mentioned Kathy's cheesecake it was half gone. I arrived a few short minutes later to see people scraping the last of it off the plate she brought it on.

And one other thing. This last weekend included a "Chili Cook off" which Port Gamble has never been involved in. This is the first heat of a cook-off, which means the winner here goes onto face some other winners, the winner of that goes on... you get the picture. But for me the real event was the apple pie making contest which (only for Port Gamble) faced some of the louder claimers of quality against each other, people like Steffi from Mike's BBQ and I who had been claiming easy victories all year, claiming that we were the BEST apple pie makers in the city of  Port Gamble if not in the suburbs as well.

And who won that apple pie making contest? The contest which hits the heart of every man with the thought of "Mom" and "Chevrolet" and perfect pie crusts? Was it Steffi who claimed her secret weapon was the apple tree she has at home? No. Was it me, who claimed I didn't need a secret weapon since I just happen to be a perfect pie maker? No.

No, it was Kathy who beat us all, the lady who is just as agile in the kitchen as she is behind the blade of a saw. "I've never met a nicer person," claims Bill, who works with her as much as anyone. "And if I lived with her I'd weigh 500 pounds."

Friday, October 1, 2010

On smelling the coffee

It's as easy as just about anywhere to stay  busy in Port Gamble, busy enough that one starts to loose sight of what one values. Take this last weekend, for instance, and I'm still having trouble getting photos to come up, so please bare  with me. Last weekend was as busy a weekend as I have seen in Port Gamble, evidenced by the number of businesses (new ones especially) who claimed to have had their "best weekend ever", an admirable goal, I am sure.

What was going on? It was called "Old Mill Days" to celebrate the days when Port Gamble had a mill, I am sure, but it might have been called "four ring circus days" for what went on. For those of you who (like me) have not been here for many of these event weekends, this is the one not to miss in the future. For spectators it is the laid back weekend of being entertained and fed, and not having to think or work at what's going on.

The "four" events of the four ring circus? First was the Hotcake Breakfast which was delicious, hot, complete, and all you could eat, served early in the morning on Saturday and Sunday, to a crowd on Saturday and basically to themselves on Sunday (due to the bad weather). Don't eat at home next year, eat here. well worth it.

While I was having breakfast I was also watching the cars for the Car Show (the second ring) show up, as well  as the crowds who were arriving by hay ride. The cars, all different types, filled "The Bowl" (the name for the area behind the retail businesses), and they were  spruced up to shine like always. There must have been close to 200 cars, and for someone like me, who grew up on cars, again it was grand entertainment. Fortunately they   were there most of the day.

The third ring? THE CIRCUS.  Now I'm not sure that anyone between 12 and adult felt totally entertained, but the 10 rides or so kept our twin  grandchildren fully entertained,  as they had never been down a five story slide, been on a ferris wheel, or some of the "tamer" rides. But come  to think of it some of those teenagers  who  I said might have felt left out were probably the source of the screaming coming from the fun house and the octopus. Again, an easy way to forget your cares and just be entertained.

And finally the logging show. I grew up in a logging town but I don't recall having seen a  better show. These guys, most of them professional loggers (the ones with the faded and torn flannel shirts), were excellant, chopping through two foot thick chunks of wood in less than a minute. And the star attractions for me were the races up the standing poles  (they must have been a hundred feet tall) to get to the top, ring the bell, and get back down, and the noisy "chain saw art" which you could buy at the end. What a show, and what a way to end the four ring circus.

So what did I mean when I said that one could be so busy here last weekend that one starts to miss what he values? I mean that for me I almost missed talking with the people who came here. There were so many of them that a person could fail to see the trees for the forest. I did get to meet one woman at the breakfast on Sunday who most of her life had wanted to move to the northwest and finally, only a month or so ago, had moved her family, but not yet her husband who is overseas and will be shipped here soon. And in only the month she was here was already helping a civic group put on the breakfkast. Impressive!

But finally yesterday I had the kind of time I enjoy here the most. Kris and I went for a walk around town which she often doesn't have time to do because of the quilt store; we both had grabbed a snack at the general store, and we  were sitting at a bench by the flagpole enjoying the warm fall breeze off the water, and talking about this fun new place where we live.

There was only one other couple in sight, not far from us, and he was taking her photo with exactly the view we had been eyeing.  Now I was never one with the quick pick up lines in my formative years, but I have a  good one I use in times like this: "That picture would be a lot better if both of you were in it. Can I take one for you with both of you?" I have only been turned down once, by  a married man whose wife would not have been the woman in the photo.

And, as so often happens, we found out a lot about this couple, they had been to Buckley, he had retired from a career teaching junior high, they were here lookng for the quilt store, on and on. A unique couple as you will find, they all are fascinating with their stories to tell if you have time to smell that coffee before you gulp it down.