Long Beach Peninsula, WA
Bill Long 11/26/04
A Thanksgiving Treat
I am in the midst of a two-day vacation with five friends and colleagues in a large home that two of them own on the Long Beach Peninsula in SW Washinton State. It is one of the more remote areas of the Pacific Coast, being as it is 2 1/2 hours from Portland and 3 1/2 hours from Seattle. The Peninsula is about 20 miles long and a few miles wide, and is surrounded on three sides by Willapa Bay (formerly called Shoalwater Bay).
While enjoying their company and hospitality, I decided to take several hours to myself today to explore the Peninsula. Two things of note were the World Kite Museum & Hall of Fame in Long Beach and the old town of Oysterville, on the NE part of the Peninsula. The former (founded in 1988), is an example of the "new" Peninsula as it attempts to attract tourists from around the country while the latter represents the "old" Peninsula, as it was the first settlement on the Peninsula (1854) and became very rich very long ago through the oyster trade to San Francisco. In many ways, the history of the Peninsula since the coming of the White Man can be summarized as the history of extractive industries: in the nineteenth century there were the oyster, fishing and lumber industries and, in the twenty-first century, the tourist industry (as the locals try to "extract" people from the rest of the world to come to WA).
A Word on Tourists
There will be a natural opportunity for this remote part of WA to "extract" tourists next year. The 200th anniversary of the landing of Lewis & Clark in the West wil be celebrated beginning in Fall 2005. Actually, the Corps of Discovery reached the area along the Columbia River where the Astoria-Ilwaco Bridge now is early November 1805. The party then split, with William Clark and about a dozen of the Corps members moving overland to Cape Disappointment WA and then proceeding up north to Long Beach in search of elk. The rest of the party consulted with Chinook Indians about whether a supply of elk was plentiful in that region.
On November 19, 1805, Clark reached the northernmost point in their WA trip, marked by a monument in Long Beach. But, few elk were to be found, and the Corps voted to set up shop in Oregon (at what is known as Fort Clatsop) from December 1805 to Spring 1806. In 2005-06 this area of the Country will attempt to show off its finery to the nation and world. Just as 100th anniversary of Lewis & Clark's journey in Portland helped contribute to a 100% growth in that city in 20 years, so there is hope of similar prosperity in SW Washington following in the wake of the 2005 Bicentennial.
A Kite Museum?
The World Kite Museum? Ah, an ambitious title, especially as it is in a few small rooms of a tiny house off Long Beach's main street. [Plans are in the works, however, for the remodel of a much larger space to open in time for the Fall 2005 Lewis & Clark Festivities]. Since kites by their nature take up a lot of room, very few are on display. However, two things caught my attention. First, there is a display of Chinese kites. Most arresting were some of these delicate, multicolor gems, which looked like a diaphanous scarf covering that a lady might wear. Kites in China are so strikingly colorful and richly-designed both because they are given as gifts and because of the traits associated with a kite--happiness, longevity, prosperity, etc. The Weifang (China) Kite Festival is perhaps the largest in the world; the Museum had several pictures from it.
The second thing I noted/learned about were some aerial kite photographs from the early 20th century photographer George Lawrence. Before I went into the museum I knew next to nothing about aerial kite photography; now I know some names of early photographers, some of the pictures taken and even the journal of the trade (The Aerial Eye). George Lawrence's major claim to fame regarding aerial kite photography rests on two pictures he took in this manner (though there seems to be some debate about whether the camera was attached to a balloon or a kite) immediately before and after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Lawrence had rigged it so that the camera could take a panoramic shot; the contrast between the "before" and "after" shots is stunning. The original photos sold for $15,000 in those days--equivalent to more than $200,000 now.
I left the museum thinking that the germ of something great was truly here; time will tell how it matures in its new facility.
[On to Oysterville]
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long