Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Razor Sharp Clam Memories

My job was to stomp the beach
When I was growing up my grandparents had a beach house in Seaview, Washington on the Long Beach Peninsula.  That was where I learned to eat razor clams.  I can’t remember a time before razor clams were an important part of my life.  Fried or in fritters, they were a special part of going to The Cow Palace as my grandmother named their house. Clamming was an important enough activity with our family that my father painted razor clams on the front window shutters.  They are still there fifty-five years later.

My father was an excellent clam digger.  I loved it when I knew that we were going to go clam digging because it meant that most probably he’d wake me in the middle of the night to go along.  Back in those days we called my grandfather’s collection of clam shovels clam guns.  That was before the advent of the cylinder shaped clam guns that eventually came to be made of PVC pipe.  Daddy loaded the shovels, buckets, and kerosene lanterns into the trunk of our old Ford and off we’d go. 

Sometimes we drove out the Seaview approach onto the beach and headed north in search of good beds.  Sometimes he thought that Oysterville had the better beds and we’d work our ways south on the beach.

My job was to stomp the beach for the little telltale clam holes and to rinse the clams and count them when we thought we had a limit.  Limits were much higher in those days, I think around 30 and licenses were not required.  There didn’t seem to be red tide, at least not that I ever remember hearing about and no one ever got sick on the clams we dug.

When we got back my mother would stand at the old farm house sink and clean the clams.  It was back breaking work.  In the ‘60s Daddy heard that if you dunked the clams into boiling water for just a second or two and then plunged them into cold water the shells would come way from the clams with little to no loss of flesh.  He built a wire basket for this operation and it worked well.

Sometimes my mother fried the clams.  Other times she got out Grandma’s meat grinder and ground the clams for fritters.  When her arm got tired I’d stand and turn the crank.  I loved the fritters, but I’m not as big a fan of dough as I once was and don’t think I’d like them that way as well as I do fried.

My father liked to tell the story of the time he and his best friend Smitty went out clam digging.  It was dark and the clams were plentiful.  They’d lost count, but figured it was dark, that they had their limits and were heading back to the car when a voice came out of the darkness, “How’s the clamming this morning, fellas?”  A Fish and Wildlife man turned on his flashlight and had them dump out their clams to be counted.  To their utter amazement they had exactly the right amount for two limits and thus were spared any fines.

When I brought my children back from California we moved onto the Long Beach Peninsula.  My friend Christopher offered to take the older boys clam digging and since he’d grown up on the beach—literally—I thought there was no one better to teach them.  The first clam season after we moved there we piled into my old Buick station wagon and the boys got their first taste of clam digging.  Unfortunately, the mist rolled in and we got soaked, but the boys proved to be good diggers.  “Thanks for the experience, Mom,” Josh told me a little sarcastically as we slogged back to the car.

Now my friend Christopher has been many things in his life, but he is as flawless clam fryer as he is a clam digger, so while the children shed wet coats and shoes to dry in front of his wood stove we cleaned the clams and Christopher cooked them.  Hmm, hmm, hmm.  Well, the boys didn’t think so.  For the duration of our life on the Peninsula they would dig for me, but not consume which actually worked out pretty well as far as I was concerned.

Nowadays you need a license to dig and it’s only good for those days you pay for, not for an entire season. Dave and I haven’t been clamming in a few years and clamming is open this weekend.  Unfortunately we won’t be on the beach, but I can smell the clams frying in butter and wish all the diggers good luck. I know for a fact that Christopher digs whenever he wants a clam and I don’t think he’s ever been caught or gotten sick.  Considering that he gave his youth and sanity in Vietnam I hope he keeps right on digging.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Shopping in then and now

I can do it in my jammies

When I was a child shopping for more than groceries was an event, as dissimilar to the purchase I just made for my niece’s shower as can be imagined.  The event was not my favorite activity. Ours was a one car family for a very long time so riding the bus was involved and once we had moved from Seattle across Lake Washington to Bellevue it meant riding the bus to Seattle.  In those early days in Bellevue there were few shops beyond the five-and-ten variety and one didn’t wear jeans or even slacks.  My mother put on hose, high heels, a dress and a hat and dressed me similarly.  Off to downtown Seattle we went.

Shopping with my mother wasn’t all bad and was how I learned to love chicken salad.  Sometimes we ate lunch at the Woolworths counter (where I also learned to love chocolate malts), but on special occasions we ate in the tea room at Frederick & Nelson and have chicken salad sandwiches.  Tea rooms still make me feel special and I still judge the stuff by Frederick's standard.  It bored me senseless when Mother headed to the fabric department.  First there was the thumbing through books of patterns to find something that she wanted to sew for herself or for me and then wandering through the maze of fabric bolts to choose fabric.  One time when I was about three or four and had been particularly bored, but not whinny, Mother let me pick a stuffed animal from a table piled high with them.  I chose a sleeping lamb—which I immediately named Sleepy—that had a music box that played Rock-a-Bye-Baby.  I still have that lamb although the music box is long gone.

Later Frederick & Nelson built a store at Bel Square and eventually my mother would take our “second car” there in a “house dress.”  Shopping had become easier!  There is a lot about the ‘50s and ‘60s that I miss, but having to drive six or eight miles, park in a parking lot that had to be paid for, in order to shop is not one of them.  I still like to shop with a friend when I’m not on a mission for something in particular, but I love shopping on the Internet.  As a working woman and mother with laundry, cooking and cleaning to do besides my job it is grand to be able to get on the Internet, look for just what I want, and make my purchase and having it sent to exactly where it needs to go.  Not only do I not need hose and high heels, I can do it in my jammies if I like.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Picking Up the Pieces

Hosford is as a soothing balm to a bad burn

The seniors are a-tweeter because their caps and gowns for graduation have arrived at school. I suppose the company has so many schools to get the graduation regalia to that they must start early and hence senioritis. In addition the leadership class has painted the rock out in front of the school to say “GHHS loves Mr. Hosford!” I believe everyone does.

Grant Hosford jumped into the position of principal at Gig Harbor High School quite suddenly when our principal first took a leave of absence and then was put on administrative leave do to some personal problems that became public. I do not tell tales-out-of-school as it was covered on the Seattle television stations and extensively covered by the Tacoma News Tribune. Suffice it to say that it was a trying few days as we soldiered on, wondering what the heck was happening, but the soldiering was made ever so much easier when the school district called Hosford out of retirement to captain our ship of education to the shores of Summer.

Hosford is as a soothing balm to a bad burn. His good humor, keen interest in everyone, and positive attitude has created a feeling of optimism and stability. “Can we keep him?” asked the student I work with, as a small boy would ask to keep a puppy, not a teenage boy talking about a principal. I replied that I very much doubted it and that Mr. Hosford’s good humor could well be the result of knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not an on-coming train. The office staff says otherwise. They believe that Grant Hosford is naturally energetic and good humored. Now if we could just find so amiable and involved a candidate to have permanently, although the district has not determined whether or not our erstwhile principal will return.