A Little History
I was born in the southwestern Oregon town of Coos Bay, and grew up in the area. My family moved to a hand built home ten miles down a gravel road from the town of Bandon (By-the-Sea), population about 1400 at the time. We lived within hearing distance of the surf. For the first few years we had no running water (we pumped from a hand dug well), and no electricity. Our “bathroom” was an outhouse down a path from the house, and a galvanized wash tub in the house for bathing. I remember seeing my mother washing clothes with a washboard, and this was long before disposable diapers. The laundry was air dried on the clothesline when the weather permitted. Most of the winter it was dried on a rack by our wood heating stove, adding a good deal of moisture to the air. We cooked on a big wood range that had a reservoir for heating water.
Our rustic home was surrounded by woods, where we were free to roam. We spent a lot of time happily exploring our woods and playing in them. Often I would take a book and sit on a hillside looking down on the valley below that opened up to the beach in the distance. Or I would climb my favorite tree in the woods behind our house and do my reading in peace there. In our crowded house it was one way to be left alone.
We had a cow which supplied all our milk, and chickens and a garden. We picked fresh strawberries from our garden too.
We were poor but we didn’t know it. We had all the food we needed to eat and clothes on our backs. I thought of us as “lower middle-class.” We rode the big yellow school bus to school every day, about an hour each way, as it followed a circuitous route to pick up the kids scattered along the Seven Devils Road and the Coquille river. We crossed that river on a ferry until a bridge was built in the early fifties. Taking the ferry was a harrowing event to me. I was always afraid the bus would go right off the end into the river. Fortunately, that never happened.
The men in the area, including my father and brothers, all hunted for game and fished in the rivers and streams of the area, or, if they had a big enough boat, in the ocean. I didn’t grow up afraid of guns, because they were used properly, and put food on the table. I learned to shoot my Dad’s rifle myself, but never went hunting. But I did take a rifle with me when I worked in Forest Service lookouts in the summers to earn my way through college.
All this was great background for writing my story. Southern Oregon is a beautiful place, often ignored by the populous north. We liked it that way.