Cabin History‎ > ‎

Wes's History

History of what became Sullishak, as best I can recall it.
-- by Wes Sullivan

I was in the military service when our story begins. My Aunt Vera and Uncle Jewell Lantz decided they wanted a beach cabin, so they bought three lots from George Betts in the Lincoln Beach subdivision. Betts was a rascally character who ran a small store at the entrance road to the subdivision on Highway 101.

He'd formed his subdivision shortly after the paved highway was put in along that section of the Coast in the mid-1920s. By the time the Lantz's made their purchase, there were 15 houses in the subdivision.

The lots were about 25 X 80 feet each. The Lantz's lots were at the end of the road to the beach, assuring them of a view of the ocean.

Photo 1: View from the Lantz lots in the mid-1940s.

My mother, Orma E. Sullivan, lived with her mother, Emma Beary, in Portland. Orma never had a house of her own since her divorce from my father when I was about 10 years old. Mother decided to buy adjacent to the Lantz's on the south. She bought four lots. Although the view from her property didn't have a straight shot down the road, it still qualified as ocean view land.

My grandmother Emma died while I was overseas, but as the picture attests, she got to the beach to see the land her daughters had purchased, and she spent one afternoon helping to clear away brush. 

Photo 2: Emma Beary (Orma Sullivan's mother) stands on the futures Sullishak site during WWII.

One of the first trips Elsie and I took after I returned from the service and established residence at Salem was to the Coast to examine the property my mother had purchased. It was so soon after the war that the warning signs were still in place on the highway approaching the Coast alerting drivers that blackout conditions prevailed all along the coastal section.

Photo 3: The log cabin and an undisturbed Sullishak site. 

The property was thickly covered with salal and other shrubbery. I remember that we walked north to the end of Mina street, only a few hundred feet, and out to a crude shelter made of shiplap lumber where the coastal guards stood watch during the war.

This was in the fall of 1945. It would be a year and a half before we would begin constructing the cabin.

My mother agreed to pay the bills if I would do the building. 
[Editor's note: Careful records about the cabin's initial cost still exist. This page lists all the costs of constructing the basic cabin.]  
Elsie and I started drawing plans, and I began inspecting construction sites around Salem getting hints on how home building was done.

It was no coincidence that the eventual plan closely resembled the cabin built by Elsie's aunt and uncle at Diamond Lake. Elsie spent truly enjoyable summer weeks at that cabin. Before I married her, she insisted that I promise to provide her with a house on a lake. Sullishak and the Siletz cabins were as close as I came. 

Early in the spring of 1947 Elsie and I went to Camp Adair, north of Corvallis, where the Army base was being dismantled. We purchased a load a materials, shiplap, flooring, windows, doors, wash basin, etc., and had them loaded onto a truck and delivered to our house on South 12th street in Salem, where they lay for weeks while we stripped nails and prepared them for use as building materials.

On one of the first weekends in April, we went to the beach prepared to clear the brush from the building site. After working hard for most of an afternoon, we had somewhat cleared a patch 6 feet wide and 12 feet long. It was discouraging. At that rate, we would take half the summer just to clear the lot.

Photo 4: Concrete blocks for the Sullishak foundation have been delivered.

Late in the afternoon, I spied a bulldozer coming up from the road along the beach. I hailed its operator and asked how much he would charge to clear the site for a building. He said $25, and within a half hour we had the site scoured and ready. The piles of debris he created would take most of a summer to clear, but that could wait. Even at that early stage, I felt I had to take every shortcut possible in order to get some sort of a building finished by fall.

Of all the pictures in this series, this is the most poignant to me. Elsie and I are starting the construction process while Steve plays at the side. In the background is our 1940 Mercury, where little Nancy, only two months old, lies on the back seat. The floor of the back seat was my toolbox.

Photo 5: Wes, Elsie and Steve lay the foundation blocks for Sullishak. Nancy is in the car's back seat. 

In my haste to get started, I did away with such niceties as footings for the foundation. I made do with some hand-mixed cement laid in a square around the 20 X 24-foot dimension of the building. It wasn't more than an inch or two in depth. Upon this limited underpinning, Elsie and I began building the concrete block foundation.

The Good Lord looked down with some compassion upon this inexperienced builder. Failure to put proper footings under the foundation could have doomed the structure from the start. However, the bulldozer had scraped away the surface soil so we were building directly on hardpan, which was fully as solid as any concrete foundation would have been.

About this point I bought a second-hand Skilsaw and had an electric outlet run to the property. We now were ready to begin building in earnest. 

Our weekly work regimen went something like this. I would arise about 8:30 on Sunday morning after about six hours of sleep, having put out the newspaper on Saturday night. I would teach my ninth grade class at the Presbyterian Sunday School, and then we would head for the beach, arriving shortly after noon.

Photos 6 and 7: Two pictures of the cabin's framing with Elsie and Steve. If you look carefully, you can see the Lantz home foundation next door has been started, but no framing has begun on that home. 

We would work until it was so dark we no longer could see, then adjourn to the $2-a-night auto court two blocks away for a late dinner and to bed. I'd be at work as soon as it was light on Monday morning, working until too late to see Monday night. We'd repeat the process on Tuesday, quitting just in time to return to Salem so I could begin working at the newspaper at 5:30 p.m.

We did this 17 straight weeks, plus all of my two-week vacation. On only one weekend did Elsie and the kids stay at home. It rained all weekend, and I worked in the rain.

Imagine what kind of a life it was for Elsie that summer, caring for two children, cooking meals under primitive conditions and doing as much physical labor on the cabin itself as she could. As for me, it just about broke my health. 

Part way through our construction, my uncle began building on his site next to us. He'd tried to buy one of my mother's four lots, but she wouldn't sell. In fact, she insisted we build right up to the Lantz's lot line, so we would get as good a beach view as we could. In those days, of course, there were no such things as setbacks, or building permits. The only restrictions we had were in the deed, requiring us to have a painted building worth at least $700, with an indoor toilet. We weren't allowed, by deed restriction, to sell to other than Caucasians.

Photo 8: Jewell Lantz obviously built his home quickly: Its framing is nearly done, and the Sullishak cabin hasn't changed much Photos 6 and 7. 

With my uncle's house came the availability of sound advice. He not only had more experience, he had common sense. Our house still suffers from some of my mistakes, but I was able to cover most of them as we went along.

One major error couldn't be overlooked, however. Our plan called for running the ceiling joists in the front room from the front of the house back to the middle. This was across the narrow width of the living room.

However, this meant that the outer walls, which had roof rafters sitting on them, had no ceiling joists connecting them from side to side of the house. It seemed to those observing what I was doing that the heavy roof would spread the outer walls and the whole structure would collapse. My mother went into a panic when she heard this. In fact, in all candor, my poor mother suffered greatly as the shortcomings of my construction techniques were pointed out to her.

Photo 9: The Sullishak ocean view was less obstructed in 1947: no homes had been built between it and the ocean.

I must admit, this had me worried also. I had a really good source of advice in my father, John H. Sullivan. But because of the bitterness felt by my mother towards him, I was forbidden to even tell him of the existence of the cabin. So, without being specific, I asked him what would happen if the ceiling joists were run the wrong way.

He explained there was no problem-that a roof's weight bore straight down on the outside walls and wouldn't spread them. This is because in the construction of the roof, it is customary to nail crosspieces between the rafters on either side of the roof, thereby creating triangles. And triangles are stable structures.

Photo 10: Notice how the subfloor runs diagonally across the cabin.

My mother would hear none of it. I had to splice the outer walls to the floor of the upstairs in several places on either side of the house to satisfy her.

I ran out of Camp Adair lumber as we were sheathing the roof, but all the walls of the cabin were covered with beautiful 1 X 12 knotty pine, on a 45-degree angle. It would be 14 years before the inner walls of the cabin were covered with plywood. During that time, we used and enjoyed the cabin with the 2 x4s showing.

On the one lonely rainy weekend, I built the stairs to the second floor. The risers are just as high as the treads for the simple reason that I could figure 45-degree angles and that was all. That, by the way, is the reason the roof is at a 45-degree pitch.

I had no way of figuring how to make the stairs come out even at the second floor, so they didn't. And that is the reason for the very short step at the top of the stairs.

I had no plumbing skills and no electric skills, but that didn't stop me from putting in the electricity. However, I used no solder in the connections. Amazingly, this hasn't produced a problem. As the Lantz's next door put in their plumbing, I fell upon their mercy and induced my cousin, Jewell Jr. to put in our toilet and to hook up the sink and wash bowl to the septic tank. We had no shower for the first couple of decades.
As for the septic tank, that fit the pattern of the rest of the cabin. I understood the principle. The effluent was spread from the tank through drain fields of small concrete pipes. However, the same hardpan that saved me by serving as a foundation now made it impossible for me to run drain fields.

I spent one of the most arduous days of the summer chopping my way through the hardpan so I could sink the two septic tank concrete circles into the ground. I bought a spud, which is a long iron bar with a point at the end. By slamming the point into the hardpan repeatedly, I eventually was able to dig a hole for the tank.

At about six feet down, the hardpan gave way to sand. At or near the surface, however, the stuff was so hard there was no way to lay a field of small pipes and no place for the effluent to disperse.

So we did what everyone else in the area did. We just let the effluent sink into the sand at the bottom of the septic tank pit. What that did, of course, was to allow it to accumulate at the next layer of hardpan down and gradually to flow down towards the beach. After a few years, this effluent began appearing at the lower roadside and on the beach itself. This eventually caused the area to create a sewer system, which solved the problem. But that is for later in the story. 

Among the really intelligent things we did was to decide on asbestos siding for the cabin. I didn't want to create any more of a maintenance problem for us than necessary. The grey asbestos sheets were extremely difficult to cut and install, but they proved over the years to be durable and maintenance free.

Photo 11: The finished cabin with asbestos siding. 

When I think of those final weeks of the summer when I cut sheet after sheet with a stone blade in my Skilsaw, with asbestos dust filling the air, I really cringe. I used no face mask, of course. When I heard how asbestos causes cancer, I felt I had put myself in danger. However, by cutting it into dust I avoided the hazard of the asbestos hairs.

As the summer ended, I put roll roofing on and tar papered the south wall of the cabin. The place was enclosed and ready for the winter. I would put a porch on the south side the following summer and finish putting the asbestos on that side.

Photo 12: The cabin at the end of the 1947 construction season: The south side is covered with tar paper. If you look carefully, you can see Jewel Lantz standing on the front deck of his home. 

I was 26 years old. I weighed 145 pounds at 6-foot 3, skinny as a rail. The night work kept me that way. I would jump 20 pounds as soon as I stopped working nights.

For all the mistakes we made, we'd accomplished an amazing feat. During the winter, my mother hired a mason to build us a fireplace and chimney, to create the monstrosity of a brick flower box which still adorns the front of the place and to put an entirely useless concrete facing on the foundation. She felt it would strengthen the foundation somehow. So, when we arrived for the start of the 1948 season, we didn't have to rent the $2 cabin up the road. We had a place in which to stay. 

To say that the beach cabin was livable in the 1948 season is straining a bit. Two plywood sheets gave partial, but not complete, privacy in the bathroom. Building paper screened the interior wall of the small bedroom on the first floor. Temporary hunks of plywood served as a counter in the kitchen. We had no stove, just a two-burner hotplate. No refrigeration.

Furniture? I can't recall. The Morris chair was there from the beginning. It belonged to my grandmother and was one of the few things my mother salvaged from her Portland house when it was sold.

We had a double bed upstairs. We bought a war surplus Army bed and dresser for my mother's room. The dresser is still there.

By the summer of 1948 Nancy was walking. We spent more time on the beach, actually enjoying what we'd worked so hard to create.

The big project for the year was the building of the porch, on the south side of the cabin, the side from which the storms came. My mother was very concerned, with some cause, that the storms from the south would find their way inside through the old Camp Adair door on the south side of the building.

She asked me to build a porch to serve as a buffer against the storms. I was somewhat limited in the size of the porch. I wanted it to have a simple, slanted roof. To get the required slope and head height, I could make the porch only 7 ½ feet wide.

Photo 13: Construction begins on the side porch.

We envisioned this as a sun porch, a place to have a breakfast table. It would have a heavy entry door, designed to fend off wind and rain. At the back, we had a cooler, with air flowing through it-a substitute for refrigeration. The entire south side was windows.

In practice, however, the porch took on an entirely different function. The breakfast room--sun porch idea proved to be impractical. For one thing, the room had no heat. It was cold in the mornings. No one wanted to eat there.

Photo 14: The sun porch has been finished, sidewalks have been installed, and Orma paid a mason to construct a planter at the front of the patio.

For another, the cabin had no storage to speak of, so it was convenient to store tools there, to dump stuff there when we came into the cabin. The end result was that it took on the appearance of a junk yard. It formed the first impression when you came into the cabin. The porch survived until it rotted out in the mid-1980s. The slope of the roof hadn't been steep enough. And then there were all those storms from the south.

My mother's worries about the door to the cabin transferred themselves to the door to the porch. I was required to put a storm door on the porch, to protect the door that was designed to protect the cabin door.

Much of the summer of 1949, as I recall, was spent in sorting through the huge piles of debris that were created when the bulldozer cleared the site as we started building. We burned up the sticks and hauled the dirt around to the front of the house to create a fairly level front yard. 

Elsie is pictured here in her kitchen, in one of the few pictures we have of the inside of the cabin before the interior wallboard was put into place 14 years after the cabin was built. The cupboard at the left of the picture deserves some mention.

Photo 15: Elsie at work in the kitchen around 1950. 

Touring cars were in vogue when I was a small child. They had canvas roofs with using glass curtains all around. People went on long trips in these cars, either stopping for the night in auto courts or just laying out blankets on the ground. The cupboard in the picture was strapped to the running board of my Aunt Vera and Uncle Jewell's touring car.

It's door folded down to form an oilcloth-covered table. Its shelves contained dishes, tableware and food. We used it as our kitchen cupboard for years. It now is the paint cupboard in the toolshed at the rear of the cabin.

The cloth curtains on the lower cupboards sufficed for many years. Elsie made do with a hotplate until her father gave us a combination electric range and refrigerator. Yes, both appliances in one piece. The refrig was on the right and opened from the top.
Photo 16: A rare color photo of the early cabin's interior.

The cabin was usable only in warmer weather. The fireplace was awesome, big and ugly. It had a tremendous mantel, however, which accumulated everything brought back from the beach.

It had a Heatilator in it, a metal lining designed to increase the heat output. But the fireplace used far more wood than it produced heat. We had no source of wood except what I cut by hand with a crosscut saw. And I hauled most of that up from the beach.

I begrudged every piece of wood that went into the open maw of that fireplace. I burned a message into a piece of wood and put it on the mantel. It read, "Cut your own wood and it will warm you twice." I don't think many people took the hint.

The leaking old Camp Adair windows on the other side of the room siphoned heat out of the place as fast as it was created. And speaking of leaks, they were the bane of my existence for the first few years.

Try as I could, I couldn't keep the front of the cabin from leaking. I poured can after can of caulking into the breach. Nothing worked. Although I eventually won the battle, I lost the war. The front of the cabin sustained serious rot and eventually much of it had to be replaced. 

Photo 17: Elsie, Steve and Nancy at picnic tables just south of the cabin. 

We'd built on two of our four lots, using the front of the two lots to the south as a parking lot. The back of those two lots was covered with salal and Scotch pine. Behind the cabin was a beautiful, thick old growth cedar forest with native rhododendron bushes that climbed towards the sun as high as 20 feet.

This was designated on the plat as Lincoln Beach Park. It even had an old open fireplace in it for picnics. We created our own picnic tables next to the house, as the picture indicates.

A few years after we moved in the entire cedar forest was cut, destroying the rhodys. So much for the promise of a Lincoln Beach Park. The developer George Betts was a rascal, as I said earlier.

It wasn't long before the Lantz's, with their fine home next door, moved down to Lincoln Beach permanently. My uncle transferred his auto mechanic skills to the coast, building and opening an auto parts store at Nelscott. It is the building now occupied by the theater group that puts on plays during the summer.

The Lantz place became a haven for Burdick family gatherings during those early years. They all used our parking lot. My mother came to the beach frequently, often bringing her friends with her. She used our cabin at first, but it soon became obvious that the place was hard to heat, was drafty and was inconvenient.

Photo 18: The Lantz home shortly after its construction was completed. Note the use of wood planks as a sidewalk.

So, most of the time, she stayed at her sister's place next door, coming over to sit in her house during the warm days. She seemed satisfied with that arrangement, and her sister didn't object.

My mother never allowed anyone else, other than Elsie and I, to use the place. We couldn't offer the place to our friends. I was working nights and into the weekends, so we had a hard time inviting people to go down with us. As a result, the cabin sat, year after year, with a minimum of use.

It was a lot of work to get ready for a trip there, especially when Dave and Bill arrived. At times, we wondered whether the effort had been worth it, especially on cold nights in that drafty place. 

At this distant time, it is a little hard for me to sort out the sequence of events in the progressive improvement of the cabin. Perhaps some of the younger members of the family will have better memories and will put things in their proper chronological order.

The sealing of the interior walls with plywood after 14 years marked a turning point in our feeling about the place. When the walls were 2 x 4s and shiplap, none of the other deficiencies of the place stood out much. However, there was one deficiency that couldn't be ignored.

I alluded earlier to the expedient way in which we disposed of effluent, in lieu of a workable septic tank field. This meant we had a limited capacity for using the toilet. This became painfully obvious when we invited lots of people to the place.

From its inception I used the cabin as a retreat for my Sunday School class. Every summer, I had the boys there for two or three days.

When Elsie and I took over the high school class, as our older children entered that age bracket, we rented the log cabin next door and used the two cabins as dormitories, holding our meetings in the spacious log cabin. It worked wonderfully.

The most important social events we held in the cabin, however, were our salmon bakes. We had these for all the groups to which we belonged, but the biggest and best was for the Statesman newsroom staff. The beer flowed freely.

Photo 19: A typical salmon bake fire pit. The fire has burned down, the potatoes have been cooked, and the two salmon are nearly ready to eat.

I would get up early and collect appropriate driftwood from the beach. I dug holes for poles on the windward side of the site, stretching plastic between them as a windbreak. I'd find pieces of plywood for use as tables and rearrange logs for seating. I was young and vigorous in those days.

Then, an hour-and-a-half before the event, I'd start a huge fire in front of the site on the beach, letting it burn down to coals and then arranging the biggest pieces into the form of a box within which the sand would be hot enough to cook the salmon.

Elsie, in the meantime, would double-wrap the salmon in foil and the potatoes likewise. About a half-hour before dinner time, we would gently plop the salmon atop the hot sand and coals and the potatoes around it.
Photo 20: Elsie with salmon in aluminum foil on top of a paipo board. 

When the guests arrived with their salads and desserts, I'd be standing by the firebox with my 
"potato-picker" in hand. This was a device made out of an old hoe handle and a wire coathanger with which I could turn the potatoes over so they cooked on both sides.
Elsie supervised the inspection of the salmon as it neared completion. We slid it onto a clean board, removing all sand 
and coals. She then unwrapped the end of the salmon and checked the center of the fish to be sure it was done. We served no salmon before its time.

All our salmon baking was done without sand in the food and without rain. We had scores of salmon bakes, and no rainout.

However, in the back of my mind, all during these events, I kept a latent concern that Nancy or one of the other children would whisper in my ear that the toilet was overflowing. We expected a lot of that inadequate sewage system.

I will not describe the process that had to be gone through to get the toilet operating again, except to say it was execrable.

I shouldn't let these years slip by without mentioning the annual gathering of "the cousins." Each summer Elsie hosted Nancy and Jack's kids, along with our own, for a week of activities resembling those she enjoyed when she was a youngster. It was a loving act on her part. I'll let some of the cousins tell, in more detail, about those weeks.

I also should interrupt the cabin narrative to mention our interest, in the summer of 1968, in finding our way from our cabin back, on logging roads, to the Siletz River. That venture, resulting in our acquisition of nearly 54 acres along the river, is worth a book in itself. But, again, that is another story.

As I said earlier, my memory is not reliable enough to keep cabin improvements in their logical order. By the late 1960s, however, the family was grown enough to share in the decision-making about the cabin, if not to be available for help with remodeling. But I was still capable.

Sometime about 1970, during a family weekend together, Elsie made a persistent pitch for major improvements. She was tired of having old, worn-out linoleum rugs in the living room with bare, dirty floor in between. She was tired of having old, leaky windows in the front room. She'd had it with the cloth covering of the cupboards and inadequate storage space in the kitchen.

What she proposed sounded like an enormous amount of work to me, and I knew who would be doing most of it. Me. And it was expensive. I did what I could to discourage her. No avail. What's more, she had support from within the rest of the family.

So I gave in gracefully and ordered double-paned windows for the front of the cabin and for the kitchen. We rented a huge sander, put the old linoleum rugs upstairs and went to work on the floors. We picked out a durable linoleum pattern and laid that over the entire room.

The replacement of the windows went better than I expected it would. We also put insulation in the walls where we could. I was amazed at the difference it made in the enjoyment level of the cabin to have those insulated windows. Elsie, as usual, had been right all along.

However, as always happened, improving part of the cabin just made other parts look worse. In this case, it was that battered and stained ceiling. I could solve the problem for myself by just ignoring the whole thing, but it just wouldn't go away.

The draftiness of the cabin had to be dealt with. The most logical starting point was the ceiling, with both warm air and noise going easily up to the second-floor sleeping loft.

With my usual absence of seeking professional or skilled advice, I decided the best way to deal with the problem was to staple Firtex panels to the ceiling joists. As a clever means of dealing with need for insulation, I would pour mica insulation in atop the panels as I stapled them up, solving two problems at one time.

One sunny Sunday afternoon the following spring, as my mother sat in the front room with her friends, one of the ceiling panels let loose, cascading mica insulation down on top of their heads. It seemed that the mica gathered moisture, becoming heavier and heavier. Once one panel let loose, the others in that row followed suit, and then the next row took its turn. As those underneath stared up in amazement, they were covered with mica.

What a mess. After I cleaned it all up, I reattached the panels to the ceiling, minus the mica. Now, in addition to the water stains from the leaks in the front of the cabin, the ceiling had nail heads showing and other scars from the experience. But in our unfinished cabin, a few more scars made little difference.

I'll never forget the sequence of pictures of which the photographs below were a part. It was Christmas morning, at our apartment. I would guess 1977 or '78. As was customary, I passed out the presents. When it came to my present from Dave and Janet, I opened a small box, to find a set of photographs.

The first one was of the stained beach cabin ceiling. I certainly had no idea of what was coming. Then the second was of furring strips beginning to appear on the ceiling. 

Photos 20 and 21: A stained ceiling, and the same ceiling with furring strips.

Photos 22 and 23: Dave puts up plastic sheeting, and Janet installs ceiling tiles. 

As I turned to the next photo, I saw Dave applying plastic sheathing to the furring strips. It was kind of like a time-lapse photo, with each succeeding photograph recording a new phase of the ceiling project.

I remember wondering to myself how Dave and Janet could have faked the photos. It never occurred to me that what I was seeing in the pictures could be real. By the time I got to the picture of Janet putting up new ceiling tiles, I began to suspect that what I was seeing was not make-believe. When I reached the end of the series, the entire new ceiling was apparently in place and the molding reattached.

When I recovered from my shock, I had to ask whether this really was true. Dave and Janet had taken an entire weekend to work on the ceiling project, finishing up about 2 or 3 a.m., snapping pictures as they went.

They confessed they had faked the finish. In fact, they hadn't completed the section around the chimney. Elsie and I truly enjoyed going down and putting the final few tiles into place. What a generous thing to do, refinishing that ceiling, and what a load off my mind, to have that job out of the way. 

Again, I'm not sure of the sequence of events, but as long as this picture depicts the installation of the sewer, I'll take that next.

Photo 24: Putting in the sewer line in 1976. 

As I mentioned earlier, the seepage from the septic tanks created a genuine health hazard at Lincoln Beach, one that was common throughout all that section of the Coast. It resulted in a moratorium on building, something that couldn't be tolerated for long with the pressure of growth.

The advent of a sewer system offered a permanent solution to our effluent problem. That, along with the other improvements, was making the cabin a year-around place to stay.

The septic tank was in the back of the house, which meant that all the plumbing ran to the rear of the lot. The homeowner, namely me, was responsible for bringing the lines to the street for connection to the sewer.

I decided on the use of plastic pipe. My first, feeble efforts at putting this pipe together were reminiscent of the ineptness I'd displayed when I'd built the place. I quickly gave up and appealed to Dave and to a man in Lincoln City who understood how to put in sewer lines.

He wasn't a plumber. Legally, he wasn't allowed to install the sewer. He could tell us what to buy and how to put it together. However, once we had all the stuff purchased and started to lay it out, he got carried away and did it all for us. All we did was to dig the appropriate holes, a job for which I was qualified.

It was a great success. We've never had a problem with it. And it was, perhaps, the best single improvement to the cabin.

Before I leave plumbing, however, I should mention another ongoing cause of concern, from the beginning of the cabin, clear to the present. Every year around late November or early December, someone has to winterize the place. That involves turning off the electricity by pulling the main switches in the fuse box, draining all the water from the pipes, putting antifreeze in the toilet and the traps, and turning off the water at the back of the house.

Over the years, however, we've failed to do this when we should, and we've paid the price. On one occasion, in 1962, we turned the water on in early March and had the toilet freeze and crack on the 14th of March.

On another occasion, Elsie and I made an emergency trip to the Coast on the 14th of December, in the face of a blizzard, to turn off the water. We had to put chains on the old Volkswagen half-way to the Coast. There was 12 inches of snow at the cabin. When I opened the storm door, it swept a path through the snow.

I must mention one other incident in connection with the winterizing of the cabin. After my mother turned the cabin over to me when she no longer could go down there, about 1970, we began letting other people use it. Our Vietnamese refugee family took advantage of that offer.

They went down there one winter and had to winterize the place upon leaving. They obviously didn't understand the significance of all they were doing. The instructions said to put half a cup of antifreeze in the washbowl and in the sink. Sure enough, when we went down there the next time, there was a half-cup of anti-freeze sitting in the wash bowl and another half-cup in the sink.

In terms of making the cabin usable in all seasons, another major improvement was the addition of the Vermont Castings stove. Daughter Nancy found an old wood stove that had been patched back together to sell in an era when wood stoves became "in." We tried putting it in the living room in front of the stairs, running a stovepipe into a hole in the fireplace chimney which we inserted for that purpose when the chimney was built.

It didn't work. The stove didn't provide much heat. It was dangerous and in a major traffic pattern.

A friend of ours had a Vermont Castings. I became intrigued with the idea of the double combustion system, with an internal damper that, when activated, circulated the burned gases through an internal baffle when they could be burned again before being discharged into the air.

So, for about $500, we had a stove shipped from Vermont, to use as a fireplace insert. It was a terribly heavy thing, but we got it into the house. Then, we discovered that the Heatilator in the fireplace was so thick that the only way to cut through it was with a blowtorch. What to do.

I recall standing in the front room with the kids discussing the situation. Dave and Steve were for tearing out the fireplace, chimney and all, and replacing them with a metal stack. If I was aghast at Elsie's suggestions for improving the cabin 10 years before, I was adamantly against what they proposed. I was 10 years older, and tearing out that chimney seemed 10 times harder.

They were persistent. They argued that they would be living with the situation for generations after I was gone, and they wanted it done right.

I agreed, with the stipulation that not only would I not help in tearing out that huge fireplace and chimney, I refused to watch it being done. I understand there is a copy of my newspaper column on this subject elsewhere in the Sullishak History, so I won't go into much further detail here.

Photo 25: Dave and Steve remove the brick fireplace. 

Suffice to say, the job was done very well, with Janet sharing in that arduous assignment. When Elsie and I screwed up enough courage to see what was happening, we found Dave completing the brick wall, with reused bricks, that rises behind the Vermont Castings stove in the living room.
(Editor's note: More information about the fireplace repair can be found at Fireplace-1981.)

With the Siletz property and the addition of chain saws, we now had a reliable source of wood. In anticipation of the demands of the stove (We no longer could haul wood from the beach because the salt content of the wood would corrode our fine, new stove.) I decided to built another woodshed to supplement the asbestos-covered one I'd built decades before.

I figured we'd need the extra woodshed to give the alder from the Siletz time to dry. So, we hauled four huge logs from the beach, stood them on end and patched the new, ugly woodshed together, using nothing but natural materials and cedar shakes I'd made from cedar logs we'd found.

It turned out that the new stove was so efficient, it used only a quarter as much wood as the old fireplace while turning out all the heat the cabin needed. The new woodshed wasn't much needed, but the old eyesore still stands there.

Now, the cabin truly was complete and usable year around. 

Rot played a role in the next, major improvement to the cabin -- replacing the porch in 1988.  Since this topic has its own separate page, I won't say anything more about it here than that we are justifiably proud of the results.

Photo 26: Joel and Gail help tear down the rotten side porch. 

For more than 40 years we had the benefit of a minimally-restricted ocean view. We could see the ocean down the road, but we also got to look at it across the empty lot directly in front of us.

My aunt and uncle bought that property in the early years of our occupancy, to protect their own view and to have a place to build a garage. They used our parking lot for years, but it became apparent that their vehicles needed cover from the salty ocean air.

Their garage was far enough off to the side not to interfere with our ocean view. From time to time I would scour off the shrubs from their lot, to improve our view. I felt a little smug about this. They paid for the lot and paid taxes on it, and we got much of the benefit.

It was very handy having Vera and Jewell living next door. They mowed our lawn. They watched out over our house. However, after my uncle died, Vera moved and sold the place. We had to mow our own lawn much of the time, although when it got scruffy enough the people next door would mow it just so they wouldn't have to look at the tall grass.

Photo 27: Our outdoor woodshed around 1990. 

However, I felt that whoever owned the place, we would still benefit from their wanting to keep the lot across the street unoccupied, to protect their view.

Having such close neighbors had its ups and downs. The greatest downer came from one family who ran their go-carts across our lawn in front of our living room windows. This family, when it moved, stole all the wood from our outdoor woodshed.

My complacency about the lot across the street was shattered, however, when the house changed hands again and became owned by a couple who planned to keep it for a rental and to build on the lot directly in front of us.

We'd also been living on borrowed time as regards the property directly behind us. Gradually, after the original cedar forest was cut down, the place had grown up in coastal pine, and served as a fine buffer between us and the highway. We knew that couldn't last, and I feared commercial development of that tract, with a huge parking lot abutting our back door.

It turned out that the house built directly in front of us wasn't as big a problem as we had envisioned. For their own reasons, they built as close as possible to the southern edge of the lot, and they cut away the brush and a big tree from the line of our view. We ended up with about as much of an ocean view as we had before they built. And I no longer had the problem of cutting the brush from that property.

Having the house next door as a rental has its advantages. First, we have had little trouble with the renters, and, secondly, it is available for us or our friends to rent when we have larger family gatherings at our place.

As for the property behind us, it is being developed into expensive private homes, and because they have little interest in looking at our shabby backside, they have built a substantial fence along our back property line. We still have our little woodlot to the south as a reminder of the wild place Lincoln Beach used to be.

Fifty years has seen tremendous changes in this section of coastline. When we got there, we could, and did, pick up glass balls from Japan on the driftwood strewn beach. We found sand dollars and all kinds of indigenous shells. I remember raking crabs from under the rocks at low tide.

The headland to the south of our beach was four times the size it is now, with beautiful wildflowers in the spring. In the early years we'd take the children over that headland to Fogarty Beach, which at that time was totally isolated, out of reach of the highway. We climbed on the rock at Fogarty, which had a rugged pine tree atop it.

Photo 28: A typical view of Lincoln Beach around 1950. Lots of wood covered the beach.

Photo 29: Elsie and Nancy roasting hot dogs at the beach in the early 1950s. 

The beach today is sterile by comparison. But it isn't fair to just compare our experience with what it was like 50 years ago. It also is necessary to look into the future. And from that standpoint, we built wisely and well.

The cabin has a patina of age that gives it character. And while maintenance and improvements will be necessary, it continues to promise an ocean view, a haven from a busy world, easy access to the beach and to the fine supermarket that replaced the tiny store once run by that rascal George Betts.