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Mary Gentry Writes

My road trip to Nanaimo

November 12th promised to be a sparkling day as I shoved my suitcase into the trunk of my car and embarked on the drive to Port Angeles, the first leg of my trip to Nanaimo.

The scenery along highway 101 makes the drive worthwhile, but for me the trip is richly embroidered by nearly 50 years of memories, many of which came back to me as I drove, not in a flood, but little by little.

This time of year, the little town of Hoodsport is particularly nostalgic as Fred and I had our first Thanksgiving dinner at the old Hoodsport Café in 1966 – by default not design.

We moved to Olympia in November of 1966 when Fred was hired as the deputy prosecuting attorney and he was paid on the 30th of each month.  Like this year, Thanksgiving fell close to the last day of the month but given our finances, the 30th seemed a long way off.

We had planned to join Fred’s family at his aunt’s in Seattle and had been salivating over the prospect all week. The invitation was suddenly retracted when the Seattle crew came down with the flu. What a blow – not only had we anticipated eating our youthful fill at the table but also on leftovers packed up and sent home to see us through the weekend.

Credit cards were not the easy and ubiquitous solution to a lack of money that they are today. We had a Texaco card but its purchasing power was limited to petroleum products.

With five dollars between us and limited options ahead, we decided to take a drive. In  1966 the Hoodsport Café was on the ground floor of a two story building on the east side of the highway. Despite the size of the building, the café itself was small and unpretentious and, most importantly, open.  We ordered oyster stew that was delicious and stopped just short of licking our bowls. Nearly 50 years of subsequent Thanksgivings and more turkey and cranberries than we care to recall, the Thanksgiving of 1966 stands out.

In the ensuing years, we have passed through Hoodsport many times locating the road that would take us to the trailhead to access one of the many peaks in the Olympic range. As I drove along last week, snippets of those fun adventures with family and friends came to me.

My first trip to Vancouver Island was over Labor Day, 1967 when Frank and Jane Gregory invited us to join them at their parents’ homes in Nanaimo. Though Frank and Jane would ultimately call Nanaimo home, at the time they lived in Vancouver where Jane was teaching and Frank was completing his forestry course at UBC. We left our car in Port Angeles, walked on the ferry and met Frank and Jane in Victoria.

Highway 1 was and still is the only land route between Victoria and Nanaimo. Since 1967 widening and straightening have improved the road but on our inaugural drive, it was narrow and twisty, characteristics graphically etched in my memory by Frank’s unique performance behind the wheel.

With his left hand resting lightly on the steering wheel, he pointed out landmarks and otherwise gesticulated with his right arm, which, when it wasn’t in motion, rested the back of the front seat.  Fred and I were in the back. Frank maintained eye contact with us the entire time – a real gift for the salesman he would later become but disconcerting for the backseat passengers. In time, “getting the full Frankie,” would become code for experiencing Frank’s singular skill behind the wheel.

Jane’s invitation to host a book party for me in her home in Nanaimo prompted my recent trip. Of course I said yes and she set about cajoling her friends into dropping by between 4:00 – 6:00 on Thursday.  Jane served up wine and “appies” as she referred to the vast array of goodies she set out with the ease and aplomb that I would be hard pressed to bring to tea and toast! Her culinary skills are matched only by her gift for hospitality.

It was a wonderful afternoon  – seeing old friends, meeting many of Jane’s friends I knew of but had never met. Jane and I relayed the story of how we all met on our honeymoon and despite a runny nose and scratchy throat, I read from “Quite Contrary,” and I talked about the importance of story telling.

I sold a number of books as well.  Naturally, seeing the books leave the box or fly off the shelf is exhilarating but the most gratifying part of this book business is the realization that my stories resonate with others, that is the marker of success that means the most.  To date, its name not withstanding, “Quite Contrary” is clearly behaving herself and performing very well.

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One Response

  1. jan batt says:

    Delightful, as always. Thank you.
    I’m anxious to forward to Pat McCullough n some other ” sisters”.

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