Bay Center is a small town north of Long Beach Washington, and Goose Point is just across Willipa Bay from Bay Center. Both places were locations of Chinook villages before the arrival of European American settlers in the eighteenth century. Joel Brown was the first settler to arrive and hoped to name the town after himself. Dr. James Johnson was another white settler who spent time in Bay Center and Goose Point. He was the only physician in the area and treated both white and native people. At the same time the Wilsons and Rhoades settled into Bay Center and became the first permanent American residents.
All of the narrators’ families connect back to these families. The creation of Bay Center provided a community where native and white people mixed in all facets of life, and the residents told stories about the Chinook village at Goose Point. The narrators believe that Bay Center was a great place to grow up and enjoy the tight-knit community, although there were strained relationships between white and native peoples. Bay Center provided a place for these two groups to come together and mix through education, intermarriage, employment, traditions and military service. Many residents worked in the oyster, fishing, and timber industry. Many of the narrators have a sense of pride in the community that brought the Chinook and white groups together.
Bay Center was a wonderful place to grow up. According to Joe Brignone there was no crime or drugs and the community helped each other to raise children. Everyone remembers the smoke houses and smoking fish. School in South Bend and the Shaker Church in Goose Point were also recollections that were shared. Bay Center provides the canvas for the Chinook narrators to recall changes to the place and their families over time.
Sam Robinson’s childhood memory of Bay Center:
One thing I know about, especially in the spring and the fall is when we’d go to Bay Center is, as soon as you got off the highway and started coming in to Bay Center, you start smelling all the smoke houses going. You know, you just come in and everybody was smoking fish. And it was great, you know. So you’d come in there and you’d say, “Hey is the fish ready? Is the fish ready?
“No, no, it’s got a couple more hours.” So you’re patiently waiting for them to open up that smoke house and dole out some fish. That was one of my memories when I was a kid is always pulling into Bay Center and smelling that fish…
Sam Robinson talks about Sammy’s dredge in Bay Center:
It hasn’t been that long. He passed away probably about three years ago, maybe four at the max. Yeah. And he looked good all the way up to the end. I mean he was out there on the dredge. We’d be up there sitting at Phil and Clara’s house looking out the window and he’d be out there dredging away on the Skanoentl or one of the other dredges that had been around for generations. You know, some of those dredges have been around forever. And they’re still using them out there…
Well, the Skanoentl, oyster yeah, it was a deep haul dredge. It wasn’t the flat ones like they have now. And the guy took that to Ilwaco and he totally, he refurbished it and he was going to take it to Nahcotta, but for some reason he ended up taking it back to Bay Center. And last time I was in Bay Center it was down there. So, yeah, so a lot of those have been around for many generations, you know, you just don’t give them up. They work, they work well.
Joe Brignone talks about growing up in Bay Center:
For a kid growing up at the time that I grew up you could not have found a better place to grow up than Bay Center, Washington. There was plenty of work; you know, the late ‘30s, early ‘40s, people were still recovering from the Depression. But the fishing and the canneries and everything was running, they were running really great and everything. And you had the beaches down there. Virtually no crime or anything like that. No drugs at all, not even all the way through high school I never heard the word drugs, see.
I mean that was a wonderful place to grow up. Just, I can’t say, I can’t say anything bad about it.
And the town smelled like rotten oysters. There’s no doubt about.
Keen Reed on Bay Center in his childhood in the 1930s:
See, it wasn’t an empty town like it is now. It was a thriving town. It had three grocery stores, all functional.
As a kid, and I mean probably five years old, going down to the Indian Village [at Goose Point], they had a plank road going down to the first level where the church was. And I don’t know how long that church lasted before it burned down.
Anna May Strong talks about Goose Point:
Um, and it wasn’t Bay Center as you see Bay Center now, today. The village was at Goose Point. That was the Indian village. That was their village. They stopped there when they came up, down the bay from Long Island because the Indians lived on Long Island and they came in their canoes down to Goose Point. There was a cutting off place up by Sandy Point, which no longer exists. Everything’s gone up there, washed away to sea. But the slough that runs through where Bee Bayity [?] and Grandpa, at Laurel’s place, the slough that winds clear around and comes out at the Palix, that was a portage. And the Indians that came down from Long Island came through, as a short cut and then they didn’t have to go paddle around Goose Point and come around into now Current Slough at Bay Center Village.
Anna May Strong speaks to the future of Goose Point:
Melissa Swank: What would you like to see different under recognition?
Anna May Strong: I want to see them have a village back at Goose Point, this is a dream list now, I want not Bay Center to be the focal point, I want Goose Point to be the focal point. I do want them to have a museum if I ever get my stuff to where I can give it to them. And I think they should keep on and, what’s the word? Doing the canoe, canoes just being a natural part of looking out on the bay like it was when the white men first came. Mom told me, because she lived and Mom was born at Goose Point because her dad and the older kids had lived at Stony Point and then he decided to come across the bay to Bay Center and then they lived at Goose Point, had their house there. Mom and Uncle Til were both born at Goose Point and then they bought up on the hill in Bay Center.