A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk / Along the briny beach

Man harvesting oysters; J.J. Brenner Oyster Co.

It may not be an ‘r’ month, but we recently dug up the Oyster industry scrapbooks from the J.J. Brenner Oyster Co. in Olympia.  These scrapbooks are full of clippings and advertisements, recipes and pamphlets, as well as a few photographs, letters, and posters. They also contain numerous clippings and letters concerning water pollution in the South Sound and its effects on native Olympia oysters.  Oyster growers’ fight with Rayonier, which had a pulp mill  dumping “sulphite waste liquor” in the South Sound during the 1950s, is particularly well-documented. There is also a plethora of oyster advertising, including a World War II era poster urging people to contribute to the rationing of meat by eating oysters instead. My personal favourite, however, may be the ‘diet’ which involves consuming nothing but oysters and alcohol with the promise of becoming the best-looking alcoholic around. There’s nothing like a little truth in advertising.

The Oyster industry scrapbooks consist of four volumes dating from the early 1920s through the 1980s. The first three volumes, with materials from the 1920s through the 1960s, appear to have been compiled by Earl G. Brenner, J.J. Brenner’s son. As part of Washington Sea Grant’s ‘100 Years of Oyster Culture’ celebration, these three volumes were copied into Washington Oysters: A Scrapbook. The fourth volume, clippings from the 1980s, appears to have been the work Brenner’s son Earl R. Brenner.

Image Credits:

J.J. Brenner Oyster Co., Oyster Industry Scrapbooks, vol. 1.


Whitman Sampler

Ah, the approaching end of the old year and the beginning of a new one naturally can lead one to be reflective.

One of the very last items to be cataloged during 2009 (statistically speaking, that is) definitely provoked a few moments of introspection on my part.  In reviewing a spreadsheet listing several hundred (!) Special Collections items that needed cataloging attention, I was bemused upon coming across the title, “Whitman in Fiction,” that my immediate thought was “Marcus?” rather than “Walt!”  Very embarrassing for an English major.  Or maybe I just need a vacation.

With that title now handily (re)cataloged (thanks to a massive assist from Jessie), I began to ponder over whether or not I could come up with any suitably esoteric connection between Walt Whitman and the Pacific Northwest for this blog. Taking up that (unsolicited) challenge, I suddenly was reminded of a certain Levi’s commercial that has been shown incessantly in movie theaters over the past several months.  I think you know the one I mean.  It features a quick series of shots of a succession of attractive, but unkempt, youths cavorting in what, even to this infrequent visitor to the Rose City, appear to be some recognizable Portland area locations, while an actor (Will Geer) reads parts of the famous Whitman poem, Pioneers! O Pioneers!, on the soundtrack.

Further investigation reveals that the commercial is indeed the work of Portland-based advertising agency, Weiden + Kennedy, as part of new ad campaign for the denim giant that has sparked considerable online chatter (for a representative example, you could go here).

If you haven’t come across this commercial yet, I”ll leave it up to you to decide for yourselves whether you find it riveting or annoying:

Or perhaps you may prefer to read a book.  Whether it’s on your Kindle, or if you choose to venture into the Special Collections Division (where regular hours resume on Monday, January 4, 2010), a wealth of material (even the work of Walt Whitman) awaits your reading pleasure.  To paraphrase Walt, may those particular “sources and rills of the Northwest” indeed prove to be inexhaustible in 2010.

Happy new year!