I think all of us are attracted to water, be it a lake, river or ocean. And my best memories of childhood (and some recent years) are from time at all three locales: the river at Zig Zag, Oregon; Crater Lake (the most beautiful blue lake in the world), and the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, a small oceanside town 70 miles from Portland.
As long as I can remember, we always went to Seaside in the summer. My father had come ahead before our sojourn to Los Angeles and San Francisco for Roller Derby, and sometimes he brought managers and occasionally skaters. Uncle Oscar would be there at the same time along with our cousins. We would spend all day on the beach, running in and out of the Pacific; in recent years I put my foot in the ocean and it literally curled with the cold, but what do you care when you are little.
There is a wonderful picture of Sid Cohen (who used to work for the Mob) walking next to me in a shirt and tie on the beach, carrying my little beach bucket with his 6′ 4” 280 pound body next to my tiny frame. And we would go fishing up in Astoria (this is where the robber baron John Jacob Astor made his money buying furs from the Indians) on the Columbia River and I caught a 35-pound Chinook salmon. Unfortunately, you don’t catch Chinooks or almost any other salmon in the Columbia now.
My dad was always happy and relaxed at Seaside. The main street, Broadway of course, was very honky tonk with a salt water natatorium up near the end of the road, a ferris wheels, bumper cars, and all the junk candy and other items you would expect to find at the beach. At the end of Broadway was the turnaround, officially marking the end of the Lewis and Clark trail, with statues of both there, and the promenade (prom) running for a few miles north and south. You could stroll on the prom, ride your bike, or just sit on a bench and look at the ocean.
Seaside has never been known for its weather; it generally is cool and damp, but I always loved it. When the sun was out, it was truly spectacular. When we were on the beach (this is before World War 2), we would look for the glass floats, generally balls, that held up the fishing nets in Japan and would break away and follow the warm current all the way to the Oregon Coast. One of the reasons it so rarely snowed or froze in the area was because of the Japanese currents. We also would go crabbing off the pier for Dungenes crab (no limit then) or at low tide go clamming for the razor clams which are only found in the northwest coast of the US.
My Dad and Mom (named Rose) loved that area and wanted to build a home there. I did not know at the time that my mother was very ill, having been misdiagnosed and suffering with breast cancer which was virtually incurable at the time. I found out later that he had taken her to the Mayo Clinic and other advanced medical centers in order to prolong her life. She never complained so Gloria and I were unaware what was going on. They bought a piece of property, about 2 and 1/2 acres right on the ocean just south of the city limits with a forest on the land. It was just adjoining Tillamook head and was called the Cove.
I think my father knew that they would never build on the land, but felt it gave my mother something to look forward to. I believe that in 1940 he paid $3000 for the site.
After my mother’s death and we moved to Chicago we of course had Lake Michigan nearby, but it was nowhere near the same. On our occasional visits back to Oregon we would take short trips to the beach. Then after my Dad remarried and moved to Encino, he started going to Oregon again. His wife Belle had a family house in Gearhart, a very quiet and small town north of Seaside. I stayed there several times, but there was no talk of building anything in Seaside. My father contacted the Holiday Inn people with the idea of them putting a hotel there, but they felt that the market was too small at that time.
After my father’s death in 1978 the Seaside land became Gloria’s and mine. We then found out that because of restrictions on septic tanks, no new building was allowed in that area. However, after a few years the entire district was annexed into Seaside, and Gloria and Ken and I decide to develop a street, build a house for both our families to use, and sell lots. Her son-in law Bruce came up with the name of Keepsake Drive, which had at least one letter for each of our children and grandchildrens’ names. I won’t bore you with all of them.
The lots were sold, our house was built (a Victorian theme) and a small lot in front was donated to the city by Uncle Oscar and us, to be developed into a park. I was in LA with Ticketmaster and got a call from a very upset Gloria. She told me the city council had decided that there wasn’t money to develop the park…..the only public location on the ocean….and they would build restrooms on half, and sell the other half for development.
At Gloria’s urging I flew up to Seaside, and we attended the meeting at which the park project was to be officially dumped. I must say I gave a fiery speech, stating that my family did not give the land to Seaside to become a toilet. The mayor, a very smart man, said fine, you raise the money, we will build the park.
So Gloria formed a 501.3C and we started fund raising. She was a whirlwind whipping Ken and I and all the neighbors into fevered activity. She found out where she could get benches which were recycled and we started selling them. We sold hundred of bricks to family, Seasiders, friends to put their names on. I got a hold of Willie Nelson’s manager, and he did two concerts for us, one in Astoria and a second in Seaside.
I had recently moved to Sonoma and become friends with Tom Smothers, and he and his brother played for us in Seaside. All of the Seltzers and Weinsteins showed up, we dedicated the ground and today there is a tiny, beautiful park in Seaside, just around the corner from the house we built. There are warm showers for the surfers (one of the great surfing spots in the US; don’t tell anyone), and benches at the top of a small hill. And one of those benches has the name Leo and Rose Seltzer on it, so don’t tell me they didn’t get to that beautiful spot by the Cove.
The name of the park? Seltzer Park, of course. please visit when in Seaside……just sit on a bench and look onto the ocean.