Mary Blake is a life force. In a town that is remarkable for its sense of community, Blake was the engine that made the Sunset Pool and its larger entity – Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District – into a magnet.

Before Astoria’s Aquatic Center was opened in 1998, the Sunset Pool was an epicenter for all of Clatsop County.

Our kids learned to swim there. My wife and I enjoyed swimming there.

Sunday’s Mary Blake retirement event – reported in Monday’s edition by Nancy McCarthy – was as epic as Blake herself.

My favorite Mary line is her observation about weather. “There’s no such thing as inclement weather. There is only inappropriate clothing.”

***

In the Bette Davis film, All About Eve, the party scene is famous for Davis’ line: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” Late in the party, Davis sits on the piano bench next to her rented pianist. When the guy starts playing something bouncy, Davis says she wants music to match her dark mood – Liebestraum, Franz Liszt’s mournful, soulful tune. The pianist complains that he’s already played the song four times.

In response to the funereal tone of the music, Davis’ boyfriend, played by Gary Merrill, says:?“Many of your guests have been wondering when they may be permitted to view the body. Where has it been laid out?”

That great scene flashed into my memory last Wednesday morning when the KMUN morning host played a succession of Norse dirges that matched the dark, rainy scene outside. After 20 minutes of that mood music, I found refuge on an Internet radio station that was playing ... Mozart.

***

In a town that has produced a bevy of colorful eccentrics, Mayor Francis Clay Harley rises to the top of the heap. He is a chapter in Eccentric and Extraordinary Astorians, which our company published for the Astoria Bicentennial. Now Liisa Penner has returned to the Harley topic in the current issue of Cumtux, the quarterly of the Clatsop County Historical Society. The question raised by Penner’s research is whether Harley was really someone else – Baron Von Slagen – and whether he was a German spy.

Harley was Astoria’s mayor from 1916 to 1918, the years of America’s involvement in World War I. Documents from the Bureau of Investigation (predecessor of the Federal Bureau of Investigation) show that Harley was being shadowed by federal agents. Penner recently gained access to those bureau reports. Her article also fleshes out “the leader of Harley’s underworld activities in Astoria, one J.J. Kinney.”

***

It is virtually impossible to live in Clatsop County and not be aware of how nonprofit organizations are meeting increased demand for services during the prolonged economic downturn. Nancy McCarthy’s May 1 article on funding requests before the Seaside City Council was a vivid illustration of local need. As McCarthy reported, “More nonprofit agencies than ever are requesting grants from the city of Seaside.”

***

In about one month, we will have a rare opportunity to see a rising star – on June 16 at the Liberty Theater. Angela Meade, who will sing the title role in Bellini’s opera Norma, is being compared to a young Joan Sutherland. And Norma is an especially tuneful opera. This is an especially rare and affordable opportunity. Don’t miss it.

— S.A.F.

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