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Westport Water 50 Years Ago – Lyle Standley’s Water System

One of the first people we met in coming to Westport almost fifty years ago was Lyle Standley. He had heard we had bought the old Kruger Place (then the only house on the west side of Omega Drive) and came to introduce himself and ask if we would like the house reconnected to his water system, explaining that we had a well but no pump as the house had not been lived in for many years. The monthly water fee was $6.50. We said sure and from then on we saw Lyle the last day of each month when he came to the house and presented his hand written water bill. We were expected to pay on the spot as everyone did. He would then write “paid” and sign the bill and this was our receipt.

Lyle was probably in his late sixties then, and he and his wife Clare lived in a small house up at Wages Creek Campground. Dutch, his son, lived to the south of us in a tiny cabin that I think eventually slid into the ocean. Turns out we were all cousins as my dad’s mom was a Standley from Westport.

Lyle’s system had two sources for water. There was a spring up behind town in a gulch, and as I learned from Marjorie Zakula, a well out in Buster Standley's field that we now call The Headlands. Water from both places went to an old redwood tank above town at the end of Abalone Street and from there gravity fed the town. Lyle was fortunate as Dave Morgan helped him with the system and also helped him with his flock of goats that resided where the church is now. For this Dave got free water.

In the winter and spring months the system worked well. The tank over flowed and every one had water night and day. Other times we were mostly in short supply, especially in the fall. That time of year, around dusk Lyle would come into town in his Ford Falcon pick-up and shut the water off at the tank so it could refill overnight and then he returned around dawn and turned it back on. No treatment of water in those days.

We did just fine as we used little water. Our house only had one kitchen cold-water faucet. That’s it! No hot water, no toilet had ever been installed, just the outhouse on the bluff. No bathtub or shower and no outside faucets. I don’t believe we used more than 500 gallons a month. In those days there were fewer houses and more full time residents in town. A few houses had their own wells and used them and most everyone had a septic tank of sorts. We didn’t, the kitchen sink water drained to the garden area.

Somehow we all got along and got by. Occasionally in the fall Lyle’s tank valve mysteriously would get turned back on at night but that was a rare occasion. If I remember correctly, Westport in the mid-1970s was noticed by heath officials because some of the town’s sewerage was making its way to the ocean through the gully out on Buster’s field. This made the town eligible for a grant not only for a sewer system but also for a new water system to operate it and at the same time supply water to all the residents. The new systems were installed and I think we all connected before 1980. Those were the days…

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