Thousands of families flock to Seaside every summer to enjoy wide sandy beaches, rolling ocean waves and an ice cream cone, but autumn offers just as much fun for the over-50 population.
“When the tourists leave, the town comes back,” says Seaside resident Karen Emmerling. Born and raised in Portland, she now owns Beach Books on Seaside’s main drag, and says she sees no decline in customers after Labor Day.
The thousands of young families who cruise up and down Broadway, or stroll down the Promenade have gone back to school, but Emmerling says Seaside remains “pretty lively.”
As the months continue, Seaside residents enjoy less traffic and shorter lines at the grocery store, but it’s hardly sleepy as there are many activities that appeal to boomers and seniors who either live there or have vacation homes on the coast.
Those activities include volunteer opportunities, hiking, brisk walks on the Promenade, service club activities, book clubs, and more.
Bird watching at the estuary is popular for its 300-winged attractions and sightings of less common birds traveling during their migratory periods.
Emmerling hosts or supports several book clubs and says local activity picks up in the off-season. One of the most active groups is one organized by the American Association of University Women. Each year, Emmerling attends their planning meeting to make recommendations. She also supports another book club, or rather a voluntary incentive program for students in grades third through 12th, to encourage good reading habits.
She opened her store in 2005, after attending the Wordstock Book Festival in Portland. Before then, she had a career in advertising, raised her children, and helped with her husband’s business, Gearhart Ironwerks.
She’s a member of the Seaside Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Development Association, and is on the very-active Seaside Public Library Board. “We have a lot of volunteer opportunities,” she says.
Retired professor Rhoda E. Cummings chose Seaside as her new home when she retired from the University of Nevada-Reno, where she had taught in the psychology department for 30 years. Her brother, Clay Woods, who had owned Dooley’s West Texas BBQ, had already retired to Cannon Beach.
“I came here for the rain,” she says.
Sometimes the summer crowds get to be too much, she says.
“Seaside gets much quieter and easier to get around in,” says Cummings, who has written a book since retiring, and panics at the large summer crowds in the stores. “I like solitude and the quiet of winter. The people and traffic change after Labor Day.”
Not only that, the “community comes back to itself,” she says. “Volunteers get more active, whether it’s at the Clatsop County Community Hospital, or the very active Senior Learning Center, the South County Community Food Bank, or the gift shop at Providence Seaside Hospital. People can stay as busy as they want to.”
Others volunteer for the North Coast Land Conservancy.
For Cummings, this is her first time experiencing small town living where, she says, “word travels quickly. This is a very friendly town; you get to know your service people. Everybody knows who to trust to get work done.”
Because there are so many rentals in her area, “there is no real neighborhood,” so Girls in the Hood is a group of Seaside women that meets twice a month “to be neighborly and share information.”
Cummings commutes frequently to join a friend in Lake Oswego where they take in cultural events like Portland Opera and concerts for stimulation, go out to dinner, and shop.
“I am happy in my environment, cooking for myself, writing on my table near the wood burning fireplace. I’m somewhat of a hermit,” she says.
Cummings is the author of “The Survival Guide for Kids with LD (learning differences)” and her novel “Temporary Services,” which takes place in Austin, Texas.
Cummings stays “unbelievably busy” with meditation, yoga, walking the Promenade, painting and reading. She enjoys the diversity that Seaside offers, “the ethnicities, and the different social levels.”
She likes the fact that Seaside families have been coming for generations and that the town is not gentrified, although Emmerling says it is becoming a little more sophisticated.
Cummings worked for Beach Books for a while, describing it as one of the best independent book stores she has ever been in. “I learned how to count backwards,” she says. “I met a lot of interesting people there.”
She said Seaside appears to be on an upswing with the improvements made to the local movie house that now shows first-run features and some fixing-up of ramshackle houses. There is little crime and police reports she reads in the local papers cause her to chuckle.
Cummings does not remain in Seaside all year. She travels to Ireland for a month and Hawaii for a month as well as taking road trips.
She will remain in Ireland over Christmas this year because she experienced the best Christmas of her 73 years in charming Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland, “because it’s like the ‘50s, with children caroling on the sidewalks and total lack of commercialism.”