The little white house sitting near the top of a steep hill shares a charming likeness with its neighbors. A sloping lawn and a one car driveway are unique and idyllic to an Astoria neighborhood. Inside live Mark and Geri Fick who have resided, worked and raised their children in Astoria since 1983. Mark and Geri’s house was built in the late 70s by Ragnar Swanson, a local carpenter who built the house as a retirement destination for himself and his wife, before offering the house to the young couple with a toddler. A few of the pine trees in the backyard were planted by Ragnar when the house was new, and still stand their today.
Mark Fick has lived in Clatsop County for all of his 65 years. In high school, Mark worked in canneries to earn money to put himself through college. The two met at Fort Clatsop in the mid-70s where Geri worked summers as a park ranger, having traveled down from her hometown of Seattle.
For over 34 years the Ficks have worked in various educational capacities in schools around the county. Geri has served as an educational assistant at Astor Elementary School and as the librarian at Jewell School, while Mark taught at Astor Elementary School and served as a coach for various sports for over 30 years. Mark used to be the athletic director and math teacher at Jewell School, but upon retirement is now the coach for the girls and boys basketball team.
Geri currently volunteers at the Clatsop Animal Shelter where she walks dogs. Just a few months ago they adopted a dog from there, Nina. She also volunteers at the Wishing Tree program during the Christmas season. The Ficks enjoy seeing students they have worked with in the past that have grown to adulthood and started jobs and families of their own in the community. This includes their own son who lives in Astoria with his wife and three-year-old daughter. “It’s nice that it’s a small enough community that you really get the know people,” Geri says.
Having attended Lewis and Clark Grade School and Astoria High School, Mark remembers the small city of his childhood fondly. “It was more of a blue collar city back then,” he recalls. “We get a lot of vacationers and seasonal people now.”
It seems that Astoria has had a similar fate as many smaller towns in the United States in the last few decades. Mark and Geri noted that while there are many positive changes in the city, there used to be more available to local residents. “The commerce of the city has changed, there used to be about five grocery stores downtown, including the old Safeway” notes Mark. The layout of Astoria has indeed changed in the past two decades. With more tourism, Astoria’s downtown has incorporated many boutique stores, art galleries, cafes and gift shops.
As is the case with many coastal towns, Astoria is no stranger to a crowded tourist season during the summer. The Fick’s note that this was not always the case, and that Seaside used to be the main tourist destination, with tourists only visiting Astoria for a few hours due to its historical significance. “People tend to stay for several days in a hotel up here, it used to be that Seaside was the destination, but with all the newer box stores and restaurants-it’s Astoria now,” says Mark. The Ficks have their own special routes that they take to avoid the coastal traffic when things get backed up as many natives of Clatsop County have.
The Riverwalk surrounding the bay is one of the best changes they have seen in the last decade-providing a calm walking path, as well as a lovely view. “There is no better place than Astoria on a sunny day,” Geri says, gesturing her hand out the window at one of the most incredible panoramic views of the Young’s Bay in all of Astoria or Washington.
From their front window there is a clear view of the entire bay and the Megler bridge, as well as Washington on the other side. There are four cargo ships on this particular afternoon with patches of sunlight shining right on them.
When asked if they had a favorite place to hang out in Astoria, both Mark and Geri have the same reply. “We just like sitting in our living room” They say. “It’s quiet and we have a great view of the bay, nowhere else we’d really rather be.”