One of the bonuses of being a journalist is that you are always learning something new. Often as not, it’s something you never dreamed would be that interesting, say, for instance, the life of a turkey vulture, or the history of a giant tree, and instead you find yourself fascinated.
Paul and Evelyn Brookhyser know exactly what I’m talking about, which is why on most Tuesdays in the fall and winter, you’ll find them at the Oregon Coast Learning Institute.
As new retirees they were looking to stay active and keep their minds sharp. So when they heard about the OCLI, they decided to give it a shot. That was a decade ago.
“We were impressed with the quality of the people presenting and they were members of the group, Paul said. “There are two or three programs a day. All may not be of interest, but we don’t know that until we go. When we go we are flabbergasted at what we learn and that’s what keeps us going. Then you schmooze with the people and get to know them and they are optimistic and they talk about things in a positive vein and you form a community. You just can’t help it.”
Some of the programs that have stayed with Paul include a talk on bees, a presentation by a retired prison inmate teacher and one by OCLI founder Peter Lacques, who gave 35 presentations from 2003 to 2017 on history.
“My favorite was the one on American exceptionalism,” Paul says. “I had my hackles up ready to get really concerned. I don’t think of myself as an American chauvinist. I think of myself more worldly. We’ve hosted 17 exchange students from all over the world. But he persuaded me that America really is a great place. It’s open and free. I didn’t lose any of my worldliness, but I’m much happier being an American after he talked.”
Talks on the use of 3D printers, wave energy and Japanese internment camps stand out for Evelyn.
I had to ask, after years of education — public school, college, work courses — do we really need to keep learning now?
“If you don’t continue ... you are going to go backwards,” Evelyn said. “I call it a kind of recharging. It is interesting to learn about things that you never thought you want to learn about.”
Both also give presentations. Paul has spoken on the Sagrada Familia and Evelyn on Frida Kahlo. She plans another on food preservation and one on the Kentucky mother of midwifery. When members don’t have enough material for two hours, they split it with another member, each taking one hour.
There are some rules. Namely, no politics, though the subject sometimes seems to wiggle its way in.
“We’re not supposed to, but we do because we talk about history, and that sometimes shows one’s bias,” Paul said. “You get different opinions. The philosophy of the group is to give us new friends to keep. We don’t want to build a fence between us. That’s my philosophy.”
The meetings are held Tuesdays at the Salishan Spa and Resort September through November, ending just before Thanksgiving, and then pick up again Jan. 8 through March 26. They run from 10 am to noon with a break for lunch and then resume from 1 to 3 pm. The cost is $90 for the year.
This year’s first meeting is set for Tuesday, Sept. 4, with free cookies and coffee starting at 9 am. US Coast Guard Commander Chris Hinote will present “Ahoy There…You in the Boat!” featuring the multiple roles, missions and assignments of the Coast Guard as well as the unique experiences of “The Hole in the Wall Gang” at Depoe Bay. After lunch, Ron Cooper will present “Evolution of Photography — From Civil War to Drones,” sharing the progress of techniques of Matthew Brady to the future of electronic imagery.
So, if you’re retired and looking to expand your horizons, now you know where to go.
“Visitors can spend a whole Tuesday without charge,” Paul said. “I give them a name tag and try to find out their interests and then try to match them with someone with the same interests. If they don’t come again that’s OK. Some people pay the fee for the whole year and only show up once. They thought that one Tuesday was worth it.”
Lori Tobias is the author of the novel “Wander” and a journalist of many years. Follow her at loritobias.com.