A willing suspension – from sky-high to high drama
By Jean Sherrard
Since 1972, Seattle summers have opened and closed with multiday festivals: Northwest Folklife on Memorial Day weekend, and Bumbershoot on Labor Day weekend. Hosted at Seattle Center, both events signal a change of seasons. They also inherit the legacies of the Century 21 Exposition (aka the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair), whose revitalizing alterations “Now & Then” has oft explored.
Our “Then” photo, looking northwest during the fair, features one station of the Union 76 Skyride, located at the former corner of Second Avenue and Republican Street. Traversing 1,400 feet and reaching the height of a six-floor building, its bucket-shaped orange and blue cars provided a bird’s-eye view as their overhead wheels rolled above the grounds. When I experienced the still-operating ride two years later, the three-passenger limit meant my father stayed behind while my mom, little brother and I floated and gloated.
Built by Von Roll Iron Works of Switzerland, then the world’s largest producer of aerial tramways, the Skyride became one of the fair’s most popular and — for only 50 cents — affordable excursions. (Union 76 gas stations offered buy-two/get-one-free tickets with every fill-up, recalls historian Alan Stein.) The Skyride’s southern station also stood only steps from the Monorail.
Visible from the Skyride, the Seattle Playhouse — built for the fair in only 34 days — beckoned from Mercer Street. The venue showcased national and international acts, from the Julliard String Quartet and Japan’s Bunraku Theatre to the Pacific Ballet and Hal Holbrook’s one-man show “Mark Twain Tonight!” Reportedly, Holbrook suggested it as the perfect location for a repertory theater.
The newly formed Seattle Repertory Theatre took up Holbrook’s challenge in November 1963, fronting inaugural productions of “King Lear” and Max Frisch’s “The Firebugs.” Original troupe members included Marjorie Nelson and a young John Gilbert, later stalwarts of the local acting community. (Nelson married prominent architect and preservationist Victor Steinbrueck, neatly squaring the circle.)
In the early 1980s, the Skyride’s northern station bowed to what we might call a theatrical suspension of disbelief, when the Rep departed the aging Playhouse to create state-of-the-art digs on a nearby corner lot. As an aspiring actor, I witnessed this vision beginning to assume reality when I was fortunate to be cast in two plays in the inaugural season.
The result has, like the World’s Fair, become a gift to Seattle. Through the decades, by showcasing a steady diet of star-studded, groundbreaking and world-class theater, the Rep has, like the Skyride, become a high-wire act.
To hear a snippet of our Globe Radio Repertory adaptation of “Don Quixote”, featuring Marjorie Nelson and John Gilbert, click here. Marjorie delivers a lovely performance as Quixote’s concerned housekeeper Maria and John portrays Father Pero Perez, a long-time friend, with all the mastery you might expect. In this introductory scene, Maria approaches Father Perez to inform him that her master has returned from another delusional adventure and plead for his help. Both actors knock it out of the park.
The back story here might also be of some interest. In 1984, after being injured (a torn hamstring) at the Rep while playing Charles the Wrestler in “As You Like It”, I decided to move into radio production.
With partner John Siscoe (owner/operator of the Globe Bookstore in Pioneer Square), I wrote an adaptation of “Don Quixote” and together we pitched it to NPR Playhouse. Our subsequent productions appeared through the early 1990s, and were largely funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. We were fortunate to work with some of the finest actors in the country, most of whom were based in Seattle.
Stones roll from the covered Kingdome to the open air
By Clay Eals
So much was it a city symbol and massive gathering place for sports and spectacle that it is difficult to believe we are going on 20 years since the Kingdome departed — in a planned implosion, no less. Even harder to fathom may be that relative newcomers are unaware of the shortcomings (and, yes, charms) of what resembled, from afar, a giant, concrete hamburger.
Long before retractable roofs came into fashion, the Kingdome satisfied our drenched desire for a commoners’ cathedral we could swarm to and revel in, comforted that our “Seattle sunshine” could not cancel or interfere with our fun. In other words, there were no rainouts.
Dow Constantine remembers it well. Our King County executive was a 19-year-old University of Washington sophomore when he saw the Rolling Stones’ sixth show in Seattle, on Oct. 14, 1981, the first night of back-to-back concerts. Among 71,000 packing the Kingdome, he was down front in what was crudely called “the pit.” The Greg Kihn Band opened, followed by the J. Geils Band. The Stones took the stage at 10:55 p.m. and finished about 1 a.m.
This milieu radiates from our atmospheric “Then” image, captured by Mike Siegel, in one of his first photos for The Seattle Times. Constantine stands near left, eying the wilder youths to his side. His subdued expression speaks volumes.
“Near the stage, the crowd was pretty aggressive,” he recalls. “You had to stand your ground against the force of thousands pushing to get closer.” He adds, with no little irony, “We thought it was the last time we would get a chance to see the Stones because they were so old.”
The Oct. 14 and 15, 1981, shows also hosted scores of overdose cases, along with a deeper tragedy. A 16-year-old girl died when she lost her balance and fell backward 50 feet from the outside 200-level ramp onto a landing. Most fans, and probably the Stones, didn’t learn of the death until after the Oct. 15 show. It was the first fatality in the Kingdome’s then-five-year history.
While no one inside felt moisture from the sky, as always there was — beyond the haze and the substitution of rumbling echo for sound — the disquieting feeling, in spite of the stadium’s enormity, of being trapped by the absence of sky.
That was no deterrent for Constantine, a lifelong music fanatic who graduated from grade-school trombonist to arts and music champion as an adult. He nurtured his obsession by volunteering in 1981 at the campus radio station, KCMU (now KEXP), eventually snagging plum DJ shifts.
Fast-forward nearly 38 years, and we find Constantine once more in the front row at a Stones show, their 12th in Seattle, this time on the Kingdome’s footprint at open-air CenturyLink Field. “No pushing and shoving,” he says. “Very much an all-ages, good-vibe, bring-the-grandkids crowd.”
The Kingdome may have lasted only 24 years, but the Stones — and Constantine —roll on.
Here is a bonus, extended interview with Dow Constantine, conducted Aug. 15, 2019, one day after the Stones’ Aug. 14, 2019, show he attended at CenturyLink Field.
You seemed to be in the front row last night. Were you on the left (west) side of the center runway or the right (east) side?
If I’m going to take the time to go to a show, I’m going to do my best to be in the front. Yesterday I was down front, on the left (so, stage right). In 1981, I was down front, on the right (so, stage left.)
What were the similarities and differences between the 1981 show and last night’s show?
The 1981 tour was in support of the album “Tattoo You,” and the singles “Start Me Up,” “Waiting on a Friend” and, I think, “Hang Fire” were receiving heavy airplay on MTV. They ran through those and a lot of the all-time hits, but also a bunch of less familiar songs from that new album.
The crowd near the stage was tightly packed and pretty aggressive, and you had to set your feet and stand your ground against the force of thousands on the floor pushing to get closer to the band. And we thought it was the last time we would get a chance to see them, because they were so old.
Last night, there was no new album to promote. They just played the hits, plus a couple of deeper cuts from the early 1970s albums, and the crowd loved it. And no pushing and shoving. Very much an all-ages, good vibe, bring-the-grandkids crowd.
How many times have you seen the Stones in Seattle, and which shows?
Not many. I really respect the remarkable accomplishments of the Stones, including their longevity, influence and astonishing number of hit songs they’ve recorded. But my first love among the behemoths of old-time arena rock is The Who.
In music, all of us have our church. And often it just comes down to which band you fell for first. Compared to all those hardcore fans I heard talking about traveling the world with the Stones, seeing them in the 1960s and 1970s, seeing them dozens or hundreds of times, I’m just a tourist, a guest in their sanctuary.
In your King County Council days, you displayed a guitar in your office. Do you still? Was it yours? If not, who’s was it?
That was an autographed Cat Power guitar! And I never played it, at least not well enough for public consumption. It came from a Vera Project auction, and after many years I donated it to charity.
Do you play guitar? If so, how long have you done so? Do you play any Rolling Stones songs?
Nope. Hacked my way through the chords (and vocals) of a few songs (Kinks, Clash, Neil Young, etc.) over the years, but there is no earthly way I could be called a guitarist. I’m a fan.
What Rolling Stones song or songs are your favorite, and why?
I love the melancholy charts like “Angie,” “Wild Horses” or “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” But it is hard to argue with “soundtrack of a generation” rockers like “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or “Satisfaction.” If you wrote any one of those, you’d do best to set down your pen for good and declare victory.
Below is an alternate “Now” image, plus a fanciful one from the summer of 2018, plus links to a one-hour Dow podcast and a Dow summer playlist, plus, in chronological order, five clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column.
Encircling the quest to share ‘music and the music of ideas’
By Clay Eals
It bears a square shape, but to me Town Hall Seattle has always felt round. This derives from its dome, but also from the sensation of sitting in its Great Hall. Scores of pews angled in a giant half-circle envelop the stage, bringing performer and audience together as one.
Coming to mind are people I’ve enjoyed there, both nationally known (folk legend U. Utah Phillips and a non-singing Linda Ronstadt) and home-grown (speakers at a memorial for newspaperman Emmett Watson, as well as this column’s own Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard in their annual “A Rogue’s Christmas” show).
A focus on people bolstered the vision of Town Hall’s founder, David Brewster, when it opened in 1999. In cultivating investors, the civic and journalistic entrepreneur conceptualized it as a gathering place for citizens to share “music and the music of ideas.”
To house his idea, Brewster chose the three-floor Roman Revival edifice at Eighth and Seneca, the former Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist. Built in two stages, in 1916 and 1922, more than 40 years before Interstate 5 sliced the site away from downtown proper, it offered an auditorium with room for 1,000, befitting a faith that once drew crowds to its message that prayer can triumph over sickness. It also was among several local Christian Science churches yielding to new owners and uses as congregations declined.
Initially, Brewster wanted to rename the building Landmark Hall, but it was not yet an official city landmark (that happened in 2012). Having grown up near New York City and familiar with its Town Hall, he decided to adapt the more down-to-earth moniker for Seattle.
His vision took flight. In the ensuing two decades, Town Hall lured more than 1.5 million attendees to nearly 7,000 events featuring artists and scholars, musicians and presidential candidates — as the saying goes, “thinkers and doers.”
To remain viable and withstand earthquakes for decades to come, Town Hall just finished a two-year, $35.5 million interior renovation, improving its underpinnings in ways that are largely and intentionally invisible while also enhancing sound and upgrading ancillary rooms. Matt Aalfs, principal architect, sums up: “We wanted to keep the building’s soul.”
That soul returns to full bloom this September during a 40-event Homecoming Festival. Wier Harmon, executive director since 2005, says it exemplifies an ongoing mission to provide low- or no-cost tickets to a kaleidoscope of events dreamed up by hundreds of local producers and organizations. It’s a quest that touches him personally.
“Town Hall truly speaks to the highest aspirations of this community because it inspires creativity, activism and civic engagement,” he says. “The chance to help a place that’s founded on preserving and celebrating those values has been irresistible.”
To see Jean Sherrard’s 360-degree video of the NOW prospect and compare it with the THEN photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!
Below, in chronological order, are 11 clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column.
Suffragists provide ‘proof of life’ for the good fight
By Jean Sherrard
In real life and in the movies, “proof of life” is an oft-used trope in which kidnappers pose a hostage grimly holding up a newspaper’s front page. This week’s astonishing panorama of suffragists, unearthed by researcher Ron Edge, uses a publication to provide proof of a different sort: the life of a movement.
Nearly 70 women and a handful of men lined up a century ago, with mostly stern faces that might reflect not merely the conventions of unsmiling portraiture, but also their years of struggle to secure a fundamental right of democracy. In a note on the back of the photo, they are identified only as “Women suffragists circa 1915.” Two clues, however, provide more precision.
At far right, a partially obscured sign for Wilson’s Modern Business College places us at Second Avenue and Stewart Street (the terra-cotta-clad two-story building from 1914 is being replaced this year by a high-rise). The other pointer is that women are holding up four copies of the March 18, 1916, edition of “The Suffragist,” the weekly newspaper of the Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage, founded in 1913 by activist Alice Paul and published in Washington, D.C.
The paper’s cover depicts the suffrage opera “Melinda and her Sisters,” staged as a benefit for Paul’s Union at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. None other than Broadway headliner and movie actress Marie Dressler — who, 17 years later, played the title role in “Tugboat Annie,” a film made in Seattle and loosely based on the life of Thea Foss, founder of Foss Maritime — played the operatic lead.
The long campaign for women’s suffrage, however, had not been merely an Eastern affair. By 1896, four Western states — Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho — had voted to authorize the franchise. Efforts in Washington languished until Nov. 8, 1910, when the state’s male voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to our state constitution, giving women the right to vote here, and reinvigorating the national debate.
California followed suit in 1911, with Arizona, Kansas, the Alaskan Territory, Nevada and Montana soon to follow. But hidebound Eastern and Southern states proved resistant, so Paul rallied her members to travel the pro-suffrage West for six weeks and whip up enthusiasm.
Luminaries of the tour included Harriot Stanton Blatch (daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton), Florence Bayard Hilles and Elizabeth Selden Rogers, “speakers known throughout the country for their personality and power.”
In Seattle, the “Suffrage Special” tour took flight. “Visiting Suffragist Joyrides in Aeroplane … Scatters Tracts,” bubbled a front-page Seattle Times headline. The story explained: “The doctrine of ‘Votes for Women’ reached its apex 1,400 feet above Seattle when Miss Lucy Burns … flew over [the city] in [Terah] Maroney’s beautiful flying yacht … and scattered handbills.”
(A prescient side note: One year earlier, Mahoney had taken William Boeing on his first flight, after which Boeing told his partner George Westervelt: “There isn’t much to that machine of Maroney’s. I think we could build a better one.”)
The women’s Seattle tour stop did not disappoint. A crowd of 1,500 packed the Moore Theatre on May 1 for rousing female oratory. Proclaimed Selden Rogers, “The force of women is needed in the land for peace, strength and righteousness.”
The next morning, the envoys gathered for a boisterous pep rally at the University of Washington, where they were welcomed to Meany Hall by Henry Suzzallo, UW president. (Today, the microform collection of the UW library named for him houses the entire seven-year run of “The Suffragist.”)
In the afternoon, a downtown luncheon took place at the New Washington Hotel, now the Josephinum Apartments. Our “Now” group photo was staged just around the corner.
By 1920, requisite states had ratified the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote (though many women of color remained disenfranchised even after the passage, legally or because of discriminatory practices). In 1923, Alice Paul became the first drafter of the Equal Rights Amendment. The fate of the latter might well lie in the wisdom and spirit embodied in our “Now” photo.
To see Jean Sherrard’s 360-degree video of the “now” prospect and compare it with the “then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Jean, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!
Thanks to Clay Eals for painstaking identification of the participants in our “now” photo (from left). We have only included the names we know. Please help us fill in the gaps!
Allison Feher; Alyssa Weed; Leah Litwak; Assunta Ng, founder, Northwest Asian Weekly; Michelle Merriweather, president and CEO, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle; Sheila Edwards Lange, president, Seattle Central College; Sadiqa Sakin; Marie McCaffrey, co-founder and executive director, HistoryLink; Jessica Forsythe; Lily Wilson-Codega, director, Seattle Office of Intergovernmental Relations; Lisa Herbold, Seattle City Council member; Teresa Mosqueda, Seattle City Council member; Lorena González, Seattle City Council member; Courtney Gregoire, Port of Seattle commissioner; Sally Bagshaw, Seattle City Council member; Debora Juarez, Seattle City Council member; Jenny Durkan, Seattle mayor; Pramila Jayapal, U.S. representative, Seventh District; Debra Smith, CEO, Seattle City Light; Christine Gregoire, former Washington governor; Michelle Gregoire; Mitzi Johanknecht, King County sheriff; Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council member; Claudia Balducci, King County Council member; Constance Rice, former vice chancellor and senior chancellor, the Seattle Colleges; Emily Pinckney; Karishama Vahora; Maqsud Nur; McKenna Lux; Nura Abdi; Jessica Finn-Coven, director, Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment; Pat Griffith; Kathryn Tyson; LaNesha DeBardelaben, executive director, Northwest African American Museum; Mariko Lockhart, director, Seattle Office for Civil Rights; Ann Murphy; Linnea Hirst; Kiku Hayashi; Julie Sarkissian; Dianne Ramsey; Amy Peloff; Connie Hellyer; Dave Griffith; Joanna Cullen.
We continue this week’s Extras with a slight mea culpa. Two photos were taken on July 2nd – the first just prior to some delayed arrivals. We reassembled for a second portrait, but lost a few participants in the process. Here’s a version of that earlier photo:
A distinguished lifetime of bringing puppets to moppets
By Clay Eals
It all might seem rather simple, maybe childlike. But concocting, constructing and bringing to life an inanimate object to stir emotions and imagination is complex, profound business.
Just ask Aurora Valentinetti, winner of the University of Washington’s 2019 Distinguished Teaching Legacy Award, who as this column appears has reached her 98th birthday.
Propelling a walker as she strode across the Meany Hall stage June 13 to receive the award medal, the pint-sized honoree drew a roaring ovation while mirroring the fortitude that she carried from her West Seattle upbringing to the UW in the fall of 1939 and that helped her forge a lifetime persona – that of puppeteer.
From the early 1940s to her retirement in 1992 and beyond, this puppetry professor and promoter took her hand, rod and string creations seemingly everywhere – from the Showboat Theatre to the Metropolitan Theatre (both long gone), from St. Mark’s Cathedral to First African Episcopal Church, from Bainbridge to Bumbershoot, from Fremont to Federal Way, from statewide tours to national festivals, from the beloved Christmas windows of the old Frederick & Nelson department store downtown to her own “Puppet Playhouse” show on KCTS-TV, Channel 9.
Though her productions sometimes targeted adults by exploring themes from operatic to existentialist, Valentinetti’s deepest impact – and love – lay in her shows for children, tapping into worldwide cultures and using puppets that each took 200 hours to build.
She wasn’t a recognizable kids’ TV icon like Wunda Wunda or Brakeman Bill because her work, by definition, was behind the scenes. “You have to become the soul of that figure, and you don’t count,” she says.
Nonetheless, she mesmerized moppets, no doubt because most of the time, their eyes wide open, mouths agape and minds “still in touch with fantasy and magic,” they were reacting to the escapades of her puppets in person and in real time.
Such engagement, she says, validates a universal, desperate need for artistic endeavor.
“Without the arts, we are going to be robots or back to the level of animals,” she says. “Real learning happens through all of the arts, particularly for young children. That’s where they grow and expand. That also is where children can be individuals.”
Since college days, she lived in Wallingford to be close to her classes. She never married or drove a car, instead bidding rides from students. “They knew that if they drove me home, I’d feed them.”
To live closer to a niece, Joanne Bratton, she moved in 2016 to Wenatchee. There, she keeps several of her puppets close by. “They have a power all their own,” she says. “I just treat them like human beings.”
Perhaps she’s imparting a deeper lesson to us all.
This week, instead of a 360-degree video, we are providing links to several video interviews of Aurora Valentinetti from which quotes were drawn for this column.
Also, below are two additional photos, plus, in chronological order, several clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and one from the Mercer Island Reporter that were helpful in the preparation of this column.
Days may be numbered for piece of ‘heaven’ in East Seattle
By Clay Eals
Quick quiz: Where is East Seattle? If you’re thinking Madison Park, Leschi or other places east of Broadway where the street names begin with “East,” you may be forgiven.
The correct answer is that, unlike the directional designations of North, South and West Seattle, East Seattle isn’t in Seattle at all. You have to head one mile east on Interstate 90 and across Lake Washington to find it at the northwestern edge of Mercer Island.
Nestled just south of where I-90 begins tunneling beneath the Mercer Island lid, the neighborhood of East Seattle is the island’s oldest, serving as the then-unincorporated community’s business and residential hub for decades before the floating bridge opened in 1940. It boasted a hotel, store, church, post office and the only civic vestige still standing from that era – 105-year-old East Seattle School.
The school may not stand much longer.
Built in 1914, operating as a public school (and sporting views of the lake and the majestic Olympics) until 1982 and as a Boys & Girls Club until 2008, the two-floor, Mission-style concrete structure has sat vacant in recent years and looks rather bedraggled. Its owner, auto magnate Michael O’Brien, who lives nearby, is seeking city permits to demolish it and fill its 2.9-acre trapezoidal parcel with 14 single-family homes.
This fate troubles some longtime islanders and graduates of the school. For Margaret Vik, 92, who attended East Seattle in the 1930s when Seattleites reached the island by boat, the school summons memories of simpler times – from echoing ferry foghorns to a steady corps of teachers, led by longtime principal Ethel Johnson, “who just required you to do your best,” she says. “I learned how to accept things the way they were. We were real country kids and lived country-style. Everybody knew everybody. Now you don’t. To me, it was heaven.”
The school’s demise, however, would be no surprise to those who have witnessed the island’s boom-bust school-age population cycles and relentless development pressure. No viable proposal to retain East Seattle School is surfacing, and, depending on how island city officials rule this fall, all that may survive its razing is an entrance archway or an interpretive plaque. But hope remains.
“There needs to be a creative reuse of this building,” says Jane Meyer Brahm, co-president of the local historical society and former city council member and newspaper editor, speaking in a video for the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, which listed East Seattle School on its Most Endangered Places list.
“This is the oldest public building on the island. For a community like Mercer Island with such a short history, we need to do a better job of preserving those historic buildings we do have.”
To see Jean Sherrard’s 360-degree video of the NOW1 prospect and compare it with the THEN1 photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!
Below are three photos from Grant Spearman, East Seattle School graduate, along with, in chronological order, 16 clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and the Mercer Island Reporter (available at Mercer Island Library) that, among many others, were helpful in the preparation of this column.
My great-grandfather, Arthur Manvel Dailey, arriving in Seattle in 1888, soon found work in the coal mines northeast of Renton. His sweetie (my future great-grandmother Agnes Johnson) was a schoolteacher in distant Ballard. Family lore tells of the arduous round trip from Newcastle to Ballard each Sunday, but for an ardent young suitor a few hours of travel were fair exchange for the weekly allotment of kisses.
And yet, were it not for a 40-mile stretch of “small, grimy, seemingly insignificant” pioneer railway, asserts historian Kurt E. Armbruster in his colorful latest book, “Pacific Coast: Seattle’s Own Railroad”, my ancestors’ romance – not to mention a growing young city’s fortunes – may have been much dampened.
From their arrival in 1851, early settlers knew that hopes for a profitable future rode an iron horse. Arthur Denny said he located on Puget Sound believing “that a railroad would be built across the continent to some point on the northern coast within … 15 or 20 years.”
Over the next two decades, however, those expectations were dashed by a number of obstacles, including conflict with native peoples, slumps of the economy, and the U.S. Civil War. In 1873 came more bad news. To Seattle’s dismay, the Northern Pacific Railroad sited the terminus of its cross-country line in Tacoma, leaving the Queen City isolated on her Elliott Bay throne.
But as railroads languished in King County, another economic engine built up steam. Immense seams of coal, pushed up by the Seattle Fault, had been discovered by the mid-1850s, and the foothills east of Lake Washington soon became teeming hives of activity. “In the nineteenth century,” says Armbruster, “coal was king … and Seattle had coal” – indeed, one of the largest coalfields on the west coast.
Vast shipments of “black gold” were readily snapped up by energy-hungry San Francisco to support its industry and transportation. But the convoluted, Herculean transport from coalface to waiting sailing ships in Elliott Bay took long days and cut deeply into profits.
Seattle’s citizens, stung by the rebuff of big rail, conjured an ingenious solution: build a railway that incidentally provided King Coal with a profitable route to market. And on May 1, 1874, thousands of eager Seattleites assembled to do just that. On that single day, a mile-long stretch of rail bed was cleared along the base of Beacon Hill for the somewhat presumptuously named Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad, eventually renamed the Pacific Coast Railroad.
In the end? Rails that, although never extending much further east than Black Diamond, shortened the mine-to-dock transport from days to mere hours. As a result, Seattle – and Grandpa Dailey – realized benefits that endured for decades to come.
Where were you and what were you doing when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon?
For many, the moment is etched deeply in memory.
My own recollection of July 20, 1969, is indelible. On the eve of my 18th birthday, my girlfriend took us to see “Oliver!” at the Magnolia Theater (now razed), but the auditorium was empty. Instead, we all crowded together in the lobby, craning our necks to peer at Armstrong’s “giant leap,” broadcast on a tiny black-and-white TV set perched on a chair next to the popcorn counter.
An Auburn attorney also knows where he was that day but has no memory of it. The very minute the lunar module Eagle touched the moon, he emerged on Earth, feet first, from his mother’s womb.
His birth, at Northwest Hospital near Northgate, became a media sensation because of his given name. Among many options, his parents considered Buzz, for Armstrong’s fellow astronaut Aldrin, and Apollo, for the space program. What stuck was the ultimate personal salute: Neil Armstrong Dial.
Turning 50 this month, Dial enjoys pondering how a quirk of timing gave him a guiding shadow he has always embraced.
While growing up in Richmond Beach, in seventh grade he gravitated to wrestling, which, he reflects, “taught me a lot about discipline and hard work.” Inspired by his namesake, he became an Eagle Scout and toyed with entering flight school to become an astronaut. Instead, he was drawn to the law. A husband and father of three, he works in the Tacoma firm founded by Ed Eisenhower, older brother of former president Dwight.
Wrestling remains a touchstone. He is head coach for about 20 wrestlers at Thomas Jefferson High School in Federal Way, where he advises against “showboating or doing things in a way that would make you more important than the team. That’s kind of how I am. Doing things right and living with honor have been important to me.”
A dozen years ago, Dial encountered those qualities first-hand when Armstrong, passing through Seattle, met with him for 15 minutes at the Washington Athletic Club. Dial found him humble, unassuming. “He really didn’t want to talk about himself. He wanted to know about me.”
Five years later, Armstrong died. Today, Dial, with gentle lawyerly humor, perceives in his hero some universality amid the uniqueness:
“He had an opportunity that came to him. It could have been many people in the program, and it fell that way for him. In some respects, that’s how it’s worked out for me. Anybody could have been born at that moment. It’s nothing I did. I don’t even remember the event, so everything I could tell you is hearsay.”
To see Jean Sherrard’s 360-degree video of the “now” prospect and compare it with the “then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!
Below is a 14-minute interview of Neal Armstrong Dial from July 9, 2019, in which he reflects on how he was given his name, meeting his famous namesake and how the Neil Armstrong legacy has affected his life. To see the video, click the photo or here.
Below are two photos and, in chronological order, four clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that among many others were helpful in the preparation of this column.
We begin our installment with indecision – is it Interbay, or is it Belltown? – and hope that one or more of Seattle’s rail fans eventually will expose which of our two “now” images comes closer to repeating this week’s featured historical photograph.
Ron Edge appears in both of our “nows” because he first introduced the “then” to us. He acquired this slumbering classic of five early Seattle streetcars from an internet dealer in Austin, Texas. It would be interesting to know the travels of this cabinet card over the last 129 years and how many hands it passed through before returning home.
You may know by now that Ron frequently contributes to this weekly feature. An impassioned collector-cartographer, he has become familiar with Seattle’s history through clues found in its artifacts and ephemera. These may include artists’ panoramas and the calculations, sketches and maps held in private hands throughout the world – all of them awaiting researchers.
Such efforts often are revealed to us with the uncovering of an old photograph like this one. Although this is clearly a Seattle classic, after a half-century of looking I had never seen it. Surely many more unknown historic images of Seattle have been distributed to the four winds and are slowly reappearing for sale on the internet.
For our two “now” images, Ron put his safety in the clicking hands of Jean Sherrard, who posed him near the centerlines of two Seattle arterials, Western Avenue in Belltown and 15th Avenue West in Interbay.
In 1890, the likely year for our “then,” both streets were sections of then-new West Street and served by North End Electric Railway Company’s fresh franchise between its suburban terminus in the new and burgeoning Ballard and the Seattle waterfront near West (now Western Avenue) and Madison Street. For evidence of the line’s Ballard origin, note the “Salmon Bay” sign painted on the front car.
A MILDLY ANXIOUS CALL FOR READERS’ REPORTS
So which “now” is it, dear reader? Eventually, Ron persuaded Jean and me that these trolleys, along with two-dozen hatted motormen and gentleman passengers, are posing on Western Avenue, somewhere near Cedar Street in Belltown. To make this claim, Ron compared the relative inclines of Denny Hill (then still standing) above Western Avenue and the still-steep Queen Anne Hill ridge above 15th Avenue West.
There are, however, other “considerations.” For the curious among you, we might have elaborated them in our blog, listed below. But we shall not. The last word here (in the printed feature) is the liberal suggestion from Ron. He advises, “Perhaps we are all wrong.” Riding this reluctance, we will wait on your our readers’ calculation. It this Western Avenue or 15th Avenue West? Jean assures Clay and me that you readers know how to respond, and so we will expect your selections — Western or 15th — and in a week or three share the accounting with our first “readers’ report.”
To see Jean Sherrard’s 360-degree video of the “now” prospect and compare it with the “then,” and to hear this column read aloud by Paul Dorpat, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!
Anything to add, fellas? Sure, and easy, too — a few past links that touch on Ballard or approach it.