Seattle Now & Then: Where's the Beef?

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: With back to Valley Street, an unnamed photographer records the night lights of what is a nearly new Dag’s Drive-In, where, its celebrated back-lighted reader board explains, 19-cent Beefy Boy Burgers are served with “aba cadabra.” (Courtesy, the Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: A concrete patch marks the footprint where with speed Dag’s once sectioned, cooked and served four hundred steers a year. The also speedy Aurora Ave. is on the left.

In 1955 Ed and Boe Messet opened a flashy 19-cent hamburger joint they named Dag’s, a nickname for their father.  The elder Messet was a third generation stone cutter, and with family help he sold monuments and chiseled epitaphs off the 800-block on Aurora.  There in 1955, after their father’s passing, Ed and Boe turned from stone to meat and potatoes.  Fast food success seemed assured on their block long lot facing the busy speedway.  The brothers explained that they wanted to run a business where no one would owe them anything at the end of the day.

Strange it was then in 1959 when the Messets began issuing credit cards to their many hungry beef-on-a-bun customers.   This oddity was soon resolved once the card was read.  Beside a cartoon of a dapper steer was printed, “Dag’s Credit Card – Good When Accompanied With Cash.”

This “cash card” and many other Dag’s promotions were brain-children of a brilliantly screwball cooperation between Boe Messet and one of the region’s press agent legends, Bob Ward.  There are many examples.  Dag’s new incinerator was dedicated with a fancy VIP party.  The guests included Gracie Hansen, Century 21’s designated girlie-review impresario.   The Dag’s parking lot was once fitted with a dance floor, cordoned with red velvet rope.  It was for doing the twist, and although only four feet square it worked fine for a twisting couple “as long as one of them didn’t move.”

With its hijinks and hoaxes Dag’s prospered, especially once its witty “Beefy Boy” reader board began amusing motorist with messages like “Good Meat but Humble Attitude” and “This is Dag’s, Canlis is Ten Blocks North.” (Canlis is the surviving many star restaurant on Aurora at the bridge.)  The family business survived in the somewhat voracious competition for fast food customers until 1993.  In 1962, the year of its neighbor Century 21, The Seattle Time’s humorist, the ample John Reddin explained that Dag’s served 400 steers a year and “something we fatties can understand, four tons of French fried potatoes each week.  That’s a lot of calories.”


Jean here: Ah, Dags…  As a young actor in the 80s, I’d often drive home after a play and stop at Dag’s for a bite. I have only vague memories of desultory service and that Aba Cadabra sauce. My fast food tastes leant more towards the long extinct Herfy’s and (to this day) Dick’s.

You, my friend, who today devour nothing with four legs (what do you have against chickens really?), must have something to add – say it’s so, Paul!

Before I answer for Chickens – and fish too – I’ll tell you where the beef is.  It – its devotional ICON – is hanging on the back wall of DICK’S on 45th in Wallingford, a beef buffo (a clown for beef eaters) with which you are familiar.  But, Jean, did you remember this swell or swelling painting on the back wall?  Have you been alert and seen it?  Eyes open, Jean!

Dear Paul, of course I know the cow on the wall. How could one avoid its kindly gaze – blessing the meat eaters who gather at the windows?

The legendary Dick’s, with its tartar-slathered Deluxe and its nonpareil fries (fries, as my pal Sean Sullivan once put it, “with a whisper of grease”)  is a fave of many Seattleites, generations of whom stopped for cones or shakes after Little League, soccer, and football games.

Sean Sullivan

Last year, I stopped for some fries after a late class at the Alliance Francaise in the Good Shepherd Center. It was about 9:30 pm – late February – and Dick’s was deserted. I walked up to one of the windows and ordered. Waiting for my fries (with a whisper of grease), I heard a familiar voice order a Deluxe and fries from the next window over. It was a voice with a classic Northwest inflection, slightly nasal, with perhaps a touch of a whine.

I glanced to my left and observed a mid-50ish man, of medium height and build, wearing glasses with sandy hair worn long over his forehead like many of us did in junior high in the 70s.  At first, I must confess, I though it was our good friend Greg Lange, who lives only a couple blocks  from Dick’s. But it wasn’t Greg’s voice. The raspy tenor belonged to Bill Gates, and he was wearing the same sweater he’d worn on the Daily Show early in the week.

My fries arrived and, without a word, I went to my car and watched Bill collect his order, climb in his car and drive away. If there was security anywhere about, they kept to the shadows, as Bill appeared to be on his own. Amazingly, no one behind the counter seemed to have recognized him.

I finished my fries (“w.a.w.o.g”) and went back to the window Gates had ordered from.  “Do you know who you just served?” I asked. The Dick’s gal shook her head slowly, “He looked familiar.  Who was it?” When I told her, she laughed aloud. “But he was all on his own!” she exclaimed.

Parked east of Dick's on 45th on a rainy February 7, 2002

Truly, Paul, so many stories swirl around Dick’s – several spring to mind, including when I narrowed avoided bullets on Broadway. Perhaps another time. Surely you’ve got a slew of ’em as well….

Jean, I may be imagining it but isn’t that a full-face portrait – primitive surely – of Bill Gates that I detect in the rain drops on your windshield?

For three years Jean – as you know – I trampled through the Dick’s parking lot while on my daily Wallingford Walks and sometimes I ordered those healthfries too.   The most famous person I saw there was the long-time employee who served me my fries.  Everyone knew her.   I’ll return to Dick’s near the conclusion of what follows in the way of neighborhood subjects as well as features that treat on fast food service, like the Bungalow, a hamburger joint nearby on Roy off of 9th Avenue. The writing on the photograph indicates that this is a tax photo from 1937 or ’38.   Note from the signs the relative dearness of Hamburgers and fish and chips. (click to enlarge)

This post-war aerial looks directly down on Dag Messet's monument business, lower-left, that his sons dropped for Hamburgers. Note also the Kuertzer Flying Service at the lake, the Naval Armory with a submarine tied to its water end, and the Christie Lambert building, top left-of-center, the pie-shape 3-story industrial building now the home of American Meter Machine. For a year or two, 1979-80, I shared a studio on the top floor over-looking the lake with wrap-around windows. It was rather drafty in the winter. (This and the next aerial come with the courtesy on Ron Edge.)
Looking in the opposite direction taken by the first aerial, and including near the top the rear view of Dags on Aurora between Aloha and Valley. At center-right, again, is the Christie Lambert Building in the flatiron block where 8th Ave. splits off of Westake.

The above and below center-line studies of Aurora Ave. in the limited access stretch between the Aurora Bridge and Aloha were photographed by a city photographer on July 25th, 1945, a dozen days before the Aug. 6 drop of an A-Bomb on Hiroshima.  (Courtesy Municipal Archive)

Follows a feature that was included on this blog earlier, but is especially apt in this beefy context.

Starting to make Aurora into a speedway in 1932.  The view looks north over Broad Street when it still shared an intersection with Aurora.   The now view below was photographed by David Jeffers whose sensitivities in these matters of repeat photography are, if anything, more exacting that Jean’s or mine.


(Again, we have shared this feature before on dorpatsherrardlomont, and do it now again because of its relevance to fast food and much else on Aurora and beside it.)

The historical view north from Broad Street on Aurora Avenue was photographed in the first moments of the future strip’s transformation from a neighborhood byway into the city’s first speedway. One clue to the street’s widening is the double row of high poles. Old ones line the avenue’s original curb and new ones signal its new eastern border. Also look at the Sanitary Laundry Co. at the northeast corner of Aurora and Mercer Street (behind the Standard Station on the right). The business has cut away enough of its one-story brick plant to lop the “Sanit” from Sanitary on the laundry’s Mercer Street sign.

A photographer from the city’s Engineering Department recorded this view on the morning of June 10, 1932, nearly five months after the dedication of the Aurora Bridge. The widened Aurora speedway between the bridge and Broad Street was not opened until May 1933. Once opened, the speed limit on Aurora was set at a then-liberal 30 mph. Traffic lights were installed at both Mercer and Broad streets, and a visiting highway expert from Chicago declared the new Aurora “the best express highway in the U.S.” It also soon proved to be one of the most deadly.

By 1937, three years after safety islands were installed to help pedestrians scamper across the widened speedway, the city coroner counted 37deaths on Aurora since the bridge dedication in 1932. Twenty of these were pedestrians, and 11 more were motorists who crashed into these “concrete forts” or “islands of destruction.” For a decade, these well-intentioned but tragically clumsy devices dominated the news on Aurora. In 1944 the city removed those that motorists had not already destroyed.

The fate of one safety island on Aurora and by implication one or more motorists and/or pedestrians. (Courtesy, Municipal Archive.)

On April 22, 1953, the city’s traffic engineer confirmed what commuters must have suspected, that this intersection was the busiest in the city. Traffic from the recently completed Alaskan Way

Viaduct entered the intersection from both Aurora and Broad. (There was as yet no Battery Street tunnel.) Five years later this congestion was eliminated with the opening of the Broad and Mercer Street underpasses. The Standard gasoline station, on the right, was one of the many business eliminated in this public work.

Now pedestrians can safely pass under Aurora, although many still prefer living dangerously with an occasional scramble across the strip. Since 1973 they have had to also hurdle the “Jersey barrier” — the concrete divider (first developed in New Jersey) thathas made the dangerous Aurora somewhat safer for motorists if not for pedestrians.



The southwest corner of Lake Union has always been a useful place. The shoreline there was a wetland frequented by waterfowl and the Indians who hunted them — often entangling the unsuspecting birds in nets.  Ducks would fly low back and forth between Elliott Bay and the Lake and the natives themselves regularly trekked this relatively easy pass across the swale between Queen Anne and Denny Hills.

As early as the 1880s the lake’s southwest corner became a popular swimming beach among the settlers. There the gradual slope of the lake bottom made it fit for waders and beginners.  No doubt a number of pioneers learned to swim there.

Although we cannot know whether the splasher – Abba Brown lived nearby. (Her husband and boy Leon appear below on the back porch of the family home on Dexter.) – in the oldest of these two scenes is also a swimmer we can place her with some confidence.  The trolley trestle on the right was constructed in 1890 very nearly in line with the contemporary Westlake Avenue.  Here about three blocks beyond the lake’s old southern shore it reaches the foot of Queen Anne Hill.  From this point it followed the shoreline north to Fremont.  That puts the swimmer near the southeast corner of what is now the flatiron block bordered by Westlake, Eighth Avenue North and Aloha Street.  She may be on the future Westlake itself — ten or fifteen feet below it.

The intermediary view looks east in line with Aloha Street or nearly so.  The evidence for this siting can be seen best with a magnifying lens and the original print for the developed street which begins its Capitol Hill ascent above the roofline of the Brace & Herbert Mill, upper right, is Aloha.  That puts the photographer of this dump scene near Dexter Avenue, most likely a few feet east of it.  The photograph is dated, October 28, 1915 — about a dozen years after the splasher.

Raising ravines and wetlands with urban refuse was a city wide habit well into the 1950s.  At first a number of dumps were required because the horse and wagon delivery teams could not travel great distances to transfer stations to unload their neighborhood junk.  These wagons wait in line on or near what is now 8th Avenue N.  Judging from the size of the horses and the man, far right, raking the discharged trash (for collectibles?) the elevation change on Eighth at Aloha is nearly twenty feet.

The line of Westlake is seen just above the wagon that is dropping its load and is hidden behind the line of billboards left of center.

William LeRoy Brown - plumber, photographer, clarinetist - with his son Leon Brown on the back porcho of their home of Dexter Avenue near Thomas Street looking west. (Well they are looking east towards the camera, which is looking West.) Today Aurora Avenue is behind them. (Well it is then too, but not so obvious.)


Above: On Aloha Street between Dexter and 8th Avenues, the nearly completed city’s transformer sub-station is readied to supply electricity to the “A Division” – Seattle’s first municipal streetcar line.  (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey & the Municipal Archive)  Below:  Dan Jarvie purchased the city’s obsolete sub-station during the Second World War and converted it for the manufacture of his namesake paints.  He also filled the block between Dexter and 8th Avenues with additions.  Paint chemist Kurt Bailey purchased the facilities and business in 1978.   At this writing (now years ago) the old transformer station is used by Power R for the manufacture of computer accessories.  (It has since been razed and replace with . . . I’ll need to drive by there an investigate.)


Most likely City Architect Daniel R. Huntington designed this sub-station at the southwest corner of Lake Union for Seattle’s first municipal railroad.  In many features – the concrete, the ornamental tile, the roofline, the windows — it looks like a small variation on Huntington’s Lake Union Steam Plant at the southeast corner of the lake.   The original negative is dated March 17, 1914.

The date suggests that some of the workmen making final touches to this little bastion of public works may be feeling the pressure of their lame duck mayor, George F. Gotterill.  In the last week of his mayoralty this champion of public works “insisted,” the Times reported, on taking the first run on the new four-mile line that reached from downtown to Dexter Avenue (the photographer’s back is to Dexter) and beyond to Ballard at Salmon Bay.   Although the double tracks had been in place since City Engineer A.H. Dimmock drove the last “golden spike” the preceding October 10, this transformer sub-station was not completed nor were the wires yet in place for Cotterill’s politic ride.  “The car” a satiric Seattle Times reporter put it, “may have to be helped along by the hands and shoulders of street railway employees . . .”

Fortunately, for everyone but Cotterill and the Cincinnati company that manufactured the rolling stock, it was reported on the day after this photograph was taken that the new cars couldn’t handle the curves in the new line because their wheels were built four inches too close to the framework.

Two months later the first municipal streetcar responded to the call “Let her Go” made by trolley Superintendent A. Flannigan at 5:35 AM on the Saturday of May 23.  Long-time City Councilman Oliver T. Erickson, whom Pioneer PR-man C.T. Conover described as “the apostle of municipal ownership and high priest of the Order of Electric Company Haters,” had just bought the first tickets while his wife and daughters Elsie and Francis tried to “conceal yawns.”   Erickson’s earlier attempts to promote funding for a ceremonial inaugural failed.  By the enthused report of the Star – then Seattle’s third daily – the first ride was a happy one.  “Nobody smiled.  Everybody grinned broadly.  Everybody talked at once.  Nobody knew what anybody else was saying and nobody cared.”



Another captioned example of a late 1930s tax photo. The W.P.A. collection that includes this look at a Handcock station, and thousands more subjects (every taxable structure in King County in 1936), are kept at the Washington State Archive branch that is on the Bellevue Community College campus. If you are interested in seeing what might be there that shows off some property of interest to you - say your home! - then get the tax number or some other legal descripton (like addition-block-lot) and call archivist Greg Lange at 425 564 3942. Greg is most civil and it is not expensive.)
With the famous front grill of an Edsel on the right and the exhuberant cartoon representative of happy motoring and clouds spread like whipped confections on a cookie sheet, this 1950s Aurora station is most inviting - and timely too with its big clock. (The photograph is by Roger Dudley and used courtesy of Dan Eskenazi.)

Next,  Ron Edge has discovered a series of photographs following the slumping fate of the Treasure Chest Service Station, also on Aurora.  Some are dated and all are courtesy of the Municipal Archive.



In late 1890 or perhaps 1891 David Denny hired Frank LaRoche to record this view of his enlarged Western Mill at the south end of Lake Washington.  That the LaRoche view is a revelator of the mill’s size is no trick of portraiture.  In 1889 this was the largest mill in Seattle.  Denny built it with the help of John Brace his skilled manager who had descended from a long line of lumbermen.  The timing was fortuitous for late that spring the business district of Seattle burned to the ground and, of course, the biggest mill helped rebuild it.

Western Mill opened in 1882 eager to harvest the forests that then still surrounded Lake Union.  The mill was also ready to add Lake Washington to its field when the big lake was “opened” the following year with the cutting of the Montlake log canal. Denny was one of the investors in canal.  By the time this photograph was recorded the sides of Lake Union – with the exception of a few withheld patches – were clear-cut, so the logs waiting here in the millpond are most likely from the big lake.

When the Westlake Trestle, from which LaRoche recorded his photograph, was completed to Fremont in the fall of 1890 the little steamers that had been delivering north end residents – many then still farmers – to the shores of Fremont, Edgewater and Latona (there was as yet no Wallingford or University District) suffered a sudden dive in patronage.

As lumber mills are often want to do – even iron ones – this version of Western Mill burned down in 1909.  By then it was called the Brace and Hergert mill for Frank Hergert and David Denny’s former manager John Brace had purchased the mill from its receiver after Denny lost it – and practically all else – in the great economic panic of 1893.  After the fire the partners rebuilt their mill on new fill north of Valley Street.



In the interests of promoting the south end of Lake Union as the strategic route for boomtown Seattle’s rapid spread north an early 20th-Century real estate company called it “The Big Funnel.”   In 1906 Westlake Avenue was cut through the city grid thereby linking the business district directly with the lake.   Here the way for the funnel is still being prepared by the Western Mill built, in part, over the lake and seen at the center of Arthur Churchill Warner’s ca. 1892 photograph, directly below.  Warner looks down from the eastern slope of Queen Anne Hill with his back to what would be developed into Aurora Avenue (Historical View Courtesy of Mike Cirelli.)

When Western Mill was first built in 1882 it was surrounded by tall stands of virgin Douglas fir and cedar.   The mill worked around the clock to turn it all into timber and here only a decade later the neighborhood is practically void of trees.  A few stragglers survive on the Capitol Hill horizon.  Most likely many of the homes that dapple this landscape were conveniently built of lumber cut from the trees that once stood here.

The street in the foreground is Dexter.  Beyond it is the trolley trestle bound for Fremont that was built over the lake north from the mill in 1890.  Its name Rollins was changed to Westlake not long after Warner captured it. This side of Westlake — the Lake’s extreme southwest corner — was a popular summer swimming hole until it was turned into one of the city’s many dumps and filled in with garbage and construction waste in the late teens.  Once landlocked Westlake was soon widened and paved.

Beyond the Westlake trestle is a millpond littered with logs.   There more recently a distinguished line of vessels has been moored.  These include ships stationed here after the Naval Armory was completed in 1941.  More recently the ferry San Mateo rested here until she was towed to Canada, and now the San Mateo’s younger sister ferry the Kalakala is expected to find temporary refuge in this harbor.   (As it turned out the Kalakala’s part was more hoped for by some than “expected.” It was, we know, not fulfilled.)

The San Mateo west of the Naval Armory about twenty years ago. The piles in the foreground may be remnants of the old Westlake trestle - perhaps.
Closer on the same now lost day.
The Virginia V approaching her berth near the Swiftsure and the Naval Armory, soon to become the new home for MOHAI, the Museum of History and Industry. This one has a date: Aug. 26, 2007.
Same day, moments later, in or nearly in her slip.
Another day and earlier, although not recorded.

The last of our “Mosquito Fleet” steamers, the recently restored Virginia V now bobs in these waters as one of the main attractions of the new Marine Center that is rejuvenating the old armory.  Locals with a taste for irony may recall that another Puget Sound steamer, the City of Everett, gave her last days here as the converted Surfside 9 Restaurant.  She sank in the 60s after City Light turned off her bilge pumps for failure to pay the electric bill.  (More on her just below.)

Probably the earliest view of the Western Mill from the Queen Anne corner of Lake Union.
Another LaRoche recording of the mill, this time looking over Westlake and including an early electric trolley. Capitol Hill is on the horizon. (Courtesy U.W. Libraries, Special Collections.)




After serving for years as a passenger and freight “Mosquito Fleet” steamer principally between Seattle and its namesake city, the City of Everett was moved through the Chittenden Locks and developed as a restaurant. Here she makes a regular stop at Edmonds on her packet.
First the City of Everett was anchored near Leschi on Lake Washington and operated there as the Golden Anchors restaurant.
Four Winds Restaurant. Finally the City of Everett was towed to the southwest corner of Lake Union and renamed the Four Winds Restaurant. It was there that it sank. After failing to pay its electric bill City Light cut off its power and so its pumps, and the ship sank.
The Four Winds from the air.
. . . and from the roof of the Naval Armory.


B. Marcus Priteca, Seattle’s admired and celebrated architect of motion picture palaces, assisted in the 1940 design of the U.S. Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center at the south end of Lake Union.  In the contemporary view the Center for Wooden Boats fills the slip formerly held by minesweepers, patrol craft, destroyers and the occasional submarine.  (Historical view courtesy of Mimi Sheridan.)


Used principally by early settlers for fishing, swimming, skating (when it froze over) and more than a few romantic picnics Lake Union was rarely put to work before the Western Mill was opened on its southern shore in 1882.   There were exceptions.

In the mid-1850s an earlier but short-lived mill operated near the future Fremont — it was torched during the Battle of Seattle.  Next a shady scheme by a few prominent locals to turn the lake by legal statute into their private commercial fishing reserve was thwarted in the mid-1860s.  And through most of the 1870s coal scows were towed the length of the lake from Montlake to (the future) Westlake Avenue.

Since 1940 the great white art deco pile of reinforced concrete raised for the Navy to teach its recruits and reserves has dominated the southern end of Lake Union.  As detailed by historic preservationist Mimi Sheridan in her study of the Armory and its landmark status, inside were a full-scale ship’s bridge, a rifle range, a chart room, a radio room and a “wet trainer.”   This last was a watertight room sealed for filling to practice evacuating a flooded ship.

This coming weekend, May 25 and 26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the Naval Armory’s big drill room will serve as both a second sound stage for the live music of Folklife Festival and an exhibition hall for the members of AKCHO, the Association of King County Historical Organizations. (Not so.  This dates from a few years back.)

The Maritime Heritage Foundation will be among the about 50 groups participating in this big free show.  Since the year 2000 when the Navy donated this property to the city (from whom it originally received it) it has been the MHF, a consortium of groups nurturing our maritime history that has been developing the lakeside Naval Armory.   It is envisioned that ultimately the south end of Lake Union will grow into a center for maritime heritage comparable to the Pacific Science Center and the Museum of Flight.   This coming weekend is a splendid opportunity to visit this vision nearly at its birth.  (Not so. The Armory is in the midst of renovations for its new occupant, the Museum of History and Industry, expected next summer, 2012.

(This permits us to remind you that the old and still active MOHAI in Montlake will have the REPEAT PHOTOGRAPHY exhibit up for another year.  We are told that the attendance has been “remarkable.”  Well we hope so.  But call first because sometimes they use the exhibit room they chose for the “repeaters” Berangere, Jean and myself for other events.)



“Westlake Avenue” from “Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle” by Sophie Frye Bass.  Published in 1937. This often helpful book of pioneer recollections was written by Sophie Frye Bass, a granddaughter of Arthur and Mary Denny.  Her subject “Westlake Avenue” is an evocative description of the Indian culture that once camped beside the wetlands at the south end of Lake Union.  The illustration of a typical portable native shelter, made mostly of mats, is corroborated by a photograph of the same kind of structure that appears just below.  Her description here begins with a note on the charms of the abandoned railroad route that ran up the valley in the 1870s.  “The pioneers were naturally resourceful, but it took all their ingenuity to bring coal from the Renton mine to the narrow gauge railroad running from Lake Union to Pike Street by way of what is now called Westlake Avenue.  Some years later a shorter route for bringing the coal to Seattle was chosen by way of Mox La Push, or Black River Junction, and the Lake Union Road was abandoned.   One of our favorite walks was this abandoned road, or “down the grade” as we called it.  It was lined with all kinds of shrubs – wild roses, red currant and squaw berry bushes.  Picnics were held there too.”

“Westlake Avenue” from “Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle” continued.   I could never understand why mothers did not go early and stay late.  I thought a picnic was not a picnic unless it began at nine and ended at eight.  ‘Down the grade’ as a tall fir tree that had been struck by lightning and curiously marked with rings running spirally down the trunk.  Being so unusual, all the children in town came and had a ‘look see’, and every little newcomer had to be shown that tree.  I doubt if I will ever forget the day Little Brother and I were playing ‘down the grade’ and blowing shrill whistles made from ‘horsetail’ that grew so lush there, when we met an old, gray-haired Indian and blew long and loud at him.  ‘Copet!’ he yelled at us, but we kept right on, although we knew very well that ‘copet’ was Chinook for ‘Stop’.  ‘Copet!’ he yelled again and raised his staff and took a step toward us.  This time we not only ‘copetted’ but we klatawa-ed (ran).  Perhaps the shrill whistle hurt his ears – or his dignity – or possibly there was some superstition connected with it.  How little we white children realized the tragedy of the Indians who

were seeing their ancestral hunting grounds forever taken away.  We were often provoking.  I remember another escapade of Little Brother’s and mine when we rudely intruded upon a klottchman about to bathe.  She too took after us and made us klatawa (run).  A large Indian camp built at the shoreline of Lake Union near Westlake held several families, and, being made of cedar slabs and bark, it withstood the weather.  An opening in the roof allowed the smoke to escape; poles were put across the room, and on these fish and clams were strung to dry over the fire.  Mother could always tell where we had been from the odor that clung to us of smoke and drying fish.  We children liked to go to the camp for there were so many interesting things going on.  The Indians called us ‘George Ply’s tenas’ and laughed at our attempts to speak Chinook.  If we girls wore bright

hair-ribbons or particularly bright frocks, the tslanies (women) would feel of them and say,  “Utch-a-edah, Utch-a-dah”.  Utch-a-dah has several meanings as so many of their words have – pleasure, surprise or sympathy, and long drawn out “Utch — a — dah” means “very, very sorry.”   We would watch the Siwash gamble as they sat in a circle in the big house, or the boys making arrows and spears.  The women would be weaving mats and baskets, cleaning fish and drying berries, most of the work about the camp being done by them.  When not weaving, they were out getting food.  On their way home from digging clams, picking berries, or cutting pitch wood, they would squat on the ground, remove the headbands which were attached to their baskets from their heads, and rest.  There was always a lummei  (old woman) who was a leader among the women, and when she was rested and decided it was time to go, she would say “Ho-bil-itkt-te-dow-wah. Ho-bil-itkt” (move on).  With many grunts and grumblings, first one and then another would slowly pick up her basket, put on her head-band and as slowly move on.  After all had gone and in single file, the lummei would pick up her basket and ho-bil-itkt (move).   Even as a child, I sometimes realized the beauty of Indian life, and there is a memory of a young Indian woman’s silhouetted against the sky with uplifted arms chanting a weird dirge.  Mother said she was probably mourning for her baby.  Westlake North – at one time called Rollin – from Roy Street to Fremont was built along the shore over Lake Union on piles covered with heavy wooden planks.  Gradually

With some searching - left of center - a vestige of an indian plank and mat shelter can be found even in soft focus of this look east from the present route of Aurora to the Western Mill site with, again, Capitol Hill on the horizon. Westlake Ave. is in the mid-ground. (Courtesy, U.W. Libraries.)

it was filled in underneath with earth, and railway and streetcar tracks were laid.  Little houseboats are now tied along the lake shore and fishing boats from the Banks are resting at their moorings. Since Westlake has developed into a regular street and been paved, Fremont does not seem so many miles away as it did in the early days.   It is hard to make myself believe that I have seen a narrow gauge railroad grow into a city street.  As I look back the changes seem to have come quickly.  It is a though I suddenly awakened to find I live in a city, civilization about me, forests receding, beauty spots gone, and where I had picked lady-slippers, trilliums and Johnny-jump-ups, there is hard pavement; but I accept it – glad to have lived in the beginning of things.”


BACK TO AURORA – This time in MAY 1967, recent enough, perhaps, for many readers to write their own caption.  A FOUR-PART PANORAMA from the TROPICS HOTEL photographed by Robert Bradley. (CLICK to ENLARGE)


We will include now more fast food with the beginning of the Ivar’s on Broadway part of “Keep Clam” – a biography of Ivar Haglund “expected” in toto next year.


Planning for the city’s 1951 founder’s centennial was led by some of the same Press Club’s Round Table wits who thought up Seafair, in other words some of the many vice presidents Ivar used for his first international clam eating contest in 1948.  The privileged heir of Alki Beach history and property might have been forgiven if he once more exploited his pioneer links the year the city celebrated the “Denny Party” and its landing a century earlier at Alki Point.   However, for his own “landing” celebration, Ivar waited until 1952 and instead looked for other opportunities.  Riding the surge of affection for both himself and his Acres, Ivar was, in fact, ready to look forward and expand.   For the moment at least, history be damned.

The Broadway Ivar's grill. (Courtesy, Ivar's)

While I have failed to uncover any Ivar reflection on why he chose Capitol Hill for this 1951 extension — nor did I think to ask him – with a little pondering I believe we may get it.  With his guide, Harry Blangy, a Henry Broderick real estate agent, Ivar’s search led him away from the waterfront to the long ridge behind the business district where he found the northwest corner of E. Thomas Street and Broadway Avenue North to his liking.  Next, in January 1951 Ivar announced that “a fish-snack bar will be erected there with ample parking facilities to accommodate customers.” (That may have been the only time “fish” and “snack” appeared side-by-side in news about Ivar.)  Eighteen years Ivar held that corner.  Measured by the life span of most cafes it was a success.  It was also a fitful haul requiring many adjustments.

At one time Ivar's on Broadway ran lines for Mexican, Chinese fast menus, Fish and Chips and Hamburgers. It was not easy for the cooking times varied so. Bob Landsby, Ivar's longest employee, stands to the rear. Bob started with Ivar in 1939 at the Aquarium on Pier 54.

Substitute Ivar’s “Culture of Clams” for the “American Hamburger Communion” and his new drive-in was somewhat like Dick’s.  At both drive-ins the customer had to get out of the car.  Dick’s first opened in Wallingford in 1954 and one year later on Broadway just a block-and-one-half south of Ivar. Compared with Triple-X, Dick and Ivar were late comers.  With its 1930 (continued below)

(Seattle University sports rallies used the Broadway Ivar’s parking lot – especially during the years the O’Brien twins played for Seattle U.  Eddie is with some fans below.)

opening, the Triple-X in Issaquah was (and still is) by far the oldest drive-in around, and like Burgermaster, which opened near the University District in 1952, Triple-X offered curb-service. One never had to leave the car.  Ivar’s on Broadway had a large enclosed lobby where the customer ordered over a counter.  When in opened in the early fifties once food was in hand more often than not customers chose to return to the car or sit on the curb to eat it.  (For reasons we will describe below – in the book – Ivar soon changed that.) Triple XXX and Burgermaster were primarily for beef eaters.  Dick’s was devoted to beef alone and still makes it a point of pride that it serves no chicken sandwiches, onion rings, tacos, turnovers or fish anything.  Recalling Ivar’s vaunted search in 1948 for the “essential regular American cooking”, perhaps the 29-year old Dick Spady defined it in 1953 with burgers, fries and shakes only – not counting the sodas.


BACK TO DICK’S next – SHOTS RECORDED on my WALLINGFORD WALKS between 2006 and 2010.

The Dick's line in Wallingford during the 2006 remodel.
Meat and Atonement, 2007
These friends and a poodle drove all the way from Arlington for their Dick's burgers. They came in one of those cute new VW Bugs.
On a Wallingford Halloween an appreciative Dick's customer, and parents, show up at Flip and Marilyn's famous Halloween Production staged in front of their home on 42nd Street, three blocks south of Dick's.
Dick's busy staff during the 2006 remodel.
Another Wallingfordian who dresses up to visit Dick's.


Concluding, perhaps, with another venerable FAST FOOD SERVER – SPUD on ALKI BEACH

Spud began on Alki Beach in 1935 as a seasonal sidewalk service in a clapboard shack. Following WW2 it moved into this modern fish stand. Now Spud is a year-round two-floored emporium that seats 80-plus lovers of deep-fried fish served with both tradition and a view of Puget Sound. (This is also in response to Jean’s reference at the top to me - Dorpat - and chicken and here I add fish.)


Brothers Jack and Frank Alger opened The SPUD on Alki Beach in June of 1935.  It was the beginning of summer but also the dead of the depression. At 10 Cent for a cardboard boat stuffed with fries and two big pieces of breaded ling cod the English-born Alger’s fish and chips serving was affordable, delicious and filling – but only in the warmer months.

To either side of SPUD was a line of small beach homes, a few small apartments, Turner’s Shell station, Sea Home Grocery, Seaside Pharmacy, Alki Bakery, two groceries, a barber, a cobbler, a plumber, a tailor and four other eateries — two serving hamburgers and hot dogs and the other two fish and chips.  Most commonly on Alki Ave. s.w. were the vacancies but most importantly for the life of the beach was the Alki Natatorium Swimming Pool built across from Spud on pilings over the tides.

Following the war the nifty modern plant seen here features portholes, and SPUD written in big bas-relief block letters over the front door.  Sheltered inside was a counter with four stools.   By then there were Spuds at Green Lake and Juanita as well.   The family continued to run the Alki Spud until Frank’s son Rick decided prudently at the age of 55 that he needed “to slow down and enjoy life more.”   Recently retiring to build their “dream home” on Hood Canal Rick and Terry Alger sold Spud to Ivar’s.

It was in 1938 when Ivar Haglund opened his first café – a fish and chips stand at the entrance to his aquarium on Pier 54 — the Alger brothers helped him.   Roy Buckley, Ivar’s first employee, learned his fish and chips while working at Spud.  All of them, Frank, Jack, Ivar and Roy were West Seattle lads.

While both Spud and Ivar’s survive in 2003 (when this was first written), we may conclude by listing a few popular restaurants of 1938 that do not.  All are still savored in memory only.  Manca’s and the swank Maison Blanc; The Green Apple (home of the Green Apple Pie); The Jolly Rogers, The Dolly Madison Dining Room, and Mannings Coffee (several of them); the Moscow Restaurant and the Russian Samovar; Ben Paris downtown and Jules Maes in Georgetown; the Mystic Tea Cup, and the Twin T-P’s, Seattle’s Aurora strip landmark most recently lost to a tasteless midnight wrecker.

A Modern-Romantic architectural cupcake on Aurora, and a Dags neighbor.

6 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Where's the Beef?”

  1. As a ’62 Queen Anne graduate, my friends and I ate quite a few cheeseburgers and frys at Dag’s from 1960 to 1962. And just prior to retiring, the firm I worked for had a number of parking spaces in the lot on the old Dag’s location. Unless my memory – and memories – are a bit foggy, I believe your quote of the sign differentiating Dag’s from Canlis is in error and misses the essence of the humor in the sign. As I remember, the sign said “This here is Dag’s – Canlis is 10 bucks north.”

    1. Might be off topic, but does anyone remember The 4th Avenue Drive in on 4th Ave S. Where exactly? Thanks.

  2. My friends and I ate quite a few cheeseburgers and frys at Dag’s from 1960 to 1962. And unless my memory is a bit foggy, I believe your quote of the sign differentiating Dag’s from Canlis is in error and misses the essence of the humor in the sign. As I remember, the sign said “This here is Dag’s – Canlis is 10 bucks north.”

  3. I totally did not remember that the restaurant just north of Dag’s was Les Teagle. Was it the Hippopotamus later?
    This single picture encompasses so much of my life: my folks & I always stopped for burgers after church(Unity, first in the Eagle’s, then on 8th North) and later my friends from the church youth group would hang out there. And the night before I got married, my friend Mr Wick took me to the erstwhile Les Teagle’s for entirely too much whiskey & water.

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