(click to enlarge photos)
By the authority of Northwest motorcycle historian and enthusiast Tom Samuelsen – standing by his Suzuki dirt bike in the now – the cyclist in the older photograph, wrapped in leather under a billed hat, is none other than Joe Williamson, one of the founders and first president of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society.
Tom, a fisherman, is also a lover of maritime history, but it as a motorcyclist that his name may be familiar. Tom is one of the founders of the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling, and currently the curator of the museum’s thousands of motorcycle-related photographs, ephemera and gear. With the help of others in the nonprofit, he has organized and mounted many exhibits, including “Fastest Corner in the Northwest,” at the Museum of History and Industry in 2002. More than once I have asked for, and received, Tom’s help in historic motorcycle matters.
It was not, however, Tom Samuelsen who first shared this photograph with Jean and me. Rather, it was Marie McCaffrey, the executive director of our state’s on-line encyclopedia, Historylink. The photo appears on page forty-two of The Bartell Story (Historylink’s most recent book of now more than a dozen titles since its debut in the spring of 1998), in which local author Phil Dougherty and the Historylink staff recount Bartell’s “125 Years of Service” in 140 pages between hardcovers.
On the awning above Williamson and his circa 1929 Indian Scout motorcycle, the “Seattle’s OWN Drug Stores” sign is especially true here on Pike Street. In addition to this Bartell No. 14 in the Seaboard Building at Fourth Avenue, in the 1929 Polk City Directory, the drug store chain had three more stores nearby on Pike: No. 3 at First Avenue, No. 9 at Second Avenue, and No. 7 at Fifth Avenue. Bartell Drugs, to read from the book’s protective dust jacket, is “The oldest family-owned drugstore chain in the country.” It is celebrating its 125th birthday with the issuance of the Historylink book.
When Joe Williamson first showed this featured (at the top) photograph to Tom Samuelsen, he explained that he used his Indian Scout to deliver prescriptions for Bartell, and that they paid very well, good enough to help support his love of photography. Tom claims that Joe could “charm your sox off.” I first met Joe in the early 1980s and was similarly taken by his generous ways. Born in 1909, Joe died in 1994, age eighty-four.
Let me mention what a gas it was taking Tom Samuelsen’s picture at Westlake. We couldn’t quite get to the exact prospect of the original photo because of existing street sculpture, but we got close. In the following shot, Tom waves goodbye headed east on Pike.
Anything to add, boys? Sure Jean. Ron is putting up five, I think, links. The first one begins with the American Hotel on the east side of Westlake Avenue and looks back (to the south) at Westlake’s origins at Pike Street. Again, there may be some repetition between them, but again and again we remember my Mother Eda Garena Christiansen Dorpat’s advice, “Boys (she had four sons) repetition is the mother of all learning.” Jean did you know that the first feature we put up was about the aftermath of a parade through this five-star intersection, and we have returned often with looks in most directions through it. We’ll attach that first feature from January 17, 1982 at the bottom of all this. And Jean did you also know that the last feature that touched on this corner was featured hear a mere months ago, on Dec. 6, 2014. Ron did not offer a link to it. We figured you could just scroll down to get to it. Please do.
THE FIRST NOW AND THEN FEATURE- FROM JAN. 17, 1982
[Note: the “103” in the title at the top of the above text refers to its position in the book from which it was scanned, Seattle Now and Then, Volume One.]
THE WESTLAKE DEATH THERMOMETER: 1939-40
SNOWSCAPE WITH THE TRIANGULAR BARTELL DRUGS
WE STAND GUARD – DRIVERS OF THE BLACK OUT
4 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Bartell’s Motorcycle Courier”
In 1961 my stockbroker dad bought me 5 shares in Bartell Drugs (I was 10 years old) in the hope that I would develop a keen interest in following the stock market. It didn’t work, but I have always had a soft spot for Bartell Drugs, and would have been even more keen had I known about their motorcycle delivery!
This is actually the NE corner of 4th and Pike, not the NW corner!
Thanks for the heads up! Fixed!
Joe Williamson was a good friend of my dad, Robert Bebee. They shared a love of steam engines and were active in the Puget Sound Live Steamers and Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society. Joe’s photo demonstrating how to wear a life jacket was on every Washington State Ferry for many years.