Note: While this installment, as printed in PacificNW magazine of The Seattle Times, is labeled as a farewell, this blog will continue to house Paul’s vast contributions to local history, from his columns to his many books. We hope and trust that he will continue making contributions to the blog whenever he has the time and inclination.
(click and click again to enlarge photos)
(Published in the Seattle Times online on Dec. 20, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Dec. 22, 2019)
Farewell: Looking back on nearly 38 years of Now & Then
By Paul Dorpat
What a fortunate fellow.
Beginning in the winter of 1982, my byline here was first delivered with the Sunday Seattle Times to the breakfast tables of the city. Now here comes the handle to turn this faucet off with my valedictory feature, the last one for me. (Don’t worry, though. “Now & Then” isn’t going away.)
Frankly, at the age of 81, I am tired, but only somewhat. Increasingly, my head is turning. I yearn again to paint and make music, pleasures I had more time for a half-century ago.
Certainly, my best fortune has been the frequent one of meeting many readers and being introduced by them to subjects often pulled from their own collections. Thanks largely to them, I have gathered a sizable archive, which I am now beginning to file and interpret for transfer to two scholarly institutions that I have used repeatedly.
My negatives and slides are headed for the Seattle Public Library, the voice of the people (or vox populi). My film and video (shot and collected) will get an appropriate new home in the University of Washington Library’s Northwest Collection. I once lived in their halls and am now returning with a plethora of cared-for subjects, often attached with carefully devised captions. I’ll continue to encourage others to place their archives with mine in the hands of skilled librarians for sharing with the community.
For this week’s “Then” photo, Jean Sherrard has chosen what was this Sunday feature’s first “Now.” I snapped this shot at the southeast corner of Pike Street and Fourth Avenue on what I remember as an unseasonably warm late fall day in 1981.
It appeared in the Seattle Times’ Pacific magazine (a predecessor of today’s PacificNW magazine) the following January, the first of about 1,800 “Now” photos, most of which made it onto the inside of the magazine’s back cover. It is still a cherished location. I learned the name of this coffee server who posed for me, although I doubt that I then knew anything as yet about the name of her profession: barista.
As late as 1984, I was still delivering my features to the Times by car, not the internet, and I was still writing them on a typewriter that sounded already nostalgic. Within three years, I was no longer delivering my stories in person, which meant I had practically no contact with other Times writers.
I was a freelancer and sometimes lonely. I occasionally hung around The Times’ wonderfully stuffed library in its old building at Fairview and John.
I’m now heading for the piano. Now I ask you, my dear old (at least potential) friends, to imagine your own sounds and send them to me. And please also imagine me motioning in your direction with this, my valedictory wave. Many thanks for your years of help.
And let us all thank this newspaper for continuing the “Now & Then” feature with the vigorous contributions of Jean Sherrard, clearly as fine a writer as he is a photographer, and Clay Eals, a master editor and superb storyteller who has helped me since this weekly feature began in 1982. Many thanks to all old friends and new.
Check out Jean Sherrard’s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect with this column read aloud by Paul Dorpat.
Meanwhile, below, in chronological order, are 17 photos of Paul Dorpat and six clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that provide a look back on Paul’s life and “Now & Then” career. Enjoy!