All posts by Clay Eals

Seattle Now & Then: Shell gas station, 1937-38, 1958

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THEN 1: A 1906 home with a furniture store on its first floor presides along Northeast 45th Street at 11th Avenue circa 1937-38. The corner address of 4345 11th Ave. N.E. was later changed to 1013 N.E. 45th St. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives)
THEN 2: In the same spot in April 1958 is a Shell service station that was built in 1950. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives)
NOW: The Shell station stands today but soon is to be replaced by a 27-floor apartment tower called OneU. For details, visit here and search 3037792-LU. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in the Seattle Times online on March 3, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on March 6, 2022

The inexorable trend on many Seattle street corners: small to big
By Clay Eals

We at “Now & Then” usually focus on places we find distinctive. Meanwhile, on our city’s everyday corners, change is churning. So inured are we that our reaction is often a wan shrug.

Which brings us to this week’s “Then” photo, looking southwest across busy Northeast 45th Street at 11th Avenue in the University District.

Relatively few are old enough to recall this unpretentious 1906 home, with charming third-floor gables and a second-floor bay window. In this late-1930s view, the first-floor store sold furniture. In 1914, the retail space was touted in The Seattle Times as a “dandy little grocery.”

To its west, a General Motors billboard presages the property’s coming incarnation. In October 1949, the building was razed. In its place in 1950 arose a Shell service station, which, remodeled, survives today. But not for long.

A careful peek at our “Now” photo reveals a vandalized Seattle land-use sign. Beneath the graffiti, it discloses the planned construction of a 27-story edifice with 366 apartments and 52 parking spots, plus room for street-level stores and offices.

The working name of the high-rise, developed by global Onelin Capital Corporation, reflects the firm and the neighborhood: OneU. It’s one of several tall towers in the works between the University of Washington and Interstate 5, triggered by a 2017 upzone that allows construction up to 320 feet.

Julia Nagele, principal of Hewitt Seattle, which designed OneU, pinpoints the boom’s catalyst — last October’s opening of a new light-rail U District Station. “Because of light rail,” she says, “a person easily could work downtown while living near a very cool university.”

To her, the project’s symbolism is both stark and apt. “We are converting the site from auto-centric and not environmentally friendly to more than 300 places for people to live,” she says. “It’s going full-stop in a 180-degree direction, which is a good thing.”

An eye-opening feature is that into the face of floors 7-9 and 16-18 are to be carved “social greenways.” Drawings depict them as huge, open stairways to encourage residential mixing.

Symbolism and innovations aside, OneU is destined to become yet another big box in a metro area of so many new ones. Unsurprisingly, demolition permit applications have soared citywide: 609 in 2019, 676 in 2020 and 739 in 2021. Small to big is the inexorable trend.

So we are well beyond Joni Mitchell’s 1970 “Big Yellow Taxi” punchline: “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot.” But the lyric’s lead-in line still stings: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”


Special thanks to Larry Kreisman, Joe Bopp, Wendy Shark, Sean Ludviksen, Julia Nagele and Midori Okazaki as well as to Kurt Armbruster (who brought this corner’s pending development to our attention and is featured in this week’s 360-degree video) for their invaluable help on this installment.

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 are three added photos, two documents and nine historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Here is a March 31, 1950, view of the newly built Shell service station at 1013 NE 45th St. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives)
Here, looking southeast, is the snowy site on Dec. 28, 2021, with the Seattle land-use sign in the foreground. (Kurt Armbruster)
Seattle historian Kurt Armbruster stands at the Shell site on Jan. 29, 2022. Kurt says of the pending development, “Yep, we’re gettin’ canyonized right along, but as a longtime U District denizen, I find a lot of the new buildings exciting, especially if they make possible more affordable housing and amenities that contribute to urban living.” (Jean Sherrard)
Click the image above to download a pdf of Seattle Public Library researcher Joe Bopp’s accounting of the site’s early 20th-century residents.
The front of the Seattle Side Sewer card for the site. (Joe Bopp)
The back of the Seattle Side Sewer card for the site. (Joe Bopp)
March 25, 1914, Seattle Times, p21.
April 5, 1914, Seattle Times, p19.
June 6, 1925, Seattle Times, p13.
Feb. 24, 1935, Seattle Times, p27.
July 19, 1952, Seattle Times, p15.
Jan. 4, 1955, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p25.
Jan. 4, 1955, Seattle Times, p11.
March 30, 1955, Seattle Times, p24.
May 27, 1955, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p25.

Seattle Now & Then: Alki Statue of Liberty replica

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THEN1: In this composite of three snapshots from Feb. 23, 1952, a reported crowd of 2,000 Sea Scouts and Boy Scouts, bearing 68 flags, joins others in dedicating the Alki Statue of Liberty replica just before its shroud was lifted next to the Alki Bathhouse (right rear). The Sea Scouts’ 44-foot wooden ketch, the S.S.S. Yankee Clipper, anchors offshore. (Courtesy Steve Grassia, Sea Scouts, Chief Seattle Council)
NOW1: Representing those at the 1952 ceremony, teenage Sea Scouts (a branch of the Boy Scouts) and their leaders salute the 2007 Alki Statue of Liberty replica while their 65-foot, steel-hulled Army t-boat, the S.S.S. Propeller, skippered by Al Bruce, anchors offshore. They are (from left) leaders Robyn Kolke, Jeremy Makin and Daniel McMinn; and scouts Daniel Kolke, Liam Rolstad, Ryan Covey, Finley Russell, Arnav Venna, Sam Vick, Vaughn Russell and Sylvia Adams, all of the Propeller, and Gavin Walker of sister ship Yankee Clipper. The uniform of Walker, holding the U.S. flag, bears a 1952 design. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in the Seattle Times online on Feb. 17, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Feb. 20, 2022

What can we learn about liberty from a replica at Alki?
By Clay Eals

When I led a tour for a mother and her 3-year-old daughter along Alki Beach a few years back, we stopped at the Statue of Liberty replica. I asked the girl to look up and tell me what she thought the statue was raising aloft in her right hand. Her innocent, timeless response:

“An ice-cream cone!”

The next question was tougher. What was the statue cradling in her left arm?

“A phone?”

Of course, the correct answers are a flaming torch and a tablet, the latter inscribed with the Declaration of Independence date of July 4, 1776.

The replica, in two renditions over the years, has prompted countless moments, teachable and otherwise, ever since 200 of the 8-1/2-foot-tall miniatures — modeled on the 151-foot, 1886 original in New York harbor — were erected across the country by the Boy Scouts of America following World War II. The patriotic campaign was dubbed “Strengthening the Arm of Liberty.”

THEN2: John Kelly is interviewed on April 3, 2017, by Circa TV before the Alki Statue of Liberty replica. He joined the Sea Scouts as a West Seattle High School junior in 1938. For the 1952 dedication, he was a Yankee Clipper mate and later its longtime skipper. He died a year ago at age 99. (Clay Eals)

At Alki, after filling a 15-block-long parade, 2,000 scouts dedicated a water-facing replica along the park’s promenade on Feb. 23, 1952. This Wednesday marks its 70th anniversary.

Weather and dispiriting crime took a toll. By climbing her ridged foundation, vandals repeatedly yanked off Lady Liberty’s right arm, flame and seven-point crown. In 1975, she even was knocked off her base.

Further heartache surfaced in 2000 when, as scheduled, a 1952 time capsule of thousands of scout names and other ephemera in the base was opened, but water had destroyed much of its contents.

The replica assumed new poignancy after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. For days, locals congregated at its base, inscribing 1,000 paper bags that held tea-light candles and lined the Alki promenade as luminarias.

Messages ranged from anger (“You can hide, you cowards, but we will find you”) to hope (“We have really only one thing in common: freedom to believe what we want, in peace”). The Southwest Seattle Historical Society preserved and later displayed the bags annually.

NOW2: Best friends and Alki Elementary School fourth-graders Esme Jones (left), 9, and Eliza Cooper, 10, stand with the original 1952 Alki Statue of Liberty replica, on display at the Log House Museum of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, 3003 61st Ave. S.W. (Clay Eals)

A new replica arose on the old base in 2007 and, thanks to a campaign funded by inscribed bricks, was rededicated in 2008 on a sheer, lighthouse-themed base in a redesigned plaza. The battered earlier version was moved to the historical society’s nearby Log House Museum.

In 2009, fueled partly by children’s items, the historical society and Alki Community Council buried near the new replica’s base a better-protected time capsule, to be opened in 2059.

Only 100 of the replicas still stand nationwide. With liberty’s hard truths and stern ideals buffeted by today’s tyrannical forces, those visiting the Alki statue just might rediscover a measure of honest inspiration.


Special thanks to Sea Scouts skippers Steve Grassia, Al Bruce and Robin Kolke for their invaluable help on this installment. Also thanks to Mary Kay Walsh, who loaned the U.S. flag!

Below are 8 historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and West Seattle Herald that were helpful in the preparation of this column. At the bottom, we also present a brief reflection by Paul Monk, as related via his niece Kirstie Cameron.

Feb. 13, 1952, Seattle Times, p19.
Feb. 20, 1952, West Seattle Herald, p1.
Feb. 22, 1952, Seattle Times, p14.
Feb. 24, 1952, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p12. (Courtesy Steve Grassia)
Feb. 24, 1952, Seattle Times, p14.
July 2, 1986, West Seattle Herald. (Courtesy Clay Eals)
July 15, 1987, West Seattle Herald, p1. (Courtesy Clay Eals)
July 15, 1987, West Seattle Herald, p3. (Courtesy Clay Eals)
July 5, 2000, West Seattle Herald, p1.
July 5, 2000, West Seattle Herald, p2.
A brief reflection by Paul Monk, via his niece, Kirstie Cameron.

Seattle Now & Then: The architecture of love

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The pre-Valentine’s Day cover of the Feb. 13, 2022, PacificNW magazine of the Seattle Times. (Design by David Miller)

Building love over time

Our “Now & Then” column often focuses on the built environment, but in anticipation of Valentine’s Day, we turn our cameras (and hearts) to the architecture of romance.

We are delighted that PacificNW magazine of The Seattle Times granted Jean and Clay the opportunity to prepare this “Now & Then Special” cover story on four longtime couples for the print edition of the magazine’s pre-Valentine’s Day edition of Feb. 13, 2022.

Below are links to:

  • The personal backstory
  • The stories of the four couples, with “web extras”

You also can visit the Seattle Times website for the four couples in our cover story plus the backstory. Enjoy!


Clay Eals (left) and Jean Sherrard

How much do we love love? Let us (re)count the ways

And here is the Seattle Times link for the backstory.


Phill and Louise Briscoe, June 1993

‘A lot of damn questions’ helped romance bloom in their 40s

And here is the Seattle Times link on the Briscoes.


Rena Ilumin and Tom Roth, November 1978.

From stool to stool, and house to home, their love endures

And here is the Seattle Times link for Ilumin-Roth.


Debra Willendorf (left) and Jaci Oseguera, June 1995.

‘Could I have this (second) dance for the rest of my life?’

And here is the Seattle Times link for Oseguera-Willendorf.


Charyl Kay and Earl Sedlik, 1975.

Interruptions can’t interrupt this 55-year marriage

And here is the Seattle Times link for the Sedliks.

Seattle Now & Then: Willcox Walls, 1914

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THEN 1: The Willcox Walls under construction April 17, 1914, below Eighth Place and Eighth Street West. (Seattle Municipal Archives)
NOW: Standing on the stairs and boulevard sidewalk of the Willcox Walls are Queen Anne Historical Society members (from bottom to top of “S” shape): Dan Kerlee, Nicole Demers Changelo, Maureen Elenga (president), Cindy Hughes, Jan Hadley, Marga Rose Hancock, Julia Herschensohn, Leanne Olson, Michael Herschensohn, Kathleen Conner, Mary Chapman Cole and Richard Cole. For more on Willcox walls, visit (Jean Sherrard)

Published in the Seattle Times online on Feb. 6, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Feb. 6, 2022

A walk can reveal the wonder of Willcox’ walls — and words
By Clay Eals

The key to outdoor living may be short and sweet. No big plan. No long trips to the hinterlands. No special equipment. Just get up on our feet and walk.

And one of the joys of life in geographically and topographically diverse Seattle is that so many enjoyable strolls and vistas beckon outside our doors, a short bus ride or drive away.

Among the most cheerful is a 4.74-mile boulevard encircling the crown of Queen Anne Hill. Technically, the scenic route’s southwest curve is a continuum of West Highland Drive and Eighth Place and Eighth Avenue West, but most people probably think of it as the stately street just west of popular Kerry Park.

One might say the promenade is Queen Anne’s version of Alki Beach. Or, Queen Anne might say, vice versa.

What makes this corner’s panorama possible is what’s beneath it: a retaining wall featuring criss-crossing steps and horseshoe arches, highlighted by decorative herringbone brick and 60-plus sphere-topped green light standards, a bold infrastructure known by locals as the Willcox Walls.

THEN 2: Walter Ross Baumes Willcox, 1913. (Pacific Coast Architecture Database)

The name is that of architect and educator Walter Ross Baumes Willcox, who from 1907 to 1922 guided some 60 projects in the Seattle area, mostly residential but a few more publicly focused, including this massive west Queen Anne hillside undertaking whose construction began in 1913 and finished in 1916.

So unusual and simultaneously artistic and functional were the walls that they — and the entire boulevard — became one of Seattle’s first official landmarks in 1976. Thirteen years later, after residents complained of the walls’ deterioration, a voter-approved levy funded their restoration.

The walls reflected the activist philosophy of Willcox himself. Acquainted with and influenced by famed architects Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, he advocated for consulting engineer Virgil Bogue’s visionary 1911 Seattle comprehensive plan, which fell to voter defeat in 1912.

A selection of Willcox’ words, taken from the Feb. 16, 1910, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, bespeaks an articulate approach, both utilitarian and grand:

“Open air spaces in the heart of a city, as convenient to those who must dwell therein as are the parks and boulevards to the more fortunate, make for peace, happiness and good manners, which are conserving forces in the community. …

“A haphazard, piecemeal growth of a city defeats economy, efficiency and uniform contentment, while a systematic ensemble, encompassing the convenience, comfort and pleasure of its citizens, makes for all these things and results in a city from which those who have prospered largely do not hasten, nor those less fortunate long to depart.”

It’s as if Willcox were out on a Queen Anne constitutional, talking about today.


Special thanks to longtime historian and former president of the Queen Anne Historical Society Michael Herschensohn for invaluable help on this installment.

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 as soon as it’s posted mid-day.

Below are (1) four added photos, (2) a video interview, (3) a map of Queen Anne Boulevard, (4) a Dec. 13, 1974, Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board nomination for Willcox Walls, (5) a Willcox chapter from an architectural history book, and (6) four historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

The south-facing view from the street above Willcox Walls, captured Jan. 3, 2022. (Jean Sherrard)
Here is a more precise “Now” replication of the 1914 “Then” of Willcox Walls, taken May 7, 2020. For our column “Now,” we opted for a wider view to also reveal the adjacent promenade. (Michael Herschensohn)
This snowy view of Willcox Walls was taken Jan. 1, 2022. (Clay Eals)
This snowy view of Willcox Walls was taken Jan. 1, 2022. (Clay Eals)
This snowy view of Willcox Walls was taken Jan. 1, 2022. (Clay Eals)
VIDEO: 3:28. Click on the image to see and hear Maureen Elenga, president of the Queen Anne Historical Society, talk about the significance of Willcox Walls. (Clay Eals)
This map shows the landmarked boulevard that circles the crown of Queen Anne Hill. (Maureen Elenga)
Click this image to download the Dec. 13, 1974, Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board nomination for Willcox Walls and Queen Anne Boulevard.
Click this image to download a pdf of the Willcox chapter of “Shaping Seattle Architecture” by Jeffrey Karl Ochsner.
Feb. 16, 1910, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p5.
April 3, 1975, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p8.
April 3, 1975, Seattle Times, p20.
Nov. 23, 2006, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p91.
Nov. 23, 2006, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p92.
Nov. 23, 2006, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p93.

Seattle Now & Then: The Guild 45th Theatre, 1934

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THEN1: Two 1933 film titles — the Barbara Stanwyck World War I melodrama “Ever in My Heart” and the disaster film “Deluge” — glow from the neon marquee of H.W. Bruen’s 45th Street Theatre during an evening in 1934. (Museum of History & Industry, Pemco Webster & Stevens Collection)
NOW1: Carol Cruz and her two girls walk beneath the “Scarfface” marquee of the closed, 100-year-old Guild 45th Theatre in April 2021. The other side (not visible here) summoned another pertinent film title, “Mask,” and the flat marquee for the adjacent auditorium briefly read “Citizen Pain.” The prow marquee and sign were removed early this month. (Clay Eals)
NOW2: Pedestrians walk past the marquee, reading “Vax to the Future,” in December 2021. The marquee messages were the creation of Seattle architect and guerrilla artist Todd Lawson, who calls them “good, clean fun.” (Clay Eals)

Published in the Seattle Times online on Jan. 20, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Jan. 23, 2022

Wallingford’s main-street movie theater is ‘ever in our hearts’
By Clay Eals

Along Wallingford’s main street has stood a theater known since 1957 as the Guild 45th. It’s been shuttered since 2017. Early this month, its sign and prow marquee, deemed a safety hazard after a delivery truck hit them, were torn down.

The marquee recently had injected pandemic-era whimsy and inspiration. Starting Dec. 18, 2020, its east face displayed just one word: “Scarfface.” It switched last July 18 to another movie pun: “Vax to the Future.”

The pointed humor masked a dour trend. Virus-related restrictions have sent revenue plummeting at movie theaters nationwide. Insiders note that some demographic groups (such as older women) have stopped going to movies altogether, which in turn affects the types of films in production.

’Twas not always thus. Before video rentals, DVDs and the internet, not to mention TV, neighborhood movie theaters were ubiquitous magnets. For Wallingford, the love affair started a century ago.

What became the Guild 45th at 2115 N. 45th St. was opened in 1921 by W.C. Code as the Paramount Theatre. The 40-by-90-foot building seated 475 and hosted movies and live productions, with occasional political or business gatherings.

It was rechristened the 45th Street Theatre on Sept. 1, 1933, by its new owner, theater veteran H.W. Bruen. With a neon marquee, the art-deco mini-palace became what The Seattle Times called “symbolic in architecture and design of the Century of Progress.”

Two-plus decades later, in December 1956, the fledgling, non-mainstream Seattle Cinema Guild began bookings of classic U.S. and foreign films at the 45th.

THEN2: The French sexploitation film “Companions of the Night,” the initial offering at the newly named Guild 45th Theatre, is advertised in the Oct. 14, 1957, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive)

The next year, the remodeled theater acquired its present name and became a so-called art house, screening “the world’s greatest” foreign films, banning anyone under 18 and supplying free coffee and cigarettes between shows. The first offering was a French sexploitation flick, “Companions of the Night.”

The fare had broadened considerably by February 1983 when, four years after joining the Seven Gables chain, the Guild 45th appended an auditorium with 200 steeply raked seats two storefronts to its west. In 1989, it became part of Landmark Theatres.

Citing too many alterations, the city landmarks board voted 6-2 in May 2016 not to protect the Guild 45th, and it closed abruptly 13 months later. Early in 2021, its deteriorating structures, including an ex-restaurant between them, were painted with a colorful mural by Urban ArtWorks to deter random graffiti.

NOW3: The Guild 45th site as it looked the morning of Jan. 5, 2022, after the eastern (left) building’s prow marquee had been removed. (Jean Sherrard)

What will become of the Guild 45th site? One clue is that last November, LA-based owner 2929 Entertainment applied for a demolition permit.

Posters (and YouTube links) for the 1933 feature films “Ever in My Heart” and “Deluge.”

The 1933 films on the marquee in our “Then” photo provide us with additional insight: While the theater certainly is “Ever in My Heart,” no one would be surprised if it were to give way to yet another faceless, modern monolith — like the disaster befalling the characters in “Deluge.”


Special thanks to Feliks Banel for his help on this installment.

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 as soon as it’s posted mid-day.

Below are two added photos taken Dec. 18, 2020, by Seattle architect and guerrilla artist Todd Lawson of his clever and uncannily realistic marquee posts, 6 additional current photos by Jean Sherrard of the bedraggled Guild 45th (4 from Jan. 5 and 2 from Jan. 20), a late 1937 photo from the Puget Sound Regional Archives, 2 sets of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board minutes, and 22 historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Also, here is a link to Paul Dorpat’s Jan. 31, 1993, column on the Guild 45th Theatre!

And the best “web extra” of all may be this innovative, time-lapse account of the changing Guild 45th prow marquee in 2008, created by none other than Paul Dorpat.

Click the above image to see a 77-second montage of the varied 2008 billings displayed on the prow marquee of the Guild 45th Theatre. This time-lapse depiction was created by our column founder Paul Dorpat as part of his “Wallingford Walks” series. (Ron Edge)
The Guild 45th prow marquee on Dec. 18, 2020, the night Seattle guerrilla artist Todd Lawson posted his punny titles “Scarfface” and “Mask.” (Todd Lawson)
The Guild 45th’s next-door flat marquee on Dec. 18, 2020, the night Seattle guerrilla artist Todd Lawson posted his punny title “Citizen Pain” atop graffiti. (Todd Lawson)
The scene outside the Guild 45th on Jan. 5, 2022, after a crew ripped down the theater’s prow marquee the night before. (Jean Sherrard)
The scene outside the Guild 45th on Jan. 5, 2022, after a crew ripped down the theater’s prow marquee the night before. (Jean Sherrard)
The scene outside the Guild 45th on Jan. 5, 2022, after a crew ripped down the theater’s prow marquee the night before. (Jean Sherrard)
The scene outside the Guild 45th on Jan. 5, 2022, after a crew ripped down the theater’s prow marquee the night before. (Jean Sherrard)
The Guild 45th scene on Jan. 20, with a new touch-up by Urban Artworks. (Jean Sherrard)
The easterly (left) end of the Guild 45th property on Jan. 20, with a new touch-up by Urban Artworks. (Jean Sherrard)
The 45th Street Theatre in late 1937, showing “The Frame-Up” and “Parnell,” the latter starring Clark Gable and Myrna Loy. (Puget Sound Regional Archives)
Click above image to see pdf of minutes of the April 6, 2016, meeting of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, at which the Guild 45th was nominated for landmark designation.
Click above image to see pdf of minutes of the May 18, 2016, meeting of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, at which the Guild 45th was turned down for landmark designation by a vote of 6-2.
March 3, 1921, Seattle Times, p19.
Feb. 4, 1929, Seattle Times, p7.
March 25, 1929, Seattle Times, p14.
March 3, 1932, Seattle Times, p2.
July 19, 1933, Seattle Times, p21.
Aug. 31, 1933, Seattle Times, p11.
Oct. 24, 1933, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p3.
Oct. 26, 1933, Seattle Times, p10.
Oct. 27, 1933, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p14.
Oct. 29, 1933, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p68.
Dec. 29, 1933, Seattle Times, p11.
Nov. 1, 1934, Seattle Times, p18.
April 27, 1934, Seattle Times, p18.
April 26, 1936, Seattle Times, p33.
Nov. 19, 1939, Seattle Times, p15.
Feb. 28, 1943, Seattle Times, p28.
March 3, 1954, Seattle Times, p14.
Dec. 13, 1956, Seattle Times, p48.
Oct. 8, 1957, Seattle Times, p28.
Oct. 9, 1957, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p14.
Oct. 9, 1957, Seattle Times, p47.
Feb. 16, 1983, Seattle Times, p34.


A Wunda-ful adventure: In local TV’s earliest years, Ruth Prins touched the youngest of hearts

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The cover of the Jan. 9, 2022, PacificNW magazine of The Seattle Times (Photo courtesy Debra Prins, design by David Miller)

We are delighted that PacificNW magazine of The Seattle Times granted Clay the opportunity to prepare a cover story on Ruth Prins for the print edition of Jan. 9, 2022.

Below are links to:

  • The cover story
  • The personal backstory
  • A wide array of “web extras.”

These items include kinescopes of “Wunda Wunda” shows unseen since they first aired in the 1950s and 1960s, along with photos, children’s drawings, fan letters, news clippings, songs, promotional items and original writings by Ruth Prins — all of which document the saga of the local TV pioneer who many of us as youngsters learned from and knew fondly as Wunda Wunda.



Ruth Prins as “The Story Lady” regales grade-schoolers with the 1960 book “The Trouble with Jenny’s Ear” by Oliver Butterworth on “Telaventure Tales,” which ran 16 years on KING-TV. (University of Washington Libraries Special Collections UW41317)

A pioneer for preschoolers: With ‘Wunda Wunda,’ Ruth Prins reached kids as an educator, an entertainer and an enduring emotional touchstone.

Enjoy this illustrated profile of a local legend!


Clay Eals, age 2-1/2, watches “Wunda Wunda” circa 1953-54 at his childhood home near Wedgwood Rock. (Virginia Eals)

Ruth Prins inspired an early devotee — and an entire audience






A few of the two-dozen cans of “Wunda Wunda” kinescopes that are being transferred. (Clay Eals)

Enjoy this ever-expanding collection of recently transferred films of Ruth Prins’ “Wunda Wunda” shows, most of them not seen since their original broadcast — until now.


Paul Hansen — the son of Edward Hansen, who served as Music Man for the “Wunda Wunda” children’s show on KING-TV from 1964 to 1972 — speaks Dec. 5, 2021, about being on the show’s set as a youngster and about his appreciation for Ruth Prins, who played the title character. (Clay Eals)

Longtime fans of “Wunda Wunda” sing the show’s welcome song and “I’m a Little Teapot” on Dec. 5, 2021, in Ruth Prins’ home neighborhood of Magnolia.

They also are interviewed about Ruth’s enduring and endearing legacy.


Dressed as Wunda Wunda and backed by a display of mailed-in children’s drawings, Ruth greets young fans June 5, 1954, at the grand opening of The Toy Shop at Seventh and Pike. (Forde Photographers, courtesy Debra Prins)

Enjoy this assemblage of additional images of Ruth Prins from her early days acting at the University of Washington up through her KING-TV and preschool days and beyond.


In the mid-1950s, Kathleen Duckworth draws a Hostess cupcakes-related picture. (Courtesy Debra Prins)

This sampling reveals artwork sent to Ruth Prins by her youngest of fans.


May 16, 1955, letter from Spieler. (Courtesy Debra Prins)

The parents of preschool “Wunda Wunda” fans overflow with praise and appreciation for Ruth Prins.


May 24, 1959, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, TV cover.

More than 200 articles, photos and ads from local — and occasionally national — publications illustrate Ruth Prins‘ impact.


June 1958 TV Junior Star Album. (Courtesy Debra Prins)

No effort was spared by KING-TV and others to promote the jewel they had in Ruth Prins.


1950s ad for Old Yankee peanut butter. (Courtesy Debra Prins)

From tasty treats to delightful dolls, Ruth Prins was an eager saleswoman, as reflected in these materials.


An ad for “Wunda Wunda” acnhors the right-hand page of this spread from the May 24, 1963, TV Guide. (Joey Beretta)

“Wunda Wunda” generally aired at noon weekdays, but not always. Click here to see the schedule changes over its nearly 20-year run.


(Courtesy Debra Prins)

What did Wunda Wunda’s costume, hat, puppets and dolls look like in color? Find out here.


Ruth Prins’ World War II memoir: “Over Here! Over Here! Sketchbook of an Army Wife (1942-1945).” Click on image to see the entire 51-page pdf. (Courtesy Debra Prins)

Unknown to many were Ruth Prins‘ writing skills. Out of her typewriter came down-to-earth, conversational and amusing prose. Here we present key samples.


1950s song “I Always Stop, Look Both Ways and Listen” by the Music Man. (Courtesy Debra Prins)

In her nearly 20 years as TV’s Wunda Wunda, Ruth Prins collaborated with several off-screen Music Men. The two longest-serving were Elliott Brown and Edward Hansen.

Here are two of Brown’s songs with a public-service theme.

See two more of Brown’s songs on The Endorsements page.


Debra Prins’ birth announcement, June 11, 1950.

This package of materials wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity and trust of Ruth Prins’ daughter, Debra Prins.

Click here to see acknowledgments as well as the clever birth announcements Ruth created for Debra and her brother Bob.


An alternate cover image: A 1960s promotional photo of Ruth Prins as “Wunda Wunda” rests atop the corresponding original costume and hat, loaned by Prins’ daughter Debra. Though her attire was quite colorful, many of those who viewed her on TV when they were children remember her only in black-and-white. (Clay Eals, with design assistance from Leslie Howells. Photo and costume components courtesy Debra Prins)

Seattle Now & Then: Frye Packing, 1931 / Daughter’s ‘superpower’ uncovers father’s Seattle story

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN 1: Helen Sing’s father, James Sui Sing, stands eighth from the left in this November 1931 photo of 44 employees inside the Frye meat-packing plant at 2305 Airport Way South. A portion of the art collection of plant owner Charles Frye and wife Emma lines the walls at right. Charles Frye stands second from the left. (Courtesy James Sing family)
THEN 2: The Frye & Company meat-packing plant stands in the late 1930s along Airport Way, some six years before its destruction mid-World War II from a deadly Boeing bomber crash. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives)
NOW: Helen Sing, a retired pharmaceutical medical-science liaison, displays a portfolio on her father, James Sui Sing, at the Sodo site of the former Frye plant, where he worked from 1930 to 1935. Those assisting Helen’s research include, from left, Kayla Trail, collections and exhibition assistant, and Cory Gooch, chief registrar, both of Frye Art Museum; Nicole Sing and spouse Vanessa Sing, Helen’s niece; Allen and Phil Sing, Helen’s brothers; and Louisa Sing, Allen’s wife. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in the Seattle Times online on Dec. 30, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Jan. 2, 2022

Daughter’s ‘superpower’ uncovers father’s early Seattle story
By Clay Eals

Helen Sing thinks her father is the story, but I think it’s Helen.

Last May, her brother Allen opened a box in his garage and discovered a photo of 44 Frye meat-packing workers in what today we call Sodo. Therein, Helen’s father, James Sui Sing, stands eighth from the left.

THEN3: A few minutes out on its first test a still secret and as yet unnamed XB-29 turned back for Boeing Field and did not make it. The view looks southwest from Walker Street to the severed north wall of the Frye meat-packing plant at 2305 Airport Way S. (Museum of History & Industry, Seattle Post-Intelligencer collection)

The Frye plant was destroyed by the shocking Feb. 18, 1943, test-flight crash of a top-secret Boeing XB-29 bomber that killed at least 32 people. Helen knew her father was not among the deceased, but his early life remained largely a mystery that she longed to solve.

A DNA test had helped her locate hundreds of cross-country relatives and a flurry of photos and documents. Also, Helen had retained, after her dad’s 1985 death, 50 letters she had rescued from the garbage, written in Chinese from relatives in China.

The pandemic further unleashed the Rainier Beach resident’s inner bloodhound. Dating the Frye photo was key.

Charles Frye in Hawaii, Feb. 7, 1940. (Frye Art Museum)

She consulted Seattle Public Library, Wing Luke Museum and Frye Art Museum (it holds the surviving art collection of plant owner Charles Frye and wife Emma). She studied everything from U.S. Census records to period fashion and hairstyles.

Her chief corroboration was a wall calendar in the photo itself (on post at far left). A high-res scan revealed its month: November 1931.

Along the way, Helen unearthed myriad other details, such as her dad’s true birthdate, Feb. 29, 1904, his tenure as a Frye printer (1930-1935) and later as a restaurateur, plus the surprise that he served, likely in the late 1940s, as Seattle chair of the Chinese Nationalist Party.

Her resulting dossier is an enduring family portrait and gift that reflects skill and tenacity. “I know a little bit about a lot,” Helen says, “but I like to think that my ‘superpower’ is that I know who to ask and where to search for information.”

She also feels “the guiding hand of my father, gently pushing me toward clues and answers and people to help me.” It’s “the stone that ripples through the water.”

Her lesson nestles snugly in this time of New Year’s resolutions:

“If you can understand the circumstances of your relatives’ lives and the choices required of them, the struggles they endured but kept hidden from their children, then you might arrive at a point of respect and gratitude for the sacrifices they made to raise their families to the best of their abilities.

“I regret not knowing my dad’s history until well after he passed away. I encourage everyone to start collecting memories from their elder relatives and document as much as you can.



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 are three historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Also, we include (1) a video interview of Helen Sing, (2) an illustrated essay by Helen, “The Stone That Ripples Through the Water: A Journey Through Time,” and (3) a portfolio of photos of a current exhibition kindly provided by the Frye Art Museum.

And at the very bottom, courtesy of stalwart archivist Gavin MacDougall, we add a link to Paul Dorpat‘s original 2013 “Now & Then” on the Frye plant, plus a related column from 1996.

Feb. 19, 1943, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 1.
Feb. 19, 1943, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 4.
Feb. 19, 1943, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 28.

= = = = =

Video of Helen Sing

VIDEO: 5:07. Click on the photo above to see Helen Sing discuss her family research and why others should do the same. (Clay Eals)

= = = = =

The Stone That Ripples
Through the Water:
A Journey Through Time

Notes for My Family by Helen C. Sing

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

Standing at the water’s edge, as you pick up a stone and drop it into the water, ripples extend out in concentric circles. The stone creates waves that grow wider from its point of entry.

This is a story of how with one dropped stone into the water, I found myself unexpectedly unwrapping family mysteries, each revealing more discoveries about my dad, James S. Sing, as he established his life in Seattle after his 1928 arrival.

My four brothers and I knew about our dad’s life after he married our mom in February 1946. From that point, our lives were documented with black-and-white photos of a growing family, typical of many Americans.

James S. Sing (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

We knew very little about our dad’s life, “pre-mom.” As kids growing up in the late 1940s and 1950s, we exhibited an extreme lack of curiosity about our parents’ histories.

After collecting family narratives from our mom’s Canadian Chow branch for a 2006 family reunion in Vancouver, B.C., and updating the 190-plus family narratives in 2020, our paternal Sing side weighed in at a paltry 15 members at the time. In January 2019, we knew only that our dad had an older brother who lived in Portland, Oregon, by the name of Frank, whom we met, perhaps once or twice.

Dad James passed away in January 1985, and mom Nellie in March 2016. In our combined family trees, the Chow branches facing the West grew in leaps and bounds compared to the Sing branch, sadly lopsided. We knew next to nothing about our dad.


In November 2018, I bought a “23andMe” DNA test kit at a Black Friday sale because it was half-price. Why not?

By January 2019, the initial results had started populating my emails. By the beginning of 2020, I received three “2nd cousin” hits from New York and one from Boston. A 2nd cousin match has a greater-than-99% likelihood of being detected.

On February 15, 2020, just as the coronavirus became big local news, with Seattle as the initial ground zero, I started communicating with these cousins. None of the them knew each other. I asked the three New York cousins if they would be willing to move from “23andMe” messaging to a group email to share information and photos.

On February 25, 2020, we started sharing information, trying to figure out if they were related on my maternal or paternal side. On March 4, I visited mom Nellie’s grave on the fourth anniversary of her passing, took a photo of my parents’ headstone and sent it to our group chat.

By March 5, a translation of dad’s headstone showed that James was from the same village and had the same family name as the great-grandfather of Bet and Jeff.  Nearly five hours later that day, cousin Kat emailed a 1979 photo to me showing her grandparents, father and uncle immigrating to the United States, stopping in Seattle on their way to New York City.

In the middle of the photo, taken at Sea-Tac Airport, was my dad, James, sitting in a wheelchair! It was eventually confirmed that James was Kat’s great-grandmother’s big brother. I had an Aunt Chun! I was able to send a photo of my grandmother “DONG Shee” to these cousins. She would be these younger cousins’ great-great grandmother.

1979 photo connecting Chun Ai LI to James Sing. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

From February 25 to March 5, in a matter of 10 days after sharing photos and information by group email, we determined that Bet and Jeff’s great grandfather Frank was James’ older brother and that Kat’s great grandmother Chun was James’ younger sister.

I knew that a young James had traveled to the United States in 1917 with his father CHOO Chung Hock and his uncle. At some point, James’s father told him to return to China, as his mother was ill. Older brother Frank (b. 1896) was married with two daughters and had remained behind in Guangdong Toishan, China.

James married wife #1, who later miscarried twins. When James and Frank left for America, Frank left behind his wife and two daughters, ages 4 and 2. Based on these ages, we determined that they left China in 1925.

In May 2021, Kat and I determined that the 2nd cousin from Boston (Henry) was descended from their great-grandmother Chun’s branch. Kat’s grandfather and Henry’s grandmother were siblings. We believe that between all branches, including those of James, Frank, Chun and their uncle, whose family also settled in the northeastern United States, along with the family of their younger brother, Siu Wai, there are likely more than 100 living relatives!

The East side of my family tree started sprouting sturdy branches. What are the odds that five cousins, strangers to each other, living in different parts of the country (Seattle, New York city, Brooklyn, Rochester and Boston) would take the same consumer DNA test around the same time? These younger cousins are my first cousins, twice removed, due to our age and generational differences.


In spring 1985, in one of my visits to mom Nellie after Dad James passed away in 1985, I saw that Mom had thrown away a stack of blue aerogram letters addressed to Dad. Mom explained that they were of no value to us because we could not read Chinese and we didn’t know the people in the letters.

Instinctively, I grabbed the whole stack of correspondence from the recycle bin, stuffed the pile into a garbage bag and placed it in the back of my closet.

1950s to 1970s: saved letters to James Sing from China. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

Fast forward to June 2020: After Frank left for America with James in 1925, his wife adopted a son. KS was born in 1929. Frank’s two daughters eventually married Americans and immigrated to New York. KS remained behind in Hong Kong, married and had two sons, all eventually immigrating to the U.S.

After locating the two sons (my nephews CT and TM), I pulled out that garbage bag full of letters left untouched for 35 years in my closet. Of the 50 letters, 15 were from KS to his Uncle James in Seattle. After scanning the letters, TM provided general translations for the letters from James’s mother, younger brother, wife #1, daughter-in-law and granddaughter as well as correspondence from his father to his Uncle James.

After I had James’ headstone translated, I noticed that his 1904 birth year did not match “1903,” his listed year of birth on his legal documents. James wrote his headstone inscription and provided it to the monument company before his passing.

Translated, it says that he was “born in the 29th year of Guangxu.” Emperor Guangxu lived from 1871 to 1908. I found an article online on how to read a Chinese tombstone. It stated that you add the number of years to the start of the emperor’s reign.

In Guangxu’s case, he was a 4-year-old child emperor beginning in 1875. So, 29 + 1875 = 1904.

Eventually searching through the lunar calendars for 1903 and 1904, along with a clue from one of the 1970 letters from wife #1, in which she stated that she celebrated his (Western) birthday in April that year, I determined that dad’s lunar birthday of Jan. 14 (1st lunar month, 14th day) converted to a Gregorian/Western birthday of Feb. 29, 1904, a leap year.

Because 1970 was not a leap year, wife #1 mistakenly took his Gregorian birthday (Feb. 29) as his lunar birthday (second lunar month, 29th day) and converted it to a Gregorian date of April 5, 1970.

I don’t know why he recorded 1903 as his birth year unless he needed to be older, or perhaps because 1903 was a leap year in the lunar calendar, or he was confused with the Gregorian calendar.

1903 Gregorian Lunar Calendar conversion table. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
1904 Gregorian Lunar Calendar conversion table. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
1970 Gregorian Lunar Calendar conversion table. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
1983 James Sing’s 79th birthday. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

In May 2021, brother Allen scanned and sent a photo he found in a box in his garage of Dad James standing among 44 employees while working as a printer at Frye & Co., a meat-packing plant in Sodo on Airport Way S. I wanted to date the photo to determine when dad worked at the plant.

Nieces Vanessa and Nicole scanned the photo at high resolution and noticed a wall calendar that seemed to indicate 30 days in a month starting on a Sunday, with the name of the month appearing to indicate a longer month such as September or November.

November 1931: Frye Packing Co., James Sing (eighth from left) printer, 1930 to 1935. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
1930s Frye and Co. office building. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

After finding articles about the Feb. 18, 1943, crash of the Boeing XB-29 bomber from nearby Boeing Field into the Frye plant, I wondered if James was still working at the plant in 1943.

Feb. 18, 1943, Boeing XB-29 bomber crash into Frye & Co. building. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

In my research, I read that plant owner Charles Frye and wife Emma had an extensive collection of paintings, many of which were hung at the plant when they ran out of space at their First Hill mansion. Noticing that many large paintings could be seen on the plant wall in the Frye photo, I contacted Cory Gooch, chief registrar at the Frye Museum.

One of the men in the photo looked like the owner, Charles Frye. She confirmed that it was he. Charles Frye passed away on May 1, 1940. This left the calendar options of November 1931, September 1935 or November 1936.

Another man in the photo, wearing a heavy overcoat over his suit, seemed to indicate November rather than a balmier Seattle September. A search of women’s fashion and hairstyles suggested an early 1930’s date. An ad showing women’s fashion had a dress and hairstyle very similar to the one worn by the young woman standing in front of the counter (center) in the Frye photo. The ad line says, in part, “Only 1932 conditions make these low prices possible.”

Ad with 1932 women’s fashions. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

Cory and Kayla Trail, collections & exhibitions assistant at the Frye, found a 1931 plant survey that seemed to indicate that due to the location of the Frye office, the fire would have been survivable. Frye property records from the Puget Sound Regional Branch of Washington State Archives sent from a friend showed that the office building constructed in 1927 contained a full basement.

Both my brother Phil and I remember seeing a second photo of James and another Chinese employee standing at their print-shop workstation seemingly in a basement along with other employees at their workstations. The photographer may have stood on a stairway or floor above the workstations. In the first Frye photo, another Chinese man stands 12th from the left.]

1931 Frye plant survey. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

In June 2021, while searching the Seattle Public Library website, I found the 1940 U.S. Census and located “James S. Sing.” James’s entry stated he was living at 719 ½ King St., Seattle. James filed his “paper son” documents (see footnote below) on Jan. 19, 1928 in San Francisco. By December 1928, James was already in Seattle.

1940 US Census for James S. Sing. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
Freeman Hotel, 719-1/2 King St., Seattle. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

In July 2021, I went to Chinatown to try to locate where dad lived in 1940 and at least from 1935 on, based on the census. I found that the current location of the Wing Luke Museum is at 719 King St. and that the Freeman Hotel was located in the upper two floors of the museum.

In August 2021, I emailed Special Collections at Seattle Public Library trying to determine when James worked at the Frye plant and when he worked as a printer at the print shop in Chinatown. Our family knew he had also been a printer in a Chinatown print shop.

A wonderful librarian replied that James Sing worked at Frye & Co as a printer from 1930 to 1935, based on the R.L. Polk city directories.

From 1937 to 1946, he worked as a printer/manager at the Chinese Star Printing Co., at 711 King St. We had not known the name of the print shop in Chinatown.

The mention of “star” jogged a memory, and I looked in Dad’s stack of correspondence and found a receipt/invoice pad with the name “Chinese Star Printing Co.” with a photo of a military man on the cover. Further research revealed that the star emblem was the official symbol on the flag of the Republic of China (1928-1949; Taiwan). The military man was a young Chiang Kai-shek, the military leader of the Republic of China.

Chinese Star Printing Co., 1937 to 1946, Seattle. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
1950 Sanborn Street Map of Chinatown, Seattle. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

The information on dad working at Frye & Co. (1930-1935) along with the fashion ad, would confirm that the Frye employee photo was taken in November 1931.


In September 2021, brother Allen found two more photos of Dad James in group photos of the Kuomintang (KMT), a political party of the Chinese Nationalist Party (anti-Communist).

One photo was definitely dated “December 9, 1928” and was the first meeting (grand meeting) of the NW branch of the KMT with nearly 70 people in the photo, taken in South Canton Alley, Seattle Chinatown.

Dec. 9, 1928: Kuomintang First Northwest meeting, Canton Alley. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
1942 World War II draft registration card for James Sing/. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
Oct. 24, 1948: Meeting of the Kuomintang in front of KMT, 711 King St., Seattle. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

On the back of the 1928 photo was a note “13 Goon Dip” and “9 James Sing” identifying the photo location of Dad James and businessman Goon Dip, who owned the Milwaukee Hotel. Revered by the community, Goon Dip was appointed honorary consul of China during the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and, later, permanent consul until his death in 1933.

I contacted the Wing collections manager, and after showing him the second photo, taken on Oct. 24, 1948 (likely for the 20th anniversary of the original 1928 grand meeting), the manager indicated that it was taken downstairs on King Street in front of the KMT office, which also housed the Chinese Star Printing Co. I now knew where Dad James worked on his second job in Seattle.

With the knowledge that the print shop and the KMT office shared the same address, our family realized that our dad was more involved with the KMT than we had known. As a child, I remember Mom mentioning the “Kuomintang,” but I did not know what it was. According to the Seattle Public Library librarian, the Chinese Star Printing Co. was no longer listed as a business in the Seattle Street Address directory in 1947.

2021: Former location of Chinese Star Printing Co. and Kuomintang offices, 711 King St. Seattle, and site of 1948 KMT photo. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

In February 1946, James married Nellie, and by October 1946, twin sons were born, with another son born in August 1947. It would seem that James, with a growing family, needed to earn more income.

By 1948, “Jim Sing” was listed in the Polk directory as working at Louie’s Chinese Garden. No Polk directory was produced in 1947, so James could have been working at Chinese Garden in 1947.

The Wing sent a copy of an April 10, 1951, Seattle Post-Intelligencer article, “Chinatown Detests Communism Evil,” with a photo of James Sing in front of the “Kuo Min Tang” office at 711 King St. It quotes James and identifies him as “past Chairman of the Seattle branch.”

James was probably the chairman of the KMT in the late 1940s when that 1948 photo was taken. He is standing in the back of the photo, against the KMT building, under the “K” on the window.

1951: James Sing past chairman, KMT. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
1931-1960: Kuo Min Tang at 711 King St., Seattle. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
2021: Wing Luke Museum, Canton Alley, Chinese Star Printing, KMT. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

One of the translated aerograms (year unknown), which was a letter from a “nephew” from Taiwan, was addressed to James c/o Chinese Garden. James worked at Chinese Garden from 1948 to 1958.

The letter mentions that this “nephew” could make his way to the United States to carry on or share James’ duties so he could take a break due to his old age. He would need a job when he arrived.

In 1949, James moved his now family of six to a home on Beacon Hill. By 1951, James was the past chairman of the local KMT branch.

1930s to 1958: Louie’s Chinese Garden Restaurant. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
1950 New Year’s Eve, Korean War]era soldiers with James’ sons at Chinese Garden, Seattle. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
1950s: Miss Chinatown. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

We knew that dad served as an informal banker, since Chinese families found it difficult to obtain loans from the local Seattle banks. Families paid a monthly fee, which James collected and recorded. When a loan was needed, he provided the funds and the recipient would repay the loan with interest.

While James worked at the Chinese Garden and Gim Ling restaurants, there was a safe that securely held the deposits. Several years ago, the father of one of my close friends recounted this arrangement. Shirley remembers sitting in her father’s car when he would stop by our house to drop off the money from his family. Dad was respected and trusted in the community.

1959: Gim Ling Restaurant postcards. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
1960 Seattle Times ad and menu, Gim Ling Restaurant. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

From 1962 to 1972, Dad and a cousin co-owned the Sea Dragon Restaurant in Puyallup after finding Chinatown Seattle overcrowded with Chinese restaurants and hoping to take advantage of the untapped Chinese food scene about 30 miles south of Seattle.

Unfortunately, Dad retired, and the Sea Dragon was sold at the time of President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in February 1972, enhancing the popularity of Chinese cuisine in America. Charlie’s Restaurant & Lounge took over the space in 1972 and still stands today.

1972: Last Sea Dragon Restaurant menu, first two pages, Puyallup. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
1972: Last Sea Dragon Restaurant menu, second two pages, Puyallup. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

Dad constantly practiced his calligraphy even during his rest breaks at the restaurant and after he retired in 1972. Businessmen would have him draw Chinese characters for their business signs atop their stores or restaurants.

He once showed me a calligraphy project in which he compiled and demonstrated 10 styles of calligraphy. Dad even convinced a visiting Chinese master erhu musician to come to our house to show him how to play the erhu after he retired. I came home one day to find a University of Washington Chinese art professor showing him water color techniques!

1978 to 1984: James Sing in retirement, practicing calligraphy skills. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)
1979: James Sing in retirement, practicing painting. (Slide courtesy Helen Sing)

Among one of the retrieved letters, I found one from January 1973 written by a San Francisco friend of Dad. Loosely translated, it said:

“Christmas greetings! I learned that you have retired and closed the restaurant. Good for you to enjoy your old age and have a good family. Your achievements were due to your talents and your abilities to adapt. If other people were in the same boat as yours, they might not have the same achievements.”

In today’s vernacular, Dad was able to “pivot” from immigrant to political party member to chairman, from printer to restaurant manager, owner and community banker. Add calligrapher, amateur painter and musician in retirement. Most important, he was Dad in our family of seven. Here is an overall timeline:

  • 1917 arrived in the United States with his father and uncle.
  • 1925 arrived in the United States for the second time with older brother.
  • 1928 Jan. 19 filed his paper son documents in San Francisco.
  • 1928 Dec. 9 in Seattle as part of the first meeting of the Northwest KMT branch.
  • 1930-1935, printer at Frye & Co., meat-packing plant, 2305 Airport Way S.
  • 1937-1946, printer and manager at Chinese Star Printing Co., 711 King St.
  • 1948 Oct. 24, 20th Anniversary of the Northwest Kuomintang branch.
  • Late 1940s-1950, chairman of the Seattle Kuomintang branch.
  • 1947-1959, manager, Louie’s Chinese Garden, 516 7th Ave S.
  • 1959-1962, manager & co-owner of the Gim Ling Restaurant, 516 7th Ave S.
  • 1962-1972, manager and co-owner of the Sea Dragon Restaurant, 113 E. Main St., Puyallup.
  • 1972-1985, retired at his Beacon Hill home.

In the last three years, with one stone after another, and with the help of family members and the discovery of many more, this journey has filled in so many gaps in my dad’s early life in Seattle. It also has given his children a fuller picture of his struggles and sacrifices to make a life for his family.

I have so much respect and gratitude for both my parents in their respective journeys from China to the United States, twice for my dad, and from Canada to China to Canada and finally, to the United States for my mom.

We will never know their full stories, wasting too many years, left only with faint memories of a childhood full of mysterious clues, waiting to be pieced together to reveal the truth — their truth.

I would encourage you to speak with your parents and grandparents while they are alive, to follow and preserve their “footprints in the sand” before the incoming tide of time washes away their memory, leaving us with regret for time lost.

– – – – –

Helen’s footnote regarding the term “paper son”

A “paper son” is explained here. As an early teenager, my dad illegally immigrated to the United States in 1917 and again in 1925 through Mexicali on the southern California border. He jumped ship at some point before docking in southern California and traveled up through California.

By his second entry in 1925, the Immigration Act of 1924, according to Wikipedia, “introduced quotas for immigration based on national origin, creating a quota of zero for Asian countries, as well as forming the United States Border Patrol.” This required that Dad had to provide documentation. There have been many documentaries done on this “paper son” phenomenon.

In part, due to my dad’s immigration status, my parents were always careful not to tell us everything, although I knew that he came through Mexicali. That is why the translation on his headstone was important in telling the truth of when and where he was born. He literally took the truth to his grave.

That is why I believe he was actually born in 1904, based on his traditional Chinese listing of his date of birth. He would have had no reason to lie in Chinese on his headstone, written in a way that immigration officials would not understand. How many kids grew up knowing the name of prominent Seattle immigration attorney Dan Danilov? He was always concerned with the earlier version of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Chinese were allowed to remain in the United States if they could document that they were sons or daughters (mostly sons) of legal citizens (Chinese parents). They had to file affidavits declaring that they were the son or daughter of an American citizen (Chinese).

I have my dad’s “paper son” documents. This was common in the early 1900s, and many Bay Area Chinese would testify that their “government” documents were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The affidavit was signed by a known citizen who would testify that he “knew” this affiant was born in “such and such” city to “such and such” American parents.

When I started researching my dad’s early history, I knew that the typical documents would not be helpful, because it was never going to be a matter of finding a straight-line progression of his footprints through government documents. Only when Dad filed his 1940 US Census, married my mom in 1946, applied for Social Security (enacted in 1935) and paid taxes would his U.S. government documents start to appear.

This is why I have such respect and gratitude for my dad in what he was able to achieve in his lifetime. He spent two years of high school (1940 Census), which was two years of night school at the old Broadway High School, learning English after he arrived in Seattle in 1928. Many immigrants did the same. Then in 1930, according to the Polk Directory, he was working at the Frye plant as a clerk and printer — hired by an American company!

= = = = =

‘Human Nature, Animal Culture:
Selections from the
Frye Art Museum Collection’

The exhibit opened June 12, 2021, and runs through Aug. 21, 2022. It looks at Charles and Emma Frye’s art collection through the lens of their businesses and includes archival materials and photos.
The images below are courtesy of the Frye Art Museum.
To see full descriptions for the entire exhibit, click here.

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

Heinrich von Zügel. Three Young Cows with their Drover in the High Meadow Grass, Worth, 1912. Oil on canvas. 21 x 31 3/4 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.206. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Heinrich von Zügel. Old Man Asleep with Sheep, ca.1870-1880. Oil on canvas. 21 1/2 x 28 1/4 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.209. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Percival Rosseau. Two Gordon Setters in a Field, 1904. Oil on canvas. 23 3/4 x 32 1/4 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.146. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Anton Braith. Shepherd with Goats, 1895. Oil on canvas. 19 13/16 x 31 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.015. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Alexander Max Koester. Ducks in Green Water, ca. 1910–13. Oil on canvas. 25 x 38 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.088. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Gabriel von Max. Botaniker (The Botanists), after 1900. Oil on canvas. 25 x 31 3/4 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.117. Photo: Eduardo Calderon
Eustace Paul Ziegler. Packhorses at Mt. Rainier, n.d. Oil on canvas. 26 x 34 in. Frye Art Museum, Bequest of Hugh S. Ferguson, 2011.006.02. Photo: Spike Mafford
Léon Barillot. Three Cows and a Calf, ca. 1890. Oil on linen. 52 x 64 1/4 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.005. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Adolphe Charles Marais. Peasant Girl with Cattle, 1890. Oil on canvas. 41 3/4 x 53 1/4 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.110. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Meatpacking operations, Frye & Company, ca. 1945. Frye Art Museum Archives
Frye-Bruhn market, Seward, Alaska, late 1880s–1920s. Frye Art Museum Archives
Frye postcard advertisement, 1910–1950. Frye Art Museum Archives
Frye & Company products, Seattle, ca.1911–1920. Photo: Curtis & Miller. Frye Art Museum Archives
Installation view of Human Nature, Animal Culture, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, June 12, 2021–August 21, 2022. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Installation view of Human Nature, Animal Culture, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, June 12, 2021–August 21, 2022. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Installation view of Human Nature, Animal Culture, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, June 12, 2021–August 21, 2022. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Installation view of Human Nature, Animal Culture, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, June 12, 2021–August 21, 2022. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Installation view of Human Nature, Animal Culture, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, June 12, 2021–August 21, 2022. Photo: Jueqian Fang
Installation view of Human Nature, Animal Culture, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, June 12, 2021–August 21, 2022. Photo: Jueqian Fang

= = = = =

Related ‘Now & Then’ columns

To see Paul Dorpat’s Feb. 9  2013, column on the another crash near Airport Way, click here. And to see his column about the fire station that responded to the 1943 bomber crash into the Frye plant, see below.

May 12, 1996, “Now & Then” column by Paul Dorpat.


Season’s greetings 2021 from Santa Paul and other holiday musings

Our Christmas Eve grab-bag

From his abode at Providence Heritage House at the Market, “Now & Then” column founder Paul Dorpat, decked in his father’s Santa garb, extends us greetings of the season. (Video by Jean Sherrard)


Our collection of cheer continues below. It includes an assortment of Christmas-related images from the collection of Paul and Jean, past and present, as well as a reprise of Clay’s 1985 newspaper profile of a Black Santa. Enjoy!


‘The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton’

Our next feature, however, is a delightful video excerpt from Jean Sherrard‘s “Short Stories Live: Rogue’s Christmas,” presented Dec. 12, 2021, at Town Hall. It’s a reading of Charles Dickens’ “The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton” by Marianne Owen.

(VIDEO: 25:59) Marianne Owen reads Charles Dickens’ “The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton” during the Dec. 12, 2021, “Rogue’s Christmas” at Town Hall. (Photo: Clay Eals)


Images of the season, from now and then

(Click to enlarge photos)

Nov. 30, 1907, reception of Garvey Buchanon Co.’s Santa Claus and live reindeer Dancer and Prances at Pioneer Square totem pole. (Paul Dorpat collection)
Dec. 12, 1935, Seattle Christmas Trolley. (Paul Dorpat collection)
Santa Claus promotion at the Bon Marche, downtown Seattle. (Paul Dorpat collection)
Baby seal Patsy heads to the Aquarium, led, of course, by Ivar Haglund. (Paul Dorpat collection)
October 2003: Paul Dorpat in his father’s Santa garb poses with friends at Paulk’s 65th birthday party. (Paul Dorpat collection)
A peppered wreath: Christmas at Pike Place Market, 2019. (Jean Sherrard)
Santa at Pike Place Market, 2019. (Jean Sherrard)
Santa at Pike Place Market, 2019. (Jean Sherrard)
Santa at Pike Place Market, 2019. (Jean Sherrard)
Pork deer at Pike Place Market, 2019. (Jean Sherrard)
Gum wall at Pike Place Market, 2019.(Jean Sherrard)


Black Santa, 1985

By Clay Eals

PacificNW magazine of The Seattle Times is not running “Now & Then” in the Sunday print edition of Dec. 26, 2021. So I offer this “Black Santa” story that appeared Christmas Day 1985 on the front page of the West Seattle Herald, for which I served as editor. The fine photos were by Herald photographer Brad Garrison. This is posted with the permission of Robinson Newspapers.

In 2020, thinking this story and photos might make the basis for a “Now & Then” column, I tried searching online for Tracy Bennett, the subject of this story, who would be 58 today. Alas, I turned up nothing.

Still, in our COVID era, this 36-year-old story about Tracy and his view on the Santa milieu remains timely and inspiring — at least that’s my hope.

At the time I wrote it, the story resonated personally, From 1985 to 1993, I volunteered more than 100 times to play Santa for children and adults at parties and in schools, community halls and private homes throughout Puget Sound as part of the American Heart Association’s “Santa with a Heart” fundraising program. As any Santa will tell you, it was a uniquely heartwarming and unforgettable experience. (See clippings at bottom.)

Please click any of the images once or twice to enlarge them for easy reading. And if you want to read the transcribed Black Santa text instead of reading directly from the images, scroll down.

Merry merry, and ho, ho, ho!

Dec. 25, 1985, West Seattle Herald, page one. (Posted with permission of Robinson Newspapers.)
Dec. 25, 1985, West Seattle Herald, page two. (Posted with permission of Robinson Newspapers.)

West Seattle Herald, Dec. 25, 1985

‘Just for you’

Black Santa relishes children’s happiness

Santa Claus, known as Tracy Bennett in the “off”-season, walks into a class of busy fifth- and sixth-graders at Hughes Elementary School in West Seattle.

“Hi, boys and girls,” says Santa.

“Oh, hi Santa Claus!” the students respond, almost in unison.

“Howya doin’?”


“That’s good. I thought I’d drop in and visit you for a minute.”

“Yeah,” say a couple of students. “You changed colors.”

“Yeah,” answers Santa, “I sure did, didn’t I?”


When most of those who are opening packages under the Christmas tree this morning think about “the man with all the toys,” their vision probably doesn’t look like Tracy Bennett.

That’s because Bennett is Black, while nearly all of the Santas in the world — at least in the United States — seem to be as white as the North Pole’s year-round snow.

Bennett isn’t bothered, however. He keeps an upbeat, optimistic attitude about the seasonal craft he’s practiced for the past 12 years. He says he’s encountered subtle prejudice from adults and skepticism from kids, but he boasts of being able to win over most of the doubters.

Exposure is what Bennett says he needs most. And so do the other Black Santas in America, he says.

Bennett got some of the exposure he desired last week when he walked the halls of both Hughes and Van Asselt elementary schools, the latter of which is attended by some students who live in southern West Seattle and the city side of White Center.

He roamed the halls at Hughes and, with the assistance of teacher Willa Williams, peeked into classrooms and dropped off sacks of candy canes, occasionally stopping for a few minutes to talk to kids on his lap. Bearing a staccato, smile-inducing “ho, ho, ho,” he almost resembled a politician, repeatedly extending his hand for a shake and greeting children with a steady stream of “Howyadoin’? … Howyadoin’, guy? … Hiya guys. Workin’ hard?”

The racially mixed classes responded in a generally positive way. Although one sixth-grader was heard to say, “I thought Santa Claus was white, because I saw a white Santa Claus at The Bon,” for the most part any negative comments centered on whether he was “real,” not on his skin color.

“He’s nice, but his hair’s made out of cotton. Weird,” said fourth-grader Jessica Canfield. “And he has clothes under his other clothes.”

“He’s fine, and I like him,” said fellow fourth-grader Johnny Cassanova. “He said that he would visit me, and he would try to get everything that I want for Christmas and to get good grades.”

Was he the “real” Santa? “Yeah,” said Johnny, “to me he is.”

“It went real good,” Bennett said afterward. “They were very polite. They weren’t skeptical. Mostly loving, you can tell.”

Bennett, who at 22 is unemployed and intends to go to school so that he can get a job either as a police officer or working with handicapped kids, began his Santa “career” at the young age of 10. “I started as a little dwarf and moved my way up,” the Rainier Valley resident said with a laugh.

Over the years, Bennett said, he’s been Santa at private gatherings and community centers in Seattle’s south end, and he’s pieced together a costume he thinks is unimposing. The key part, he said, is his beard, which is a rather flat affair.

“The big Santa Claus beards and hairs are so flocky, so thick, that it scares some children,” Bennett said. “His color of his suit and his beard is so bright already, along with the brightness of his face.

“A Black Santa Claus with a white beard seems to bring out an older look, and the color of my skin makes it look like a normal Black man wearing a suit.”

Consequently, he said, kids warm up to him rather quickly. “Apparently I work out pretty good,” he said.

Children, both white and minority, raise the racial question fairly often, Bennett said. They usually just say, “Santa Claus is white,” expecting a response, he said.

“But I really don’t say nothing. I just look at ’em and smile, or I say ‘Ho, ho, ho,’ and they usually don’t ask anymore,” he said. “I’m used to it, so it’s no problem.”

Bennett does look forward to a day when more Black Santas are around to break the racial ice at Christmastime.

“I’m not the only one, but I never see ’em in stores,” he said. If just one major downtown store would feature a Black Santa, “that would mean the 12 years that I’ve been working on it has started to come through,” he said. “It would be a breakthrough. I want it to happen.”

He also would like to see children exposed to Santas of a variety of races. “If we bring the children Black Santa Clauses, Korean Santa Clauses, Japanese Santa Clauses, the kids will like it after a while,” he said.

For that to happen, however, some prejudices will have to be broken down gradually. “You can feel it’s there,” he said. “You try to believe it’s not there, but you can see it in people’s eyes.”

Like any Santa Claus, Bennett finds it a “thrill” to portray Saint Nick to children. “When kids are happy, I’m happy. When they’re sad, I feel for ’em. I’d like to give ’em more than I can.”

He insists, however, that it’s important not to insist that he’s the “real” Santa when kids challenge him. He tells children, “You don’t have to believe in me. But I’m doing this just for you.”

“Why ruin a kid’s mind and say, ‘I’m real, believe me’?” he said. “He (Santa) is a beautiful man, OK? No one can take that away from him. But we have to tell what’s real from not. We have to tell our kids we play Santa Claus because we love children.”

Bennett also said it’s important not to push the religious aspects of Christmas as Santa. “When we talk about religion, we have to let kids do what they want, do not force them.”

Williams, the teacher, took the same approach in deciding to invite Bennett, a friend of hers, to visit Hughes. While Christmas “is a fun time and should be a time for joy,” she said she’s well aware of the Seattle School District’s policy that’s intended to separate religion from school activity.

Bringing Santa to the classroom — and a Black Santa at that — was an attempt to get students to “understand each other’s differences,” she said.

“When I told them Santa Claus might visit, one student told me, ‘I don’t believe in Santa Claus.’ Another said, ‘Santa Claus is my mom and dad,’ and another said, ‘Santa Claus is Jesus’,” Williams said. “It was just the idea of general thought and letting them express themselves and learning to accept each and every person and their differences as long as there isn’t any harm.”

For Bennett, the delight of being Santa is that “the guy is just a giving person, you know?

“He gives away things to make people happy. If a child’s sick in bed, he sees Santa Claus, he’s going to try to smile as much as he can because he’s happy. When they say, ‘Santa Claus, you didn’t give me so-and-so,’ I say, ‘Well, maybe next year, OK?’

“I don’t tell them I’m going to get this (particular item) for them and get their hopes up. I tell them that maybe somebody will get it for them very soon.

“One guy said he wanted to go to college, and I said, ‘Maybe next Christmas or a few Christmases from now, you’ll be going to college and be saying you got your wish.’ ”

Bennett clearly is hooked on his annual role: “As long as I live and as long as I stay healthy, I’ll always be Santa Claus.”


P.S. Clay as Santa

As promised above, here are tidbits from my eight-year volunteer Santa Claus “career” for the American Heart Association: two clippings in which I demonstrate for other Santas the best way to don the uniform, plus a sketch I created to provide step-by-step guidance. Click once or twice on the images to enlarge them. —Clay

Nov. 11, 1992, North Central Outlook.
Dec. 16, 1992, West Seattle Herald.
Clay’s sketched guide to the most efficient order for donning elements of a Santa Claus suit.


A bonus:

Just for fun and to keep with the theme, I also dug up and am including a Santa article I wrote that appeared on Christmas Eve 1980 in the Oregonian near the end of my eight-year stint as a reporter and photographer for that newspaper. Again, click once or twice on the image to enlarge it for easy readability. —Clay

Dec. 24, 1980, Oregonian, page B8.


… and to all a good night!


Seattle Now & Then Postscripts: Hendrix at Sicks, and preservation wins — and a big loss

Here are two of what The Seattle Times calls “postscripts” — items that follow up stories (including “Now & Then” columns) printed in in its PacificNW magazine.


(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: Wyatt recalls using a Nikkormat SLR with a 50mm lens and Tri-X black-and-white film. “I was just figuring out how to use it,” he says. “Looking over the negatives, I had a long way to go.” Upon further reflection, he adds, “It was grungy… in 1970. The quintessential Seattle concert.” (Scott Wyatt)
NOW: At the Kurt Cobain Memorial Bench in Seattle’s Viretta Park, Wyatt holds a sheaf of the photos he took of Jimi Hendrix at Sicks Stadium. Tragically and coincidentally, both rockers died at 27. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Dec. 19, 2021
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Dec. 19, 2021)

The bigger picture: More rare photos of
Jimi Hendrix’s last Seattle concert emerge
By Jean Sherrard

Last summer, I naively thought it would be easy to visually verify Jimi Hendrix’s final appearance in Seattle and in the continental United States.

After all, the date was only a half-century ago, July 26, 1970, just a few weeks before the legendary guitarist died. The venue was the city’s prominent but fading baseball cathedral, Sicks Stadium. And thousands besides my early teenage self were there. Surely many were clicking away.

How wrong I was.

All the usual sources came up goose eggs. To my relief, however, Dave DePartee’s name popped up on a rock ’n’ roll fan site. DePartee, just 16, had used a point-and-shoot camera to snap two color pictures, one of which we showcased in our July 25 “Now & Then.” Grainy and distant, DePartee’s were seemingly the only stills of a major event in music history.

Wrong again!

After the column was published, an email from Scott Wyatt landed in my inbox. He had stood next to the stage on that soggy Sunday, wielding his Nikkormat camera. Proof was attached: a stunning, close-in black-and-white of Hendrix.

“I was just getting into photography,” Wyatt says, “but Hendrix’s was the only concert I ever shot. And it was like no other I’d ever attended.”

While studying architecture in New York, Wyatt held a summer job at a Longview sawmill. He and friends often trekked to Seattle for weekend shows. The Sicks gig was “uniquely intimate,” he recalls. “To me, Hendrix was a god, and I was right up front kissing his feet.”

In the early 1970s, Wyatt and his wife joined the Peace Corps and traveled to Iran, where his camera granted him special access in a country on the verge of revolution.

Back stateside, he worked as an architect, rising to become CEO of NBBJ, a Seattle-based global architectural firm. Retired after 30 years, he now attends Gage Academy, engaging a new passion: oil painting.


Here is the original “Now & Then” column on Hendrix at Sicks, published July 25, 2021 — click it to see the column and its own “web extras”:

July 25, 2021, “Now & Then” column on Hendrix at Sicks.

Here are additional “Then” photos of Hendrix from Scott Wyatt:

THEN 2: A cop prowls the Sicks bleachers, on the lookout for gatecrashers. Denizens of Cheapskate Hill watch the concert for free. (Scott Wyatt)
THEN 3: Another shot from the front of the stage. Paul Dorpat, a backstage guest at the concert, believes that his forehead appears just below the tuning pegs of Hendrix’s guitar. (Scott Wyatt)







For a photo essay by Scott Wyatt about his Peace Corps stint in Iran and Afghanistan, click here.

A street photographer in Teheran, one of Scott Wyatt’s many portraits of daily life in Iran


(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: An undated mid-20th-century view of the west-entry face of East Seattle School, built in 1914. (Mercer Island Historical Society)
THEN2: A total of 109 East Seattle School alumni assemble before the west entry face of East Seattle School on June 8, 2019, to support preservation of the edifice. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW: With the East Seattle School demolition site behind them on Nov. 7, 2021, are (from left) Kit Malmfeldt, who organized a 2019 gathering of alums for a group photo that she is holding, along with Mercer Island Historical Society board members Susan Blake, Einer Handeland, Judy Ginn, co-presidents Terry Moreman and Jane Meyer Brahm, and, displaying a throw depicting the school, Nancy Gould Hilliard. They surround a replica of the school’s entry archway that Malmfeldt built as a Little Free Library near her home in Everett. (Clay Eals)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Dec. 19, 2021
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Dec. 19, 2021)

Good and grief, Charlie Brown: The razing of Mercer Island’s
former East Seattle School signifies a mixed preservation year
By Clay Eals

Undergirding this Postscript is one of the more charming homilies in comic-strip history.

Sept. 17, 1973, Peanuts cartoon

“Life is rarely all one way,” says Linus in a Peanuts installment from Sept. 17, 1973. “You win a few, and you lose a few!” Charlie Brown replies, “Really? Gee, that’d be neat!!”

Two “Now & Then”-related preservation wins emerged in 2021:

  • The La Quinta Apartments on Capitol Hill became a city landmark March 22, and its new owner signed a controls agreement Sept. 27. Tenants and Historic Seattle, whose quest to save the U-shaped structure we explored last Jan. 31, breathed a collective sigh of relief.
  • The stunning, south-facing view of tiny Ursula Judkins Park in Magnolia was protected by a city hearing examiner’s ruling Oct. 19 that blocked proposed mega-mansions on the steep slope nearby. We featured a downtown skyline view from the park on Jan. 5, 2020.

But we were not spared the loss of the former East Seattle School on Mercer Island, near Interstate 90, at the turn of the New Year.

As we noted in “Now & Then” on July 28, 2019, the 1914 building had anchored the island’s first community hub, operating as a public school until 1982 and as a Boys & Girls Club until 2008.

Filling the 2.9-acre parcel will be 14 single-family homes. But the Mercer Island Historical Society is somewhat cheered that the city will require inclusion of a physical reminder of what came before.

Jane Meyer Brahm

“We have identified 200 square feet by the northeast corner of the property,” says Jane Meyer Brahm, co-president of the historical society. “We’ve talked about a paved area with an interpretive sign and hopefully a miniature representation of the archway that faced west, with information not just about the school but the entire East Seattle neighborhood.”

The extrapolated lesson becomes a Charlie Brown corollary: In preservation, often something irreplaceable has to fall for us to make sure that others remain standing.


Here are the original “Now & Then” columns on La Quinta Apartments from Jan. 31, 2021, and the view from Ursula Judkins Park from Jan. 5, 2020, along with the July 28, 2019, column on East Seattle School. Click on each to see each column and its own “web extras”:

Jan. 31, 2021, “Now & Then” column on La Quinta Apartments.
Jan. 5, 2020, “Now & Then” column on the skyline view from Ursula Judkins Park
July 28, 2019, “Now & Then” column on East Seattle School.

Here are an additional photo and a video on East Seattle School:

On Nov. 7, 2021, Mercer Island Historical Society members and Kit Malmfeldt (center) examine a Roanoke Inn throw that includes a depiction of East Seattle School. (Clay Eals)
Video, 1:20. Click on the photo of Jane Meyer Brahm above to hear her speak of the historical interpretation anticipated for the East Seattle School site. (Clay Eals)

Come to ‘Wunda Wunda’ group photo — noon Sunday in Magnolia

Click to enlarge!

Calling all “Wunda Wunda” fans! Come honor her by taking part in a group photo with this “Wunda Wunda” standee at noon this Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021.

Ruth Prins, who played “Wunda Wunda” on KING-TV from 1953 to 1972, died Nov. 6 at age 101. Jean Sherrard and I are staging the group photo so that it can appear in an upcoming tribute to Ruth in PacificNW magazine of the Seattle Times.

The photo will be taken in Ruth’s longtime neighborhood, at Magnolia Boulevard Viewpoint, between Howe Street and Montavista Place. (See map below.)

The viewpoint has a large parking lot, and if it fills up, there is plenty of nearby parking space along the scenic boulevard.

We are grateful that no rain is forecast, but it’ll be a chilly 41 degrees, so bundle up. The backdrop will be the Space Needle, part of downtown and, if it’s visible, Mount Rainier. We will aim to take the photo shortly after noon, and we should be done by 12:30 p.m.

If you have any questions, please call or email me. Hope you can come!

Clay Eals
(206) 484-8008

Magnolia Boulevard Viewpoint is at the red button. Click twice to enlarge.