All posts by Clay Eals

Black Santa, 1985

By Clay Eals

PacificNW magazine of The Seattle Times is not running “Now & Then” in the Sunday print editions of Dec. 20 and Dec. 27, 2020.

So as one way to fill the gap for you, our faithful blog subscribers, I offer this “Black Santa” story of mine 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.

A couple months ago, thinking this story and photos might make the basis for a “Now & Then” column this month, I tried searching online for Tracy Bennett, the subject of this story, who would be 57 today. Alas, I turned up nothing.

Still, in our coronaviral time of health crisis and social, economic and political upheaval, this 35-year-old story about Tracy and his view on the Santa milieu remains timely, powerful and inspiring — at least that’s my hope.

At the time I wrote it, the story resonated quite 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’?”

“Fine.”

“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?”

By CLAY EALS

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 “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 at the top, 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. Enjoy! —Clay

Dec. 24, 1980, Oregonian, page B8.

Seattle Now & Then: Emerald Street Boys, Seattle hip-hop group, Westin skybridge, 1984

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: Posing on the Westin Hotel skybridge in 1984 are the Emerald Street Boys, formed in 1981: (from left) Eddie “Sugar Bear” Wells, James “Captain Crunch” Croone and Robert “Sweet J” Jamerson. The span was built in 1982 at second-floor level above Virginia Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues to connect the circular 1969 hotel with its new parking garage. (Kristine Larsen, courtesy Daudi Abe)
NOW: With masks briefly removed, standing in for the late Eddie Wells at left is Daudi Abe, author of “Emerald Street: A History of Hip Hop in Seattle” (University of Washington Press), while the two surviving Emerald Street Boys, James Croone (center) and Rcurtis Jamerson, re-create their 1984 poses on the Westin skybridge. For a video interview of the three, see below. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Dec. 3, 2020
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Dec. 6, 2020)

Seattle helped hip hop cross into the cultural mainstream
By Clay Eals

Create a futuristic space in this Space Needle city, and you might launch more movement than you imagined.

Proof is the 1982 Westin Hotel skybridge, whose rounded roof ribbing seems to pull pedestrians into the world of tomorrow. So how fitting that Seattle’s celebrated early rap group, the aptly named Emerald Street Boys, chose the elevated walkway as the site for an early promo photo.

No one recalls why the shot was staged on the 66-foot, steel-beam span, but the image anchored the trio’s local roots and symbolized the professional beginnings of Seattle hip hop.

Tracing the saga of this 40-year cultural phenomenon — encompassing rap music, MCing, DJing, graffiti art and break-dancing — is a new book, “Emerald Street: A History of Hip Hop in Seattle” (University of Washington Press), by longtime Seattle Central College humanities professor Daudi Abe.

With voluminous detail in 262 pages, including a 40-page timeline and 21 pages of footnotes, Abe chronicles the previously undocumented rise of Seattle hip hop, from its national titans Sir Mix-A-Lot (from whom Abe secured a foreword) and Macklemore to less-known practitioners and trends. With a journalist’s eye, he weaves the growth of Seattle hip hop with broader events and tracks its evolution toward diversity.

Author Daudi Abe, in t-shirt with our “Then” image of the Emerald Street Boys from 1984.

“It could be argued,” he writes, “that Seattle is one of the more inclusive environments in all of hip hop, as over time African Americans, Africans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, whites, Latinos, women, the disabled, homeless and others have all been represented. … There is no question that misogynistic attitudes and inappropriate behavior — a characteristic of hip hop and society in general — were also present in Seattle.”

Though Abe says Seattle hip hop originally was seen as a fleeting fad, like disco, he affirms its enduring stature amid other forms of expression. His book supplies myriad examples, from a landmark Seattle Symphony show to an annual mayor’s award.

Of this progression, Abe stands in awe: “I’ve been teaching the history of hip hop for 20 years, and sometimes I find it difficult to get across how exciting it was. Nobody knew what was going to happen. There was no formula, no road map. Everything was so new. … Now it’s so natural. It’s so part of the mainstream.”

The Garfield High School graduate says that in his pre-teens, hip hop emerged as a “weapon against social and political oppression” that taught him about earning respect. With an unintentional nod to the Westin setting, he adds, “It also helps bridge our cultural gaps.”

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Below are an additional photo and, in chronological order, 19 historical clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and other online newspaper sources that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Also, here is a link to the Facebook page of “That Guy” Rcurtis Jamerson, singer /songwriter / music producer / lyricist / drummer / host / vocal coach / trainer / booking agent / actor / emcee.

As a bonus, here is the link to a 9-1/2-minute video interview of Daudi Abe, James Croone and Rcurtis Jamerson. If you click the photo below, you will open a pdf with a partial transcript of the interview. Enjoy!
Click on the photo to see a partial transcript of the video interview of author Daudi Abe and the two surviving members of the Emerald Street Boys, Rcurtis Jamerson and James Croone.
Here is an alternate NOW: With masks briefly removed, standing in for the late Eddie Wells at left is author Daudi Abe, while the two surviving Emerald Street Boys, James Croone (center) and Rcurtis Jamerson, re-create their 1984 poses on the Westin skybridge. For a video interview of the three, see above. (Jean Sherrard)
April 27, 1981, Seattle Times, page 53, Westin Hotel skybridge
June 28, 1981, Seattle Times, page 130, Westin Hotel skybridge.
April 9, 1982, Seattle Times, page 71.
April 9, 1982 Seattle Times, page 61.
April 23, 1982, Seattle Times, page 66.
Nov. 2, 1982, Seattle Times, page 33.
June 27, 1982, Seattle Times, page 51, Westin Hotel skybridge.
Nov. 3, 1982, Seattle Times, page 27.
Nov. 12, 1982, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 49.
Feb. 18, 1983, Seattle Times, page 54.
April 29, 1983, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 53.
April 29, 1983, Seattle Times, page 70.
May 27, 1983, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 24.
June 27, 1983, Seattle Times, page 70.
June 3, 1983, Seattle Times, page 65.
June 6, 1983, Seattle Times, page 43.
Sept. 25, 1983, Seattle Times, page 143.
Feb. 19, 1984, Seattle Times, page 114.
Feb. 19, 1984, Seattle Times, page 115.
April 29, 2010, Seattle Times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seattle Now & Then: Pioneer Hall, 1904

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: Facing west in front of the wooden predecessor of Pioneer Hall on June 21, 1904, are 39 members (top) and 60 members (bottom) of the Pioneer Association of the State of Washington. Twelve years hence, the level of Lake Washington, behind the hall, dropped by 9 feet with the opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. (University of Washington Special Collections)
NOW: Posing before Washington Pioneer Hall are 15 leaders and members of the Pioneer Association of the State of Washington: (from left) Randy Sleight, Junius Rochester, Gary Zimmerman, David Brazier, Sally Irving, Roy Pettus, Nancy Hewitt Spaeth, Alan Murray, Betsy Terry Losh, Liz Blaszczak, Lea Stimson, Steve Ellersick, Saundra Selle, Caroline Kiser and Regina Cornish. An online toast and talk will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the organization’s incorporation. More info: wapioneers.com. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Nov. 19, 2020
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Nov. 22, 2020)

In their 125th year, these pioneer ancestors
are a study of history in repose
By Clay Eals

When I first saw this juxtaposition of “Then” images, I had to smile. It’s tough enough to get a large group to pose pleasantly for just one photo. But this is a pair, taken before and after a 1904 reunion. Why two? Doubtless some turned up later and wanted to be represented, and someone wisely reckoned that pasting together both shots would please everyone concerned.

These days, with renewed urgency over ensuring equal standing and justice for all, it’s difficult for any pursuit — particularly an exclusive club — to achieve universal harmony.

Enter the Pioneer Association of the State of Washington, the state’s oldest history organization, having first gathered in 1871 and incorporated on Dec. 5, 1895.

That date points to a 125th anniversary, which the members plan to celebrate with an online talk and toast at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, with a focus on their artifact-filled Washington Pioneer Hall, built from brick in 1910 on the site of an earlier wooden hall, in Madison Park along the western shore of Lake Washington.

The word “pioneer,” common in historical conversation, statuary and sites (Pioneer Square, anyone?), denotes someone who discovers a new place or founds something. For some, the synonyms “explorer” and “trailblazer” conjure inspiration and heroism.

One person’s pioneer, of course, can be another’s oppressor — which, as everyone knows, was exactly the case in the settling of our state in the 19th century.

The association focuses its three-story hall on families whom its voting members can trace to ancestors living in Washington or Oregon territories prior to Washington statehood on Nov. 11, 1889. Those lacking such roots can join as nonvoters.

Chief Seattle portrait and chair. (For more info, see brochure below.)

Inside the hall is a forest of exhibits, early furniture, framed photos and an extensive genealogical library. Prominent in the entry, a portrait of Chief Seattle hangs near a replica of a wooden chair that the city namesake used in later years on his Suquamish porch.

Over time, a few voting members with Native American ties have joined. Teresa Summers, with 9% lineage to the Yakama Nation, has edited the association newsletter. Her membership “means I can help honor all my ancestors,” she says. The late Norman Perkins, association president in the mid-1980s, traced his roots to Chief Seattle.

Pioneer Hall, says Junius Rochester, past president, “acts as a kind of viewpoint from today backwards, and I think students — adults, too — should be reminded that our roots are important.”

That’s an inclusive “our,” even when some turn up later.

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Below are a video, a brochure, 5 supplemental photos and, in chronological order, 12 historical clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and other online newspaper sources that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

VIDEO (1:37): Junius Rochester, historian and past president, addresses why Washington Pioneer Hall is important. Click the photo to see the video. (Clay Eals)
This is the six-panel brochure of the Pioneer Association of the State of Washington.
ALTERNATE NOW: Posing with masks before Washington Pioneer Hall are 15 leaders and members of the Pioneer Association are (from left) Randy Sleight, Junius Rochester, Gary Zimmerman, David Brazier, Sally Irving, Roy Pettus, Nancy Hewitt Spaeth, Alan Murray, Betsy Terry Losh, Liz Blaszczak, Lea Stimson, Steve Ellersick, Saundra Selle, Caroline Kiser and Regina Cornish. The group will hold an online toast and talk at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the organization’s incorporation.  (Jean Sherrard)
From the association’s December 2018 newsletter, here is a brief history of its headquarters before the brick hall was built in 1910. (Pioneer Association of the State of Washington)
Interior entryway sign. (Clay Eals)
Interior entryway sign. (Clay Eals)
Early photo of 1910 brick Washington Pioneer Hall. (Pioneer Association of the State of Washington)
May 18, 1905, Tacoma News-Tribune, page 4.
May 18, 1914, Seattle Times, page 11.
June 8, 1932, Seattle Times, page 3.
June 19, 1932, Seattle Times, page 44.
June 7, 1933, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 11.
June 5, 1949, Seattle Times, page 5.
June 8, 1952, Seattle Times, page 19.
March 30, 1958, Seattle Times Charmed Land magazine, cover.
March 30, 1958, Seattle Times Charmed Land magazine, page 2.
June 10, 1962, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 3.
June 11, 1967, Seattle Times, page 3.
Sept. 13, 1970, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 65.
Sept. 13, 1970, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 66.
June 13, 1971, Seattle Times, page 19.

Seattle Now & Then: Early Bruce Lee, 1963-1964

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: In late 1963 or early 1964, close to his 23rd birthday, Bruce Lee stands with gung-fu student and future wife Linda Emery as they look north outside Lee’s studio at 4750 University Way N.E. The storefront later housed a ballet studio, a metaphysics school and a plasma center. Today, it’s an art boutique. (Courtesy Bruce Lee Foundation)
NOW1: Doug Palmer and his wife, Noriko Goto Palmer, long active in the local Japanese and Japanese American communities, replicate the pose of Bruce Lee and Linda Emery in the same spot. Note the Bruce Lee posters in the windows. Doug will speak about his memoir, “Bruce Lee: Sifu, Friend and Big Brother” (2020, Chinn Music Press), at an online event at 2 p.m. Dec. 5, sponsored by the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. (Jean Sherrard)
THEN2: The apartment building at 4750 University Way N.E., completed in June 1958, is shown Jan. 9, 1959. (Puget Sound Regional Archives, courtesy Barbara Manning)
NOW2: The apartment building at 4750 University Way N.E. today. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Nov. 12, 2020
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Nov. 15, 2020)

The Seattle roots of Bruce Lee flow on his 80th anniversary
By Clay Eals

He was a global martial-arts hero, showcasing strength for Asian males while living in Seattle. And undergoing a 2020 revival is the late Bruce Lee.

Nationally, he’s the focus of a book by daughter Shannon and a documentary film, the titles of each invoking Lee’s fluid metaphor for mortality: “Be Water.” In Seattle, where Lee lived from 1959 to 1964 (he is buried at Lake View Cemetery), a Lee exhibit continues at Wing Luke Museum, and a local former student of Lee just released a memoir of their friendship. All of this precedes the 80th anniversary of the superstar’s Nov. 27 birth.

Doug Palmer’s new memoir on Bruce Lee. (Chinn Music Press)

The memoirist, retired Mount Baker attorney Doug Palmer, was a Garfield High School senior when he began to bond with Lee. Four years older, Lee was building a local reputation with gung-fu shows in person and on public-TV’s KCTS Channel 9.

Lee’s time in Seattle, Palmer says, was pivotal. While working at and living in a walk-in closet above Ruby Chow’s restaurant at Broadway and Jefferson, Lee atypically welcomed students of all races to his gung-fu classes in the eatery’s basement, area parks and a garage.

In October 1963, as a University of Washington drama/philosophy student, Lee expanded to a live-in studio for 10 months on the ground floor of the three-story University Way Apartments at 4750 University Way N.E.

In our “Then” photo, Lee stands at 4750 with gung-fu student Linda Emery, whom he married in August 1964 in Seattle. Two years later, he played Kato in the “Batman” and “Green Hornet” TV series, soon cascading to Hollywood fame, followed by an untimely, mysterious death in 1973 at age 32.

Palmer’s memoir brims with anecdotes about Lee, who was born in San Francisco and raised in Hong Kong. Lee’s father was Chinese and his mother Eurasian. Palmer says Lee proudly identified as Chinese, while his parents urged him to embrace diversity.

This helped him in December 1963, when Lee was dating Emery, who is white. Palmer, who is white, was dating a Chinese woman at the same time. Both women’s parents objected to interracial dating, so Lee and Palmer picked up each other’s dates at the parents’ homes, then switched partners.

Lee, Palmer writes, could be a challenge: “He liked the limelight and had a tendency to suck all the oxygen out of the room.” This, he says, was “a small price to pay” to experience Lee’s magnetism and a cross-cultural vision. As Palmer notes, “We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.”

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Big thanks to Barbara Manning, househistories@icloud.com, for suggesting this column topic, for compiling an impressive dossier on the 4750 University Way N.E. site and for her stellar research skills, curiosity and generosity. Check out her 38-page report:

This is the cover of a thorough report on the history of 4750 University Way N.E. by Seattle house-history researcher Barbara Manning, househistories@icloud.com. Click the cover to access the 38-page report. (Courtesy Barbara Manning)

Below are 7 supplemental photos and, in chronological order, 11 historical clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and other online newspaper sources that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Fall 1963, Bruce Lee (center right) leads class in studio at 4750 University Way N.E. Doug Palmer is third from left. (Courtesy Doug Palmer)
Fall 1963, Bruce Lee (back to camera, right) leads class in studio at 4750 University Way N.E. Doug Palmer is at far left.  (David Tadman, courtesy Doug Palmer)
Fall 1963, Doug Palmer (front right) takes part in Bruce Lee class in studio at 4750 University Way N.E. (David Tadman, courtesy Doug Palmer)
Fall 1963, class under way at Bruce Lee studio at 4750 University Way N.E. Doug Palmer is at far right. (David Tadman, courtesy Doug Palmer)
Membership card for Bruce Lee’s Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute in Seattle. (Courtesy Jeff Chinn)
1937-1938, predecessor home at 4750 University Way N.E. (Puget Sound Regional Archives, courtesy Barbara Manning)
2020, Bruce Lee portrait by Desmond Hansen, aka Graves Hansen, on city signal box at northwest corner of 35th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Morgan Street in West Seattle. (Clay Eals)
May 28, 1961 Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 42.
May 29, 1961, Seattle Times, page 8.
May 29, 1961, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 8.
March 4, 1962, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 55.
May 18, 1962, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 29.
March 6, 1963, Seattle Times, page 18.
March 15, 1964, Seattle Times, page 135.
July 20, 1966, Seattle Times, page 14.
Dec. 29, 1966, Seattle Times, page 58.
Dec. 31, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 10.
July 3, 1967, Seattle Times, page 11.

 

Seattle Now & Then: Mack’s Totem Curio Shop, late 1930s/1940s

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: Dating between 1938 and the mid-1940s, this postcard is a pre-Photoshop consolidation of two photos of Mack’s Totem Curio Shop, elevated above street level at 71 Marion Street Viaduct. In its first few years, Mack’s was a few doors west at 63-1/2. Be sure to click this photo twice to see the mismatch at bottom center. (Courtesy Dan Kerlee)
THEN2: Albert Angus “Mack” McKillop stands at the entry to his shop, which bears a slightly different name, likely at 63-1/2 Marion Street Viaduct in the mid-1930s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
NOW: Wearing an ivory pendant made by her grandfather, Victoria McKillop of Ballard stands on the Marion Street Viaduct where her grandfather operated Mack’s Totem Curio Shop from 1933 to 1971. The viaduct was truncated during the 2019 demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Pedestrians now walk between First Avenue and Colman Dock along a new elevated walkway that doglegs via Columbia Street. (Clay Eals)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Oct. 29, 2020
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Nov. 1, 2020)

Totem-shop postcard turns the corner on a curious puzzle
By Clay Eals

With this week’s “Then” photo, we present a visual puzzle whose clue is quite difficult to detect.

The subject is Mack’s Totem Curio Shop. Most Seattleites today associate the word “curio” with Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, for 121 years a tourist fixture with ghoulish attractions at several spots near or along the downtown waterfront, now at Pier 54.

But not much farther than a mummy’s throw away, Albert Angus “Mack” McKillop competed with Ye Olde for 38 years, from his store’s inception in 1933 to his death in 1971. His wares ranged from Native American carvings and Belfast cord (used in macramé) to fossils and walrus ivory (whose sale came under federal regulation in 1972).

Mack’s operated from the Marion Street Viaduct, a second-story bridge guiding countless pedestrians from First Avenue across Alaskan Way to the Colman Dock ferries and vice versa. Talk about storefront visibility.

That’s where the puzzle comes in. With carved panels, totem poles and bauble-filled windows, the shop stood near the middle of the elevated block. So why does this postcard depict Mack’s on a corner?

A detail of the mismatch in our “Then.” (Courtesy Ron Edge)

Our sleuths strained for clues by studying old maps, aerial photos and window reflections. Finally, Ron Edge enlarged the card to reveal that the lower bricks of the depicted corner do not exactly line up. Thus, discounting potentially poor masonry, we assume the card is a mash-up of two images, one facing east and the other facing south, to create a faux angle.

The postcard is among artifacts preserved by the family. Did McKillop create and sell the fabricated portrayal for his shop to be perceived as more conspicuous and prosperous? Did he assume newcomers, conned by the card, would forgive the deception upon their arrival? The answers remain … a curiosity.

Born in Manitoba in 1896, McKillop spent early adult years as a schooner seaman near Point Barrow, Alaska, before heading south at age 37 to start his Seattle business. His carved ivory gavels, earrings and belt buckles became a specialty.

His most celebrated showpiece, glaring from high on an interior wall, was a walrus head with four tusks. In 1956, McKillop told The Seattle Times he had found the rare remnant in a local tavern. His research indicated the animal was shot in 1915 in Siberia, and he claimed it was the world’s only known four-tusker.

McKillop was both craftsman and salesman. So one can wonder at the monogram — a mix of his A and M initials — visible at the base of the totem poles appearing at each end of the postcard. Did Mack commission or acquire the poles or carve them himself? Another unsolved puzzle!

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Big thanks to Dan Kerlee, Ron Edge, Barbara Manning and especially Victoria McKillop for their invaluable help in assembling the elements and thrust of this column!

Below are 55 supplemental photos, a map, an email message, four certificates and, in chronological order, 43 historical clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and other online newspaper sources that relate to Mack’s Totem Curio Shop, A.A. McKillop and the Marion Street Viaduct and that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

A detail of the mismatch in our “Then.” (Courtesy Ron Edge)
1905, site of future Marion Street Viaduct, looking west on Marion Street. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
Pre-1930s Marion Street Viaduct, looking west. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
Nov. 29, 1951, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop along the Marion Street Viaduct, looking west. (Seattle Municipal Archives)
1950 Sanborn map address numbers for Marion Street Viaduct (north is up). (Courtesy Ron Edge)
A.A. McKillop and son John (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
April 1, 1931, A.A. McKillop seaman’s application. (Courtesy Barbara Manning)
Undated A.A. McKillop registration. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
April 2, 1931, A.A. McKillop seaman’s protection certificate. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
July 27, 1939, A.A. McKillop marriage registration, Victoria, B.C. (Courtesy Barbara Manning)
1934 McKillop listing in city directory. (Courtesy Barbara Manning, Ron Edge)
Undaetd, Albert Angus McKillop at his counter. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Albert Angus McKillop at desk with ivory. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Albert Angus McKillop outside shop with bird totem. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, A.A. McKillop at shop entry. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
1954 Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking east. (Courtesy Seattle Public Library)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking east. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking east. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking east. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking east. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking south. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking south. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking south. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, seven masks at Mack’s exterior. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, masks outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, inside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, inside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, inside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, four-tusk walrus inside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, four-tusk walrus postcard. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Victoria McKillop with Mack’s panel. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel. (Clay Eals)
Mack’s two-tusk walrus head. (Clay Eals)
Andrew Angus “Mack” McKillop signature on letter to wife. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Email message, Nov. 9, 2020, by Selene Higgins, niece of A.A. “Mack” McKillop.
“Mack” McKillop’s wife Carmen as a child. (Courtesy Selene Higgins)
The McKillop house on Bainbridge Island. (Courtesy Selene Higgins)
March 10, 1909, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 13.
March 11, 1909, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 6.
July 3, 1909, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 12.
Oct. 17, 1909, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 25.
Dec. 18, 1910, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 22.
Oct. 27, 1910, Seattle Times, page 76.
Oct. 18, 1911, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 7.
April 10, 1914, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 14.
Nov. 17, 1914, Seattle Times, page 17.
July 20, 1916, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 2.
Oct. 7, 1916, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 4.
March 4, 1917, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 10.
Sept. 30, 1917, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 30.
Oct. 6, 1918, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 9.
Nov. 3, 1918, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 30.
Dec. 8, 1918, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 39.
Jan. 1, 1920, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 17.
April 24, 1920, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 22.
June 9, 1921, Seattle Times, page 20.
Dec. 5, 1923, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 5.
Sept. 10, 1939, Seattle Times, page 25.
Aug. 7, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 19.
June 7, 1942, Seattle Times, page 24.
Sept. 6, 1943, Seattle Times, page 17.
Nov. 24, 1947, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 16.
Oct. 30, 1949, Seattle Times, page 23.
June 22, 1955, Seattle Times, page 31.
Dec. 30, 1955, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 23.
March 6, 1956, Seattle Times, page 26.
May 6, 1956, Seattle Times, page 115.
Oct. 20, 1959, Seattle Times, page 23.

 

Feb. 1, 1961, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 13.
Feb. 2, 1965, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mike Mailway column, page 8.
Dec. 10, 1967, Seattle Times, page 75.
Oct. 20, 1969, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 1.
Oct. 21, 1969, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 18.
July 17, 1971, A.A. McKillop obituary, Vancouver Sun. (Courtesy Barbara Manning)
Nov. 17, 1971, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Emmett Watson column, page 11.
May 17, 1972, Seattle Times, page 60.
Dec. 19, 1972, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 31.
March 16, 1979, Seattle Times, Mack’s successor The Legacy, page 78.
March 8, 1981, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mack’s successor The Legacy, page 84.
July 13, 1982, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mack’s successor The Legacy, page 29.

Seattle Now & Then: car-sales lots, 1957, and today’s Amazon Spheres

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: This property-value assessor’s photo, looking west and slightly north from the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Lenora Street north of downtown, was taken Dec. 18, 1957. Car details from our automotive informant Bob Carney: (from left) on street 1953 Chevrolet, 1956 Buick Special and 1953 Chevrolet 210 sedan. To left of Lee Moran building: 1953 Chevrolet. To right of building: 1955 Mercury. The lineup of used cars facing the street: 1956 Lincoln, 1956 Mercury, 1954 Mercury, 1956 Mercury, 1955 Oldsmobile 88, 1955 Studebaker coupe, 1950 Buick (can barely see the portholes) and, at far right, 1957 Ford. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives)
NOW: Opened Jan. 30, 2018, the Amazon Spheres complex serves as the signature structure for the internet-based colossus. Standing three to four stories tall, the spheres mix 40,000 plants with meeting spaces and stores, but the orbs are closed during the coronavirus pandemic. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Oct. 15, 2020
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Oct. 18, 2020)

Who could have predicted what these car lots would become?
By Clay Eals

Will Ferrell is mortally worried. Using the phrase “little did he know,” a stranger’s voice in his head is foretelling his death. He consults a literature professor, Dustin Hoffman, who warms to the puzzle by saying that he “once gave an entire seminar on ‘little did he know’ .”

Dustin Hoffman (left) and Will Ferrell in the 2006 film “Stranger Than Fiction.”

We jump from that scene in the 2006 film “Stranger than Fiction” (left) to our “Then” photo from Dec. 18, 1957. It captures a gent in a fedora driving a 1956 Buick Special and in momentary contemplation while stopped on Seventh Avenue at Lenora Street. Little did he know — or could anyone conceive — of the transformation 60 years later of this down-to-earth commercial tableau.

A stone’s throw from post-World War II downtown, this block is a typical 1950s tribute to the internal combustion engine, featuring the Lee Moran, W.R. Smith and ABC Fair-Way businesses and their symphony of signs: from “Cash for Cars” and “Cars under Cover” to “Highest Price for Used Cars” and “All Makes All Prices.” Car dealers had covered the block since the early 1940s, preceded by rental housing back to the century’s turn.

On the day this photo was taken (for use by the county to aid in assessing property tax), the weather forecast was familiar: “mostly cloudy with a few showers, occasional sun,” with a high of 45 to 50 degrees.

Gov. Albert Rosellini was inviting Seattle and King County to lead construction of a controversial second bridge across Lake Washington. Nationally, the first Atlas intercontinental missile was launched at Cape Canaveral, Alabama voters allowed the state to abolish a county in which Blacks outnumbered whites by more than 7 to 1, and actress Elizabeth Taylor underwent an appendectomy. Internationally, NATO delegates pushed Russia to resume disarmament talks.

Dec. 18, 1957, Frederick & Nelson ad, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 16. (Illustration by Bob Cram.) The “ultra-chrome dome home” resembles, among other things, the legendary Kalakala ferry.

Among newspaper ads this day was one for the classy Frederick & Nelson department store (right). The pitched product was women’s stockings, but the accompanying Bob Cram illustration was a huge, pre-Jetsons cartoon featuring a “man of tomorrow” having landed in a space vehicle and his wife dashing to greet him — in “Round-the-Clock superb sheers” — at the front door of their “ultra-chrome dome home.”

One might say that the many round-topped sedans in our “Then” photo serve as figurative domes, each one a sphere to represent the life of a driver or family.

Today we find the block dominated by the triple-orb greenhouse of Seattle-based Amazon. The online giant is doing everything it can — including, most recently, dabbling in drone delivery — to encompass all of us in its shopping sphere.

Where will that lead? Little do we know.

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Below are three supplemental photos and, in chronological order, 21 historical clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and other online newspaper sources that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Sept. 29, 1943, tax assessor’s photo of the same site as our “then” but taken from Sixth Avenue at the address 2016 Sixth Ave. Car details from our automotive informant Bob Carney: (from left) 1934 Studebaker, 1940 Plymouth, 1939 Ford Standard, and 1930 Studebaker Dictator. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives)
Dec. 18, 1957, tax assessor’s photo of the same site as our “then” but taken from Sixth Avenue at the address 2016 Sixth Ave. Car details from our automotive informant Bob Carney: (from left) 1956 Ford Fairlane, 1954 Chevrolet 210 station wagon, 1951 Nash and 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives)
Sept. 8, 2020, Amazon Spheres, facing east from Sixth Avenue. (Jean Sherrard)
May 31, 1903, Seattle Times, page 26.
June 12, 1904, Seattle Times, page 13.
June 3, 1910, Seattle Times, page 23.
April 30, 1911, Seattle Times, page 39.
July 9, 1911, Seattle Times, page 22.
Oct. 5, 1913, Seattle Times, page 43.
Dec. 14, 1913, Seattle Times, page 38.
March 1, 1914, Seattle Times, page 43.
Sept. 2, 1926, Seattle Times, page 27.
Sept. 3, 1926, Seattle Times, page 29.
Feb. 1, 1944, Seattle Times, page 19.
Sept. 3, 1948, Seattle Times, page 35.
May 19, 1954, Seattle Times, page 48.
Feb. 25, 1955, Seattle Times, page 39.
May 19, 1957, Seattle Times, page 56.
Dec. 17, 1957, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 28.
Dec. 18, 1957, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 11.
Dec. 18, 1957, Frederick & Nelson ad, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 16. (Illustration by Bob Cram.)
Dec. 18, 1957, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 17. (Illustration by Bob Cram.)
Dec. 18, 1957, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 27.
Dec. 19, 1957, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 40.

Seattle Now & Then: Mount Baker tunnel, 1940

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: This nighttime view of the eastbound Mount Baker tunnel shows that the original twin tubes had two lanes apiece. The photo was taken at least a few weeks after the tunnel’s July 2, 1940, opening because the 3-foot wide interior sidewalks, with high curbs and pipe guardrail, were not installed until later that month. (University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, TRA1001)
NOW: Repeating the original path of our “Then,” this daytime view shows only two of the Mount Baker tunnel’s four present-day eastbound lanes for auto traffic. The other two, not pictured, emerge from the formerly westbound tunnel immediately to the north. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Oct. 1, 2020
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Oct. 4, 2020)

In 1940, tunnel vision created a connection to the Eastside
By Clay Eals

As spooky as it is ethereal, our “Then” photo suggests Seattle barreling through a spacey cylinder to meet the future. The scene typifies our city’s bent for transforming its topography to satisfy urban dreams.

Eighty years ago, on July 2, 1940, an audacious dream — twin tunnels drilled through Mount Baker Ridge to connect Seattle to Mercer Island and the greater Eastside via an innovative bridge with floating concrete pontoons that crossed Lake Washington — became a reality that countless motorists take for granted today.

From the outset, the inextricably linked tunnels and bridge personified popularity, drawing 11,611 vehicles in the first 10-1/2 hours alone. To sustain this full-to-bursting stretch of what became an interstate artery, a companion tunnel and span were added a half-century later while, astonishingly, the original bridge sank and was quickly rebuilt.

Time was, Seattleites traveled east only by ferrying across or circumnavigating the elongated next-door lake. Some, including James Wood, Seattle Times associate editor, wanted to keep it that way.

“Just about the wildest dream ever to afflict an engineering mind is the proposed 8,000-foot concrete fence,” he wrote on Aug. 13, 1937. He called the tunnel-bridge project “a gross and wholly unnecessary obstruction.”

Prevailing, however, were campaigners for commerce. “The future prosperity of Seattle depends upon removing the barrier of the lake in order to gain easier access to the hinterland,” wrote Medina mogul Miller Freeman in the Jan. 9, 1938, Times. “It will providentially afford Seattle room for expansion in the only direction it can grow successfully.”

Thus the bridge and tunnels joined Seattle’s indelible identity. We of a certain age recall holding our breath through all 1,465 feet when parents drove us through one of the tunnels. Sometimes our elders humored us, generating a riotous echo by honking the car horn. But all was not childish fun.

As the neon indicates in our “Then,” when crossing the bridge to Mercer Island, drivers faced a variable toll of 25 to 45 cents, which ended in 1949. The curved arrow pointed to an abrupt “Lake Shore” entrance/exit opportunity tucked between the tunnels and bridge both east- and westbound at 35th Avenue South. A treacherous invitation to high-speed fender-benders and worse, it was curtailed in 1989.

Other tunnel-bridge idiosyncrasies, inconceivable today, triggered repeated fatalities. An awkward mid-bridge bulge to allow boat crossings was mercifully removed in 1981. Unprotected reversible lanes, instituted in 1960 to ease commuting, finally were eliminated in 1984.

Momentarily inattentive to the latter, as a fledgling 16-year-old driver in 1967 I barely avoided a head-on crash one afternoon.

The prospect still spooks me.

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Below are seven present-day photos and, in chronological order, 62 historical clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and other online newspaper sources that were helpful in the preparation of this column. As a bonus, we’ve added a full-color cartoon map from 1940.

Traffic heads eastbound out of the two original Mount Baker tunnels on Aug. 28, 2020. Westbound traffic uses newer tunnels out of view at far right. (Clay Eals)
A car emerges from the southernmost original Mount Baker tunnel, Aug. 28, 2020. The original “Portal of the North Pacific” concrete artwork is barely discernible at upper middle. (Clay Eals)
Traffic crosses the Mercer Island Floating Bridge in this eastbound view from atop the Mount Baker tunnels, Aug. 28, 2020. (Clay Eals)
Now a mere side street, 35th Avenue South dead-ends on the south side of the original Mount Baker tunnels, on Aug. 28, 2020. Here is where, for decades, eastbound drivers could enter the highway bridge or exit immediately after driving through the tunnel. Such access to the tunnel and bridge today is blocked and restricted to emergency vehicles. (Clay Eals)
A plaque dedicating the bridge to designer Homer Hadley, Aug. 28, 2020. (Clay Eals)
A plaque designating the bridge and tunnel a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, Aug. 28, 2020. (Clay Eals)
With bridge traffic roaring in the distance, this plaque dedicates the bridge to state highway director Lacey V. Murrow, Aug. 28, 2020. (Clay Eals)
Aug. 13, 1937, Seattle Times, page 6.
Jan. 9, 1938, Seattle Times, page 8.
May 15, 1938, Seattle Times, page 1.
May 15, 1938, Seattle Times, page 4.
June 26, 1938, Seattle Times, page 11.
April 1, 1939, Seattle Times, page 27.
Aug. 13, 1939, Seattle Times, page 42.
Sept. 3, 1939, Seattle Times, page 35.
Oct. 13, 1939, Seattle Times, page 16.
Oct. 21, 1939, Seattle Times, page 1.
Oct. 21, 1939, Seattle Times, page 2.
Jan. 26, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 17.
Feb. 5, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 11.
Feb. 26, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 9.
April 12, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 6.
April 13, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 3.
April 13, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, pages 1 and 3.
May 19, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 27.
May 31, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 17.
June 8, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 9.
June 14, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 1.
June 14, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 3.
June 14, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 5.
June 30, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 1.
June 30, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 16.
June 30, 1940, Seattle Times, page 17.
June 30, 1940, Seattle Times, page 19.
July 3, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 1.
July 3, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 6.
July 3, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 6.
July 3, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 7.
July 4, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 6.
July 10, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 10.
July 21, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 66.
Sept. 2, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 3.
Sept. 19, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 9.
Oct. 11, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 31.
Cartoon map of the new floating bridge, 1940. (Randi Gustavson, Seattle Vintage)
Oct. 13, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 58.
Dec. 17, 1947, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 28.
July 19, 1949, Southeast Missourian.
Aug. 24, 1954, Seattle Times, page 4.
Jan. 7, 1955, Seattle Times, page 8.
May 31, 1955, Seattle Times, page 8.
Feb. 3, 1957, Seattle Times, page 2.
May 31, 1957, Seattle Times, page 21.
Dec. 30, 1959, Seattle Times, page 17.
March 16, 1960, Seattle Times, page 13.
Feb. 22, 1961, Mercer Island Reporter.
March 25, 1963, Seattle Times, page 5.
Dec. 17, 1963, Seattle Times, page 10.
Dec. 25, 1963, Seattle Times, page 67.
Dec. 26, 1963, Seattle Times, page 10.
Jan. 3, 1964, Seattle Times, page 10.
Sept. 23, 1970, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 3.
Jan. 17, 1974, Seattle Times, page 4.
May 20, 1974, Seattle Times, page 11.
Feb. 27, 1979, Seattle Times, page 12.
Jan. 30, 1980, Seattle Times, page 10.
Sept. 4, 1981, Seattle Times, page 98.
Sept. 7, 1981, Seattle Times, page 1.
April 13, 1984, Seattle Times, page 10.
Aug. 16, 1984, Seattle Times, page 56.

Seattle Now & Then: Miller Park neighborhood, 1955

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: This May 2, 1955, view, looking west from 21st Avenue East along the East John/Thomas street arterial, shows clearing to the right (north) for the expansion of Miller Playfield. A 1949 Buick anchors the left foreground. In the distance at center are the Coryell Court Apartments, featured in the 1992 film “Singles.” (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives)
NOW: Andrew Taylor, the informal Mayor of Miller Park for two decades, stands at the same intersection. (jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Sept. 17, 2020
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Sept. 20, 2020)

For an ever-changing neighborhood, we ‘single’ out Miller Park
By Clay Eals

These coronaviral days, when distant travel is discouraged, the elements defining our neighborhoods assume extra meaning. We more deeply value our collective, super-local identity even as it undergoes constant, if incremental change.

No exception is Miller Park.

The name may be unfamiliar to some. On the eastern side of Capitol Hill, the neighborhood embodies a trapezoid, bounded north-to-south by East Aloha and Madison streets and west-to-east by 19th and 23rd avenues. Its outskirts include business strips and high-profile hubs of health care (Kaiser Permanente, formerly Group Health), religion and education (St. Joseph Catholic Church and School, Holy Names Academy).

In the glen at its core lies a playground, the initial acreage for which came to the city in 1906 from namesake Mary M. Miller (see clarification below), whose descendants became major local landowners and conservation philanthropists. Next door is Edmund Meany Middle School, named for the University of Washington historian.

In our “Then,” taken May 2, 1955, looking west to the Capitol Hill crest, at right we see land recently cleared to augment the park prior to construction of a nearby community center. Sparse trees punctuate clusters of homes. In the distant center, the John/Thomas street arterial rises to pass a two-story brick building on 19th Avenue that nearly four decades later gained national fame.

Fronted by a communal courtyard, the Coryell Court Apartments, built in 1928, hosted Matt Dillon, Bridget Fonda and other actors playing 20-something love-seekers in Cameron Crowe’s 1992 film “Singles.” While the film widened Seattle’s reputation for grunge music, it also is known for a breathtaking visual finale. Shot from a helicopter, it starts tight on the Coryell building and pulls up to reveal the neighborhood and city.

Nearly 30 years hence, encased by the heavy foliage of mature trees, Miller Park is a mix of single- and multi-family housing. Its residents have reckoned with drug dealing, broadcast towers, affordable housing and today’s influx of transient tents in the park.

Such topics drew Andrew Taylor into the role of nerve center. The now-retired Fred Hutch scientist has lived in the house at the left edge of our “Then” since 1983. Known as the neighborhood’s informal mayor, he launched its newsletter (later a blog) in 1990.

For family reasons, he will move five miles north this fall, but despite the challenges of his “eclectic” soon-to-be former neighborhood, he cheerfully salutes it.

“It’s a quiet, modest oasis,” he says. “It’s ethnically and economically diverse, close to everything, with much activity but still peaceful enough for quiet contemplation.”

In other words, an apt model for our time.

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Clarification: Jim Rupp of Seattle points out that while Mary Miller donated the initial land for Miller Playfield, the donation was made the family in the name of her son, Pendleton.

Below are two photos, a video link and a Seattle Parks historical illustration, as well as a clipping from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) or other online newspaper sources that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

For those interested in more details about Miller Park, the neighborhood association has a current website and a former website.

Here is an uncropped version of our “Then.” (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives)
Here is a reverse angle of our “Then” photo, looking east along the John/Thomas arterial. (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives)
CLICK PHOTO FOR VIDEO: Andrew Taylor, the informal mayor of Seattle’s Miller Park neighborhood, talks about its characteristics and issues. (14:50, Clay Eals)
The Miller Park page of Seattle Parks’ Don Sherwood illustrated historical files. (Seattle Municipal Archives)
Dec. 9, 1967, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 2.

 

Seattle Now & Then: Native American camp, late 1890s, and Benson Waterfront Streetcars, 2005

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: Pictured just north of today’s Broad Street on the Seattle waterfront by Norwegian photographer Anders Wilse in the late 1890s, Native Americans prepare dugout canoes for their waterborne trek to hop fields in the White and Puyallup river valleys. Queen Anne Hill peeks out at upper left. (Courtesy Museum of History & Industry)
THEN2: One of five George Benson Waterfront Streetcars leaves the Broad Street Station in 2005, just prior to the line’s demise. The 1962 Space Needle anchors the scene at top. (Eric Bell)
NOW: Straddling the two “Then” vantages, our contemporary view shows West Seattle bicyclist and photographer Eric Bell on Pier 70, before the seawall that fronts Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park. To the right of the outsized human head of “Echo” by Jaume Plensa and below the vertical Pier 70 banner is the site of the former Broad Street station of the Benson streetcars. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Sept. 3, 2020
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Sept. 6, 2020)

Waves of waterfront change: canoes to streetcars to sculpture
By Clay Eals

It’s natural to mourn the loss of things from younger days – old homes, favored stores – as if they had “always” been there. Self-centered sentiment can steal our sense that something else existed before we entered the arena.

Case in point: today’s pair of “Thens.”

If you lived here from 15 to 38 years ago, you may gravitate to the “Then” depicting the green-and-yellow glow of a George Benson Waterfront Streetcar leaving its Broad Street station and motoring south (right) to Pioneer Square and the Chinatown-International District.

The rickety streetcars – five total – were themselves nostalgia pieces, built in 1925-1930 in Australia and first operated there. Here, tourists loved them, and locals were proud, none more so than Benson, the pharmacist-turned-city councilman for whom they were named and who championed their transition to Seattle as an attraction for the masses. They were a direct nod to our city’s own streetcar heritage, which screeched to a halt by 1941, eventually overrun by petroleum-powered transit.

But what preceded the Benson streetcars? One answer lies in our earlier “Then,” from the late 1890s, angled more directly north and revealing a temporary Native American camp north of Broad (then Lake) Street, long before the city built a seawall there in the mid-1930s.

Pioneer journalist-historian Thomas Prosch labeled this a “common scene.” Via dugout canoes, Prosch said, Native Americans headed from Canada to the White and Puyallup river valleys, where up to 1,000 received low wages to pick hops, fueling a booming industry.

One century later, this waterfront stretch had evolved into pier-based offices and eateries and a breathtaking park named in 1976 for Myrtle Edwards, another city council member, fronting the northern terminus for the Benson streetcars and their maintenance barn when they commenced in 1982.

Having died in 2004, Benson didn’t witness the 2005 demise of his streetcars, whose barn was razed when Seattle Art Museum built its Olympic Sculpture Park, shown in our “Now.”

Some have strategized to revive the streetcars. But trackage and stations fell victim to the 2019 teardown of the nearby Alaskan Way Viaduct for its replacement by a tunnel. Today, a modern, light-rail connector to parallel the waterfront along First Avenue – which some would like to include two retrofitted Benson cars – is stalled by money woes.

Just as those who remembered the Native American canoes are gone, those of us who recall the Benson streetcars will vanish, and the collective memory of the area will default to Olympic Sculpture Park. For the attractive and lucrative waterfront, however, we surely can forecast relentless waves of change.

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Below are eight clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and other online newspaper sources that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Also, check out 18 additional photos, including 13 by West Seattle’s Eric Bell, that were helpful in the preparation of this column. Bell, who worked on the waterfront in 2005, says the failure to retain and incorporate the Benson streetcars was a huge missed opportunity for the city.

May 18, 1980, Seattle Times, page 124.
July 18, 1980, Seattle Times, page 16.
March 13, 1981, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 56.
April 4, 1981, The Oregonian, page 1.
June 16, 1981, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 1.
May 18, 1982, Seattle Times, page 67.
May 30, 1982, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 3.
June 24, 1982, Seattle Times, page 72.
Sanborn plate #62 from 1893, showing the location of our first “Then.” (Courtesy Ron Edge)
A 1935 aerial view of the waterfront from Laidlaw and the Museum of History & Industry. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
A 1935 view of the waterfront seawall under construction. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
Elliott Couden (left), further real-estate agent and civil-rights and heritage activist, stands in 1939 with George Benson, future Seattle City Council member, in front of their rooming house in the Green Lake neighborhood. (Elliott Couden collection)
An anachronistic George Benson Waterfront Streetcar crossing sign remains today along Alaskan Way. (Clay Eals)
A 2005 view of a northbound George Benson Waterfront Streetcar, W2-class car 512 leaving Vine Street. (Eric Bell)
A 2005 view of a southbound George Benson Waterfront Streetcar. “The writing is on the wall,” says Eric Bell. “The background beckons the end of the line for the streetcars.” (Eric Bell)
A 2005 view of a southbound George Benson Waterfront Streetcar and the maintenance barn. Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park now sits on this site. (Eric Bell)
A 2005 view of a northbound George Benson Waterfront Streetcar. Eric Bell says, “The timber and windows of car 482 complement the glazing of the former Seattle Trade Center.” (Eric Bell)
A 2005 view of the interior of a George Benson Waterfront Streetcar. “It’s a non-seasonal day,” says Eric Bell. “Gone are the lunch crowd and tourists.” (Eric Bell)
A 2005 view of a southbound George Benson Waterfront Streetcar, W2-class car 512 in Pioneer Square, with the Alaskan Way Viaduct in the background. “To this day,” says Eric Bell, “I can still feel the car rumble by me.” (Eric Bell)
A 2005 view of a George Benson Waterfront Streetcar at Jackson Street, the southern terminus in the Chinatown-International District. (Eric Bell)
A November 2005 view of two disengaged George Benson Waterfront Streetcars ready for transport. “The advertising,” says Eric Bell, “mocks instead of entices.” (Eric Bell)
A 2005 view of a George Benson Waterfront Streetcar, W2-class car 605, zooming along at 25 mph along the waterfront. (Eric Bell)
A 2005 view inside a George Benson Waterfront Streetcar, indicating that the W2-class cars, produced in 1927 in Australia, largely retained their decor until service ended. (Eric Bell)
A 2005 view of the car number of a George Benson Waterfront Streetcar. The cars retained their original numbers and 1920s headlight design. (Eric Bell)
A 2005 view of a George Benson Waterfront Streetcar logo, originally from the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board. (Eric Bell)

Seattle Now & Then: a house move, the Magnolia Theatre, 1963, & new book!

UPDATE:

On April 28, 2021, the Association of King County Historical Organizations ( AKCHO) announced its selection of Magnolia: Midcentury Memories as winner of the group’s annual Long-Term Project award. The award ceremony, to be held via Zoom, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 25, 2021. Congratulations to Monica Wooton and all others associated with this project!

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(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: A house sits mid-move on 34th Avenue West just north of the Magnolia Theatre between June 11 and June 17, 1963, when “It Happened at the World’s Fair” and the Connie Francis vehicle “Follow the Boys” played the second-run house. The theater hit a peak in 1969 as the only place in Seattle to see “Oliver!” in first run, but it closed in 1974 and was razed in 1977. (Ken Baxter / Courtesy Magnolia Historical Society)
NOW: Socially distanced and most with masks down, (from left) Jeff Graham, Tab Melton, Brian Hogan, Gene Willard, Dan Kerlee, Kathy Cunningham, Sherrie Quinton, Mike Musslewhite and editor Monica Wooton from the nearly 70-member team that produced “Magnolia: Midcentury Memories” look southwest in front of Chase Bank, whose previous incarnation, Washington Mutual Savings Bank, opened a branch on the Magnolia Theatre site in 1978. For info on the book’s launch, visit magnoliahistoricalsociety.org. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Aug. 20, 2020
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Aug. 23, 2020)

For Magnolia baby boomers, it happened at the midcentury
By Clay Eals

Grab a giant popcorn. This week’s “Then” premieres a triple feature.

The photo comes from a project that enlisted 60 writers to document baby boomers’ youthful years in the Magnolia neighborhood. Just-released Magnolia: Midcentury Memories is the third coffee-table book assembled this century by volunteers and represented by the Magnolia Historical Society.

With 448 pages and 450-plus photos, the volume dives into everything from military family life at Fort Lawton (now Discovery Park) to peninsula-wide immigrant roots and racist redlining, from mudslides along the Perkins Lane cliffs to the demise of the Interbay garbage dump.

In our “Then,” the marquee points to the photo’s date (mid-June 1963) and our first feature, the Seattle World’s Fair. The book notes that Fort Lawton was considered for the 1962 exposition site and that from the Magnolia Bridge locals could see the eventual fairgrounds take shape.

Among memories of the fair from then-upper-grade students – most who attended Queen Anne High School, which peered over what is now Seattle Center – is that of Cheryl Peterson Bower. In the book, she tells of securing two autographs, for her and her sister, from Elvis Presley, who was at the fair to star in the marquee movie. But the crooner “signed both sides of the paper dead in the middle, making it impossible to share.”

Parked near the marquee is our second feature, a midcentury house mid-move. This symbolizes a time 14 years prior when Magnolians vigorously debated whether 20 homes to the north should be condemned to make way for a combined junior high school and fieldhouse. What The Seattle Times labeled “Seattle’s most explosive community controversy in many years” ended with a go-ahead. Some houses made dramatic treks in 1950-1951 to vacant lots nearby.

“It was quite a sight for a 5-year-old to see her house being driven down the street,” Karin Barter Fielding says in the book. “It was such a big event for the family. I still talk about it.”

Our third feature is the Magnolia Theatre itself. Opening Nov. 25, 1948, with Cary Grant in “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” it was the largest commercial building in the shopping district, dubbed “the Village.” Seating 985 people, it became a true community center.

Michael Musselwhite, who worked there 1959-1963 as a teen, writes that a tavern was barred from buying on-screen advertising “because children were usually in attendance” and that changing the marquee each Monday evening took two students, a tall ladder and 2-1/2 hours.

A Magnolia blockbuster, the book uses only the right half of our “Then.” So consider this photo the widescreen version!

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

You can view the Aug. 23, 2020, online Zoom launch of Magnolia: Midcentury Memories by visiting the website of the Magnolia Historical Society. Also, by clicking on their names, you also can view portions of the launch devoted to chapters by authors Brian Hogan (part 1), Brian Hogan (part 2), Skip Kotkins, Whitney Mason, Michael Musselwhite, Greg Shaw (part 1) and Greg Shaw (part 2).

Below are three additional photos, as well as nine clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column. As a bonus, right at the top you will find a nearly five-minute video featuring Monica Wooton, editor of “Magnolia: Midcentury Memories.” Enjoy!

VIDEO: Click photo to see video of Monica Wooton, editor of “Magnolia: Midcentury Memories,” describing the book’s process and product. (Clay Eals)
Cover of “Magnolia: Midcentury Memories”
The Magnolia Theatre marquee shines in 1949. (Courtesy Magnolia Historical Society)
June 11, 1963, Seattle Times, page 17, listing for movies on the marquee in our “Then.”
June 11-17, 1963, an alternate to our “Then” photo, showing the same house being moved. (Courtesy Magnolia Historical Society)
Jan. 12, 1969, Seattle Times, locator graphic from Magnolia Theatre ad.
Jan. 28, 1969, Seattle Times, page 10, ad for exclusive Seattle engagement of “Oliver!”
Jan. 30, 1969, Seattle Times, page 10.
July 20, 1969, Seattle Times, Magnolia Theatre ad after “Oliver!” had won Best Picture at the Oscars.
Nov. 7, 1974, Seattle Times, page 545, announcement of closure.
Dec. 3, 1974, Seattle Times, page 38, closing night for the Magnolia.
July 17, 1977, Seattle Times, page 51, building demolition.
Sept. 8, 1979, Seattle Times, page 17.