Seattle Now & Then: puppeteer Aurora Valentinetti – late 1940s/early 1950s

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: Much as Aurora Valentinetti asked children to do in her puppet shows, transport yourself to a different realm – in this case the drama department in the basement of Denny Hall at the University of Washington where, in this view from the late 1940s/early 1950s, the new professor coaxes the personality of her handmade Pip marionette for a production of “The Shoemaker and the Elves.” (James O. Sneddon, Aurora Valentinetti collection)
NOW: In a vestibule of Meany Hall, Valentinetti poses with the same seat prop and Pip marionette prior to her June 13, 2019, receipt of the University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Legacy Award. To see more of her and her students’ original creations and puppets of all kinds, from tiny to life-size, visit the Valentinetti Puppet Museum in downtown Bremerton. (Clay Eals)

(Published in Seattle Times online on Aug. 1, 2019,
and in print on Aug. 4, 2019)

A distinguished lifetime of bringing puppets to moppets
By Clay Eals

It all might seem rather simple, maybe childlike. But concocting, constructing and bringing to life an inanimate object to stir emotions and imagination is complex, profound business.

Just ask Aurora Valentinetti, winner of the University of Washington’s 2019 Distinguished Teaching Legacy Award, who as this column appears has reached her 98th birthday.

Propelling a walker as she strode across the Meany Hall stage June 13 to receive the award medal, the pint-sized honoree drew a roaring ovation while mirroring the fortitude that she carried from her West Seattle upbringing to the UW in the fall of 1939 and that helped her forge a lifetime persona – that of puppeteer.

From the early 1940s to her retirement in 1992 and beyond, this puppetry professor and promoter took her hand, rod and string creations seemingly everywhere – from the Showboat Theatre to the Metropolitan Theatre (both long gone), from St. Mark’s Cathedral to First African Episcopal Church, from Bainbridge to Bumbershoot, from Fremont to Federal Way, from statewide tours to national festivals, from the beloved Christmas windows of the old Frederick & Nelson department store downtown to her own “Puppet Playhouse” show on KCTS-TV, Channel 9.

Though her productions sometimes targeted adults by exploring themes from operatic to existentialist, Valentinetti’s deepest impact – and love – lay in her shows for children, tapping into worldwide cultures and using puppets that each took 200 hours to build.

She wasn’t a recognizable kids’ TV icon like Wunda Wunda or Brakeman Bill because her work, by definition, was behind the scenes. “You have to become the soul of that figure, and you don’t count,” she says.

Nonetheless, she mesmerized moppets, no doubt because most of the time, their eyes wide open, mouths agape and minds “still in touch with fantasy and magic,” they were reacting to the escapades of her puppets in person and in real time.

Such engagement, she says, validates a universal, desperate need for artistic endeavor.

“Without the arts, we are going to be robots or back to the level of animals,” she says. “Real learning happens through all of the arts, particularly for young children. That’s where they grow and expand. That also is where children can be individuals.”

Since college days, she lived in Wallingford to be close to her classes. She never married or drove a car, instead bidding rides from students. “They knew that if they drove me home, I’d feed them.”

To live closer to a niece, Joanne Bratton, she moved in 2016 to Wenatchee. There, she keeps several of her puppets close by. “They have a power all their own,” she says. “I just treat them like human beings.”

Perhaps she’s imparting a deeper lesson to us all.

WEB EXTRAS

This week, instead of a 360-degree video, we are providing links to several video interviews of Aurora Valentinetti from which quotes were drawn for this column.

Aurora Valentinetti, one month shy of 98, receives the University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Legacy Award June 13, 2019, at Meany Hall. This award presentation is at the end of this video, preceded by a “now” photo shoot for the Seattle Times “Now & Then” column and an interview of Aurora by Clay Eals.
Aurora Valentinetti,, 97, the legendary puppetry professor at the University of Washington for 50 years, received the Distinguished Teaching Legacy Award from the University of Washington Alumni Association on April 12, 2019, in a ceremony at her home in Wenatchee, Washington. This video depicts the ceremony only. It was emceed by Grant Kollett, UW assistant vice president for alumni and stakeholder engagement. Speakers were nieces Katy Larson and Joanne Bratton.
This is the same video as above but includes an interview at the end, starting at 37:10. Aurora Valentinetti,, 97, the legendary puppetry professor at the University of Washington for 50 years, received the Distinguished Teaching Legacy Award from the University of Washington Alumni Association on April 12, 2019, in a ceremony at her home in Wenatchee, Washington. This video depicts the ceremony, as well as displays and greetings beforehand from well-wishers and Aurora describing some of her favorite puppets afterward. The ceremony was emceed by Grant Kollett, UW assistant vice president for alumni and stakeholder engagement. Speakers were nieces Katy Larson and Joanne Bratton.
In this 1992 interview, “Upon Reflection” host Marcia Alvar speaks with Aurora “The Puppet Lady” Valentinetti, puppeteer and professor emeritus at the University of Washington School of Drama. Valentinetti examines the history of puppetry around the world. While Americans have regarded puppets as little more than a childish amusement, she highlights the importance of puppets in other cultures and recognizes the efforts of Jim Henson in gaining a wider acceptance for puppets as a viable form of theater.

Also, below are two additional photos, plus, in chronological order, several clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and one from the Mercer Island Reporter that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

In the early 1950s, Aurora Valentinetti displays seven of her marionettes at the University of Washington. (Aurora Valentinetti collection)
Aurora Valentinetti displays her University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Legacy Award medal minutes after she received it on June 13, 2019. (Clay Eals)
Oct. 19, 1947, Seattle Times, page 63
July 20, 1948, Seattle Times, page 9
Dec. 18, 1950, Seattle Times, page 21
Dec. 31, 1950, Seattle Times, page 54
Dec. 13, 1951, Seattle Times, page 62
Dec. 17, 1951, Seattle Times, page 27
June 20, 1952, Seattle Times, page 20
Jan. 25, 1959, Seattle Times, page 69
March 29, 1959, Seattle Times, page 109
April 14, 1959, Seattle Times, page 39
Feb. 4, 1962, Seattle Times, page 144
June 24, 1962, Seattle Times, page 62
Jan. 24, 1963, Mercer Island Reporter
April 3, 1963, Seattle Times, page 21
April 7, 1963, Seattle Times, page 16
Nov. 10, 1963, Seattle Times, page 16
March 16, 1964, Seattle Times, page 141
March 29, 1964, Seattle Times, page 130
July 5, 1964, Seattle Times, page 41
Aug. 18, 1965, Seattle Times, page 21
Oct. 27, 1968, Seattle Times, page 206
Oct. 27, 1968, Seattle Times, page 211
Dec. 8, 1968, Seattle Times, page 53

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seattle Now & Then: East Seattle School, 1925

(click once or twice to enlarge photos)

THEN1: In 1925, more than 60 students at then-11-year-old East Seattle School, some in dresses, ties or knickerbockers, take their exercise outside the school’s east-facing backside. (See THEN2 below to see the building outside its west-facing entry.) For a complete history of the school and its environs, see the 2013 book “Mercer Island: From Haunted Wilderness to Coveted Community” by Jane Meyer Brahm. (Webster & Stevens, Museum of History and Industry, 1983.10.3016)
NOW1: Organized by East Seattle School graduate Kit Malmfeldt (lower left), 80 grads and supporters emulate their predecessors on June 8, 2019. Margaret Vik, who attended East Seattle from 1933 to 1941, poses in a wheelchair, front center. See NOW2 below to see the group posing (Jean Sherrard)
Days may be numbered for piece of ‘heaven’ in East Seattle
By Clay Eals

Quick quiz: Where is East Seattle? If you’re thinking Madison Park, Leschi or other places east of Broadway where the street names begin with “East,” you may be forgiven.

The correct answer is that, unlike the directional designations of North, South and West Seattle, East Seattle isn’t in Seattle at all. You have to head one mile east on Interstate 90 and across Lake Washington to find it at the northwestern edge of Mercer Island.

Nestled just south of where I-90 begins tunneling beneath the Mercer Island lid, the neighborhood of East Seattle is the island’s oldest, serving as the then-unincorporated community’s business and residential hub for decades before the floating bridge opened in 1940. It boasted a hotel, store, church, post office and the only civic vestige still standing from that era – 105-year-old East Seattle School.

The school may not stand much longer.

Built in 1914, operating as a public school (and sporting views of the lake and the majestic Olympics) until 1982 and as a Boys & Girls Club until 2008, the two-floor, Mission-style concrete structure has sat vacant in recent years and looks rather bedraggled. Its owner, auto magnate Michael O’Brien, who lives nearby, is seeking city permits to demolish it and fill its 2.9-acre trapezoidal parcel with 14 single-family homes.

This fate troubles some longtime islanders and graduates of the school. For Margaret Vik, 92, who attended East Seattle in the 1930s when Seattleites reached the island by boat, the school summons memories of simpler times – from echoing ferry foghorns to a steady corps of teachers, led by longtime principal Ethel Johnson, “who just required you to do your best,” she says. “I learned how to accept things the way they were. We were real country kids and lived country-style. Everybody knew everybody. Now you don’t. To me, it was heaven.”

The school’s demise, however, would be no surprise to those who have witnessed the island’s boom-bust school-age population cycles and relentless development pressure. No viable proposal to retain East Seattle School is surfacing, and, depending on how island city officials rule this fall, all that may survive its razing is an entrance archway or an interpretive plaque. But hope remains.

“There needs to be a creative reuse of this building,” says Jane Meyer Brahm, co-president of the local historical society and former city council member and newspaper editor, speaking in a video for the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, which listed East Seattle School on its Most Endangered Places list.

“This is the oldest public building on the island. For a community like Mercer Island with such a short history, we need to do a better job of preserving those historic buildings we do have.”

THEN2: This undated photo, likely from the early or mid-20th century, certainly prior to 1965, shows East Seattle School’s original, west-facing entry. (Mercer Island Historical Society)
NOW2: Organized by East Seattle School graduate Kit Malmfeldt (front row, sixth from left), 80 grads and supporters gather in front of East Seattle School’s west face on June 8, 2019. Margaret Vik, who attended East Seattle from 1933 to 1941, poses in a wheelchair (front row, seventh from right).

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard’s 360-degree video of the NOW1 prospect and compare it with the THEN1 photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Here is a video on East Seattle School produced in 2018 by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation:

This 2018 video produced by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation explains why the organization placed East Seattle School on its Most Endangered Places list.

Below are three photos from Grant Spearman, East Seattle School graduate, along with, in chronological order, 16 clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and the Mercer Island Reporter (available at Mercer Island Library) that, among many others, were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Grant Spearman, a graduate of East Seattle School, displays a vintage crossing-guard sign during a tour of the school in 2014. (Grant Spearman)
This stairway leads to what was the principal’s office at East Seattle School. The photo was taken during a 2014 tour of the school (Grant Spearman)
The late Phil Flash (left), who headed the Mercer Island Historical Society, poses with Grant Spearman, East Seattle School graduate, in 2014. (Grant Spearman)
April 18, 1914, Seattle Times, page 8
May 30, 1914, Seattle Times, page 3
June 9, 1915, Seattle Times, page 11
April 2, 1921, Seattle Times, page 4
May 29, 1939, Seattle Times, page 8
May 2, 1940, Seattle Times, page 40
Sept. 6, 1946, Seattle Times, page 17
Sept. 23, 1954, Seattle Times, page 25
Feb. 21, 1960, Seattle Times, page 1
April 27, 1960, Seattle Times, page 29
February 11, 1965, Mercer Island Reporter, part one
Feb. 11, 1965, Mercer Island Reporter, part two
Feb. 21, 1965, Seattle Times, page 84
Sept. 7, 1965, Seattle Times, page 35
Nov. 21, 1968, Mercer Island Reporter
Jan. 28, 1981, Seattle Times, page 77

 

Seattle Now & Then: ‘Pacific Coast, Seattle’s Own Railroad’

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THEN: A Seattle-bound train boards passengers at the Black Diamond depot in 1910. While these rails were mainly dedicated to transporting coal, in its heyday, three passenger trains a day made the trip to the big city. (Courtesy, Black Diamond Historical Society)
NOW: Kurt E. Armbruster, at center with his new book, “Pacific Coast: Seattle’s Own Railroad,” poses with rail fans following his lecture at the remarkable Black Diamond Museum, opened in 1982 after years of loving restoration. Many in the audience were the descendants of coal miners.
By Jean Sherrard

My great-grandfather, Arthur Manvel Dailey, arriving in Seattle in 1888, soon found work in the coal mines northeast of Renton. His sweetie (my future great-grandmother Agnes Johnson) was a schoolteacher in distant Ballard. Family lore tells of the arduous round trip from Newcastle to Ballard each Sunday, but for an ardent young suitor a few hours of travel were fair exchange for the weekly allotment of kisses.

And yet, were it not for a 40-mile stretch of “small, grimy, seemingly insignificant” pioneer railway, asserts historian Kurt E. Armbruster in his colorful latest book, “Pacific Coast: Seattle’s Own Railroad”, my ancestors’ romance – not to mention a growing young city’s fortunes – may have been much dampened.

Kurt E. Armbruster on the platform of the former Black Diamond depot, with a copy of his latest book.

From their arrival in 1851, early settlers knew that hopes for a profitable future rode an iron horse. Arthur Denny said he located on Puget Sound believing “that a railroad would be built across the continent to some point on the northern coast within … 15 or 20 years.”

Over the next two decades, however, those expectations were dashed by a number of obstacles, including conflict with native peoples, slumps of the economy, and the U.S. Civil War. In 1873 came more bad news. To Seattle’s dismay, the Northern Pacific Railroad sited the terminus of its cross-country line in Tacoma, leaving the Queen City isolated on her Elliott Bay throne.

But as railroads languished in King County, another economic engine built up steam. Immense seams of coal, pushed up by the Seattle Fault, had been discovered by the mid-1850s, and the foothills east of Lake Washington soon became teeming hives of activity. “In the nineteenth century,” says Armbruster, “coal was king … and Seattle had coal” – indeed, one of the largest coalfields on the west coast.

Coal miners proudly mark Labor Day, 1907, with a group portrait spread across Railroad Avenue. The old depot stands on the right. (courtesy, Black Diamond Historical Society)

Vast shipments of “black gold” were readily snapped up by energy-hungry San Francisco to support its industry and transportation. But the convoluted, Herculean transport from coalface to waiting sailing ships in Elliott Bay took long days and cut deeply into profits.

Seattle’s citizens, stung by the rebuff of big rail, conjured an ingenious solution: build a railway that incidentally provided King Coal with a profitable route to market. And on May 1, 1874, thousands of eager Seattleites assembled to do just that. On that single day, a mile-long stretch of rail bed was cleared along the base of Beacon Hill for the somewhat presumptuously named Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad, eventually renamed the Pacific Coast Railroad.

In the end? Rails that, although never extending much further east than Black Diamond, shortened the mine-to-dock transport from days to mere hours. As a result, Seattle – and Grandpa Dailey – realized benefits that endured for decades to come.

WEB EXTRAS

Click through for a narrated 360-degree video of our Black Diamond ‘then’ photo, shot from the ‘now’ location.

Also, check out a video of Kurt E. Armbruster’s lecture at the Black Diamond Museum.

Anything to add, rail fans?

Seattle Now & Then: Neil Armstrong Dial, 1969

(click once or twice to enlarge photos)

THEN1: Held by his mom, Patricia, and eyed by his masked dad, Dallas, the hours-old Neil Armstrong Dial poses July 20, 1969, in a Northwest Hospital room. Décor included a model lunar module made from an inverted Styrofoam cup, with Q-tips for legs. (Bruce McKim, Seattle Times)
THEN2: Nearly 18, Neil Dial visits the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, 1988. (Courtesy Neil Dial)
THEN3: Dial (left) meets his namesake at the Washington Athletic Club, 2007. (Courtesy Neil Dahl)
NOW1: Neil Dial stands beside the Apollo 11 command module Columbia at the “Destination Moon” exhibit on display through Sept. 2, 2019, at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW2: Neal Dial stands in front of a “Destination Moon” display at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW3: Neil Dial stands at the entrance of Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, now operated by University of Washington Medicine. (Jean Sherrard)
‘Living with honor’ in the shadow of his hero
By Clay Eals

Where were you and what were you doing when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon?

For many, the moment is etched deeply in memory.

My own recollection of July 20, 1969, is indelible. On the eve of my 18th birthday, my girlfriend took us to see “Oliver!” at the Magnolia Theater (now razed), but the auditorium was empty. Instead, we all crowded together in the lobby, craning our necks to peer at Armstrong’s “giant leap,” broadcast on a tiny black-and-white TV set perched on a chair next to the popcorn counter.

An Auburn attorney also knows where he was that day but has no memory of it. The very minute the lunar module Eagle touched the moon, he emerged on Earth, feet first, from his mother’s womb.

His birth, at Northwest Hospital near Northgate, became a media sensation because of his given name. Among many options, his parents considered Buzz, for Armstrong’s fellow astronaut Aldrin, and Apollo, for the space program. What stuck was the ultimate personal salute: Neil Armstrong Dial.

Turning 50 this month, Dial enjoys pondering how a quirk of timing gave him a guiding shadow he has always embraced.

While growing up in Richmond Beach, in seventh grade he gravitated to wrestling, which, he reflects, “taught me a lot about discipline and hard work.” Inspired by his namesake, he became an Eagle Scout and toyed with entering flight school to become an astronaut. Instead, he was drawn to the law. A husband and father of three, he works in the Tacoma firm founded by Ed Eisenhower, older brother of former president Dwight.

Wrestling remains a touchstone. He is head coach for about 20 wrestlers at Thomas Jefferson High School in Federal Way, where he advises against “showboating or doing things in a way that would make you more important than the team. That’s kind of how I am. Doing things right and living with honor have been important to me.”

A dozen years ago, Dial encountered those qualities first-hand when Armstrong, passing through Seattle, met with him for 15 minutes at the Washington Athletic Club. Dial found him humble, unassuming. “He really didn’t want to talk about himself. He wanted to know about me.”

Five years later, Armstrong died. Today, Dial, with gentle lawyerly humor, perceives in his hero some universality amid the uniqueness:

“He had an opportunity that came to him. It could have been many people in the program, and it fell that way for him. In some respects, that’s how it’s worked out for me. Anybody could have been born at that moment. It’s nothing I did. I don’t even remember the event, so everything I could tell you is hearsay.”

WEB EXTRAS

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 is a 14-minute interview of Neal Armstrong Dial from July 9, 2019, in which he reflects on how he was given his name, meeting his famous namesake and how the Neil Armstrong legacy has affected his life. To see the video, click the photo or here.

Video, July 9, 2019, Neil Armstrong Dial interview

Below are two photos and, in chronological order, four clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that among many others were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer front page, July 21, 1969
Seattle Times front page, July 21, 1969
This is the July 20, 1969, Seattle Times article that documented the birth of Neil Armstrong Dial.
Magnolia Theatre ad, July 20, 1969, Seattle Times
Nov. 7, 1974, Seattle Times
July 17, 1977, Seattle Times

Seattle Now & Then: Are these five streetcars in Interbay or Belltown?

(click once and twice to enlarge photos)

THEN: This view, probably looking southeast at five streetcars heading north, dates from 1890, 17 years before Ballard annexed to Seattle. (Boyd and Brass photo, Ron Edge Collection)
NOW1: In this southeast-looking view, Ron Edge stands in Belltown near the intersection of Cedar and Western Avenue, one of two possible locations of our “then.” (Jean Sherrard)
NOW2: Also looking southeast, this view shows Ron warily dodging traffic in Interbay near the busy intersection of West Boston Street and 15th Avenue West, the other possible location of our “then.” (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on July 4, 2019,
and in print on July 7, 2019)

Somewhere on the line between Ballard and Seattle
By Paul Dorpat

We begin our installment with indecision – is it Interbay, or is it Belltown? – and hope that one or more of Seattle’s rail fans eventually will expose which of our two “now” images comes closer to repeating this week’s featured historical photograph.

Ron Edge appears in both of our “nows” because he first introduced the “then” to us. He acquired this slumbering classic of five early Seattle streetcars from an internet dealer in Austin, Texas. It would be interesting to know the travels of this cabinet card over the last 129 years and how many hands it passed through before returning home.

You may know by now that Ron frequently contributes to this weekly feature. An impassioned collector-cartographer, he has become familiar with Seattle’s history through clues found in its artifacts and ephemera. These may include artists’ panoramas and the calculations, sketches and maps held in private hands throughout the world – all of them awaiting researchers.

Such efforts often are revealed to us with the uncovering of an old photograph like this one. Although this is clearly a Seattle classic, after a half-century of looking I had never seen it. Surely many more unknown historic images of Seattle have been distributed to the four winds and are slowly reappearing for sale on the internet.

For our two “now” images, Ron put his safety in the clicking hands of Jean Sherrard, who posed him near the centerlines of two Seattle arterials, Western Avenue in Belltown and 15th Avenue West in Interbay.

In 1890, the likely year for our “then,” both streets were sections of then-new West Street and served by North End Electric Railway Company’s fresh franchise between its suburban terminus in the new and burgeoning Ballard and the Seattle waterfront near West (now Western Avenue) and Madison Street. For evidence of the line’s Ballard origin, note the “Salmon Bay” sign painted on the front car.

A MILDLY ANXIOUS CALL FOR READERS’ REPORTS

So which “now” is it, dear reader? Eventually, Ron persuaded Jean and me that these trolleys, along with two-dozen hatted motormen and gentleman passengers, are posing on Western Avenue, somewhere near Cedar Street in Belltown. To make this claim, Ron compared the relative inclines of Denny Hill (then still standing) above Western Avenue and the still-steep Queen Anne Hill ridge above 15th Avenue West.

There are, however, other “considerations.” For the curious among you, we might have elaborated them in our blog, listed below. But we shall not. The last word here (in the printed feature) is the liberal suggestion from Ron. He advises, “Perhaps we are all wrong.”  Riding this reluctance, we will wait on your our readers’ calculation.  It this Western Avenue or 15th Avenue West? Jean assures Clay and me that you readers know how to respond, and so we will expect your selections — Western or 15th — and in a week or three  share the accounting with our first “readers’ report.”

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard’s 360-degree video of the “now” prospect and compare it with the “then,” and to hear this column read aloud by Paul Dorpat, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Anything to add, fellas?  Sure, and easy, too — a few past links that touch on Ballard or approach it.

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Seattle Now & Then: 100th anniversary of Fred Hutchinson’s birth

(click once and twice to enlarge photos)

THEN1: Mayor Allan Pomeroy is at the microphone, and Seafair Queen Carol Christensen stands center stage at this April 18, 1955, rally. Left of center, behind team owner Emil Sick and his trademark bowler, Fred Hutchinson peeks out. For IDs of others onstage, see “extra” photo below. (David Eskenazi collection)
THEN2: Fred poses in the 1955 Seattle Rainiers uniform, from the cover of the April 17, 1955, edition of the Seattle Times Pictorial magazine. To salute the 100th anniversary of Fred’s Aug. 12, 1919, birth, the Seattle Mariners will present Hutch bobble heads to the first 10,000 fans on Sunday, July 7, at T-Mobile Park. For the bobblehead itself, see “extra” photo below. (Josef Scaylea, Seattle Times)
NOW: Family and fans of “Hutch” –- (from left) Clay Eals, Jason Barber, David Eskenazi, Fred’s grand-nephew Brock Reed, Connor O’Shaughnessy, George La Torre, Fred’s niece Charlee Hutchinson Reed, Josh Belzman, Charlee’s husband Paul Reed, Jill Christensen, Tom Kim, Tara Palumbo-Egan, Dan Kerlee, Dave Kolk and Olin Gutierrez –- cross University Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues at the Metropolitan Theatre rally site, now the drive-through entrance of the Fairmount Olympic Hotel. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on June 27, 2019,
and in print on June 30, 2019)

Where’s Fred? 100th anniversary for birth of baseball hero ‘Hutch’
By Clay Eals

Time was, the name Fred Hutchinson stood for baseball excellence. You couldn’t grow up here and escape the “Hutch” legend. Often as a child, long pre-Mariners, I stood in the cavernous foyer of Sicks’ Seattle Stadium (now a Lowe’s Home Improvement store in the south end), looked up and admired Fred’s photographic portrait high on the wall in the Seattle Rainiers Roll of Honor.

Today, “Hutch” signifies cancer research and the pioneering Seattle center, founded by his surgeon brother Bill, that has borne Fred’s name for 44 years. Employing 2,700 scientists and staff, “the Hutch” memorializes Seattle’s first baseball star of national stature. If he were alive, this hometown hero would turn 100 on Aug. 12.

In late 1999, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer named him Seattle’s Athlete of the 20th Century. The Seattle Times rated him second only to a recent phenom, Ken Griffey Jr.

Fred’s deep local significance is disproportionate to his short stints here in professional uniform, and minor league at that. One year was as a pitcher (his Cinderella season of 1938, post-Franklin High, when he went 25-7 for the new Rainiers), and one year plus half of another as a manager (again for the Rainiers, in 1955 and early 1959).

Still, he was the classic local boy made good. His big-league success (notching 95 wins as a pitcher, managing Cincinnati to the 1961 World Series), plus the respect accorded his alternately gentlemanly and fiery persona, gave him a lasting impression. The perseverant Fred also could turn a phrase. “Sweat is your only salvation,” he once told columnist Emmett Watson.

After his lung-cancer death in 1964, sportswriters created the Hutch Award. It didn’t hurt that the namesake’s nickname felt both informal and virile. (One original criterion for recipients, long ago discarded, was “manliness.”) The award grew into one of the Seattle center’s biggest fundraisers.

Our first “then” captures Fred at a peak of popularity, the day before the Rainiers’ 1955 home opener. This 1:30 p.m. rally at World War II-themed Victory Square – in front of soon-to-be-razed Metropolitan Theatre (circa 1911) on University Street – celebrated Fred’s return after 11 years in Detroit. Even the most hopeful fans could not have forecast his craftiness in shepherding a team with no .300 hitter in the regular lineup for the full season or 20-game-winning pitcher to the 1955 Pacific Coast League crown.

In this photo, before a sea of adoring fans (mostly male, mostly fedoraed) and on a stage crowded with business-suited players, the Barclay Girls can-can troupe and the Jackie Souders Orchestra, Fred is a “Where’s Waldo” figure. Try to find him. If you give up, we’ll help you in the first “then” caption and in the “extra” photos below.

WEB EXTRAS

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

Below are three additional photos, plus, in chronological order, seven clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that among many others were helpful in the preparation of this column.

In the interest of public disclosure, I should note that I worked at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as a curriculum writer and publications editor from 1990 to 2003. From 1999 to 2001, I conducted more than 100 interviews with family, friends and professional baseball figures, with the intent of writing a biography of Fred Hutchinson. I still nurture that intention. –Clay

This photo is a crop of the first “then” above, with a more complete accounting of those who are onstage (names are in maroon). The IDs are courtesy of David Eskenazi, from whose collection the photo originates. Double-click on the photo to make the names legible.
Here is a closer-in photo of the same scene depicted in our first “then.” Fred Hutchinson (center right) is waving. Looking on are (from left) pitcher Elmer Singleton, catcher Bob Swift, infielder Gene Verble, catcher Joe Ginsberg, coach Alan Strange, owner Emil Sick, pitcher Bill Kennedy and one of the Barclay Girls. (David Eskenazi collection)
This is the Fred Hutchinson bobblehead that will be given to the first 10,000 fans attending the Seattle Mariners game on Sunday, July 7, 2019, at T-Mobile Park. It depicts Fred in 1938, when he went 25-7 in his only season as a pitcher for the Seattle Rainiers. Note that the photographer, Ben VanHouten, positioned the oval on the stanchion to create the illusion that the ball that Fred has just thrown is heading toward you. As the photo depicts, Fred also appears in mid-pitch on the end of each 100-level seat stanchion at the ballpark. (Ben VanHouten)
Feb. 23, 1911, Seattle Times, page 19
Nov. 7, 1911, Seattle Times, page 22
Dec. 26, 1915, Seattle Times, page 18
April 28, 1942, Seattle Times, page 26
Dec. 6, 1954, Seattle Times, page 25
Dec. 7, 1954, Seattle Times, page 25
April 10, 1955, Seattle Times, page 55
April 17, 1955, Seattle Times, page 36

 

April 18, 1955, Seattle Times, page 28
February 13, 1956, Seattle Times, page 34

 

 

 

Seattle Now & Then: Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, 1909

(click once and twice to enlarge photos)

Count the flags, big and small, strewn throughout this glimmering 1909 “then.” We calculate at least 75. For detailed maps, engaging narrative and stunning photos on the A-Y-P, check out a centennial book by Alan J. Stein, Paula Becker and the staff of HistoryLink. (MOHAI Panorama Collection)
This vantage, slightly higher than the A-Y-P Ferris wheel, looks north from atop the Unversity of Washington Physics-Astronomy Building. Rising in the foreground is the new UW Population Health Facility, set to open in late 2020. Peeking to its right is a portion of the UW Architecture Building, formerly Fine Arts Building. It, along with the UW Cunningham Building – formerly the Washington Woman’s Building, which was moved north in 2009 to a spot just left of the construction crane in this view – are the only remaining public structures on the  A-Y-P fairgrounds. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on June 20, 2019,
and in print on June 23, 2019)

A fairly wide view of the A-Y-P from 110 years ago
By Clay Eals

Back in 1962, the glitz of the Seattle World’s Fair filled my 11-year-old eyes with wonder. I still treasure its curios, including a souvenir tabloid with a custom banner headline, printed on the spot, employing the six-month show’s crowning landmark to convey whimsy: “Clay Eals Jumps Off Space Needle.”

I’m grateful it was fake news.

At no time, in visits that summer, did my child’s mind grasp that this was the city’s second world’s fair. But a nod to its precursor lay in the final word of its alternate name: the Century 21 Exposition.

Fifty-three years before, in 1909, Seattle’s – indeed, Washington state’s – first world’s fair embraced the sprawling title of Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition to salute the 1897 Gold Rush and what today we call the Pacific Rim. The A-Y-P opened 110 years ago this month at the University of Washington, which had relocated from downtown 14 years prior, in 1895.

The fair transformed the campus. With attractions from fine art to lowbrow amusements, it also instigated neoclassical (if largely temporary) architecture, Olmsted Brothers gardens, a new statue of the UW’s namesake and a stately promenade and fountain pointing to Mount Rainier.

The sweep was as wide as our “then,” taken atop the A-Y-P Ferris wheel by official photographer F.H. Nowell. It looks north and east, the western border of 15th Avenue slicing by at far left. But this panorama holds irony. While it conveys the fair’s grandeur, it covers only a fraction of its grounds.

Visible are the main entrance at 40th Street, off 15th. A short walk east reveals the George Washington statue (today one block north) and an array of gleaming structures: the Fine Arts Building (center-left), the domed U.S. Government Building, the Alaska Building (center), the smaller Washington Woman’s Building, the Klondike Circle, the Agriculture Building (behind a foreground spire of the Swedish Building) and an unintended presage of World War I, the Battle of Gettysburg cyclorama (“War! War! War! Replete with the Rush, Roar and Rumble of Battle”).

“It’s the greatest cultural event that has ever taken place in the city’s history,” asserts Magnolia’s Dan Kerlee, A-Y-P researcher and collector who runs aype.com, an educational website. He says the 3,740,551 people who attended over 138 days enjoyed a uniquely inspiring, even elegant experience. “If people could walk the A-Y-P today, they would be beside themselves.”

World’s fairs, a prolific phenomenon of the late 19th and early-to-mid 20th centuries, have fallen out of fashion here, the most recent U.S. fairs being 45 years ago in Spokane (Expo ’74) and in Knoxville and New Orleans in the early 1980s. A few hours north, Vancouver, B.C., put on Expo ’86, the last world’s fair in North America. Still, we can smile that Seattle hosted a spectacular pair.

WEB EXTRAS

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

Below, in chronological order, are clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that among many others were helpful in the preparation of this column.

These are just five of the 54 stories in the Seattle Times that mentioned the A-Y-P during the six-month 1962 fair. Of course, I wish I had paid more attention to these stories back then! Click on any clipping to enlarge it. –Clay

April 21, 1962, Seattle Times, page 1
April 22, 1962, Seattle Times, page 105
June 22, 1962, Seattle Times, page 2
Sept. 14, 1962, Seattle Times, page 52
Oct. 19, 1962, Seattle Times, page 24

Anything to add, fellas?

Seattle Now & Then: Judkins panorama, 1880s

(click to enlarge photos)

Careful readers may spot clothes hanging on two backyard lines at lower center of this 1885 or 1886 cityscape. This could narrow the time of year Judkins made his recording, but I remember my mother hanging clothes in the backyard during the winter in Spokane. (Paul Dorpat collection)
This prospect looks south from above the entrance to the alley on the south side of Stewart Street between Second and Third Avenues. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on June 13, 2019,
and in print on June 16, 2019)

Stacking up evidence of Seattle’s growth in the 1880s
By Paul Dorpat

This week’s “then” photo looks south toward early downtown Seattle from halfway up the southern slope of then-Denny Hill. With his extension pole, Jean Sherrard lifted his “now” camera to approximate the prospect used by pioneer photographer David Judkins for his panorama – close but, Jean and I agree, still a few feet below Judkins’ roost.

After studying the crowd of clues showing in Judkins’ prospect, Ron Edge, our feature’s frequent sleuth, agrees that Judkins’ photo was recorded in 1885 or 1886. That was three or four years before the Great Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889, destroyed about 30 city blocks, including almost everything shrouded here behind the industrial smoke ascending from the right (west).

In early photographic cityscapes, stacks were frequently embraced as the most obvious signs of a community’s industrial success. They stood as booming pillars of pride, and a study of Seattle’s demographics from that time – city directories, tax records and such – confirms it.

In his typewritten “Chronological History of Seattle from 1850 to 1897,” Thomas Prosch, the owner/editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the city’s busiest booster, included a panegyric to the growth of his city, which since the 1880 national census was the largest town in Washington Territory, surpassing Walla Walla by a few hundred citizens.

“The boom that began in 1886 and grew in volume and force in 1887 continued with unabated activity and vigor in 1888,” Prosch wrote. “It was manifested in a thousand ways, but particularly with real estate speculation, in the platting of additions to the city, hundreds of new buildings, scores of graded streets, the new railways, banks, hotels, stores, factories, shops and people.

“The inhabitants of Seattle, who numbered 3,533 in 1880 and 9,786 in 1885, increased in number to 12,167 in 1887 and to 19,116 in 1888. Much as this great increase signified, it was dwarfed by that of the next two years, for the census of 1889 showed Seattle to have 26,740 inhabitants and that of 1890, 42,837.”

(Such rapid growth some 130 years ago should excite a “Wow!” from some of our readers. Want more? Our blog features a complete copy of Prosch’s thick chronology from the mid-1890s.)

The most striking aspect of this “then” photo may be the two hand-drawn Mount Rainiers, the result of merging the panorama’s two halves, each of which sported a peak. Did Judkins believe anyone would fall for his manufactured substitutes? In 1885, it was still difficult to photographically record bright, snow-covered icons such as “The Mountain That Was God” (title of a 1910 guidebook self-published by John H. Williams).

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard’s 360-degree video of the “now” prospect and compare it with the “then,” and to hear this column read aloud by Paul Dorpat, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Anything to add, fellas?

This morning Jean it will be alas and good night, aka nighty-bears (copy write: Bill Burden).  That is we will soon  again climb the stairs to our small bed resting beside a full-wall reflection – a ballet practice mirror.  (The sometimes frightening effect some early mornings is to awaken with sunrise and face myself.  At eighty it is not a flattering confrontation.)  Now Jean reminds me that this week we promised something more about the Thomas Prosch’s sustained contribution to recording Seattle history.  That will need to wait for later this week.  Now, I’ll be climbing the stairs, again to nighty-bears.  At eighty I use two canes.  Below, as a consoling custom we will again attach some relevant clips.

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Seattle Now & Then: The Great Seattle Fire, Part II – Out of the Ashes

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Built in 1883, the luxurious Occidental Hotel covered the flatiron block bounded by Second, Yesler and James. In our “then,” its three-story stone monolith looms over a crew of weary firemen. Locals rated the Occidental “the largest and best equipped house north of San Francisco.” Destroyed in the Great Fire, it was succeeded by the Seattle Hotel, which held court for 70 years.
NOW: Erected in 1961, the “sinking ship” garage proves a dismal replacement. Dismay at the loss of the Seattle Hotel incited a passionate preservationist movement in Seattle. It might be said that it was the “sinking ship” that launched a thousand faces.

(Published in Seattle Times online on June 6, 2019,
and in print on June 9, 2019)

From ‘the hideous remains’ of the Great Fire, a new and improved Seattle rises
By Jean Sherrard

Thirty eight years after its founding, Seattle catapulted to worldwide attention via reports of catastrophic destruction.

The June 6, 1889, fire that incinerated more than 120 acres and nearly 30 blocks of downtown occurred on what might be called a slow news day. Only one week earlier, a burst dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, had swept away more than 2,200 lives, shocking the nation (in response, generous Seattleites pledged $576 for flood relief). The fire that leveled the wooden business district of our pioneer town – although it caused no fatalities aside from a Panglossian “million rats” – was also featured in newspapers across the country.

Within days, a New York Times headline read: ‘The Great Seattle Fire … It May Be a Blessing in Disguise.” Seattle land tycoon Henry Dearborn, visiting the East Coast, predicted: “The fire has cleaned out all these [tinder boxes] which were a constant menace to the city” but soon would be replaced “by fine, fire-proof structures.” Seattle residents enthusiastically agreed.

At first, however, hometown papers adopted a gloomier tone. The morning after the fire, the Seattle Daily Press succumbed to purple prose: “Besides the smoking, tomblike ruins of a few standing walls … people are left living to endure with sheer despair … blackness, gloom, bereavement, suffering, poverty, the hideous remains of a feast of fire.”

A spectacular Ron Edge find and stitch. The brick foundations on the right are the remains of the Frye Opera House, pictured in last week’s ‘Then’ photo just before it burned to the ground.

Yet the same morning, 600 citizens gathered at the surviving Armory on Union Street between Third and Fourth avenues in a display of civic gratitude and confidence. The crowd cheered the news that arch-rival Tacoma had offered aid and succor, as had San Francisco and other cities and towns. When some suggested that aid pledged to the Johnstown homeless be diverted for Seattle use, the crowd shouted, “To Johnstown! Let it go to Johnstown!”

Echoing through the Armory was a commitment to “pull all together” and “rise like a phoenix” while constructing a new city of brick and stone. Streets would be widened and leveled, while a fervent appeal was made to “Seattle Spirit.” On Saturday, June 8, Post-Intelligencer headlines affirmed: “A New Seattle Will Arise … Sweet are the Uses of Adversity.”

Another Ron Edge special. In this panoramic view, Front Street (1st Avenue) is being rebuilt. The Pioneer Building foundation is being lain on the left. The corner of the same building appears on the left in our ‘Now’ photo above.

Operating from tents, local businesses prepared to rebuild. Impresario John Cort, having reopened his burned-out Standard Theater under a canvas big top, featured a joke that brought down the house: “How’s business?” asked the straight man. The comic replied, “Intense!”

The pun proved prophetic. In less than two years, Seattle’s population nearly doubled to almost 45,000, and 3,500 new buildings arose, mostly in the devastated core. Voters authorized a more dependable city water system, and a municipal fire department formed. Thus, just in time for the 1897 Gold Rush, a small pioneer town reintroduced itself as an ambitious young city.

WEB EXTRAS

For a good time, click on through to our spoken word 360 video.

Anything to add, firebugs?   A few off fires.  We will be restrained.

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Now & Then here and now