Today is Opening Day! With a noon cannon blast and the raising of the Montlake Bridge, boating season in Seattle will officially begin.
While Seattle has a long history of special maritime celebrations, it is believed that the first Opening Day Parade took place May 3, 1913. Seven years later, the parade and regatta moved to their present location at the Montlake Cut when their sponsor, The Seattle Yacht Club, moved to Portage Bay. It has been an annual event ever since, even during World War II.
The boating parade attracts thousands of visitors. While exact attendance numbers are unknown, it is estimated that as few as 4,500 and as many as 250,000 have lined the shores to eat picnics and watch the passing boats.
Originally, anybody who wanted to participate in the parade was welcome, but when numbers of entrants reached 1,000 in the mid-1970s, the Coast Guard intervened. Ever since, participants have been required to register, keeping the number of boats in the parade closer to 200.
In 1959, the theme “Hell’s a Poppin'” was selected, and the parade has been themed ever since. Other themes have included “The Ancient Mariner” and “Out of This World,” as well as this year’s theme, “Emerald City Aahs.”
Since 1986, rowing crews from the nearby University of Washington have participated in Windemere Cup races prior to the parade.
Please enjoy this 1960s-era postcard, and get out there to see those boats!
Fifty-five years ago today the Seattle World’s Fair opened. It was the first World’s Fair held in the U.S. since 1939, and only the third fair held after the end of World War II.
Seattle Councilman Al Rochester first proposed the idea for a Seattle World’s Fair in the early 50s. By January 1955, so much interest had been generated that the state legislature rounded up $5,000 for a group to study a fair’s feasibility. Smart advertising caused public interest to explode, and in 1957 Seattle voters passed a $7.5 million bond for the development of a Civic Center/fairground.
The goal was to host a fair in 1959 in honor of the 50 year anniversary of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Expo, a fair hosted at the University of Washington to celebrate the first shipment of Klondike Gold Rush gold through Seattle. When it became apparent that the 1959 deadline was too ambitious, the fair was pushed back to 1962.
In addition to the funding from the citizens from Seattle and the state legislature, the federal government, local businesses, and civic boosters helped to fund the fair.
To commemorate the 55th anniversary of opening day, I have an envelope to share with you. Scroll down to check out what’s inside.
This packet, which contains two pieces of paper and a souvenir spoon, appears to have been sent to fair boosters as a thank-you gift.
The pink sheet reads as follows:
“Dear World’s Fair Booster… As a BONUS for your patience and public spirit, we are making available additional World’s Fair Souvenir Spoons at a cost of fifty cents (50c) per spoon. We now have a sufficient supply to make possible IMMEDIATE DELIVERY…on ANY NUMBER you order…IF YOU ORDER WITHIN THE NEXT THIRTY DAYS! This offer also includes World’s Fair literature and each spoon will be individually packaged. Have them sent to yourself or your friends. Send to: “Invitation Spoons” PO Box 919 Seattle 11, Washington”
The price of 50 cents is equivalent to about $4 today. As for the address “Seattle 11, Washington”, it made use of the postal district/zone numbers introduced in 1943. Zip codes were not introduced until 1963.
This second sheet is basically an advertisement, enticing the booster to attend the fair he/she helped make possible. Interestingly, it focuses on attractions that are now Seattle Center landmarks: The Science Pavilion (now Pacific Science Center); the Coliseum Century (now Key Arena); and Seattle’s most famous landmark, the Space Needle. The Monorail gets special attention, as does “The World of Entertainment”, which included Gracie Hansen’s “Paradise International.” The building that housed Gracie’s show is now a multipurpose building in Ravensdale, Washington.
On the flip-side of the advertising letter are paintings of what was to come. Check out the one of the monorail. It doesn’t look much like what Alweg actually built.
The metal spoon features an Space Needle-styled handle adorned with the words “Seattle World’s Fair ’62.” The spoon itself is engraved with the official ’62 World’s Fair logo.
Whooo doesn’t love ice cream? And whooo doesn’t love sundaes, floats, and concoctions with names like “cherry phosphate” and “egg cream”? Whoo has fond memories of Owl Drug in Wenatchee, Washington?
The history of Wenatchee’s Owl Drug predates the formation of Chelan County. In 1894, only a year after the incorporation of Wenatchee, Owl Drug opened in the city’s downtown. Business boomed, and despite times of economic difficulty, Owl Drug persevered and prospered. A soda fountain was added to the pharmacy in 1926.
In 2001, after 107 years of business, Owl Drug fell victim to economic hardship and closed. The soda fountain remained open under the name “The Owl”, selling sweet treats and gifts. After a year of no economic improvement, The Owl’s owner decided to close permanently and liquidate all assets.
Customers and staff alike were saddened by the loss of their beloved landmark. Pam Higgins, who started working at the Owl soda fountain in 1971, didn’t want to see Wenatchee’s only soda fountain sold piece-by-piece, so she and her husband, Frank, bought it. At first they had no idea what to do with it, but at the suggestion of local business owners, they moved everything two blocks north to the Commercial Building.
Now located at 25 N Wenatchee Ave, the counter, cabinets, stools, equipment, and Hamilton Beach mixers were all purchased from the original Owl. Pam and Frank also bought the pharmacy’s original cash register and 1926 Toledo Scale Company scale. These scales are said to be the most accurate scales in existence, and this particular scale was borrowed for military use during WWII. It was shipped to Moses Lake, Washington and used to weigh soldiers before they were sent out for duty.
The Owl is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30am to 6pm, and on Sunday from 12pm-5pm.
Although the air may feel brisk and many areas of the country are still getting snow, Spring has officially arrived, and soon will the leaves and the flowers.
Over the next few months, events like the Tulip Festival, Daffodil Parade, and Apple Blossom Festival will celebrate the coming of spring, flowers, and warmth. And Wenatchee and its environs may start looking something like this:
While I love the touristy nature of this 1950s postcard, it’s a memento of the times before the Space Needle and before the wineries when apples and apple tourism were a big deal in Washington state.
Apples first came to what is now Washington in 1826, before the organization of either the Washington or Oregon Territories. By 1889, the year of Washington’s statehood, commercial orchards were planted near rivers and advanced irrigation systems. Apple production continued to increase, and by the end of WWI Washington’s apple industry was booming. However, high production and transport costs as well as cheap (yet lower quality) apples from competitors drove the need for some sort of advertising campaign.
In 1926, Pacific Northwest Boxed Fruit formed to promote Washington apples in major markets around the country. Two years later the Washington Boxed Apple Bureau, but funding was voluntary and uncertain and by 1934, its future looked dim.
March 17th marked the 80th birthday of the Washington Apple Commission, the day Governor Clarence Martin signed into law the Washington State Apple Advertising Commission in hopes of helping an industry that had been hurt by the Depression. Over the next several decades, the commission researched better growing, storing, and shipping methods and developed a strong advertising campaign.
During the 1950s, advertisements praised apples for their nutrition and dental benefits, calling the apple “nature’s toothbrush”, and in 1961 Washington Apples released its first trademarked logo. In tandem with the unveiling of the logo, apple ambassadors traveled across the country to promote Washington State Apples. Throughout the 1960s and beyond, print, radio, and TV ads promoted Washington apples throughout the country. In the 1970s, Washington apples were available worldwide for the first time.
Currently, Washington is the #1 producer of apples in the United States, producing 64% of the nation’s supply.
My uncle remembers seeing a Washington Apples TV ad as a child. He thought they looked so good that he told my grandma, “We should get some of those Washington State Apples!”
Grandma pointed to the orchard outside and said, “What do you think those are?”
If you have 30 minutes to spare, check out this Washington Apples educational film, Appleland, from 1954. Happy spring!
After a long absence (sorry!), I’m back to present you with this 1960s postcard of Willo Vista Trailer Village in Kent, Washington.
There is really not much information available about Willo Vista. Located at 22000 84th Ave S, it is still in operation under the name Willo Vista RV Park.
While I’m not so sure advertising as “one of the Seattle area’s better parks” was going to draw in customers, mentioning its proximity to entertainment was probably a wise choice. Willo Vista was located 1.4 miles from El Rancho Drive-In, about 2 miles from downtown Kent, and a mere 0.6 miles from Kent Bowl.
Although the postcard lists all of the park’s amazing features (patios, play areas, etc.) Willo Vista now promotes itself as “No frills– Just a great place to stay!” An aerial view shows no signs of a playground or pool, although the sites do look like they may be a bit landscaped.
The house has been repainted and the trees have grown up, but not much has changed at Willo Vista over the past 50+ years. As for the sign on the house beckoning weary travelers? Not to worry, there is a newer sign right by the entrance to the driveway.
In the early 1950s, Vera Dyar and her husband moved from British Columbia to a 160-acre plot of land just outside of Enumclaw, Washington. Over the next several years, the Dyars built up their ranch and turned the pond into a lake. After Mr. Dyar’s death, Vera found that things were just too quiet around the ranch and began using it as a site for friends’ weddings, complete with honeymoons in her two-room guest house.
In the late 60s or very early 70s, Vera (better known as Lady Dyar) began advertising her homestead as a wedding spot named Little Lake Ranch, and business boomed.
In 1972, Lady Dyar invited a reporter from the Associated Press to attend a wedding. The short article produced appeared in newspapers from Georgia to Iowa to Texas throughout the spring and summer of that year. The article described Lady Dyar as “a woman who ‘just liked seeing people get married’.”
“‘I’m not really Lady Vera or Lady Dyar,'” she told the reporter. “‘I’m not a lady, just Mrs., but people have always called me Lady and I’m used to it. But isn’t this marvelous?'”
The price of a wedding was $60 (about $344 today) and up, depending on the size and type of wedding. Couples were responsible for providing their own minister. What kinds of amenities did Little Lake Ranch have to offer? According to the article, the ranch offered a view of Mount Rainier, a dreamlike setting, and animal witnesses, namely geese, peacocks, swans, ducks, and cows.
About four years and 500 weddings later, the ranch was once again the subject of a short Associated Press article, appearing in newspapers around the state. By this time, Lady Dyar had married Gale Zerba, a man who had worked as a groundskeeper for the Dyars when Mr. Dyar was still alive.
Now dubbed Wedding Wonderland, the ranch provided much more than just a location for the wedding party. Lady Dyar also arranged the flowers, colors, food, entertainment, and contracted a photographer and minister. Prices were also raised, ranging from $100 to $1,000 (about $420 to $4,200 today).
“‘I like the excitement, the loveliness of the bride,'” Vera told the reporter. “‘I get caught up in the emotions of the parents and brides and often feel tears in my eyes.'”
Wedding Wonderland was still advertised as a venue for unique weddings. A couple could get married by the lake and waterfall, in a canoe, side-by-side on horseback, in a horse-drawn buggy, in the barn, while wearing turn-of-the century garb, or in next to nothing.
So, where exactly was Little Lake Ranch? The 1972 Associated Press article begins with an interesting set of directions:
“…Drive past the city dump, the pickle factory, and Pete’s swimming pool and then up a dirt road and straight into the forest to a secluded wedding haven called Little Lake Ranch.”
But not necessarily in that order. At least not in 2017. The roads may have been changed in the last 45 years, but if you approach via Highway 410, you would pass the pool, the abandoned factory, and then the dump before driving off into what was once a wooded wedding wonderland.
Besides the treasure hunt it led me on during my research, what is perhaps the most wonderful thing about this set of directions is the inclusion of local landmarks that are now simply memories.
First opened in 1935, Pete’s Pool was an enlarged pond complete with a fountain and grand log lodge. Now the Enumclaw Expo Center Field House, the pool has been paved over and sports fields have been built. Ironically, the lodge is now a popular wedding venue.
Established in 1944, Farman’s Pickles was located on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Pickle Factory Road (Now Farman Road). Known for their consistent quality and “King Pickle” character, Farman’s sold to Nalley’s Fine Foods in 1987 and production was moved to Tacoma.
The last mention of Little Lake Ranch I was able to find in a news article was in a Seattle Times piece from 1993. Lady Dyar estimated that more than 5,000 weddings had been held at her ranch over the past 20 years.
While it does not appear that Little Lake Ranch is still in business as a wedding site, a quick drive on Google Maps revealed this gem at the entrance to the property:
While it can make the morning commute an even bigger headache, this week’s sudden snowstorm has been a blessing to those hoping to hit the slopes this weekend. In honor of the beautiful yet sometimes pesky snow, take a look at Summit West circa 1962!
At a height of 3,865 feet, Summit West, also known simply as Snoqualmie, is the family and beginner ski slope at Snoqualmie Pass. Operated by the same company as Alpental, Summit East, and Summit Central, it features two quad chair lifts, one triple chair lift, four double chair lifts, two doube chair lifts, and one handle-tow lift.
Public use of the area dates back to 1933 when the City of Seattle operated a city ski park named Municipal Park. Seven years later locals objected, saying that Seattle was too far away from the area (about 46 miles) to claim it as a city park. The city relented and sold the park to Ski Lifts, Inc. who changed the park’s name to Snoqualmie Summit Ski Area. Shortly after, the new owners installed a rope-tow.
Although business was spotty during the war years, Webb Moffet, the owner of Ski Lifts Inc., focused on developing the area to attract more visitors. Nighttime skiing arrived in the late 1940s when Moffett installed gas station lights along the slopes to allow employees the chance to ski after hours. Soon paying guests were staying for nighttime skiing as well, making Snoqualmie the second place in the country to offer this type of skiing.
Snoqualmie Summit continued to grow throughout the 1950s. Thunderbird, the summit’s first chairlift, opened in 1954. Two years later, Thunderbird Restaurant opened at the top of the summit, offering skiers warm food and majestic mountain views. The completion of Skihaus, a restaurant, lodge, and gift shop, completed the Summit’s status as a wintertime tourist destination.
Ski Lifts, Inc. operated Summit West and its surrounding summits through 1998, when it sold to Booth Creek Ski Holdings, Inc. Thunderbird Restaurant closed in 1990, due at least partly to the lack of running water and indoor plumbing.
Although renovated and hardly recognizable if not for it’s sharply sloped roof, Skihaus still exists. Now Webb’s Restaurant, it continues to serve thousands of hungry skiers every season.
Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful end of 2016 and a great start in 2017! To kick off the year on the blog, I thought I’d share one of my Christmas gifts with you:
I’ve seen many variations of these charm bracelets online, featuring different varieties and styles of charms. Mine features six distinct charms–The 1962 World’s Fair logo, Chief Seattle, a dugout canoe, an airplane, the Monorail, and the Space Needle– but other bracelets include totem poles, a ferry boat, The Science Pavilion, The Coliseum, a salmon, and a Washington State logo. Seattle World’s Fair bracelets exist in both gold and silver and range in quality from inexpensive to high-end.Some of the charms featured tiny gems and colored enamel (including a Galaxy Gold Space Needle charm!)
Although versions of completed bracelets exist still attached to their original cards, I believe charms could also be bought separately, allowing visitors to augment existing bracelets or start from scratch.
Many World’s Fair souvenirs commemorate only the fair itself, but these bracelets also nod to Seattle’s character, history, and economy.
Century 21 Logo: This blue enamel charm features the official logo of the 1962 World’s Fair. Running from April 21 to October 21, the fair’s official name was “Century 21 Exposition”, and its theme was science and how it would change life in the next century.
Chief Seattle: Although not in his exact likeness, this charm represents Seattle’s namesake. Chief Seattle, also known at Chief Sealth, was a member of the Suquamish Tribe who lived near the shores of Elliott Bay. When members of the Boren-Denny party arrived to scope out the area, Chief Seattle welcomed them and sent men to show them around. He is well-known for his welcoming attitude toward white settlers and for his speeches, which are oftentimes regarded as pro-environment and pro-Indigenous rights. He was christened Noah when he was baptized into the Catholic church.
Dugout Canoe: The indigenous Washingtonians enjoyed the bounty of salmon, shellfish, and cedar trees available in their land. They used cedars to build longhouses and canoes. The dugout canoes produced by the Suquamish people were prized for hunting and transport and traded all along the West Coast.
Boeing: This Boeing jet (a 707?) looks ready for takeoff! From mail carriers to bombers to commercial airline jets, Boeing has been filling the sky with an assortment of aircraft for 100 years. By the time of the fair, Boeing was actively involved in the Space Race and employed thousands in Washington and Alabama. Although Boeing’s president hated fairs, the company’s Spacearium was a popular attraction at Century 21.
Alweg Monorail: Known simply as “The Monorail”, this futuristic train was built in Germany by Alweg. While officials briefly considered using the monorail to link Seattle with Sea Tac Airport, its red and blue trains linked the fair to downtown. Alweg won the bid for the train when they offered to underwrite the costs of construction, but within six months, over 8 million riders had generated much more than the 3.5 million construction costs. Following the end of the fair, Century 21 Corporation gained ownership for free. They sold it to the City of Seattle for $600, 000 in 1965.
The Space Needle: What part of the fair is more iconic than the Space Needle? Built in a mere 400 days, this 605-foot tall structure offered panoramic views of Seattle and fine dining among the clouds. Along with the Monorail, it opened in March 1962, almost a full month before the opening of the fair.
Merry Christmas! I hope you all have been having a wonderful holiday! As my gift to you, I present you with this 1960s view of Christmas Island.
In September 1941, Olympia resident Leonard Huber started working on a lighted Christmas display in hopes of winning a contest. The contest was later cancelled, but Huber completed the display at his Eastside Hill home and lit it up Sunday, December 21st, only two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Over 5,000 people came by his house at the corner of Fairview Street and 11th Avenue that Sunday, and even more came through Monday morning. According to Huber, many people fell to their knees at the Nativity display complete with angels, shepherds, wisemen, and a church.
For the war years, the display remained dark, but it returned in December 1946, attracting more than 10,000 visitors in its first week before a fire caused by an overheated stove destroyed most of the display. Huber rebuilt it, and 1947 brought more than 45,000 visitors. Olympia’s one on-duty police officer took it upon himself to direct the holiday display traffic.
For the next three years, Huber relied on outside sources for funding the popular display, and the local police were proactive in safely routing the traffic generated. However, by 1950 neighbors and city leaders had enough and the display was moved to Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park. Throughout the 1950s, “Huber’s Sacred Scenes” would be displayed at the Duwamish Drive-In Theatre and at a North Seattle cemetery.
But in 1959, Huber’s display made a grand return to its hometown as the new Christmas Island. Funded by local businesses and assembled by the Army Corps of Engineers, Christmas island was a near-300-foot barge boasting a one-ton, 16-foot stainless steel cross in addition to a nativity scene and nearly 20,000 lights.
Christmas Island floated on Capitol Lake for only three years before burning down while in storage. Local organizations raised money to replace the display, but without the Army’s support, 1964’s Christmas Island was located on a solitary dock.
Christmas Island eventually returned to its floating state and lit up Capitol Lake every Christmas season until 1982 (with the exception of a stint in Boston Harbor in the mid-1970s).
In the 1980s, Huber was involved in an ownership lawsuit with the Island’s support organization and Christmas Island was moved to a stormwater pond behind the South Sound Mall Sears until the mid-90s. For the next few years, the Huber family displayed portions of the Island at Huber’s Gasthaus, an special event space.
The Olympia Metro Church displayed Christmas Island from 1998-2008, when the display was again put into storage.
In 2012, the Maytown Assembly of God brought Christmas Island out of storage and displayed most of it on church grounds. The church, located at 2920 Tierney St SW in Olympia, continues to host the display every year.
Drop by and see it if you have the chance! Merry Christmas!
What is that strange concrete structure perched on the south end of Seattle’s Green Lake? It’s a staircase, it’s a set of bleachers…It’s the Aqua Theatre!
Or, at least, what’s left of the Aqua Theatre.
Now just a shell of its former self, its hard to envision what the theatre looked like in its glory days. Today, it’s a popular spot for joggers, and the perfect bench for anybody wanting to rest a while and look out over Green Lake, but at its peak, it had the capacity to seat 5,582 people.
Built in a mere 67 days for the first-ever Seafair (1950), the 5,200-seat Aqua Theatre would become one of Seattle’s most popular outdoor performance venues. At a total cost of $247,000 (about $2,477,741.49 today), the Aqua Theatre was by no means a budget building, but for the next two decades its seats would often be filled to capacity for concerts, plays, and other performances.
Opening day for the Aqua Theatre was August 11, 1950 for what an advertisement described as a “flashy, splashy water spectacle”– The first-ever performance of The Aqua Follies–and it sold out. 5,200 people came to see a night of ballet, comedy, singing, dancing, and high-diving.
Aqua Follies performances (also called “Swim Musicals”) enjoyed immense success throughout the 1950s, as did other forms of entertainment. The Summer Opera Company produced “Music Under the Stars”, concert versions of operettas accompanied by ballet. Full-length plays and musicals including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Oklahoma!”, and “The King and I” were also performed at the Aqua Theatre to the music of a floating orchestra.
To accommodate the popularity of the shows, 382 additional seats were added in 1960. Two years later, the World’s Fair brought visitors from around the globe to Seattle and the Aqua Theatre for an array of events from musicals to a jazz festival to performances by Bob Hope. The Aqua Follies performed for 21 nights, rather than the usual 13. But along with the visitors and the success, the World’s Fair also brought new, indoor performing spaces, such as the Coliseum (now Key Arena) that were fresh, comfortable, and out of the rain.
The Aqua Follies performed their last show in 1964, and the theatre began its descent into disuse and disrepair. It remained a venue for concerts, often catered toward the younger crowd. On August 8, 1966, The Northwest Battle of the Bands Championship was held at the theatre. For as little as $2 (about $15 today), a person could see Don & the Goodtimes, Merrilee & the Turnabouts, The Sonics, George Washington & the Cherrybombs, The Bumps, The Live Five, Jack Horner & the Famous Plums, Dusty Springfield, Sam Sham & the Pharaohs, and vote for a winner!
On May 11, 1969, the Aqua Theatre hosted Three Dog Night with opening acts Spring, Jaime Brockett, Translove Airlines, and Led Zeppelin. The theatre and surrounding areas was packed. Those who didn’t have tickets perched in trees, sat atop the concessions stand, sprawled out on nearby lawns, huddled on a nearby dock (causing it to sink slightly), and crowded the stage in canoes and rubber rafts. Some even swam in the stage’s pool!
Later that summer, city inspectors discovered that the structure was damaged and the facility was condemned. The Aqua Theatre’s last performance was on August 20, 1969, featuring the Grateful Dead.
The following year, the diving towers were removed and the demolition slowly progressed until 1979 when most of the seating was demolished and a new shell house was built.
I visited the Aqua Theatre in October 2010 (I sure wish I was there August 8, 1966, instead!) It has a wonderful history board hanging on the back side, filled with information and historical pictures. The theatre itself is quite a sight to see! I’m not sure why large chunks were cut out of the structure (structural soundness, perhaps?), but the remains account for about 3 out of 7 original seating sections.
It was fun to look out at the lake and envision where the stage once was.
For further information, and great historical images and memorabilia, I encourage you to check out these links on Historylink.org: