Maybe I should have titled this post “Hurry Summer.”
Although people living in the Pacific Northwest may feel like we skipped over spring this year, today is the official first day of summer! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with an early 50s postcard of a southern Washington beach!
This picture appears to be taken someplace south of the city of Long Beach, maybe at the beach located at the end of Jetty Road, near Peacock Spit. As the caption states, it shows the estuary at the end of the Columbia River from the Washington side.
Peacock Spit was named after the USS Peacock, which crashed there during a storm in 1841 while trying to enter the Columbia River.
Here’s to a summer we can spend out on the beach with our woodies, horses, and picnic baskets!
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!
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:
Everybody who lives in the Seattle Area knows about the Unlimited Hydroplane races. They’ve been a staple at Seafair since its inception in 1950. What many don’t know is that the same hydroplanes made famous at Seafair also raced on Lake Chelan.
Don’t believe me?
Feast your eyes on this 1958 Apple Cup Race pin, starring Miss Chelan!
Almost like the Ford Edsel, the Apple Cup Race lasted for only four years: 1957-1960. Stemming from the hydroplane craze brought to the region by Seafair, and happening in conjunction with the Apple Blossom Festival, the first Apple Cup Race was held May 5, 1957. The hydroplanes competing in the first race, in the winning order, were:
U-77 Miss Wahoo
U-28 Shanty I
U-8 Hawaii Kai III
U-27 Miss Seattle
U-4 Miss Bardahl
U-60 Miss Thriftway
U- 19 Miss Rocket
U-62 Thriftway Too
The second Apple cup was held May 11, 1958, and featured 11 hydroplanes, two more than the previous year. Only five hydroplanes were repeats: Miss Seattle, Miss Thriftway, Thriftway Too, Maverick, and Miss Bardahl (who took first place). The prize was $1,500, which is equivalent to about $12,500 today.
12 hydroplanes competed at the third Apple Cup Race on May 10, 1959, many of them the same hydros that raced the previous year. Miss Pay n’ Save, who had placed #10 in 1958, took first place, followed by Miss Bardahl and Miss Thriftway.
The final Apple Cup was held May 8,1960 and hosted 11 competitors. Miss Thriftway was the race’s winner, followed by Nitrogen and Miss Burien. Rising sponsor’s costs and crowd control problems contributed to the race’s cancellation.
Although the Apple Cup is now just a name of a Chelan cafe, vintage hydroplanes have returned to Chelan the first weekend in October for the last seven years for the Mahogany & Merlot event.
Interestingly, the hydroplane featured on the pin, U-97 Miss Chelan, is fictitious. She never raced in the Apple Cup and, in fact, never even existed.
The Apple Cup Race was important enough to be broadcasted on Seattle television! Clips from the 1957 and 1958 races can be viewed on YouTube. For detailed race summaries, visit this link.
In the 1870s, gold miners in central Washington began using a series of Indian trails to travel across the Wenatchee Mountains and between camps. As interest in the mines grew so did the trails, curving close around the side of the mountain and relying on switchbacks to offset the steepness of the terrain. In 1897, a Geological Survey made a map of the area and named this road “Blewett Pass.”
In 1915, Governor Lister dedicated Sunset Highway, the state’s first safely passable route across the Cascade Mountains. Seven years later, it was re-routed to include Blewett Pass, which was designed as a two-lane dirt-and-gravel road with one-way concrete bridges. The pass was paved in 1925.
Although considered safely passable compared to its wagon trail predecessors, Blewett Pass was hardly a safe road. Built into the hillside, it was narrow and windy, filled with switchbacks, and dotted with “caution” signs. Despite the safety projects carried out by the CCC in the 1930s, by the mid-40s the road was too outdated for modern traffic.
In 1956, a new pass was constructed through Swauk Pass, resulting in the demolition of the town of Blewett. The new road boasted less curves (37 instead of 248), passing lanes, and shoulders. The road, known for years as Blewett Pass Highway, US 97, and Primary State Highway #2, was renamed Swauk Pass Highway.
In 1991, the Department of Transportation changed the Blewett Pass signs to Swauk Pass, sparking a local outrage. While the state and Federal Board of Geographical Names hoped to be geographically accurate, the locals refused to change the nomenclature of their road. The state relented in 1992, and officially changed the name and the signs back to Blewett Pass.
The Old Blewett Pass still exists, and portions of it can be seen from the new pass, Unfortunately, the lack of maintenance and decades of weather have taken their toll and much of the road has fallen into Peshastin Creek. The white center line and rock bridge abutments can still be seen.
The Forest Service maintains a 13-mile stretch of the road that includes Echo Point and the old summit. The road is open to traffic April through September.
I had the chance to travel this stretch of road Monday with my dad, who vaguely remembers traveling over the original pass as a small child. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my postcard along as a reference, but I think I did okay taking a modern-day shot of Echo Point.
There are no more guardrails, and the surrounding flora looks a little different, but it was clear to tell when we had reached Echo Point. “How do you know?” my sister asked me. You just know.
If you park and walk a little bit off of the road, you can get a glimpse of the new road, a tiny look at the Red Top Mountain Lookout, and, of course, miles and miles of trees.
This particular postcard, sent from Cle Elum in 1955, spells Blewett as “Blewitt.” Although sent when the road was considered dangerous and obsolete, the caption tries its best to romanticize the pass. The message, sent to Miss Dessie M. Dunagan in Ferndale, WA, reads as follows:
“Dear Dessie May, I expect you are near home by now. I have been here two weeks: plan to stay until Armistice Day. Ralph will bring me home then. On the 9th we went to a golden wedding at Sunnyside. People they know. It rained hard all day. Heavy traffic in evening. Hunters going out to the (?). Some had deer. One bear. Hope you are well. Bye, Belva.”
Interestingly, the recipient of this postcard was the daughter of James Dunagan, a prominent farmer and mail carrier in Whatcom County. She was a graduate of the Whatcom Normal School (now WWU).
What I love about this postcard is how touristy it is. The strategic placement of the rhododendrons in relation to the blue waters and artistic rocks is reminiscent of a postcard from Hawaii.
Postmarked July 5, 1956, this postcard was authored the day it was sent to Mr. and Mrs. Gunnar Nordquist at 1850 53rd St. in Seattle’s Green Lake neighborhood. It reads as follows:
“Hi Folks! We spent one night in a motel & two nights camping near Waldport. Had dinner with the Kerr’s Mon. eve. The weather here has been misty but not cold. On the way up the coast. Love, Connie & Roy”
Waldport, Oregon is a small town in Lincoln County, incorporated in 1911. During the time this postcard was sent, the population was somewhere around 667-689 people.
I’m pretty envious of that 2-cent postage myself, which is equivalent to about 17 cents today. The price of mailing a postcard today is 34 cents.
When spring hits, it flares up like summer wildfires, bursting into full-yellow bloom on roadsides and hillsides. Its smelly, dense pollen gets blamed for seasonal rhinitis and can make highway travel a temporary nightmare. It’s so prevalent in Western Washington that it’s not on the WSDOT’s weed hit list.
Greetings from Scotch Broom.
Scotch Broom (also called Scot’s Broom) is actually an invasive species that originated in Europe. Now prevalent across North America, it was prized as an ornamental shrub and soil stabilizer, and sold in California as early as the 1860s. Captain Walter Grant introduced it to Vancouver Island in 1850. Fifty years later, it was naturalized.
It is a hardy plant that can tolerate many types of soils and can grow almost year-round. Its seeds are durable and long-lasting. It threatens almost all types of environments, from grasslands to dry riverbeds to cultivated farmland.
Since the 1980s, aggressive measures have been taken to control and eliminate Scotch Broom, including the introduction of Scotch Broom-eating insects.
Now that Spring Break is upon us, perhaps you’ve asked yourself a time or two where to go. Florida? Mexico? The Caribbean? Look no further than the Northwestern corner of the U.S.
Why, may you ask?
How much more of a reason could you possibly need?
This midcentury tourism brochure, originally the property of the former Stagecoach Motel, touts the diversity of Washington’s geography and offerings.
Now it seems that Washington is only known for its apples and rain, but this brochure invites you to explore the state’s outdoor offerings, including swimming, fishing, and general sightseeing. It seems a very fitting advertisement for a time when road trips were popular vacations for many Americans.
The map gives us an interesting look at the state’s major roadways before the construction of the interstates. Highway 99 was still the main north-south thoroughfare and Highway 10 had yet to become part of I-90.
In case you were wondering what to wear on your trip, here is what the brochure suggests. I would add an umbrella or raincoat to the list.
Why not stop by? It’s closer than you think. Only 11 hours from New York by plane in the 1950s.
What would summer in Western Washington be without a trip to Mount Rainier? This mid-century postcard shows a couple of park visitors marveling at the snow-capped mountain from the road to Sunrise.
Sunrise is the second-most visited spot in Mount Rainier National Park, and at 6,400 feet, is the highest point you can drive to in the park. Sunrise, located on the east side of Mount Rainier, boasts a log visitor’s center and is a popular spot for hikers.
The postcard above shows Sunrise Point, located at an elevation of 6,100 feet. On a clear day, it is possible to see Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, Mount Baker, Mount Adams, and Mount Stuart from this point. Sunrise Point also offers views of Sunrise Lake, and the entrance to several trails.