Fun, Fun, Fun

Welcome back to a new month and a new category! I spent last weekend in Chelan, Washington at an event that uniquely celebrates the state’s long love affair with hydroplane racing. For today’s post, I thought I would share the event with you as the first post in a fourth category: Events.

For the last 8 years, the City of Chelan, Kent’s Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum, and many other sponsors have hosted a weekend of vintage cars, boats, and hydroplanes in early October. Dubbed “Mahogany and Merlot“, it’s a chance to check out vintage watercraft and support local wineries.

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The Backdrop for the Weekend

Saturday was scheduled to be a full day of hydroplane action and classic car and boat shows, but strong winds kept the hydros in the pits. As consolation, access to the pits was open to all at no charge. This allowed us to get up close and personal with all of the hydroplanes in attendance: Unlimited, Limited mid-size, and the smallest Limiteds.

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Limited Hydroplane

We also stood face-to-face with this interesting old building. Anybody know what it was used for back in its day?

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What am I?

Despite the disappointing weather, the Antique & Classic Boat Society put on a neat display of beautifully-restored boats dating back as far as the 1920s. Spectators could vote for their favorite boat at a nearby table.

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Up in the parking lot, a small group of classic cars had parked, including this unique convertible hardtop, the Ford Galaxie Skyliner:

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Don’t sneak your buddies in this trunk!

Sunday morning brought beautiful, windless weather and breakfast at a Chelan landmark with a great neon sign.

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Sixty Years of Tasty Breakfasts

The Apple Cup Cafe opened the same year as the Chelan hydroplane races it was named for. For more information on the Apple Cup races, please visit my post here.

Down at the lake, most of the historic boats had already departed and the first of the Unlimited hydros were going into the water. Several wouldn’t start. Many coughed and sputtered. Some had to be towed back from the far end of the course, but eventually all Unlimiteds in attendance made at least one lap. The following hydroplanes made an appearance:

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U-77 Miss Wahoo

Miss Wahoo made her debut in 1956 and took second place in the first Apple Cup race. She won several races in the late 50s and took fifth place in the final Apple Cup before rolling over during the 1960 Seafair Trophy Race. Bill Boeing, the boat’s owner, had Miss Wahoo repaired, but retired her at the end of the year. In 1963, she was sold and won her first three races under the new name of Miss Exide. She was sold once more, renamed Miss Budweiser, and destroyed in a 1966 collision.

Miss Wahoo was built from the same plans as Miss Thriftway, Shanty-I, and Miss Spokane. The Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent used the original plans to build a Miss Thriftway replica. When Bill Boeing’s son saw it, he lamented that Miss Wahoo no longer existed. The museum responded by building this life-sized replica, who debuted at the Seafair Chevrolet Cup alongside U-787 Salute to Seafair.

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Oh Boy! Oberto

This pepperoni-powered hydro started out as 1960 Miss Lumberville from Detroit, Michigan. She has been restored and repainted to look like the 1975 Oh Boy Oberto, the first hydroplane Oberto sponsored. This particular hydro starred in the 2005 film Madison.

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U-40 Miss Bardahl

Ole Bardahl, owner of Bardahl Manufacturing Co., sponsored the U-4 hydroplane in 1957. He loved it so much, that he commissioned his own hydroplane, built the following year. Dubbed “The Green Dragon”, Miss Bardahl made her debut at the Apple Cup with Chelan native Norm Evans at the wheel and took first place. She won several more races, encouraging Bardahl to upgrade her engine. An accident and unlucky year in 1959 was not enough to stop Miss Bardahl from coming back for one more successful year. Bardahl replaced her with a new model in 1962.

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U-22 Breathless III

Breathless III never actually existed, but is rather a work-in progress by Mitch Evans, the son of famed hydroplane racer Norm Evans. The end goal is to re-create the 1954 splendor of “Birch & Blue, 22”, the original Breathless.

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1973 Pay n’ Pak

This Pay n’ Pak hydroplane has been lauded as one of the most successful hydroplanes in the history of hydroplane racing. It was the first sccessful hydroplane of the “pickle-fork” design, which was the trailblazer for the look of modern hydroplanes. Known as the “Winged Wonder”, it was the first hydroplane to use aluminum honeycomb building materials and a horizontal stabilizer.

After three very successful years, it raced as Atlas Van Lines for one year, again as Pay n’ Pak, and then as Miss Madison. In all, the 1973 Pay n’ Pak raced for 14 years before retirement. It spent some time in a warehouse before its sale to the Hydroplane and Raceboat museum, who restored it.

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Oberto and Miss Wahoo

Although posters for the event advertised hydroplane races, there were no actual races. Rather, the historic hydros took out passengers for paid rides. The Limited hydroplanes simulated a race, and two outboard racing boats from the 1910s jetted around the course.

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Limited race simulation

If you love vintage hydroplanes, mark your calendars for next October! You’ll be glad you did.

 

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Seafair Saturday!

I’m sure you know that today is Seafair Saturday. But did you know that fifty years ago today it was also Seafair Saturday?

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Schedule of Events Brochure

Back in 1967, Seafair was  a 12-day celebration featuring parades, sports tournaments, concerts, cultural celebrations, and, of course, hydroplane races. The festivities began on Friday, July 28th and concluded on Sunday, August 6th. In addition to all of the area festivals and tournaments, major events headlined each day:

July 28- Queen’s Coronation

July 29- Grande Parade – Bon Odori

July 30- Shilshole Seafair Fun Day – Fiesta Filipina – Bon Odori

July 31- Greenwood District Parade

August 1- Camera Day

August 2- Lake City “Gay Nineties” Festival Parade

August 3- Arrival of the Fleets – Kids’ Seafair Day

August 4- Capitol Hill District – Festival of Flags and Parade

August 5- Seafair Trophy Unlimited Hydroplane Race – Torchlight Parade

August 6- Gold Cup Unlimited Hydroplane Race

The schedule brochure flaunts Seattle’s designation as an “All-America City”, an honor it had been awarded just the year previous.

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Seafair Weekend Schedule

Some of you may remember last year, when I posted selections from the 1963 Seafair Trophy Race Booklet. In addition to the brochure excerpt above, I have selections from the 1967 Seafair Gold Cup Regatta Magazine!

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This magazine, dated Sunday, August 6th for the Gold Cup Race, features advertisements, sponsor information, and a guide to the hydros and their drivers, Let’s take a look at 1967’s Unlimited roster:

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Gale’s Roostertail weighed in at a whopping 10,000 pounds!

In addition to the roster, the magazine provided spectators with their very own scorecard!

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Keep Score from the Sidelines!

While the majority of the book is dedicated to the Unlimited Hydroplane races, several pages are dedicated to the Limited Hydroplanes which raced on Green Lake July 28th, 29th, and 30th.

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Check out the groovy ad for the Fair!

The last page I’ll share with you is the last page in the booklet, featuring the Seafair royalty:

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Kelly Waller was crowned King Neptune

Whether you’re watching the festivities from Seattle or your living room, have a happy Seafair Weekend!

Oh! The Places You’ll Go: Seattle Part I

Before the days of smart phones, Google Maps, and even Map Quest, what did you consult when you were lost? A good, old-fashioned map, of course! Often tucked in a glove box or thrown across the backseat, a trusty map could turn a lost traveler into a confident driver. But what if you consulted a map from 50 years ago? What sorts of things might you find?

Let’s find out!

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The covers feature recognizable Seattle landmarks

Distributed in 1967 by the Atlantic Richfield Company (also known as Arco), this map shows the greater Seattle area, from Tukwila to Edmonds, and West Seattle to Redmond. While many aspects of the roads and landmarks are the same, many aren’t. Part I will highlight a few spots around Seattle.

1. The Seattle Center

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Seattle Center, 1967-style!

A mere five years after the World’s Fair for which it was built, the Seattle Center had changed, but not much. Many of the buildings still stood, although they had different purposes:

  • The building that had housed exhibits for India and Korea became Youth Recreation
  • Senior Citizens Activities occupied the building left behind by Africa, Thailand, the Philippines, and the UN
  • “Show Street” was completely dismantled
  • The United Arab Republic made way for a World’s Fair Museum
  • The US Science Pavilion was christened The Pacific Science Center
  • The Christian Pavilion gave way to the Nile Temple
  • Part of the Gayway gave way to Space Needle Parking
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Seattle Center now, courtesy of Google Maps

Even today, many of the Center’s trademark buildings still exist, although with different names. The Seattle Center is also significantly smaller, as pieces of it have slowly vanished over the years.

  • “Municipal Parking Garage” is now called “Mercer Street Garage”
  • “High School Memorial Stadium” has been shortened to simply “Memorial Stadium”
  • Space Needle parking? What Space Needle parking? Try looking under the EMP
  • “Food Circus” is now the plain old “Center House”
  • “Opera House” became “Marion Oliver McCaw Hall”
  • “Arena” or “Mercer Arena” was demolished earlier this year
  • The Sky Ride was moved to the Washington State Fairground decades ago

 

2. Downtown

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Downtown 50 Years Ago

Each red box on the map represented an important structure. Here is a guide to all 44 spots:

  1. Benjamin Franklin Hotel: Demolished in 1980 for an expansion of the Westin Hotel
  2. Bon Marche: First sold in 1986, it changed its name to Macy’s in 2005
  3. Canadian Pacific Dock: It once ferried people between Seattle and B.C. Now it’s gone
  4. Central Bus Terminal: The site is under construction
  5. Chamber of Commerce:This ornate structure now houses businesses  5a. City Hall
  6. City Light Building: Now home to Expediors, a freight forwarding service
  7. Continental Trailways Bus Depot: Now a parking garage
  8. County Building: Now called King County Superior Court
  9. Doctor’s Hospital: Now part of Virginia Mason Hospital
  10. Federal Court Building: Today, it’s called US Appeals Court
  11. Federal Office Building: The Unites States Post Office occupies this site today
  12. Federal Reserve Bank: Current Home to the Washington Department of Licensing
  13. Ferry Terminal:  Also called the Colman Dock
  14. Fireboats Station: Serving you since 1902. Serving you from this building since 1963
  15. Frederick & Nelson: A new shopping center now occupies this lot
  16. Harbor Patrol Station: The Harbor Patrol moved to Lake Union in the 1960s
  17. King Street Station: Built in 1906, it was finally returned to its former glory in 2013
  18. KOMO Radio and TV Stations: Some things never change
  19. KTNT TV Studios: Present-day parking lot
  20. Logan Building: This 10-story office building was built in 1959, renovated in 2009
  21. Mayflower Hotel: Celebrating 90 years of operation in 2017
  22. McDougall’s: This department store closed in 1966 and was demolished in 1971. It is now the site of a brick parking garage and Ludi’s Restaurant
  23. New Washington Doric Hotel: Elvis stayed here while filming “It Happened at the World’s Fair” in 1962. Now home to many as the Josephinum Apartments
  24. Norton Building: Built in 1959, this office building still stands
  25. Old Armory: The armory stood from 1909-1968. The site is now retail and offices
  26. Olympic Hotel: Open since 1924
  27. Penney’s: After nearly 50 years of business, this location closed in the early 80s. The building was demolished, and replaced with the Newmark Tower a decade later
  28. Pike Place Market: Thanks to preservation efforts in the 60s and 70s, the Market remains and is a hot tourist destination
  29. Post Office: The post office still operates a branch at this location
  30. Pubic Library and Civic Information Center: The 1960 library building on the old map was replaced in 2004
  31. Public Safety Building: Now the home to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Seattle City Hall, Seattle City Council, and Einsten Bros. Bagels
  32. Rhodes: This branch of “Seattle’s Home-Owned Department Store” was closed in 1968 and demolished in 2005 for the WaMu Center Bank Tower
  33. Roosevelt Hotel: Hosting travelers since 1929
  34. Seattle General Hospital: Originally a hospital and nursing school, it merged with Swedish Medical Center in 1978 and moved. This building seems to have been replaced
  35. Seattle Park Department Administrative Building: Now called “Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent’s Office”
  36. Seattle Post-Intelligencer Building: The Seattle P-I moved from this building in 1986 and became online-only in 2009. The City University of Seattle now occupies this building
  37. Seattle Times Building: Now located in offices next-door, the Seattle Times sold their original building in 2013. Demolition started last year
  38. Smith Tower: Built in 1914, it’s the city’s oldest skyscraper
  39. Transit Service Office: Go to this location now and you’ll find a supermarket and a Starbuck’s
  40. Union Station: Today, it’s the beautifully-restored headquarters of Sound Transit
  41. Virginia Mason Hospital: Although much larger now, Virginia Mason still resides at this location
  42. Washington Athletic Club: Built in 1930, the club became a city landmark in 2009
  43. YMCA: 50 years later, this branch is still open
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Downtown Now, Courtesy of Google Maps

3. Museum of Science and Industry (MOHAI)

Planning a trip to MOHAI? Don’t use this map! If you do, you may find yourself near the University of Washington when you really need to be on the south end of Lake Union.

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MOHAI in Montlake

In 1967, MOHAI was situated in East Montlake Park off of East Park Drive. The museum opened in early 1952, displaying a collection of artifacts and photos that had been gathered since the 1910s by the local historical society.

The museum rapidly grew and expanded over the nest decade and a half, but when Highway 520 moved in, getting to the museum became more challenging. Voters who had once saved the museum from complete highway encirclement were upset by the heavy traffic through their once-quiet neighborhood and opposed subsequent museum expansion plans.

In the 1970s, MOHAI was plagued by unprofessional and unscrupulous employees. Artifacts were improperly handled, and some were even stolen. Employees who spoke up for the betterment of the museum were dismissed and/or publicly shamed. Staffing changes in the latter part of the decade pulled the museum out of the rubble, displaying more of its collections and shifting the focus of its exhibits back to local history.

In 2012, sixty years after the museum first opened, it relocated from Union Bay to Lake Union, setting up in the former Naval Reserve Training Center (also called Naval Reserve Armory).

The armory was built between 1941-1942 by the Works Progress Administration for $500,000. It operated as a naval training school during the second world war, but was decommissioned shortly thereafter. In 1946 it received renovation funding, in 1998 it was disestablished, and in 2009 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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MOHAI’s Current Home

Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along

People all over North America are familiar with Red Robin restaurants. Everybody knows about their big burgers, cartoon mascot, and secret French fry seasoning. But what many people don’t know is that the first Red Robin opened in Seattle.

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The 1,200 square foot building, located by the south end of the University Bridge at 3272 Fuhrman Avenue East, was erected in 1916. In 1943, it opened as Sam’s Tavern.

Sam, the tavern’s owner and namesake, sang in a barbershop quartet. He loved the song “When the Red Red Robin” so much that he changed the same of his tavern to “Sam’s Red Robin.”

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Exterior, February 16, 2010

In 1969, Gerry Kingen, the son of local restaurant owners, bought the Red Robin Tavern. He continued to run the establishment in the same spirit as Sam, serving up booze, popcorn, and sandwiches to university students and local houseboat inhabitants.

Four years later, the Red Robin briefly closed for a remodel. In addition to building a deck on the back of the building, Kingen added burgers, fish & chips, and steak to the menu. Large wooden electrical cable spools with a layer of thick resin on top served as tables.

When the restaurant reopened, business tripled. In response to the success, Kingen opened another location in Northgate.

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Front Entrance with Stained Glass Window

In 1979, two Red Robin regulars opened the first Red Robin franchise in Yakima, Washington, and the following year Red Robin opened a location in Oregon.

As for the building on Fuhrman Avenue? Sadly, unlike most locations posted here, the original Red Robin no longer stands. Only a few months after my February 2010 visit, this location closed, citing expensive maintenance. The 98-year-old building was demolished August 28, 2014.

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Old Mascot?

Now an empty parking lot, the future of the site is uncertain. It appears that the most popular suggestion is to build multi-story apartments.

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Courtesy of Google Maps

The demise of the building can actually be traced on Google Maps street view, which shows the slow regression from 2008 to 2015. The 2015 view shows the old flooring still in place, as well as the old sidewalk.

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Hardwood and Brick Flooring, 2010

While the decor was fairly mainstream Red Robin when I dined there, the building had a character unique to this specific location. Wood-covered walls, stained glass, and the smallest bathrooms known to man were just some of the features that made this location a true dining experience despite the standard menu, furniture, and glass-covered sun room.

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Custom Stained Glass

Interestingly, a new Sam’s Tavern has opened up in Seattle. With locations in Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, and Redmond, its about page credits Sam’s Red Robin as its predecessor.

 

 

Yet Another Opening Day!

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.

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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.

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SEATTLE, WASHINGTON; BOATING CAPITOL OF THE WORLD. With numberless fine inland waterways and beautiful Puget Sound, boating is the most popular recreation of Seattle residents. Boat Season Opening Day is a huge civic event.

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!

Opening Day

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.

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Four cents to ship a spoon First Class!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wind in the Willos

After a long absence (sorry!), I’m back to present you with this 1960s postcard of Willo Vista Trailer Village in Kent, Washington.

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Pastels and Stripes Adorn Trailers

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.

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WILLO VISTA TRAILER VILLAGE Kent, Washington. 104 Spaces. One of the Seattle area’s better parks. Completely Modern-Heated Swimming Pool-Picnic & Play Areas-Large Landscaped Lots-Large Patios-Underground Utilities-Modern Laundry-Artesian Water-Natural Gas at Every Space. Near Bowling Alley-Drive-in Theatre-Golf Course and Shopping.

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.

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Courtesy of Google Earth

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.

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Courtesty Google Maps

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.

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Courtesy Google Maps

 

Snow Day!

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!

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Double Chairlift and new Skihaus Restaurant, Lodge, and Gift Shop

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.

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SNOQUALMIE SUMMIT SKI AREA, WASHINGTON, 46 miles from Seattle on Highway #10, is a popular resort with its double chairlift (shown in foreground), three PomaLifts, twelve rope tows, Thunderbird Restaurant at top of chairlift and new SKIHAUS — recently completed fabulous lodge.

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.

Greetings from Christmas Island

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.

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I’m away from my scanner at present. I’ll post a clearer photo later.

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.

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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!

On the Shores of Green Lake

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.

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The Aqua Theatre, October 23, 2010

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.

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Aqua Follies Ad from 1963 Seafair Booklet

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.

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View from the Top

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!

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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.

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Top Corner

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.

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For further information, and great historical images and memorabilia, I encourage you to check out these links on Historylink.org:

Aqua Theatre–Seattle

Led Zeppelin Rocks Seattle’s Outdoor Green Lake Aqua Theatre on May 11, 1969

Also, check out this great Aqua Theatre footage from the Kiro 7 Archives.

And, of course, if you ever find yourself near Green Lake, I encourage you to go see what remains of the Aqua Theatre for yourself.