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.

DSCN8813
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.

DSCN8814

WorldFair 001.jpg

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.

WorldFair 002.jpg

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.

WorldFair 003.jpg

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.

DSCN8820

DSCN8815

DSCN8818

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.

Cards 001
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.

Cards 002
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.

WilloVista2
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.

WilloVista
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.

WilloVista3
Courtesy Google Maps

 

A Northwest Valentine

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.

cards-001
Ring bearers?

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.

cards-002
WEDDINGS AT LITTLE LAKE RANCH. LADY DYAR. TA 5-3879. 5 miles east of Enumclaw, Wash. Have your outdoor wedding held in a jewel-like setting amidst tall firs, strutting peacocks, magnificent floral baskets. All this and more beside a shimmering 14-acre lake. Every Bride’s Dream. Indoor weddings and catering also available. Very Reasonable rates. Where Mom got married to Mike.

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.

llr
Overhead view via Google Maps with labels

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:

llr-2
“Little Lake Ranch, 440 SE, Around Corner”

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!

cards-003
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.

cards-004
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.

A Charming New Year

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:

Cropped.jpg

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.

logo

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.jpg

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.

Canoe.jpg

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.jpg

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.

monorail

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.

needle

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.

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.

DSCN9789.JPG
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.

dscn9793

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.

DSCN5912.JPG
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.

AT.png
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.

dscn5896
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!

dscn5905

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.

dscn5900
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.

dscn5892

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.

Introducing…

As I’ve been packing up my thing these past few weeks and moving them, I’ve been thinking about how I want my furniture arranged in my new residence and what I want to put on each shelf and each drawer. As I’ve been packing and moving and unpacking, I’ve been thinking about the future of this blog, as well. As I carefully stowed my blog materials into a box labeled “Archive”, I thought about each thing that was in there and what kind of post it might eventually turn into. I was thinking about what was working for the blog and what could make it better. I challenged myself to think about the blog’s vision and my vision for the blog and to rethink both of them again. And again. And again.

So today, I’m excited to unveil a new category for The Northwest Past.

For the past almost year-and-a-half, I’ve blogged from two big categories: image-based and item-based. Image-based are mostly the postcards that make up the bulk of this blog, and the items (or artifacts, as I like to call them) are the pins, records, spoons, and everything else that isn’t flat and does not go on my scanner.

And today I’m happy to announce that the new category of locations!

We are surrounded by locations–buildings, clocks, parks–that have just as many stories to tell as the souvenir from the 1962 World’s Fair or the postcard showing us that there did used to be a snow tunnel on I-90.

And maybe, if you’re in the area, you might find that you’d like to visit one of these historic locations yourself. Please do! What better way to explore history than visiting it?

As always, thanks for reading, and standby for the first location post… Coming very soon.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are all having a day filled with food, family, and fun! In honor of the holiday known for its feasting, I thought I’d share this 1970s postcard of Roy’s Chuckwagon, a buffet with 11 locations scattered across Washington.

DSCN9491.JPG
From Bellingham to Chehalis to Spokane

I couldn’t find very much information about Roy’s, apart from a few addresses and some mentions in newspapers and obituaries. Roy’s may have had it’s start in Baker, Oregon as “Roy’s Pancake Corral and Chuckwagon.” It appears that the first Chuckwagon restaurants in Washington opened in the 1960s. They enjoyed some popularity in the 1970s, and some locations stayed open into the 1990s. They were often popular gathering spots for local service and Bible clubs.

The restaurant was also sometimes called “Roy’s Western Smorgasbord” or “Roy’s Western Smorgy.” Some past locations include:

Chehalis: 50 NE Meridian Street

Pasco: 1315 N 20th Ave

Richland: 6699 Columbia Park Trail

Walla Walla: Inside the Big Y Shopping Center

Whoever owned this postcard previously ate at the Auburn location in 1974.

dscn9492
COME ‘N GET IT! Western Style Family Buffet. “Eat all you want” Specialties: Baron of beef–Ham–Fried chicken–Salads galore–Dessert–Beverage. “We Love Kids!” ROY’S CHUCKWAGON

The Walla Walla location appears to have opened in early 1967. Advertisements for this location reveal that the restaurant was open for lunch (11AM to 2PM) and dinner (4:30-8:30PM), and served a “complete new menu every day!” Roy’s prided itself for serving delicious food at a reasonable price, and interestingly, children’s prices depended on age: 10 cents per year up to age ten (ten cents to $1; about 72 cents to $7.24 today). An adult dinner cost $1.95 (about $14 today).

Whether you’re enjoying Baron of Beef, ham, fried chicken, or turkey today, have a great Thanksgiving!

In Memory of Buck Ormsby

Although a bit late, it’s with sadness today that I report the passing of John “Buck” Ormsby, longtime Wailers bassist. He died in Mexico on his 75th birthday, October 29, after a fall.

Although the Wailers are not very well-known today (“Oh! You mean Bob Marley’s group?”), they are often considered the first garage band and were undeniably one of the most influential bands of the late 50s and early 60s in the Pacific Northwest.

DSCN9476.JPG
John “Buck” Ormsby 1941-2016

The band’s humble beginnings date back to 1958 at Clover Park High School, located just outside of Tacoma. Woody Mortenson (acoustic bass) and John Greek (trumpet) began performing local gigs with a menagerie of other musicians as a Dixieland band. Guitarist Rich Dangel asked if he could join and play a few rock n’ roll tunes with the group. Greek consented, and the trio soon turned their focus to rock n’ roll.

The shift in styles resulted in a personnel shift. Pianist Kent Morrill, and two students from Stadium High School (Mark Marush on Saxophone and Mike Burk on drums) completed the lineup. Thus, The Nitecaps were born!

As The Nitecaps started playing better gigs, Tacoma’s other teen band, Little Bill & the Bluenotes, discovered their existence. Bill Englehart, namsake of The Bluenotes, invited The Nitecaps to be their upcoming act at an upcoming dance. The group accepted, changed their name to The Wailers, and stole The Bluenotes‘ popularity.

In late 1958, the group recorded a demo of an original instrumental that somehow ended up in the hands of Clark Galehouse of Gold Crest Records. “Tall Cool One” was re-recorded in early 1959 and released as a single. It charted at #36 on Billboard Top 100. The Wailers released their first LP, “The Fabulous Wailers”, on the Gold Crest Label later that year.

Following the success of “Tall Cool One”, the group toured the East Coast and even appeared on American Bandstand. Despite Gold Crest’s wishes for them to remain in New York, The Wailers returned home. Greek left the group, and two members of The Bluenotes joined: Rockin’ Robin Roberts (vocalist) and bassist John “Buck” Ormsby.

Disappointed by the loss of their label, Ormsby suggested something novel and maybe a little bit crazy: why not create their own record label? At first he was met with opposition, but eventually Morrill and Roberts relented and Etiquette Records was born!

DSCN9481.JPG
Etiquette’s Signature Logo

The first single released on the Etiquette label was The Wailers’ own version of “Louie,Louie”, featuring Roberts on lead vocal. This version of the Richard Berry classic was later imitated by the Oregon-based Kingsmen, who would launch the song into infamy and the center of an FBI investigation.

The Wailers continued to enjoy local success, performing with and without Roberts and sometimes with girl singer Gail Harris or girl group The Marshans. Marush left in 1962 and was replaced with Ron Gardner, a saxophonist/singer whose energy and songwriting significantly changed the group’s sound.

By 1964, the Bristish Invasion was in full swing and The Wailers were trying to compete. The group moved toward a more polished, pop sound and publicist Barrie Jackson developed a marketable image: two-toned suits and a “Wailer” haircut. Jackson also penned fake bios on the back of their new album, Wailers!!!! Wailers Everywhere: Burk was especially displeased with his.

DSCN9477.JPG
“By listening to the fish talk” I get inspiration for my songs

Photographer Jini Dellaccio is responsible for the photographs on the album. The images on the front were taken in Tacoma’s Wright Park, while the ones on the back were taken at her home in Gig Harbor.

dscn9478
Their ages are the only verifiable pieces of information

Despite the fabulous photography and fake biographies, Wailers!!!! Wailers Everywhere was not a commercial success. Many considered it too much of a shift from the group’s earlier, raw sound  and image, including Rich Dangel who was becoming less interested in rock n’ roll and left the band the following year.

There is much more to be said about The Wailers and Etiquette Records, but for this post, I’m going to pause here and present you with a complete listen to Wailers!!!! Wailers Everywhere, taken directly off of the  1964 Etiquette LP.

I purchased this record from it’s original owner who bought it while he was living in Bothell.

Buck Ormsby was raised in Tacoma, Washington. He started playing ukulele at age 7 and eventually learned steel guitar. It wasn’t until he joined The Wailers that he switched to bass guitar.

A driving force in the creation of Etiquette Records (still in business today), he is also credited with signing the wildly popular Sonics to the Etiquette label.

After The Wailers split in 1969, Buck played with Jr. Cadillac, and devoted himself to promoting Etiquette’s music. He took suitcases of LPs to Europe and struck up a partnership with Ace Records. In the 80s he revived Etiquette Records and he re-released its music on CD, straight from the master tapes.

The Wailers reunited on several occasions over the next several decades, and released an album with The Ventures in 2009, marking their 50th anniversary. A line-up including Kent Morrill and Buck occasionally performed until around 2010.

Buck’s daughter, Gregory Anne Ormsby, remembers him as a caring man wholly devoted to music.

“Everything was music, always music,” she told The Seattle Times“He was either a producer, or an event planner or a musician. He just lived and breathed music.”

This post is for you, Buck.