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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
Happy November! Now that October and Halloween have passed us by, some of the biggest shopping days of the year are yet to come. In the spirit of holiday shopping, take a look at this lovely late-60s postcard, featuring Southcenter Mall!
While the mall’s opening day was July 31, 1968, its roots date back to 1956 when three officials from Seattle’s Northgate Mall (which opened in 1950) formed the Southcenter Corporation with the vice president of Allied Stores (a Department store chain). The four men planned to build a new mall south of Seattle that would match the success of Northgate. They began searching for a site that was at least 100 acres.
Their search led them to the 800-acre Andover Tract. Previously farmland, the Andover Tract was purchased by the Port of Seattle for use as an industrial park. In November 1957, the city of Tukwila annexed the tract. The same year, Southcenter Corporation purchased 160 acres of the tract that were strategically located near the intersection of two planned freeways: I-5 and I-405. The start of construction was to depend on the construction of these roads.
The first part of I-405, connecting Tukwila to Renton, opened to traffic in August 1965. In 1960, he first segment of I-5 opened through Tacoma and by January 1967, the road ran continually from Tacoma to Everett. Southcenter Mall broke ground in early 1967.
The architect for the mall was the Seattle-based John Graham & Company, the firm responsible for both Northgate and Tacoma malls. A total of 75 contractors worked on the project, and despite four worker strikes, the majority of construction was complete by May 1968. Interior work continued until the day before the mall’s grand opening.
When Governor Dan Evans dedicated the mall at 11 AM on July 31, he was dedicating the largest mall in the Pacific Northwest. The 1,400,000 square foot mall featured the largest expanse of terrazzo floors in the area (84,000 square feet). Southcenter boasted four anchor stores, 88 other shops, and employed 3,600 people.
In 2002, Southcenter Mall was purchased by the Westfield Group and renamed “Westfield Shoppingtown Southcenter.” Four years later, the mall underwent a $240 million expansion, adding 400,000 square feet of space.
Some of the stores featured on this postcard include Zale’s Jewelry, Bernie’s Menswear, The Coat Closet, and Hazel’s Candies. Zale’s is still in operation, as are three of the original anchor stores: J.C. Penney, Nordstoms, and Macy’s (formerly Bon Marche).
Despite the stores and the decor and the clothing, perhaps what really dates this card is the last sentence on the back: “Southcenter is 8 minutes south of Seattle…” Today, the commute is about 16 minutes via I-5.
Everybody’s heard of Crab Louis, but did you know that it’s supposed inventor was a successful restaurateur and later hotel owner in Spokane?
Yes, I’m talking about Louis Davenport.
Llewellyn “Louis” Davenport came to Spokane Falls in early 1889 at the age of 20 to work in his uncle’s restaurant. Just a few months later on August 4th, a fire wiped out 32 square blocks of the city, burning the restaurant with it. While locals called it “the most devastating fire that has occurred in the history of the world,” Davenport did not stay discouraged long. The following morning, he salvaged what he could from his uncle’s restaurant and opened “Davenport’s Waffle Foundry” in a tent-like structure amidst the rubble.
A year later, Davenport moved his restaurant to a brick building in the Wilson Block and renamed it “Davenport’s Restaurant.” The restaurant and it’s offerings continued to expand over the next several years. In 1903-1904, Davenport purchased the adjacent Bellevue Block, expanded “Davenport’s”, created a lavish ballroom, and turned the upstairs of the building into “The Pennington Hotel.” His menu offered over 100 items.
Davenport hired architect Kirtland Cutter to make his two buildings match. Cutter suggested a Mission-Revival style, which was vastly different from the other buildings in town.
Sources disagree on what exactly happened next, but in 1908 it was announced that a grand hotel would soon be built in Spokane Falls, and by 1912 the Davenport Hotel Company was formed. Cutter and his partner Karl Malmgren were selected to design the new building, and a grand, ornate structure was designed. Davenport didn’t want to spend unnecessary money on fancy ornamentation, and a simpler design was made. It cost about $2 million.
In 1912, buildings currently on the hotel site were demolished, and construction began the following year. Not a single worker was killed or seriously injured. Cutter and Davenport traveled the world, selecting only the finest furniture, rugs, and other decor.
When the Davenport Hotel opened September 1, 1914, it’s dining room featured fine art, Irish linens from Liddell, and a 15,000-piece set of Reed & Barton silverware, the largest private order created by the company.
The Davenport was considered one of America’s finest hotels. Looking through this brochure, it’s easy to see why.
I’m not sure about the age of this spoon, or if it came from Louis Davenport’s restaurant or hotel, but it’s a silver-plated tea spoon from Reed & Barton in the double-stamped Belmont design.
Belmont was designed in 1906 by August Miller and was a popular choice for hotel silver. This particular piece has “Davenport’s” engraved in cursive on the handle. The back reads “Patent Approved for Reed & Barton B.P”. The Belmont design was still offered in 1908 where it appeared in the Reed & Barton catalogue. The price for a dozen spoons was either $4.75 or $6.50 (about $110 or $150 today).
I don’t know when the pattern was discontinued, but it’s possible that this piece was part of the 15,000 piece set first used in the hotel. At least, it’s fun to think so!
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.
While the recent weather seems to say that the days of sunny, 80-degree weather have come to a close, summer isn’t officially over until September 22. Know what that means? One last installment in the Summer Motel Series!
Today, I present you with a mid-century look at the Coulee Dam Motel!
Despite my research, I couldn’t find anything about this motel other than the information on the back of the postcard. A cruise around Coulee Dam on Google Maps suggests that this current motel is no longer standing. However, it appears that it may have been replaced with the Columbia River Inn.
The Columbia River Inn was built in 1972 and offers 35 rooms at what claims to be some of the lowest rates in town. Located at 10 Lincoln Avenue in Coulee Dam, WA, it sits right across the road from the Grand Coulee Dam Visitor’s Center and has views of the dam itself. The laser light show, which debuted in 1989, is just a short walk away June through October.
Since the dam’s construction, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was aware of public interest in its history and planned and built a variety of tourist attractions. To encourage visitors to stay the night in local motels, the bureau introduced the first light show in 1957.
While the motel pictured in the postcard is no longer standing, there are several old motels located around Coulee Dam, and the laser show runs through the end of the month. The summer weather may have vanished, but we still have 5 days of summer left.
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).
I hope you all have been finding good ways to stay cool during this late summer heat wave! Maybe this installment to the Summer Motel Guide will give you some ideas.
Straight out of 1966, here is Patti-O Park in Soap Lake, WA.
Soap Lake, named for the Indian word Smokiam, is a meromictic lake long loved for it’s mineral-rich waters and thick black mud, both of which were believed to posses healing properties. These healing waters have attracted tourists for decades, paving the way for a number of hotels, health spas, and sanitariums.
There is not much information available about Patti-O Park. Now Smokiam Resort, it is located on the Northern end of Soap Lake and offers four types of camping: RV, tent, cabin, and Teepee.
According to the information on the back, it was a health spa approved by the State Health Department, owned and operated by Jim and Georgetta Draper. While this postcard dates from the mid-60s, a 1978 issue of the Coulee City newspaper mentions a family reunion at the park.
The message scrawled on the back doesn’t provide much help:
“Dear Rude: We came to Soap Lake for a week yesterday. Dale & family will join us today. Maynard got home Tues and is fine. His eye is well he said. Love, Lucy”
Welcome everyone, on this lovely Seafair Friday! I thought today would be an appropriate time to take a break from the Summer Motel Guide and take some time to participate in the 66th annual Seafair celebration!
In honor of Seafair and its iconic hydroplanes, I invite you to leaf through the following selections from a 1963 Seafair Trophy Race booklet!
This 35-page booklet hails from the time when hydros still raced on Green Lake and Seafair was a 10-day celebration in early August. As the title suggests, most of the booklet is dedicated to the hydroplane races, but it also contains a complete schedule of Seafair events, and a few noteworthy ads.
Take, for example, this lovely half-page advertisement for the Aqua Follies, a Seafair staple from 1950 to 1964. For as little as $2 (about $15.75 today), Seafair celebrators could catch an outdoor performance of singing, dancing, comedy, water ballet, and diving.
Look at this handsome bunch! Page 9 gives us a quick look at the year’s hydroplane drivers, while the surrounding pages provide short biographies. Many of these men were seasoned drivers–one with a racing history dating back to 1939–but a few were competing for the first time.
Also included is the 1963 Hydroplane roster, which was still subject to change. Here lies all of the information about 1963’s hydroplanes that anybody could want, except the race results. The previous owner penciled in a few corrections.
Page 22 presents us with a map of the hydroplane race route on Green Lake. Details in the booklet state that the course must be three miles long, in water at least 5 feet deep, oval-shaped, and include two turns with a minimum clearance of 600 feet.
The back cover features Miss Thriftway, the hyrdoplane who had won the President’s Cup, the Governor’s Cup, and the Lake Washington Race the previous year under the name “Miss Century 21.”
I wonder who will win this year?
Enjoy your Seafair Weekend and, of course, the hydroplane races! For a complete list of events, visit the official Seafair website here.
Summer has finally arrived in Washington state, and with it comes the next installment to the Summer Motel Guide!
Located on Wannacut Lake in Tonasket, WA, I invite you to visit Norma & Virgil “Stone’s Resort.”
While there is not much information to be found about the history of the motel, it appears as though it opened sometime in the 1960s. A 1968 ad in the Spokesman-Review (a Spokane newspaper) calls it “Stone’s Wannacut Lake Resort” and touts it as a “modern trailer park” with “complete camp facilities.” According to the ad, the resort offered horseback riding and was “open thru hunting season.”
Horses and hunting aside, what is perhaps most noteworthy about this motel is its remarkable ability to resist time. Now called Sun Cove Resort, it still offers trailer camping spots, regular camping spots, motel rooms, and access to Wannacut Lake. The motel rooms remain covered in wood paneling and outfitted with groovy blue appliances. According to online reviews, there is no cell service, no phones in the rooms, and no television.
And while the wood paneling and blue appliances are enough to catapult you into retro heaven, there is one more thing to attest to the resort’s ability to defy time: The phone number seen on this 1960s postcard is the same phone number the resort uses today.
So if you’re looking for a piece of yesteryear to stay in this summer, you may find it suitable to dial (509) 476-2223.