2010 Find of the Month Archive
- New Year's Eve
- "Pioneer ghost town"
- Hallowe'en depredations
- Kent State shootings
- Seafair royalty
- Disco Week
- Mayor Edwards recalled from office
- "The Right to Health"
- Fire Department horse
- Civilian War Commission
- Parking meters come to Seattle
The issue of New Year's Eve celebrations pops up periodically in city records. An early mention shows up in Resolution 3067 from 1910, which was concerned with enforcement of liquor laws. Council President William H. Murphy made edits before signing the document, so that the final version directed the police chief "to see that the laws of the State of Washington and the ordinances of the City of Seattle as to the sale and use of intoxicating liquors and the closing of drinking places are strictly enforced on New Year's eve the same as such laws and ordinances are enforced on other nights in the City of Seattle." One might infer from Murphy's edits that he believed these ordinances were not enforced strongly enough on any day of the year.
A 1952 Comptroller File contains a plea from the Associated Tavern Owners of Washington, asking that taverns and cocktail bars be allowed to stay open an extra hour on New Year's Eve. The police chief recommended to the Council that this request be granted, and drinking establishments were thus permitted to stay open until 2 am on that night.
1970 saw another appeal for extended hours on December 31, this one from the Rainier-Beacon Junior Chamber of Commerce. While the Teen Dance Ordinance in force at that time required dances to end at 11:45 pm, the group asked that an extension to 12:30 am be granted on this and all succeeding New Year's Eves. The director of Seattle Center urged the Council to grant their request, mainly so as "not to release a large number of teen-agers to the streets at five minutes to Midnight on New Year's Eve."
A front page story in the November 14, 1960, Seattle Times alerted readers to the existence of a "pioneer ghost town" underneath Pioneer Square. According to the article, most "old-timers" had no idea the underground city existed. Fire Chief William Fitzgerald led the reporter on a tour below the streets, recalling his parents' stories of hangings that had taken place in that area before the city was rebuilt on higher ground after the fire of 1889.
The article prompted at least two citizens to write to the City Council asking whether the city could preserve the remains of the underground as a tourist attraction. One writer said, "I know I'd like to see it and I'm sure others would also." Another compared it to underground passages she had visited in Paris, and asked, "What could our City Council do about this golden nugget beneath our own Skid Road?"
The Council did not feel there was a role for the city in the preservation of the "ghost town," but forwarded the letter to the Central Association of Seattle, a downtown development organization, for the group's consideration. Just a few years later, the very same Central Association was behind the proposal to raze much of Pioneer Square for the construction of a new arterial road.
Bill Speidel began independently offering tours of the underground in 1965, paying rent to building owners in exchange for access to their lower levels. Meanwhile preservationists, alarmed at the urban renewal plans, led a movement to preserve Pioneer Square, studying its architecture and renovating some properties. Their efforts led to the creation of the Pioneer Square Preservation District in 1970, the city's first historic district.
Reports from the Police Department's Junior Safety Division in the late 1930s show that the authorities were closely tracking Halloween pranks and the damage they caused to both city infrastructure and private property.
Each year they would create a report titled "Hallowe'en Depredations" that documented problems that had been reported on that year's holiday. The top section of the reports compared numbers of false fire alarms, broken streetlights, stolen street signs, and the like with the previous year's totals. The following section contained a list of each incident reported to the police in the current year, including times and locations.
Activities on this list included things like boys throwing tomatoes, honking car horns, tearing up shrubbery, letting air out of tires, and turning on fire hydrants. The 1936 document reports that at 10:59 pm, a roaming police officer found three manhole covers that had been removed. Eleven minutes later, horses and mules were discovered to have been turned loose. At 12:45 am, a large boiler was found in the middle of the street.
In an effort to prevent this annual holiday mischief, the police worked together with the Parks Department and the schools to promote "Safe and Sane Halloween." Student groups held all-city meetings before the holiday in which they shared ideas for thwarting vandalism. Their plans included organized talks within their schools, dances and other events planned as alternate Halloween activities, and volunteer patrols. On Halloween night, City-organized events at playfields and community centers drew hundreds of kids, which "held mischief-making to a minimum," according to the newspaper.
Two days after the shootings at Kent State in 1970 - 40 years ago in May - City Council President Charles Carroll gave the following statement:
Each and every person mourns the tragic and senseless deaths of the four students killed at Kent State University on Monday. Moreover, each one of us mourns the terrible loss of lives in the Viet Nam war. Each of us fears the possible consequences of the president's decision to move troops into Cambodia.
Our paramount concern lies with violence and fear in our own country - and in our own city. I appeal to all Seattle citizens, and to the American public, to see clearly the tension and possible repression which exist in our society. We cannot permit our sorrow, or our anger, to breed more violence - whether for the sake of destroying what some may call evil institutions or repressing revolutionary students.
The events in Asia, and at Kent State University, and elsewhere in America should cause each of us - student, public servant, housewife, businessman, working man - to pause and reflect. We must realize that our own hasty actions may bring about the undoing of our society, something that no other power could bring about in our history.
I ask that Friday, May 8, be a Day of Reflection in the City of Seattle. To this end, I have asked [UW] President Odegaard to authorize the use on Friday of the University of Washington Husky Stadium for a community forum for free and open discussion by all who wish to participate. We invite the student leadership from the local colleges and universities to suggest to us a plan for the management of a community forum, dedicated to reflect on the tragic events of recent days and to discuss ways we together can build a better society and a better city.
I urge all Seattle citizens to observe this Day of Reflection by participating in the community forum or in their own way.
As the acting Mayor, I intend also to urge all city officials to join your discussions at the stadium on Friday. Perhaps together, we can begin here in Seattle to resolve the escalating American crisis.
In the early days of Seafair, the selection of the festival's royalty was big news in Seattle. Shortly before the start of the first Seafair in 1950, the P-I announced that Victor E. Rabel had been tapped to serve as King Neptune I. The article described how Rabel had been "sitting in his office…studying the barometer and thinking of the golf prospects for the week-end, when the news came that he has been elevated to purple." He was told of his new status by two Seafair sponsors who arrived in a Cadillac and "apprised the new monarch that fate had beckoned him; that the responsibilities of royalty now devolve upon him, and that his time isn't his own anymore."
The selection of Seafair Queens also merited thorough news coverage in the 1950s. When Iris Adams was chosen for the crown in 1952, a photo of her brushing her hair accompanied an article describing her background. Born and raised in England, she had immigrated to America with her parents three years earlier at the age of 21. She was quoted as saying that some relatives had told her America was wonderful. "Now I know it is…We didn't have contests like this back home."
As the end of her reign neared in 1953, the P-I published Adams' advice to her successor. She forewarned hopefuls that the Seafair Queen had to appear at events at any time of day or night and didn't have much of a private life, adding that an understanding boyfriend and a lenient boss were a must. She also advised that one must be prepared for public speaking on little or no notice, and said, "I have found the shortest speech is the best speech, especially if you're scared."
The following document was found in Mayor Uhlman's proclamations:
WHEREAS, the City of Seattle is vitally concerned about developing and maintaining a high quality of life for all its citizens, including social and recreational activities promoted in the private sector; and
WHEREAS, thousands of people in our area enjoy the color and excitement offered each week in Seattle's 25 discotheques; and
WHEREAS, on Saturday, December 12, 1977, Seattle's Disco King and Queen will be named at a party to be held in one of our finest local discos and will win an expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles as the guests of Paramount Pictures to represent all Seattle disco goers;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, WES UHLMAN, Mayor of the City of Seattle, do hereby proclaim December 12-18, 1977, as "DISCO WEEK" in Seattle, in recognition of our local disco businesses and their contributions to Seattle's evening entertainment.
In 1978, Mayor Charles Royer gave a speech to the King County Medical Society titled "The Right to Health," in which he previewed many of the arguments and concerns that were aired during our recent debate over the new federal health care legislation.
Royer stated, "Politicians have been involved in the health care of Americans since 1798, when the Public Health Service had its origins, and probably earlier. Today, the federal government is the source of payment for 40% of the hospital bills in this country." He went on to discuss examples of how government at all levels participates in the medical care of citizens, continuing by saying, "Clearly, there is no question about government's involvement in health care. We are involved - and invested - up to our necks. The real issue is the effectiveness and sensitivity of that involvement."
Again anticipating more recent discussions, the mayor said that everyone had examples of how the health system had failed people, and gave a few examples of his own. He said he believed that "local government must be the patient's advocate in breaking this red tape."
The mayor outlined several ways in which the city was working to improve local health care services, particularly for low-income citizens. He highlighted improvements in jail health services, the use of firefighters to monitor blood pressure for neighborhood residents, and the establishment of community clinics in underserved neighborhoods, and discussed how new services were attempting to meet the needs of diverse populations.
However, his main concern was with access to care for those without adequate resources, pointing out that "with medical costs rising at a far faster rate than wages, more of our working people are becoming medically indigent." He concluded his speech by emphasizing that "economic barriers are the single largest impediment to health care in Seattle, in King County and in the rest of our country… All the other issues - geographic access, coordination and citizen participation - are but side issues in comparison to the need for economic justice in our health care delivery system."
During World War II, the Civilian War Commission coordinated Seattle's civil defense activities. Established by ordinance in October 1941 - before Pearl Harbor - it was originally called the Municipal Defense Commission, but changed its name in May 1942 to reflect the country's state of war. Members included the mayor, city council members, retired military personnel, local business and labor leaders, and representatives of groups like the Red Cross and the PTA.
The Commission submitted a final report in 1946, summarizing in detail its activities during the war until it was disbanded in December 1945. In the report, Mayor Devin summed up the achievements of Seattle's citizens and the Commission that coordinated their efforts:
Mayor Devin wrote, "Each resident who donated an hour, a book or a tin can toward the war effort helped make possible this peace we are now enjoying. The War Commission, an over-all volunteer organization headed by civic-minded volunteers who gave unstintingly of their time, has done a tremendous job in coordinating the volunteer effort of the community and in directing that effort toward the most essential war jobs."