2017 Find of the Month Archive

Electric vehicles

As national concern began to develop about fossil fuels, pollution, and other environmental issues, Seattle City Light (SCL) began some early experimentation with electric vehicles. In 1968, SCL introduced the Electruc, which was an experimental electric-powered utility truck. A sign painted on the truck read, “Your bright new future is all electric!”

Research and development continued in the 1970s. City Light photos from 1973 show a prototype electric car made from a modified AMC Gremlin. The car was powered by 24 rechargeable six-volt batteries and could run for about 50 miles at highway speeds before needing to be recharged. SCL developed an “Electro Park” charging station for the vehicle.

Then in 1976, City Light designed another prototype electric vehicle, the RT1, which could travel up to 75 miles on one charge of its eight six-volt batteries. The four-passenger car was only seven feet long and five feet wide, and took up one-fifth the parking space of a typical car from that period. The vehicle was created with funding from SCL’s Research and Development budget.

The RT1 was conceptualized as part of a downtown restricted transportation zone from which most internal combustion vehicles would be barred. City Light envisioned this zone, full of electric cars like the RT1, as nearly eliminating transportation pollution in the urban core.

Electruc Electro Park RT1
Electruc, 1968
Item no. 78726, Seattle Municipal Archives
Electro Park charging station, 1973
Item no. 181159, Seattle Municipal Archives

RT1 electric car prototype, 1976
Item no. 175218, Seattle Municipal Archives

Search warrants

In 1894, eleven Chinese businessmen wrote the following letter to Seattle’s Board of Police Commissioners to express concerns about illegal property searches:

signatures

The undersigned, Chinese merchants of the City of Seattle, respectfully represent that it is the habit and custom of some of the detectives on the Police force of the City of Seattle, to enter their residences and places of business, at all hours of the day and night, and without warrant, to search through their premises.

We would respectfully call your attention to the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which reads as follows –

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, paper and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

And also to Section 7, Article 1, of the Constitution of the State of Washington, which reads as follows –

“No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.”

We are advised that both the provisions of the Constitution of the United States and the provisions of the Constitution of State of Washington, are being violated by these officers. We desire to be law abiding residents of the State of Washington, and ask that your Honorable Body instruct the detectives on the police force that they at least respect these Constitutional provisions.

The Board apparently asked Police Chief Bolton Rogers to look into the complaint. About three weeks later, he reported to the Board that “I have been unable to find any case where an officer of this department has entered a Chinese house and searched the same without having a proper search warrant with him.”

Rain fatigue

Seattleites in the throes of rain fatigue can relate to City Council’s sentiment from 20 years ago. Unrelenting rain led the Council to propose the following resolution in 1997:

Expressing hope, against hope, that at some point Mother Nature will bless the Pacific Northwest in general, and if not, at least Seattle in particular with what we vaguely recall is called Summer.

WHEREAS, thunderstorms interspersed with sunbreaks represent an improvement, but fail to meet Council’s summer expectations; and

WHEREAS, there has been sufficient wet and dark to drive away even the most persistent Californians for several years; and

WHEREAS, the City coffers cannot long afford the rate at which its most taxworthy private real estate is sliding into Puget Sound; and

WHEREAS, the slugs have all drowned; and

WHEREAS, there is a limit to how much green tomato a City of 500,000 can eat; and

WHEREAS, the Fourth of July sunshine demonstrates that Mother Nature knows how to do it right;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SEATTLE, THE MAYOR CONCURRING, THAT:

The weather is directed to immediately start acting like SUMMER, or the City Council, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and all sunscreen manufacturers will move their teams to Arizona.

The resolution passed 8-0. Given that resolutions are unenforceable, it is unknown whether the weather complied with the Council’s directive.

Anti-Nazi resolution

As the world watched Germany with alarm in late 1938, Seattle City Council discussed the following resolution:

A RESOLUTION condemning the persecution of Jews and Catholics, warning against Nazi inspired stimulation of anti-Semitism in this and other cities, and requesting the President of the United States and Secretary of State to take appropriate action.

WHEREAS, the wanton persecution of German Jews and Catholics is spreading despair among hundreds of Seattle’s most respected citizens, whose friends and relatives are at the mercy of Nazi mobs intent upon reviving in Germany an intolerance repugnant to all civilized men and women and completely out of keeping with the ideals at the basis of American democracy; and,

WHEREAS, the only aid that can be given to the unfortunate victims of this persecution must come from outside the Third Reich; and,

WHEREAS, the best answer to Herr Goering’s brazen demand that Americans keep quiet or else is a demonstration from every walk of American life that his threats cannot prevent free citizens from expressing indignation against tyranny; and,

WHEREAS, President Roosevelt has from time to time expressed our nation’s sympathy for the helpless minorities within Germany’s borders; Now, Therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SEATTLE:

That, speaking for thousands of liberty loving Seattle citizens, we condemn the wholesale persecution of Jews and Catholics in Nazi Germany and warn against Nazi inspired attempts to stir up racial and religious hatred in this and other Pacific Coast cities; and,

That we respectfully petition President Roosevelt and Secretary Hull to exercise every peaceful means in renewed efforts to stop the atrocities committed against thousands of German citizens, guilty of no crime except membership in a proscribed race or church; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we send copies of this resolution to President Roosevelt, Secretary Cordell Hull, and the German Consulate.

Attached to the draft resolution was a report from the Council’s Judiciary Committee recommending that the words “and we further condemn Naziism [sic], Fascism and Communism” be added to the end of the first paragraph of the “be it resolved” section.

The resolution was stamped “indefinitely postponed” and was eventually retired without passage.

Frasier

Call sheet

The sitcom “Frasier” put Seattle on the TV map in the 1990s, but the show was filmed on a soundstage in Los Angeles, with stock shots of the city interspersed (including the mythical view from Frasier’s window). However, for the 100th episode, the cast and crew came to the city to film on location, including scenes at Seattle Center, in the Pike Place Market, and on board the monorail.

The plot of the episode revolves around a celebration of the lead character’s 1000th radio broadcast, with a “Frasier Crane Day” mayoral proclamation and a large rally in Frasier’s honor at the base of the Space Needle. Mayor Norm Rice appears briefly in the episode, in this scene with the British character Daphne, who is having difficulty renewing her passport in time to take advantage of a free Mexican vacation:

DAPHNE: Excuse me, Mayor Rice?

MAYOR: Yes?

DAPHNE: I have a small bone to pick with you. I can’t say I care for the way your city treats us poor aliens.

MAYOR: You’re an alien?

DAPHNE: Yes. Daphne Moon. My friend Xena and I – she’s an alien too – are trying to get to Mazatlan to rendezvous with her mother’s ship.

MAYOR: Her mothership?

DAPHNE: Yes, and from what I hear, it’s quite spectacular.

MAYOR: I’m sure it is. Why don’t you talk to these nice men here and they’ll see what they can do for you.

TWO MEN GENTLY BUT FIRMLY ATTACH THEMSELVES TO DAPHNE’S ARMS AND LEAD HER AWAY.

Real life imitated art while the show was in town: the city held an actual Frasier Day rally at Westlake Park featuring musical entertainment and introduction of the cast. As part of the event, local celebrities like Detlef Schrempf, Gerard Schwartz, Alex Rodriguez, and Bill Nye presented cast members (including Moose the dog) with gifts. The final gift was to the show’s star Kelsey Grammer, to whom Mayor Rice presented a “Frasier Way” street sign. Grammer also threw out the first pitch at a Mariners game.

Footage from the Westlake event ran through the end credits of the show with the caption “The Real Frasier Day Rally.”

"Reforestation"

Newspaper photo and caption

The issue of illegal tree-cutting comes up periodically in the city. In October 1970, the Seattle Times published an article about "wholesale pruning" outside the 5 Point Cafe downtown. The cafe's owner, Richard Smith, had cut down three sycamores because they were obscuring the business's sign. The trees were originally planted for the 1962 World's Fair and had grown to be about 25 feet tall, which Smith said was "too much." He said of the potential fine for cutting street trees, "I've blown $150 in a lot worse ways."

A group of University of Washington students read about the tree-cutting and decided to take action, arriving at the cafe with pickaxes, shovels, and two sycamore trees. They also brought signs reading "Thou Shall Not Kill," "$ vs. Trees," and "Going, Going, Gone." John Hinterberger of the Times described the ensuing scene:

The students put down their signs and picked up picks. They removed the asphalt covering and began digging out the stump of the tree. They had a 2-foot-deep hole in the sidewalk when Smith decided to do something.

First he called the newspapers; then he called the police.

Officers David Orange and F.D. McDonald arrived almost immediately. Three youths were digging furiously.

Officer Orange began cautiously.

"You digging that hole?" he asked. "Yep."

"Have you got a permit to dig that hole?"

"Nope."

"OK - you, you and you," Orange said. "Step over to the car, please."

Three more youths picked up shovels.

"Let's save time," Orange said. "Everybody who wants to dig, pick up the shovel and then come over to the car."

They all went.

Orange told them: "Look, you're probably going to get your tree planted anyway. Do you want to get a permit and do it the right way? Or do you want to go to jail?"

At this point an Engineering Department employee arrived on the scene and explained to the group how to obtain a permit, upon which one of the students jumped in her car to visit the street-use counter. Officer Orange allowed the digging to continue in the meantime, and the students successfully "reforested" Tillicum Square, with the appropriate permit.

WPA servant girl school

During the Great Depression, numerous projects were created by the federal government to train and employ the many jobless workers around the country. One such endeavor was the W.P.A.'s Household Service Demonstration Project. The project's Washington State supervisor, Mary Conrad, described it as follows:

This Project is designed for the purpose of training girls for household employment. Employable girls and women are taken from the Works Progress Administration rolls, and after training are placed in private industry, which procedure we hope will take several girls and women from the relief rolls of the City of Seattle.

City Council received the following letter of concern about the project from Local No. 2 of the Workers Alliance of Washington:

To the honorable City Council Seattle. This is to inform You that a resolution was adopted at our last meeting asking Your honorable body to take some action regarding W.P.A. project in the firm of a servant girl school. That after they complete the courses they are forced to accept employment with out regard to wages hours or conditions and if they do not accept are to be dropped from the relief rolls. We take the position that this practice is against the best interest of public morals and lowers the American standard of living of the women concerned.

Council placed the letter on file but does not appear to have attempted to influence the project's policies.