Seattles Suburbs History. Essay

Seattle’s Suburbs History.

Learning about what has changed has made us realize more than ever how constant change is. The way we see things around us is not the way they always have been and more important, are only an intermediate stage to where ever they will be tomorrow. Talking to people who saw what has changed to get here allows us to see the direction we have come, and finally the direction we are going. Outlined in this paper are six different angles viewing different parts of the past that collectively help us to find that direction.

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World’s Fair
Three of the prime events that attracted people to Washington in the 20th Century were the World’s Fairs. The first of Washington’s World Fairs was the Alaskan-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909, which was located on the 250 acre University of Washington campus. The fantastic buildings, most of which still stand today, were designed by the famous Olmstead Brothers’ landscape and architecture firm for the $150 million project. Among the celebrities at the exposition were President Howard Taft and industrialist Henry Ford. The Alaskan-Yukon-Pacific exposition opened on June 1st and closed on October 15th .

However, no A-Y-P structure was as prominent as the futuristic Seattle Space Needle of the Century 21 World’s Fair in Seattle in the year 1962. This, along with the wondrous monorail and Pacific Science Center were all leftover from the great fair. Lasting for almost six months, the ’62 Seattle World’s Fair attracted approximately ten million visitors, and, as Jack Crawford put it, “It was one busy place.” Among the exhibits were the various ethnic and state booths, the hydroelectric waterfall, and the great fountain made from plumbing parts, which has just recently been remodeled. All during the fair, various acts played in the Seattle Opera House. Inside the future exhibit was the famous Bubble-ator elevator, which now resides down in sunny Redondo, California as greenhouse. A lot of wonderful memories were produced at this illustrious event; Gene Duarte recalls, “I remember hearing East Indian music for the first time and falling down on the floor laughing. I was se!
ven, and it was the funniest thing I had ever heard.” As civic boosters had had hoped, it brought national attention to Seattle, and in spite of early problems, the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair became a financial success. Twelve years later, Spokane held EXPO ’74 for which the city tore down old buildings and cleaned up the pollution, the theme being the environment.

‘Nam. What most people seem to remember about the Vietnam War here in Seattle were the big protests. The protesters opposed military escalation and fought to bring the GI’s home. Kathy Duarte-Wilson remarks, “People were very scared of being drafted. We wore POW bracelets in honor of those who went to war. They were almost a fad. Then there were the flower children,” she laughs, “I remember wanting to be one when I grew up.” Some GI’s were pulled out of Vietnam when President Nixon’s first troop reduction order was acted upon in July of 1969 at McChord Air Force Base. Two days later there was a combination military parade, welcome home celebration, plus antiwar protest filling the streets of Seattle.

The antiwar campaign really heated up in the May of 1970. Days of protesting went on against the bombing of Cambodia and the killings of four student demonstrators by national guardsmen in Kent State University in Ohio and two killed by state police in Jackson State College in Mississippi. Ten thousand protesters blocked Interstate-5 in Seattle in a march from the University of Washington to the federal courthouse down town.

Boeing Depression
When asked about a time remembered for hardship and kindness, the Boeing depression is often the top of the list. When the Boeing company went through hardship the entire state felt the repercussions. When nearly ? of all the people in the region worked for Boeing, layoffs created vast unemployment causing a severe regional depression.

“Last one out of Seattle, please turn out the lights” read the sign off the side of the highway, echoing much of the feelings of the region’s population. The utter lack of jobs and opportunity lead to a large migration of people away from western Washington, an area which had attracted many people for exactly the opposite reason. Property prices depreciated as the movement away from the area continued.

The actual depression was spurred by the military’s decision to stop buying as many planes. The bomb shell was the drop of the purchase of a designed super carrier (a large freighter with extended range and cargo capacity). The company had not yet built a stable enough base with the civilian market, so the loss of the contract caused ruin for the company. The problems were exasperated by a fuel shortage caused by an oil embargo. With layoffs at Boeing, the whole region had massive problems. Many businesses not related to Boeing went bankrupt as they were dependent on commerce from Boeing employees, or other companies who likewise failed.

Memories of the vast tents of homeless in Salt Water Park, however, are often paralleled with memories of generosity. The Des Moines food bank was one of the many charitable organizations brought into existence to deal with such needs. Helen Gilmore (one of my interviewees and founder of the food bank) was a prime example of such generosity, working at the food bank almost full time. It was this kind of generosity that shows only when everyone faces a mutual hardship.

Des Moines
One such suburb as outline in the previous section is the suburb of Des Moines. Within the life times of many of the current residences of the area this suburb of Seattle has undergone substantial development. Des Moines history, like the history of all suburbs, is full of its unique events and interesting trivia.

In this small city with every house being close enough to the water to have a view of the water, there was a dependency on the ocean in 1930. An 800ft dock extended out into the water where the today’s Anthony’s home port is located. The only road leading up to the city came from this dock and went along what is now the little trail by Des Moines park. The road was just wide enough for a carriage, or at least most carriages. There was one roll-over accident, and it resulted in a death. The victim was buried on the spot, where he still remains today.

In the time before the fire department was paid, a lot of things burned down. The sky was red 6 miles away when Des Moines elementary burned down, later rebuilt. With only four rooms for eight grades the grades doubled up. Everyone, including the fire department, stood around and watched the town’s hotel burn down from a fire started in the hall in the back. The volunteer fire department’s method of getting water required it to be high tide, and it was low tide. Later, such limitations on effectiveness were removed when the volunteer fire department was replaced by a professional fire department. The new Fire Chief’s wife was known as having a “go get ’em” attitude, often taking girls along to help and drive the truck.

The town maintained a very small town feel. During the ’40s -’50s there was a small town parade which ended at the play field (the Field House was built there by the WPA in 1939-1940). This was around the time the movie theater opened. Some time about 20 years later the theater switched to showing racy movies. Last year it was converted back from XXX content to main stream films. The adult theater was a source of much controversy for many years and many people are pleased at its removal.

Before mail was delivered and when the post office was still in the grocery store Des Moines had a children’s home. This private orphanage raised money from having the children perform instruments. The money paid for the children’s room and board. While such as system of using orphans to perform and make a profit would be questioned today, the orphanage provided an education as well as provided instrumental instruction to all of its orphans.

Normandy park has maintained itself distinctly separate from Des Moines ever since the beginning, a beginning of bigger and fancier houses than those of Des Moines. The corner of residential area that is just north of the trail by Des Moines park is part of Normandy Park, despite the fact that it should be in Des Moines. According to by interview they had a vote and decided that “Des Moines wasn’t good enough for them” and they “wanted to be [part] of Normandy park.” While it was never spoken directly in a formal interview, it is apparent that there is some feeling of resentment among those in Des Moines toward the Normandy Park residents.


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