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  • Juneteenth Celebrations

    Juneteenth celebrates the ending of slavery in the United States. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, in the middle of the Civil War. But word of the Proclamation didn’t reach many slaves until much later. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, two months after the Civil War ended, that slaves in Texas learned that they were free. On that day in Galveston, Texas, General Granger of the Union Army stood on the steps of Ashton Villa and read General Order #3, announcing that “all slaves are free.” The crowd of ex-slaves immediately began “leaping, swaying, and whirling in unrehearsed glee.” People sang, laughed, cried, and jumped up and down with joy. A former slave recalled, “We was all walking on golden clouds, Hallelujah!” One mother, upon learning the news, lifted her baby high and told her “Tamar, you’se free! You’se free, Tamar!” “Afterward, she checked her free baby’s face, hands, and feet as though she had just given birth to her.” Official HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF TEXAS GALVESTON, TEXAS, June 19, 1865 General Order #3 The people are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, become that between employer and hired labor. The freed are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere. By order of Major-General Granger F.W. Emery, Maj. & A.A.G. Former slaves and their descendants continued to celebrate the anniversary of their freedom every year on June 19th, which came to be known as “Juneteenth.” As African Americans migrated to other parts of the country, they took the holiday with them. The first documented Juneteenth celebration in Seattle took place in 1890. (Read more about this initial celebration here) Today Juneteenth is celebrated all over America. Traditions vary from place to place but may include parades, all-day baseball games, prayers, songs, dances, and barbecue picnics. Red cake and red pop are served, symbolizing the blood that was shed during the Civil War. The heart of the celebration is the reading of General Order #3 by a community elder. As the words are read, everyone listening can imagine how they sounded on June 19th, 1865 to the black people of Galveston, Texas, who learned that day that they were free. Rainier Valley Celebrates Dora Abney, Director of Twinks Early Childhood Education Center and Preschool in Columbia City, is originally from Marshall, Texas, where her family celebrated Juneteenth. She moved to Seattle in the early 1960s. Here she shares her memories of Juneteenth and explains the importance of the holiday for African Americans — and others — today. This excerpt is from the Rainier Valley Food Stories Cookbook. Dora Abney: “I says “Juneteenth,” and then to me, everybody blossomed.” What I can remember about Juneteenth is mostly my dad, my dad died when I was about eleven. We used to celebrate it every summer, and to me it was a joyful thing. It was hot. I just remember how my dad used to say, you know, “Juneteenth, that’s a big thing for us,” and by being born in the South, I kinda understood what he was saying. [I saw] what was going on, but didn’t really understand why. I got the idea that it was for freedom, but the history behind it was really really not told, because it’s a sad situation, what had really happened. As I got older it was more explained to me. But he would always go out and shop like it was Christmas, and he would buy food, picnic stuff, and we’d be out — whether it fell on a Sunday or Monday, it was a holiday to us. And everybody in the neighborhood, everybody in the city took off. The whole city was shut down. And we would picnic away. My father, he would always sing, and he would play ball, and he was just excited. All the mens that I could recognize, they played ball. I don’t know how you explain it. Some people say like the Fourth of July, but the Fourth of July was like, it was okay, but I think this was more better. This particular day, it was more exciting for my father, that’s what I‘m saying. But now I recognize why, because from reading, and observing some of the past, [I learned] that was the day they considered [they got their] freedom. I guess it was his dad’s dad’s dad — it was passed down. They understood what it meant, and why that day was so meaningful to them. When we came to Washington State it kind of faded out of the family, people didn’t celebrate it. They said, “What do you mean, Juneteenth, what that’s about?” I was explaining to them that we used to take off, and they said “We don’t celebrate that,” so I figured I’d let it slide. Then about four years ago, when I started at the daycare center, I brought it up again. I said, “We need to celebrate Juneteenth. The kids don’t know what it’s about.” So in 2000 we had a Juneteenth celebration at Twinks, where we blocked off the street, we sold barbecue, and the kids played, and it was exciting. I says “Juneteenth,” and then to me, everybody blossomed. And all of a sudden everybody did know about it. You know, you don’t hear about it and then all of a sudden, “Yeah, I heard about that, what is it about?” So we started digging up information so we could put it out, so people understand what it is. But again, like I said, it’s a thing that my dad did. All I can remember is that we packed up and we went to the baseball field – every year it would be somewhere different. And we would just celebrate. The men and the women would just dance. The kids would look, ‘cause you know, we didn’t know. They explained the basics, but we didn’t know. To them, ‘cause they lived the life, they understood it. So now, I’m trying to feed that little knowledge that I know to the other children — not only just black, everyone — to understand that. It’s freedom. I was explaining to some of my staff members about the Ethiopians and the Somalis, and over in Jerusalem — I’ve been to Jerusalem and Cairo and all those places, and they are fighting. And I said, sooner or later when they say, “The fighting is over with,” you’ll celebrate freedom. Theirs may be called August Tenth, or April Fifth or something like that. But I assume that once people get them wars over with, people celebrates that. All these dates that we do celebrate right now is from the results of something. So Juneteenth is one of the ones that as blacks, we celebrate. And it’s pretty, Juneteenth. Which is June Nineteenth. What kind of foods did you eat at the Juneteenth celebrations? Red represented the blood that was shed during slavery. [We had red pop], red velvet cake, ice cream. Watermelon. And chicken barbecue, barbecued ribs. The blood was really flowing! Everything was fresh because in June it’s at the end of the harvest for the South. So we would have corn on the cob, fresh everything — fresh chicken out of the yard. They got a pig in the ground, cook it all night. They’d put on a fire and the ribs be on bars hanging over the fire, not like what they do now, with a grill. They just hang it. It would cook, they’d roll it over. What the women made was cake and pie. And the rest of it the mens did. We don’t see that now. The Hawaiians does it. The Samoans, they celebrate as a family, mens take over and do, but you don’t see a group of mens, family people, get together a whole community, and cook. You don’t hardly see it any more. The men would do the whole work! JUNETEENTH RECIPE A Juneteenth picnic often includes red cake and red pop, symbolizing the bloodshed during slavery and the Civil War. RED VELVET CAKE, with Cream Cheese Frosting Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 1/2 cup shortening 1 1/2 cups sugar 2 eggs 1 tsp. vanilla 1 tsp. butter flavoring 1 1/2 oz bottle of red color 3 Tbs. cocoa 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour 1 cup buttermilk 1 tsp. salt 1 Tbs. vinegar 1 tsp. baking soda Cream shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and butter flavor. Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring and add it to the first mixture. Alternately add flour and buttermilk. Mix baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl; add to batter. Bake in three 9” or 10” pans for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool completely before frosting. Frosting: 6 oz. cream cheese, softened 6 Tbs. butter, softened 1 tsp. vanilla 2 cups sifted powdered sugar Blend all ingredients until smooth. For more information about Juneteenth: Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom , by Charles A. Taylor Juneteenth: Freedom Day , by Muriel Miller Branch Juneteenth website

  • Ghosts on the Ceiling

    I was born on March 30, 1947 in Rochester New, York. I came to live in my grandmother’s house, where my dad and uncle grew up. The house was on Whiteford Road and my grandmother, “Nana” lived across the street. There were aunts, uncles, and cousins who also lived on this road. My Nana was born on March 30, 1886, and since we shared a birthday and the fact I was her first grandchild, we loved each other very much. I always felt safe and cared for on this street. My Nana was a widow and for many years she worked as head of nursing in the Rochester State mental hospital. She was a force of nature at 4’11” tall. They called her “Tiny” but I have been told that she was tough and and some of the older folks told me they still shook at the thought of disappointing her. For me, Nana was perfect. At approximately 6 years of age, my family moved to a larger house in Brighton, New York, a suburb of Rochester. I still saw my Nana every week and I learned how to call her on the telephone. Nana was a convert to Catholicism and took great interest in my upcoming Holy Communion. In fact she sat next to me during the ceremony. We shared many whispering words to each other during my first communion. It seemed I was talking too much and she put her finger to her lips to quiet me. The only problem, she had died several months before my big event and I continued to see her for many years to come... I moved to Washington state in the 70s, by the 80s I had a full family of five children. Like my Nana, I had a husband, Tom Neville, who passed away very early. By the late 2000s most of my family was away to work and in college. My house in the Lakewood/Seward Park neighborhood felt too large for me. I considered a condo but realized I didn’t really like sharing very much, so I changed my home into a duplex and had created a small cottage house in the lower part of my historic home. I lived very close to work and I often went home for lunch. (I was still wearing high heels at the time.) In the little house, I had a lovely claw foot tub with a large shelf next to it. I always had flowers and art near the tub. But sometimes I would leave my purse on the shelf. I did forget my purse one day and ran back to the house to get it. I was in quite a rush. I stepped into the tub with my heels on, grabbed my purse and went to get out and fell flat on my face onto the concrete floor... I couldn’t move and still do not know if I was conscious or not. While laying face down on the floor, I heard two people talking and recognized their voices. “What is she doing now?,” Nana said. A low male voice replied, “she is something of a klutz.” That was Tom. I was getting very annoyed with them talking about me, and they said together, “Joan! You need to get up now!” I did get up and saw Nana them clear as day. Tom was sitting up on the ceiling on the left part of the tub and Nana was on the right side. It was like a Mary Poppins tea in the ceiling story but there was no tea. They kept on laughing at me. I got up, called the medics, and ended up in the hospital. My head looked like a pumpkin and my face bruised. The worst part of it for me was they kept laughing. I did know that both of them loved me and I loved each of them very much, but really, their laughing was troublesome. So ends my ghosts in the ceiling story!

  • Lake Washington Regatta at Seward Park - 1947

    Rowing is the oldest intercollegiate sport in the U.S. that began with a race between Yale and Harvard Universities in 1852. Years later, in 1903, Washington’s crew program started and reached World Championship ranks by 1936. At the end of WWII, the GI bill drew record enrollment to colleges, so did the enthusiasm and tryouts for crew. Al Ulbrickson, UW Coach with an Olympic gold medal under his belt, was raring to get back at the National Championship stage after a lull in competition during the war. Washington State leaders, alongside the UW Sports Program, rallied for a national Regatta on the new Lake Washington course on the south side of the I-90 Bridge. $50,000 was the price tag. Thanks to the Lake Washington Regatta committee, the reps of the Seattle men and women who put up the money, the event came to fruition on June 28, 1947. The sprint course, 2000m (1.2 miles), started just north of Lakewood Marina heading toward Andrews Bay, finishing at the swim beach in Seward Park. The top 12 teams, Yale and Harvard, Cornell, California, Penn, Syracuse, Princeton, M.I.T., Washington, Wisconsin, Columbia, and U.C.L.A, boarded the new Great Northern Railroad’s Olympian Hiawatha train, following the IRA National Championship in Poughkeepsie, New York. For many of them, it was their first time to the Pacific Northwest. Royal Brougham writes the day before the race, ”Doc, examine my silly head and see what makes me do things like this... through force of habit or the demands of an exacting public, a writer must attempt to tell in advance who will win a race of America’s greatest boats. Ten out of the dozen have a chance. So closely are these crews matched, the width of a baby’s hand may separate the winner.” (Seattle P-I, June 28, 1947). Brougham’s picks were Harvard 1st, Cornell, California, and Washington, 4th. The Seattle P-I reported over 150,000 spectators showed up that day, the largest crowd and greatest sports spectacle in Seattle’s history. The newsreel claimed 200,000 people flooded the shores of Lake Washington. The crowds were there from the start, to see a swimming competition, a log-rolling exhibition, a speedboat race, a Native American canoe race, a water-skiing exhibition, a quad rowing race, and a Seaplane show. All took place before the sprint. Two thousand boats of every kind lined the log boom, “hordes of policemen, patient, cheerful and briefed to the hilt on the special traffic arrangements.” Homes along the boulevard held open houses, lawns crowded with friends, spectators filled windows and porches and every inch of the hills, wherever a view of Andrews Bay could be found. The race was over in less than six minutes. So close was the finish that Royal Brougham’s live KOMO broadcast, from overhead in the blimp, brought the news to the jam-packed shore. Harvard first, followed by Yale and Washington 3rd. Brougham reported the following day in the P-I, “It was a lightning fast race, as the time proved, Harvard did it in 5:49, a new world’s record for the 2000m. Settling a blistering pace down the beautiful Lake Washington course, Coach Tom Bolles’ Varsity-8 carved itself another chunk of glory with its crimson blades winning the championship of America from the finest field in crew history. The perfectly coordinated, expertly trained boat from Cambridge led its ancient rival, Yale, over the finish line by nearly a length. And driving furiously into the roaring maelstrom at the finish came the Cinderella crew from Washington, the glamour boat load of freshmen which only a week ago found itself in the Husky varsity. A fine Washington showing, brought to a close a highly successful year so capably coached by Al Ulbrickson. All in all, it was a day that made American rowing history and more than that, it proved that Seattle has the water, the climate, and the brains with which to stage a regatta unmatched by any rowing event ever held.” (Brougham, Seattle P-I, July 29, 1947). Visiting coaches from all over America were unanimous in their praises for the highly successful regatta and its perfect location. The last intercollegiate regatta on the Lake Washington course was in 1969. It was University of Washington coach Dick Erickson who revamped the crew program in the 1970s, bringing back crew for female students after a 50-year hiatus. He connected the Seattle Yacht Club and Seafirst Bank in combining and sponsoring Opening Day with a regatta. For the past 38 years, Windermere has hosted the annual Windermere Cup/ Opening Day Regatta at the Montlake Cut. This year (2024) was special with invitations to Italy’s and Wisconsin’s crew teams and special guests from the Boys in the Boat acting crew. They celebrated the history-making Varsity-8 from 1936 in the hometown of Conibear Shell House.

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  • Research Your House | RVHS

    Research Your House The Rainier Valley Historical Society has photographs of many historic homes and buildings in the Rainier Valley, particularly in and around Columbia City. We also have information about the general history of the neighborhood, which may also be helpful to you. ​ Another place to look for historic photographs of your house is the Puget Sound Regional Archives , located at Bellevue Community College. Look under "King County Property Records," find your tax parcel # (it's all right there on the site), and e-mail or call them to see what they've got. They should have a photo of the house from 1937 (a county-wide photo survey was done that year by the WPA), plus information about when the house was built, etc. The archivists there can point you to more resources if you want to keep going. ​ The Seattle Polk Directories are also helpful. A complete set of these directories — essentially the phone book, but they go back way before phones — is available at the Seattle Public Library's downtown site, and at the Seattle Municipal Archives . Many of these volumes also have reverse directories, so you can look up an address and find out what was there in any given year. The Seattle Municipal Archives also has a searchable online database of photographs, but they tend to focus on engineering projects and not residential buildings. ​ If you are interested in restoring your old house, Historic Seattle has wonderful resources for researching architectural history and finding historically accurate building supplies and fixtures. List of Resources Puget Sound Regional Archives Seattle Public Library Seattle Municipal Archives Historic Seattle Need help with your project? RVHS is here to help! Schedule an appointment with our collections team or email your questions to office@rainiervalleyhistory.org . contact us

  • Our Mission | RVHS

    Our Mission To collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret the history and heritage of Rainier Valley and its community and to educate and promote public involvement in, and appreciation of, its history and culture. Our Goals 01. Research, document, and preserve the history of Rainier Valley. 03. Develop knowledge and understanding of the multi-ethnic history of the area. 02. Foster pride in Rainier Valley’s unique heritage. 04. Maintain and add to our permanent archive of oral histories, photographs, documents, and artifacts relating to the Rainier Valley. Land Acknowledgement: ​Rainier Valley Historical Society acknowledges the land our mission statement refers to as Rainier Valley is the original home of the Duwamish and Coast Salish peoples. We recognize the reverberations of colonialism past and present and the painful history of forced removal of these groups. Through this acknowledgment, we hope to honor and respect the Indigenous peoples who were, and still are connected to and are stewards of this land. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement Rainier Valley Historical Society is dedicated to sharing the stories and histories of the many types of community that make the larger Rainier Valley community a place of diversity and differences. Become a Member Help us preserve and celebrate the history of the Rainier Valley. Be a part of our advocacy for local preservation. get involved

  • Member Page | RVHS

    We can’t find the page you’re looking for This page doesn’t exist. Go to Home and keep exploring. Go to Home

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