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  • Meet Cathy Fields - The Artist Behind the Hillman City Heritage Bell

    Meet Cathy Fields and read her artist statement for Hillman City's newest landmark, the Hillman City Heritage Bell. Cathy Fields, a mural artist and lifelong resident of Seattle's Hillman City, masterfully blends the real and the imagined in her visual storytelling. Selected by the Rainier Valley Historical Society during their 2020 “Call for Artists,” Cathy’s work intertwines echoes of the past with the blur of contemporary times, resonating deeply with the community she has called home for 50 years. Artist’s Narrative for “Looking Back” Hillman City Heritage Bell Cathy Fields - April 2023 The following is a narrative that goes with the stories circling the bell. Moving left to right around the bell and beginning with the vignette of native people gathering food and moving to the right around the bell: As the ice age ended, humankind arrived along the Pacific coast. The indigenous people who inhabited what was to become the Seattle area were here for over 10,000 years before the Euro-Americans arrived. The Coast Salish people were made up of various tribes that shared a common language. The scene depicted is of summer time when local tribes come to Lake Washington’s coastlines to harvest food to preserve for the winter. The men would fish and hunt, and women would gather various herbs, berries, fresh water mussels, or, as in this picture, dig camas roots, and much more. Moving right around the bell, the depicted one-room cabin became a neighborhood store in 1901 when Rhineholt and Louise Hausler moved to the area and purchased the property from Clarence D. Hillman. They quickly opened for business on Rainier Avenue at Graham Street. The Hausler store supplied Hillman City residents with a variety of household necessities and kitchen staples. The electric railway stopped a few feet from their porch delivering much of the goods that stocked their store. The Hauslers eventually build a bigger store further south on Rainier Ave. and moved there in 1921. The woman to the right of the store is Mrs. Fumiko M. Noji who, with her husband and family, ran the enterprising Columbia Greenhouse and Nursery between South Orcas and Juneau Streets and what is now Martin Luther King Jr. Way from 1918-1996. They had a reputation for their wonderful tomatoes. Her father-in-law, Isao Noji, was one of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce men who brought the cherry trees from Japan to Seward Park. When the family was interned during World War ll, a good friend who managed the grounds of Sick’s Stadium moved into their home and cared for the property until their return. Eventually a fourth generation family member moved the greenhouses to Kent and the award winning Noji Gardens affordable housing community was planned and built on the property by HomeSight. Also shown in this vignette is the Seattle Renton & Southern Railway that enabled valley farmers to transport their produce into town, make trips to visit friends and family, and encouraged development and new businesses. Sadly funding, safety, and reliability were problematic leading to a loss of licensing. The rails were torn up in 1937 to make way for more buses, trucks and cars. The church building in the distance hosted a number of different faiths over the years. Before it was torn down, the bell was donated to the Rainier Valley Historical Society and is now the “canvas” for this painting. The original Fire Station 28 was built in 1910, three years after Hillman City was annexed into Seattle. It was located at 4525 S. Orcas Street, just east of Rainier Ave. They used horses to pull the hose wagons until they became motorized in 1924. In 1955 the old station was closed and moved to a newly built station at its current location on Rainier Avenue. Rainier Valley wouldn’t be complete without Mt. Rainier. On a clear day it may loom large and appear deceptively near from Seward Park or when driving south on Rainier Ave. Here it is a backdrop for the title section, Looking Back. This Vignette speaks to the valley’s history as a destination for many different immigrant populations over the decades, enriching the area with cultural diversity, perhaps one of our greatest assets.

  • The Story of the Hillman City Heritage Bell

    The complete history of the Hillman City Heritage Bell - Coming Soon!

  • Hillman City Heritage Bell Timeline & Photo Gallery

    This post is still in progress! We will update it soon. Original Church and bell tower How the bell was left for 50+ years 2019 - Moving the bell from the church to the restoration office Bell post sand blasting Bell with a new protective coating Artist sketch for new mural Moving bell from artist studio June 2024 - Preparing the new installation site

  • Unveiling of the Hillman Heritage Bell

    Join us at the Hillman City Block Party  for the official unveiling of the Hillman City Heritage Bell - Hillman City’s new landmark! When: Saturday, August 10th Bell Unveiling at 2 pm Where: The bell will be installed on the corner of Findlay St. and Rainier Ave. S . (The corner of the Flour Box parking lot). The Block Party will stretch across Hillman City Business District (Rainier Ave S between Juneau & 42nd). Details: The Hillman City Heritage Bell project has been nearly five years in the making! In 2019, the Dayspring and Fitch Funeral Home donated a cast iron bell, originally from the 1904 Hillman Methodist Episcopal Church, to the Rainier Valley Historical Society (RVHS). This historic bell, created around 1907 by The C.S. Bell Company in Ohio, was restored by Flamespray NW in 2020. RVHS saw an opportunity to transform this piece of history into a new landmark. In 2021, they initiated a Call for Artists and selected Cathy Fields, a local mural artist and 50-year Hillman City resident. Cathy transformed the 115-year-old bell into a captivating visual narrative that celebrates Rainier Valley's rich cultural diversity. The mural highlights indigenous peoples, early pioneers, and notable community members, showcasing Hillman’s history as a welcoming home for immigrant populations. Cathy completed the mural in 2023. Celebrate with us as the Hillman City Heritage Bell finds its forever home! The event will feature an official unveiling, an indigenous blessing, and a program highlighting the bell's and Hillman City's history. Meet the artist Cathy Fields, enjoy kids' crafts, and explore Hillman City's historic images and artifacts. Event & Block Party Highlights: Dedication of the Hillman City Heritage Bell - 2 PM Meet the artist - Cathy Fields Live music and kids' play area Open houses, tours, and events with local businesses Craft and food vendors, 21+ Beer Garden Don’t miss this chance to be part of Hillman City's history and celebrate our vibrant community! Block Party Schedule:

  • Hitt’s Fireworks: 1905-1976

    Fireworks in Columbia City Thomas Gabriel Hitt, known as T.G. Hitt, was born in London in 1874. He studied chemistry at Westminster College, and in 1898 he began manufacturing fireworks. Within the year, he and his brothers moved to Victoria, B.C., and started the Hitt Brothers Fireworks Company. His wife, Annie, had met T.G. in England just 10 days before he sailed for Canada. They wrote letters for three years before she finally joined him. In 1905, the Hitts moved to Seattle and settled in Columbia City. T.G. started the Hitt’s Fireworks Company on a wooded knoll just south of town; as the business grew, the site became known as Hitt’s Hill. They built a house near the factory and raised four children: Raymond, Dorothy, Wilmot and Marion. Ray Hitt shared his father’s inventive and business talents and took over the business when his father died. “The Best Fireworks Obtainable Anywhere” Hitt’s Fireworks became an internationally known company, developing new explosive products every year at their factory on Hitt’s Hill. The operation consisted of a series of sheds rather than one large building, so that accidental explosions and fires could be contained more easily. Hitt fireworks whirled, whistled, fizzed, and flashed. Their best-selling product, the “Flashcracka,” was advertised as “the best fireworks obtainable anywhere, at any time or at any price.” In addition to individual fireworks, they produced spectacular shows all over the country. Hitt fireworks extravaganzas opened the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in Seattle and the San Francisco and New York World’s Fairs. They also produced the show that welcomed the King and Queen of England to Victoria, B.C. in 1939. Closer to home, they presented shows at Sick’s Stadium and at Playland in north Seattle. They created the 4th of July show for Ivar’s until 1974. Their fireworks shows were large-scale productions: for every major celebration, the Hitts built elaborate sets up to 400 feet long, which served as platforms for the fireworks show. The sets carried themes such as “Mt. Fuji,” “Fires of Freedom,” and the “Birth of America,” often with lines of chorus girls and military drill teams performing between the explosions. The Hitt signature grand finale was to blow the set up in a ball of fire, igniting the skies with explosions of color and showers of rockets. Various Ads and packaging from Hitt's fireworks: The Burning of Atlanta Their skill at building, burning, and blowing up sets made the Hitts pioneers in movie special effects. The company produced fire scenes for, among other films, “What Price Glory” and “Gone with the Wind.” The burning of Atlanta in “Gone with the Wind” involved a 40 acre set constructed from used sets (including the gate from “King Kong”) and then set on fire. Flames shot 500 feet in the air and it took three 5,000 gallon tank trucks of water to extinguish the flames after the shoot. All seven Technicolor cameras available in Hollywood at the time were used to film the sequence, capturing 113 minutes of footage at a cost of $25,000. The film was nominated for a special effects Oscar. A Smokescreen for the Shipyard During WWII, the company manufactured flares and safety supplies for the military. Their most notable contribution to the war effort was the smokescreen over the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. Throughout the war, the shipyard at Bremerton built ships for the navy and repaired battle ships and aircraft carriers serving in the Pacific. To protect this essential operation from a sneak attack like the one at Pearl Harbor, the Hitt’s Fireworks Company used their knowledge of chemicals and explosive powders to create a smoke screen for the shipyard, hiding it from potential enemy planes flying overhead. Flashcrackas The best-selling retail item was the Flashcracka, which T. G. Hitt developed in 1916. Hitt substituted photographic flash powder, a mix of powdered magnesium or aluminum and an oxidizer. His “flashlight crackers” exploded with a much louder noise than their black powder predecessors. Flashcrackas were a key ingredient in Spokane's annual Firecracker Golf Tournament, held at the Indian Canyon Golf Course from 1936 through the 1960s. In this event, described as "the most tumultuous ear-splitting golf tournament in the world," competitors teed off and played amid a cacophony of exploding Flashcrackas, sirens, bells, and horns. "For golfers it was like playing through a firefight in the streets of Beirut," they wrote. "The booms, bangs, and blasts startled players out of their strikes, shattered their nerves, and helped send their scores soaring as high as a Roman candle" Hitt’s took a certain pride in its role in staging the event, and used footage from one of the tournaments in a promotional film. “They’ve taken the independence out of Independence Day” There were a few explosions at the Hitt factory over the years, with one tragic fatality in 1921. In 1961 the Safe and Sound Fireworks Restrictions made it illegal to manufacture many types of fireworks in Seattle. These regulations hurt the Hitts’ business. Ray Hitt commented, “They’ve taken the independence out of Independence Day.” With fireworks production moved to China, Hitt’s continued to produce lavish fireworks shows until the cost of permits and liability insurance made the shows unprofitable. The last fireworks show the Hitts put on was for Ivar’s in 1974. Hitt’s Hill Today Members of the Hitt family spent years negotiating with property owners, developers and Seattle mayors advocating to preserve the hilltop. These efforts finally paid off after the formation of the Friends of Hitt’s Hill, when the group worked with the Cascade Land Conservancy and the Seattle Parks Department to transform the site of the old Hitt's Fireworks Company into a park. The nearly four-acre property now provides quiet, natural, open space and trails for Rainier Valley residents and a home for birds and other wildlife.

  • 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

  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat ...

    Rainier Valley’s Connection to the 1936 Olympic Gold Medal Reading the captivating and best selling book Boys in the Boat, inspired us to piece together the Rainier Valley connection to the story. Al Ulbrickson, Johnny White, Johnny Merrill and Royal Brougham, all former Franklin High School students, had a role in the 1936 WA Crew year. With the release of the movie, Boys in the Boat, new fans across the globe share in the enthusiasm for the “against all odds” Olympic Gold Medal win. The following biographical information was compiled from Boys in the Boat, our RVHS collections, Seattle Public School archives,, Historylink, and the UW Crew archives. ALVIN ULBRICKSON - (1903-1976) UW Coach Franklin High School Class of 1921 Al Ulbrickson, the UW coach who navigated the 1936 charge to the Olympic Games, was born in 1903, in the Latona neighborhood. In the 1910 U.S. Census, the Ulbrickson family was renting a house in Rainier Valley at 4438 39th Ave S, near Rainier Playfield. Al was 7 years old at the time, with 4 siblings, his father 31 years old, listed as a City Park worker and his mother, a homemaker, aged 29. Ten years later, the census showed the Ulbricksons living in the Lakeview District, owning their home on wooded and considered affordable Mercer Island. Al’s dad’s occupation changing from park employee to a farmer. Al was enrolled at Franklin High School in 1917, so it is unclear when exactly they moved to Mercer Island from the valley. The story goes, that Al rowed across Lake Washington from the southeast corner of the island to Rainier Beach to catch the streetcar to Franklin. The rowing distance, approximately 2 miles each way, no doubt paid off by the time he got to the University of Washington. Ulbrickson, a star oarsman for the UW, rowed in the Varsity-8 to the national championships twice and was ranked by the national press, as popular as Babe Ruth. He also excelled in his studies, earning a Phi Beta Kappa key at the UW College of Business. Here’s a segment from our oral history collection between Dr. William Hutchinson and RVHS Founder Buzz Anderson, in 1996, where they talked about the ferry that transported people from Mercer Island, and Kennydale, to Rainier Beach. Bill discusses his dad’s physician practice and how Al rowed to Rainier Beach from Mercer Island. (Dr. Hutchinson was 87 at the time of this interview). Bill: Well you see all those towns had to depend upon either my father or a doctor from Renton and he could get there actually easier than they could because they had to come over land. (My father) would come by Harry Patterson’s boat which was a launch which operated between Mercer Island and Kennydale and Rainier Beach. Buzz: We have a picture of that boat, with him, with the skipper, and -- Bill: It was a famous boat. Now the way they’d get along Mercer Island would be to put up on the dock, where they had the flags, and put up a flag and of course they’d know that they wanted them to stop, which they’d do and pick up whoever was coming into Seattle. Now interestingly enough, a great oarsman at Washington was Al Ulbrickson, as you know - Bill: - and he was not only a great oarsman, but he was a great coach. And he would row across to pick up the street car, the Renton Express, at Rainier Beach, and then would stop there, and so every morning and every night he’d have to row home or row to get somewhere on the train. And so he was a great oarsman before he ever hit University of Washington. But they just couldn’t compete with him. Buzz: I knew of him as a coach, but I didn’t know, I had never thought much about whether he was a good oarsman, but he probably was, that’s why he stayed with it then, as a coach. Bill: And he had two brothers, both of whom made the varsity squad at the University, because they, too, would row a lot. What was interesting, while researching Al’s early life, his student enrollment card at Seattle Public Schools showed his home address not on Mercer Island, but on the corner of Rainier Avenue and 57th, at 9246 57th Ave S in Rainier Beach (today where Jude’s restaurant is). There was a pharmacy and apartments on this corner, just in front of the streetcar stop. Whether Al’s father rented an apartment in Rainier Beach or used a PO Box there to show a Seattle residence for his children to attend FHS, is unknown. Al Ulbrickson was inducted into the Franklin Hall of Fame in 2001. He was just 24 years old when he took over the UW Crew program, transforming it to match the class of back east programs, and led the University of Washington teams to great heights over 31 years. He coached his team to six national titles with his two biggest wins, the 1936 Olympic Gold Medal in Berlin, and defeating the Soviet Union in Moscow in 1958. “He was Seattle’s Man of the Year in 1936, was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame in 1979, and was named by the Seattle Times as one of Seattle’s top twenty-five coaches of the century” (Franklin Hall of Fame). JOHN (“JOHNNY”) WHITE - (1916-1997) Member of UW Gold Medal 1936 Crew Team Franklin High School Class of 1932 Johnny White grew up in a house above Lake Washington at Pritchard Beach. He attended Dunlap Elementary, then graduated at the young age of 16 from Franklin High School. Johnny and his dad decided if he were to take a couple of years off to save enough money to enroll at the University of Washington, he would also have enough time to physically catch up in size. He found physically demanding jobs at a shipyard on the waterfront wrestling steel and a construction job for the new Grand Coulee Dam, improving his chances at making the UW Crew team. Johnny’s father was a first rate sculler from Pennsylvania before moving out to Seattle. John Sr. spent long hours rowing on Lake Washington and most likely taught his son how to row. When we met the current owner of where the White family lived, we were told that Johnny’s sister sold him the house, and she had shared some of Johnny’s diary with him, the writings that helped shape the book, Boys in the Boat. The home owner also found an old rowboat in the brush... Johnny’s Olympic gold medal is at an auction house with a starting bid of $10,000. He was inducted into the Franklin Hall of Fame in 2001. ROYAL BROUGHAM - (1894-1978) Sportswriter for the Seattle P-I, Franklin HS Hall of Fame Royal Brougham attended Franklin High School from the Dunlap neighborhood until his Junior year, when he took a copy boy job in the sports department for the Seattle P-I. Royal’s passion for covering sporting events for Franklin continued, the 1912-13 Tolos show his articles and title as Editor for Athletics. Despite lacking a formal education, Royal rapidly ascended from an errand boy to a part-time writer, eventually establishing himself as a full-time sports journalist as the P-I’s Managing Editor. As a senior sportswriter, Royal had the honor of covering numerous major sporting events including the 1936 Olympic Games. With Brougham’s support in leading the newspapers’ drive to send the team to Berlin, the UW successfully raised $5,000 to secure their attendance. Unfortunately, none of Royal’s Olympic Games’ reporting was published locally due to a strike at the P-I. Undeterred, Brougham famously attempted an impromptu interview with Hitler, although he was turned away after a brief encounter. Later he described the team, “All were merged into one smoothly working machine, they were in fact a poem in motion, a symphony of swinging blades.” Royal’s impact extended beyond journalism. He befriended many athletes, coaches and managers as he actively engaged in community service, advocating for recreational amenities and fairness in sports. His legacy is underscored by honors such as the “First Citizen,” founder of the Royal Brougham Sports Hall of Fame and Museum; he served on the board of directors of the SeattleKing County American Red Cross; was Washington director for the National Commission of Living War Memorials; and was twice a member of the Olympic Games Press Committee. South Royal Brougham Way, near the stadiums, was named after him in 1979. JOHN MERRILL - (1914-1984) Franklin High School Grad - Rainier Beach resident - UW Crew John Merrill, also known as “Johnny”, graduated from Franklin HS the same year as Johnny White. John didn’t share much about his early years with his family, they knew he lettered in Washington Crew, but not much else until they discovered his scrapbook. John had memorabilia from the ‘36 National Championship sweep on the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY. John was a coxswain for the team, perhaps a substitute, and possibly a student manager. Though his name does not show in the program he saved from Poughkeepsie with the coaches, team and George Pocock signatures, he was there. John is mentioned in Boys in the Boat on page 106 as the coxswain navigating the ‘34 freshmen boat, when they nearly collided with a tugboat in Lake Washington. It is likely the other mention in the book was about John as well, in Poughkeepsie the night the Varsity-8 asked coach Ulbrickson if they could journey up river to find the President’s house. Instead of meeting FDR, his son Franklin Roosevelt Jr. answered the door and invited the team in. On page 261, “the boys recruited one of the crew’s student managers as pilot and navigator, and piled into the launch...when they found the cove, they left the manager in charge of the boat.” Merrill’s keepsake in his scrapbook, the Western Union social message from Franklin Roosevelt, Jr., to the team saying “Good luck to you” and an apology for not making it to see them the night before the race. Following the Poughkeepsie National Championship, the UW team traveled to Princeton for the Olympic trials, from there they were off to Berlin to represent the United States in the ‘36 Olympic Games. John did not make it to Berlin, not everyone on the team did due to the budget. Image Gallery Click to expand and then swipe your way through history.

  • 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.

  • Columbia Branch History - Seattle Public Libraries

    Step back in time with us as we dive into the history of the Columbia Branch Library. In June 1909, the Seattle Public Library established a modest branch within the main room of the old Columbia City town hall on Rainier Boulevard (later Rainier Avenue South) at Hudson Street, rent-free. The accommodations were humble, with patrons needing to venture to a nearby furniture store for restroom facilities, crossing the unpaved street and railroad tracks! By 1911, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie's generous donation heralded a new chapter in library development. By 1912, a suitable site for the Columbia Branch was selected and purchased, funded by $2,500 from community contributions and $2,000 from the city. A snapshot from the summer of 1915 captures the library's construction, with the Columbia Branch officially opening its doors on Dec. 30, 1915. Be sure to peruse the newspaper clipping from the grand opening and explore images of the original reading room. A significant renovation in 1931 revitalized the Columbia branch, just prior to budget cuts prompted by the Great Depression. Fast forward to 1998, when Seattle voters endorsed a substantial upgrade through the "Libraries for All" bonds, allocating $196.4 million for improvements. This initiative led to an impressive expansion and renovation project, culminating in its completion in 2004. Take a glimpse into the library's reopening through the photo and excerpt from the RVHS 2004 Summer newsletter. Today, the library remains a vital cornerstone of the Columbia City community, offering a diverse array of events and activities. Share your cherished memories of the library in the comments below! 📖💭 Photo 1: Columbia Library under construction, 1915. RVHS Photo (1996.73.01) Photo 2: Snippet from Columbia Branch Library opening. RVHS Photo: (1993.1.506) Photo 3: Columbia Branch Library, 1927. Courtesy of MOHAI (1983.10.745) Photo 4: Reading room, Columbia Branch, 1915. Courtesy UW Special Collections (1983.10.9205) Photos 5 & 6: Photo and article taken for RVHS Summer 2004 Newsletter Documenting the grand opening of the expanded library. Photo 7: Photo of the library provided by SSF Engineers from their collaboration with Cardwell Architects on the 2004 renovation project.

  • Mystery Building Identified: It’s Lakewood School

    The one room Lakewood Grade School located at 48th Ave S and Snoqualmie Street taught only 1st and 2nd graders from 1916 to 1927. RVHS Photo Catalog # 01.057.001, Seattle Public Schools Archives The existence of a Lakewood School came to light by a chance remark in a conversation I was having with Charles “Bud” Creevey. That conversation was the last I had with him as he passed away about a year later in February of 2000. Bud was a retired Seattle Firefighter and had worked as part time delivery truck driver for my dad, Art Anderson, who had the Grayson & Brown Hardware and Furniture Co. in Columbia City. He worked there in the early forties during the war. I was in high school during those years and also worked at the store after school and on Saturdays. One of my jobs at the store was to help Bud with the two man deliveries. I got to know him very well and whenever we ran into each other over the years we enjoyed reminiscing about our mutual delivery experiences. During that last conversation I had with Bud, when he mentioned the existence of the Lakewood School, we talked about two specific delivery experiences that we would have liked to forget. We were delivering a bedroom set that had a dresser with a large plate glass mirror. Rather than stand it on edge and tie it like we should have, as we only had a short distance to go, we laid it flat on the bed of the truck. That was a big mistake as there was a chuckhole in the road and the mirror went flying and shattered. We learned a good lesson and were in the dog house with my dad. On another occasion we were delivering a sofa sleeper out in the north end on Aurora Ave. The house was on the other side of the street from us and rather than go around the block, we parked and proceeded to carry it across the arterial street when there was a break in the traffic. We learned something else. Always tie down the spring unit on a sofa-sleeper before moving it. In the middle of Aurora Avenue it sprang open and the cushions and mattress went flying. Bud had told me he had attended the Lakewood school about 1921 as a second grader. I didn’t even know that it existed until Bud asked me if I knew about the school.  He said it was close to 48th Ave. and Snoqualmie St and was a one room school. He also said it was for just the early grades and other students that attended with him were Bill McGinnis. Burke Howard and Bob Kimball. Burke, until recently lived just around the corner from my home which is about two blocks from Snoqualmie Street where the Lakewood school was located. Burke’s wife Mary had worked in the office at Grayson & Brown. Bob Kimball was a nephew of “Beans” Kimball, as he was called, and he owned and operated a small company that produced “Kimball’s Baked Beans” in the early days. They produced the baked beans in a part of their home, as I remember it, and it was located on the west side of Renton Avenue just south of where it joined Empire Way, now Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The cross street just to the north was Waldon. I don’t remember if their baked Beans were just distributed locally or shipped to other areas but they were very popular here in the Valley and they were very tasty. I made frequent deliveries to their home and business. Getting back to the Lakewood School, I tried to find more information about the school without success. I was talking on the phone to Elenor Toews, director of the Seattle School Archives, and I mentioned the possible existence of a Lakewood school to her and she had no knowledge or records of it. After a few weeks went by she called me back and said she had a photo of a one room school and no information as to the name or the location. She suspected it was an annex for a grade school and could it be the Lakewood School that I had asked her about? Could it have been an annex for the nearby Hawthorne grade School? She sent me a copy of the photo and she also mentioned that she was putting the finishing touches on a revised book on the history of the Seattle Schools and she would like to find the name and location of that photo to include in the book. I sent a copy of the photo to Louise Creevey as she had indicated she would show it to Burke and Bob Kimball for possible identification. Her husband , Bud, had passed away. Sure enough, both Burke and Bob said that was the one room school they had attended, and gave the exact location, about two blocks north of my home. As you go west on Snoqualmie street, it crosses 48th Avenue and continues just half a block where it dead ends at a steep bank that drops down to 47th. The school was on the south side at the end of Snoqualmie Street with the entrance facing east. Not only that but they remembered the name of the school’s teacher, Miss Bow. Their classmate McGinnis added some more information. His brother, Daniel McGinnis, was the janitor for the school and they lived next to the school. He would come over every day and do the janitor work. The school was for 1st and 2nd grades only and existed from 1916 to 1927 and it was an annex to Hawthorne. Needless to say, Eleanor was delighted to be able to put a caption on the photo and include it, along with the information, in her new book which should be available soon. The Lakewood School was about on the dividing line between Hawthorne and Whitworth grade schools. Burke went on to Whitworth, Bob to Hawthorne and then both to Franklin High. Bill McGinnis was in the Franklin Class of 1929. Days Gone By - South District Journal 3/13/2003 By Buzz Anderson

  • The Real Boys In The Boat - RVHS 133rd Annual Meeting

    Presenting: "The Real Boys in the Boat" - A Daughter Remembers Join us and Judy Rantz Willman, daughter of University of Washington crew member Joe Rantz, in presenting the genesis of the book, “The Boys in The Boat.” Judy discusses each crew member including Rainier Beach’s Johnny White and coach Al Ulbrickson, both Franklin High School grads. See footage of the 1936 Olympic Games of the UW crew team winning the Gold in Berlin! When: Saturday, May 11th, 2024 10:00 am - Annual Meeting with presentation to follow Where: Rainier Beach Community Club 6038 S Pilgrim St, Seattle, WA 98118 5 5 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118 3515 3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 9811

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