It's Twisty's Turn

Jun. 4, 2008 at 6:30am

The Story of Tacoma's Spanish Steps

A parable of our city -- Part 1

A Bygone Era 

Imagine living in 1916.  There is no Internet.  There is no television.  Radio is an expensive, newfangled gizmo that is only enjoyed by it's earliest adopters.  There are movies in theaters (vaudeville acts were much more common), but they have no sound, save for a pipe organ or an orchestra.  The Ford Model T is available, but not yet ubiquitous.  In Seattle, William Boeing is forming the Pacific Aero Products Company.  The United States appears to have finally reached its manifest destiny, Arizona having been admitted as the 48th state four years previously.

Obviously, a person's options for entertainment and social interaction were very different in those days.  In the part of the city still known to the old timers of that era as New Tacoma, pretty much everything was anchored by the Northern Pacific Railway's headquarters building, which stood watch on the bluff overlooking Half Moon Yard and most of the city's docks.  This was the center of town at that time.  Historians Caroline Gallacci (co-founder of the Tacoma Historical Society) and Patricia Sias (the City of Tacoma's first Historic Preservation Officer), in the City's 'Inventory and Nomination Form' for the National Registry of Historic Places (1977)[1], had this to say about the area around South 7th Street and Pacific Avenue:

"It is interesting to note that the upper stories in many cases were meeting halls for fraternal, social and religious organizations.  At one time or another, the Odd Fellows, Tacoma Athletic Club, Ladies Gymnasium Association, Theatrical Mechanical Association, Woodmen of the World, Sons of Veterans, Knights of Pythias, Salvation Army, Longshoremen, Elks and the Y.W.C.A. all had meeting rooms and offices in this two block area."

In a world without electronic entertainment of any kind, or even direct-dial telephones, fraternal organizations and social clubs were a Big Deal, and everybody who was anybody belonged to at least one.

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was
formed in New York City, just before Christmas, in 1867.  The Elks in their earliest form were a private, after-hours-and-Sunday drinking club that called themselves the 'Jolly Corks'.  Originally, membership was entirely composed of actors and musicians, most of whom had employment obligations that interfered with their bar time.  The "benevolent and protective" part would come the following year, after the untimely death of a member left the man's family destitute. (All of the members were men, of course.  The Elks would not admit women as members until 1970.)  By 1922, the original 16 members of the Jolly Corks had become over 800,000 Elks nationwide.[2]

It should be no surprise then that Tacoma Elks Lodge #174 experienced a surge in membership during the years before the Great War.  Tacoma was growing rapidly.[3]  Prohibition would arrive early in the State of Washington (January 1, 1916), slightly more than four years before the "Noble Experiment" went coast-to-coast.  Anybody who hoped to continue imbibing after that date would need to be plugged-in to a social network of one sort or another.

Next: Tacoma's Elks Build a New Home

[1]Washington State Dept. of Archaeology and Historic Preservation,, pp. 20
[2]From Jolly Corks to Elks, New York Times, published Jan. 22, 1922
[3]U.S. Census Bureau figures: 1900 - 37,714 ; 1910 - 83,743

comments [5]

Jun. 2, 2008 at 8:57pm

Good Vibrations

Tacoma's Community Based Services program is bringing people together in the South End

Tonight was the Community Based Services kick-off meeting for the newly expanded focus area, which now includes the Whitman, Lincoln and Dome Top neighborhoods.  The meeting was held in the Lincoln High School auditorium.

Lisa Wojtanowicz, Assistant Division Manager for CBS, led an impressive cadre of top city officials which included City Manager Eric Anderson, City Council members Strickland and Lonergan, Public Works Director Mike Slevin, Police Chief Don Ramsdell,  TPD Sector 4 commander Lt. Shawn Stringer, and many others.  Ms. Wojtanowicz mentioned at the top of the meeting that 105 citizens had signed in, and that there were a number of others in attendance who had not signed in.  I was hoping to see attendance somewhere in the middle three figures, but this wasn't a bad turnout in return for 4000-plus flyers sent out to an area with a high proportion of renters.

This meeting was a high-level overview to explain how the program works and what it can do for our area.  We got to hear the success story of the pilot program started in 2006, how it was having a continuing positive impact in the areas served and what it took to make it happen.  The city officials were all optimistic and upbeat about our prospects to pull off some much-needed positive change, and I think this rubbed off on the rest of us.

If there was any low point in the meeting, it happened while attendees from various neighborhood groups were asked to identify themselves.  First, Wojtanowicz called out for Whitman folks, and a knot of people clapped.  She called for the McKinley Hill business district, and there was applause from another part of the auditorium.  The Lincoln LAWGS (a neighbors' group) were across the aisle.  Then she called out Lincoln business district, and... crickets.  Not a soul seemed to be present from what I would consider to be one of the most important groups of stakeholders.

So... the journey has begun, like all other journeys -- with the first step.  If any of you, my gentle readers, hail from one of these neighborhoods, I urge you to roll up those sleeves and join us!

comments [3]

May. 29, 2008 at 6:33pm

Community Based Services -- Coming to a neighborhood near ME!

(or... Maybe you CAN make a silk purse out of a sow's ear)

Woo-Hoo!  I too have received notification from the City that my address is within the newly expanded Community Based Services area.  Lately I've been looking for ways to get involved in my neighborhood, so the timing is right on the mark.  In fact, I could not have hoped for a better opportunity.  Well, series of opportunities, really.

And now, since I am excited to help beautify my neighborhood, it seems like a good moment for a word from the sponsors of Ugliness.

(switching to booming announcer's voice...)

Ugly, brought to you by...

McDonald's (S. 56th & M St.)

Verizon Wireless (6th Ave & Union)

and Comcast (6th Ave & L St)

These fine companies have been "nice" enough to leave a big, steaming turd in our front yards.  Be sure to let them know how you feel about that!

comments [2]

May. 23, 2008 at 1:00pm

Liveblogging from Frost Park

I normally can't make it to these things because I usually work in downtown Seattle.  Today, my boss is on vacation, his boss is on vacation, and I have all of my work done.  Thus, I'm playing hooky.

It's 11:59.  Time to get busy...

Things starting off a little slow here, but then... it's maybe not the best day for this.  No matter, the players are trickling in one by one.  Isn't that Tacoma Urbanist I see?

Quite suddenly, things are beginning to happen here.  No fanfare to speak of, just a mellow, informal meet and greet atmosphere.  The artists have staked their claims and have gone to work in earnest.

Here we see the artists all hard at work.  Except for one.  Where is RR?

Again... where *is* RR???  Does he think he's done?  Does he not like cupcakes?

Is this an off-sides?  No flag on the play, though.

I feel a rain drop.  Sooo not a good thing for chalk art.  Nobody else seems to notice.

A-HA!  I found him.  RR has secluded himself around the corner.  And... he's gone vertical this week.  Will wonders never cease?

Stowe has gone decidedly non-comicbook this time around.

And of course, the Murray Morgan Bridge makes its compulsory weekly appearance.

Don't they have an item a lot like that at Wendy's?  Is somebody thinking about lunch afterwards?

Lupin Goddess at work.  Never short on style... a little short on time maybe?

Times up, and so is my battery.  Hope those of you watching enjoyed this!

comments [14]

May. 22, 2008 at 11:54am

The Hidden Amphibian

(or... The rewards of searching thoroughly)

I'm quite sure that many of you, like myself, have gotten a kick out of R.R. Anderson's splendiferous website, Holistic Forge Works.  Perhaps you too, like myself, thought that you had explored every nook and cranny, and found every gag.

Well, guess again.  Turns out that even this guy's HTML code is funny.  No, really... take a look. (Ctrl+U in most browsers)

Oh, and R.R... I was just looking for your email address.  Honest!

comments [6]

May. 21, 2008 at 7:34am

My World, Gone Mad

(or... 35 cents isn't that much money, anyway)

A sampling of today's major headlines...

From the New York Times: Israel and Syria Holding Peace Talks in Turkey

From the Wall Street Journal: Myanmar Refuses U.S. Naval Aid

From the Washington Post: Obama Claims Majority Of Pledged Delegates

From Reuters: Oil tops $130 haunted by future supply worry

And last but not least, here's what's above the fold (online) at the Tacoma News Tribune today: Bonney Lake wants lids on bikini baristas

Juuust an observation.

comments [3]