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July 24, 2014 – July 30, 2014

Feel the Heat

This week, the Carlton Complex fire in north-central Washington surpassed the 1902 Yacolt Burn in acreage consumed, providing a stark reminder that warm, dry summer weather can create optimal conditions for devastating fires. Such was the case 100 years ago this week, on July 30, 1914, when a small blaze beneath Seattle's Grand Trunk Pacific dock reacted with the sweltering, under-ventilated air within the vast warehouse above. Within seconds the entire structure burst into a burning maelstrom that eventually killed five people and injured 29. Outside of the Great Fire of 1889, it was the largest blaze in the history of Seattle's central waterfront, rivaled only by the destruction of the Union Pacific Dock 15 years later.

This week also marks the 90th anniversary of a devastating fire in Twisp, not far from where the Carlton Complex fire is burning now. Shortly after midnight on July 24, 1924, fire broke out at the home and office of the town's doctor, who was able to escape the blaze with his family. Spread by a light breeze, the flames consumed two other houses and quickly reached downtown, where most of the buildings were made of wood. In less than an hour and a half, almost the entire business district was in ruins.

July 24 is also the 20th anniversary of the start of the Tyee Creek Fire in the Wenatchee National Forest. On that day in 1994, lightning storms began a number of fires that combined and burned for 33 days. Before it was contained the blaze consumed 135,000 acres of forest land. Other major forest fires in Washington's past also started in July, but some of the biggest ones have struck in the drier months of August and September. So please be careful with open flames when you're out enjoying the scenery.

Feel the Beat

On July 28, 1896, music was in the air. High in the air, as a matter of fact, when Tacoma's Olof Bull hauled his violin to the summit of Mount Rainier and played several solo songs, including "Nearer, My God, To Thee." Bull had attempted his one-man summit concert three years earlier, but was thwarted by a series of misfortunes.

A more down-to-earth sound was heard on July 28, 1962, when Seattle's Century 21 Exposition launched a teenage dance series for those itching to do the Twist. This week also marks the 45th anniversary of the Seattle Pop Festival, at which Led Zeppelin, the Doors, and Santana performed in Woodinville on July 25, 1969. No doubt some audience members had enjoyed the Sky River Rock Festival high in the Cascade foothills near Sultan a year earlier.

And lest we forget, this week marks the 75th anniversary of Seattle's Showbox Ballroom, which opened as the Show Box on July 24, 1939. Over the years, this venerable venue from the Jazz Age has moved with the groove and hosted a wide variety of rock, punk, hip-hop, grunge, pop, and other shows. Very few dance halls in the state have had such a long and illustrious career.

News Then, History Now

Rural Altercations: On July 26, 1882, freight agent Eli Cummins was robbed and murdered in Columbia County, a crime for which three men were convicted. And on July 28, 1921, Alfred J. Anderson shot and killed Whatcom County Sheriff's Deputy James F. Chatfield, who was searching for smugglers in the woods along the Canadian border near Blaine, after the deputy, without identifying himself, fired warning shots toward the local resident. Anderson, who claimed self-defense, was charged with murder but the case was dismissed.

Urban Congregations: On July 25, 1889, Ohaveth Sholum was established as Seattle's first Jewish congregation. And on July 24, 1966, in Spokane, the Torah scrolls from the Keneseth Israel Synagogue were transferred to Temple Emanu-El as part of a formal and symbolic merger into Temple Beth Shalom, now the center of the city's Jewish community.

Black and White: On July 26, 1924, some 13,000 members and supporters of the Ku Klux Klan staged a rally near Issaquah, nearly 40 years after the town's previous bout with racial unrest. Twenty years later, Seattle struggled with potential racial violence, and the Civic Unity Committee was praised on July 24, 1944, for its efforts to quell such problems. Two decades after that, the first sit-in arrests of Seattle's modern civil rights movement indicated that racism was hardly a thing of the past.

Taking Flight: On July 26, 1928, Boeing Field opened in Seattle's Georgetown neighborhood. Many Boeing aircraft took their maiden flights from the field, including the Flying Fortress B-17, which took wing on July 28, 1935.

Fried in a Pan: On July 24, 1931, approximately 10,000 breakfast-lovers showed up in Chehalis to enjoy platefuls of the world's largest omelet, made with 7,200 eggs. The gargantuan goody was cooked up in a specially made eight-foot-wide frying pan, greased beforehand by a young woman wearing slabs of bacon on her feet. The event provided some light-hearted publicity for local chicken farmers during the dark days of the Great Depression.

Kennewick Man: On July 24, 1966, the first Unlimited Hydroplane Race was held on the Columbia River at Tri-Cities. Thirty years later, on July 28, 1996, two racing fans were wading in the water when one of them stepped on what seemed to be a round rock. It turned out to be a 9,200-year-old human skull -- the remains of an individual who came to be known as Kennewick Man.

Quote of the Week

Time is the fire in which we burn.

                    --Delmore Schwartz

Image of the Week

On July 27, 1923, President Warren G. Harding gave his last public speech in Seattle. He fell ill en route to San Francisco and died six days later.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

Sherwood Post Office opens on July 29, 1892.

Bellevue beginnings: Northup Post Office opens on July 29, 1892.

The Home of the Good Shepherd opens in Seattle neighborhood of Wallingford on July 29, 1907.

Ivar Haglund opens Seattle's first aquarium on Pier 3 (now 54) on July 29, 1938.

Seattle police raid Black Panther office in Central Area, setting off riots, on July 29, 1968.

Historic Seattle heat wave peaks at a record 103 degrees on July 29, 2009.

New Essays This Week       RSS Feed

Washington's Jewish Sports Heroes: Bob Moch (1914-2005)

Ken Bunting becomes managing editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on November 15, 1993, becoming the first African American to reach that level at a Washington daily newspaper.

William Robert "Blanket Bill" Jarman dies in Ferndale on June 12, 1912.

Paige, Janis (b. 1922)

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