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April 24, 2014 - April 30, 2014

Nice Day, Pretty Colors

Sixty years ago this summer, Washington State Ferries launched the Evergreen State, the first ferry built for WSF after its takeover of the operations of the Puget Sound Navigation Company in 1951. This summer, WSF will launch the Tokitae into service to replace the aging vessel. Once the Evergreen State is retired, all vessels in the WSF fleet will have Native American names, thanks to a decision that was made on April 25, 1958.

Many of Puget Sound's earliest ferries had Native American names, but the tradition was solidified by the Puget Sound Navigation Company in the 1930s when PSNC publicist William Thorniley began giving the vessels distinctive names, such as Kalakala -- a Chinook word for "flying bird." After WSF took over operations, it purchased two ferries from Maryland, which it renamed the Rhododendron and the Olympic.

Traditionalists scoffed at the names, but public outcry became louder with the launch of the Evergreen State, and intensified when it was announced that the new vessel's sister ships would be called Vacation State and Washington State. After intensive lobbying by local tribes and the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, ferry officials returned to tradition, and every new ferry has had a Native American name ever since.

The Vacation State and the Washington State became the Klahowya (Chinook for "greetings") and the Tillikum (Chinook for "friends"). When they retire, they'll be replaced by the Samish (named for the tribe) and possibly another boat. Tokitae is a Coastal Salish greeting that translates to "nice day, pretty colors," an apt description of a summer sail on the Sound.

Nice to Meet You, Gotta Go

During the last week of April, 1792, British explorer Captain George Vancouver met American fur trader Captain Robert Gray near Cape Flattery before continuing on with his explorations. A few days later, Vancouver named Port Townsend in honor of the Marquis of Townshend, an English general.

Gray continued down the coast and happened upon a large sheltered bay his crew called Grays Harbor, the name adopted by later mapmakers. Farther south, Gray entered the mouth of a huge river, which he named for his ship, the Columbia. While there, a bay and another river also received his moniker.

News Then, History Now

Walla Walla: Walla Walla County got its start on April 25, 1854, when it was carved out of Skamania County. Indians and settlers had conflicts and confrontations, but within a few years its citizens could boast a major thoroughfare, a school, a newspaper, a bank, and a railroad. The first Washington Constitutional Convention convened there in 1878.

Meeting Smohalla: On April 24, 1877, General Oliver O. Howard met in a day-long council with Smohalla, an influential Wanapum spiritual leader. Howard told Smohalla that he and his followers must move onto the Yakama Reservation. However, distracted by the Nez Perce War, which broke out a few weeks later, Howard took no steps to enforce the order, and Smohalla ignored it.

Getting Around: On the morning of April 30, 1910, electric interurban trains began to shuttle between Everett and Seattle. Twelve hours later, two passengers died in a fatal accident further south on the chronically mismanaged Rainier Valley line between Seattle and Renton.

A Clock in the Sound: In this week in 1912, two catastrophes occurred one day apart on opposite sides of the state. On April 24, the main administration building of the State Normal School -- later EasternWashingtonUniversity -- burned down in Cheney. The next day, the steamship Alameda rammed Seattle's Colman Dock and toppled its clock tower into Elliott Bay.

On the Rebound: On April 24, 1921, conductor Mary Davenport-Engberg revived the Seattle Symphony after the orchestra had fallen upon hard times. History repeated itself 42 years later, when PONCHO held its inaugural fundraiser on April 27, 1963, after the symphony nearly went bankrupt following a lavish production of the opera Aida.

Fliers Downed: On April 24, 1927, two women died in an airplane crash at Pearson Field in Vancouver. A year later, on April 29, 1928, Spokane pioneer aviator Major John T. Fancher was fatally injured when an aerial bomb used in a demonstration exploded in his hand. Fancher had been instrumental in bringing the 1927 National Air Derby and Air Races to Felts Field.

Loud and Bold: On April 28, 1940, experimental music pioneer John Cage debuted his "prepared piano" at Seattle's Repertory Playhouse. The instrument was augmented with screws, bolts, nuts, and leather strips that dampened the strings and produced a cacophony of sound. Exactly 28 years later, thousands gathered in Duvall to hear an even stranger musical performance: the sound a piano made when dropped from a helicopter.

Black Gold: Work on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline began on April 29, 1974, and triggered another "gold rush" to the north in time to help lift the Puget Sound economy out of the well of the Boeing Bust. It was another reminder of the deep connections between Alaska and Washington.

Quote of the Week

Washington is nicknamed "The Evergreen State" because it sounds better than "The Incessant Nagging Drizzle State."

                                 --Dave Barry

Image of the Week

On April 29, 1965, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck Puget Sound, exactly 20 years after a lesser temblor did the same.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

Washington Territorial Legislature forms Walla Walla County out of Skamania County on April 25, 1854.

Northwestern Industrial Army marches to join Coxey's Army on April 25, 1894.

Steamship Alameda crashes into Seattle's Colman Dock on April 25, 1912.

State Toll Bridge Authority agrees to give ferryboats Native American names on April 25, 1958.

New Essays This Week       RSS Feed

Sephardic Jews in Washington

Everson incorporates on May 4, 1929.

Wehn, James A. (1882-1973)

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