May 23, 2013 - May 29, 2013
A Fun Place to Cut Loose
Eighty-three years ago this week, during the dark days of the Great Depression, thousands of downtrodden Washingtonians gathered on the shores of Bitter Lake hoping to forget their troubles and cares. Sounds cheery, doesn't it? It sure was, because May 24, 1930, was the grand opening of Playland -- at that time the most spectacular amusement park in the Pacific Northwest.
Located north of Seattle, Playland drew in crowds from miles around. Some came for a thrill-packed ride on The Dipper, a cutting-edge roller coaster that soared 55 feet into the air. Others preferred a gut-churning ride on the Buzzer or a madcap ride on the Red Bug Miniature Auto Course. Those who were fainter of heart could enjoy a pleasant spin on the Merry-Go-Round, or a few hardy-hars at the Fun House. In the evenings, couples danced the night -- and in one case the months -- away at the Ballroom.
Playland wasn't Seattle's first local amusement park. In 1907, Luna Park opened in West Seattle and provided ample amounts of entertainment during its short reign as "Coney Island of the West." Playland packed in the crowds for years, until it was damaged by fire in the 1950s. In 1961, the last of the rides were torn down, but fortunately for funseekers, the playground of tomorrow was in the offing.
Vendors and Produce
On May 23, 1970, Seattle's first modern-day street fair opened in the University District during a time of great social and political upheaval. That very day, President Nixon had cancelled nerve-gas shipments through Puget Sound due to a recent spate of local bombings.
This week also marks the 20th anniversary of the first University Heights Farmer's Market, which opened in the University District on May 29, 1993. Last week, HistoryLink received a very nice email from Julian Saucedo Wheeler, who played a key role in founding the farmer's market, but who regrets that he can't attend the anniversary as he is currently serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. We wish him well, and hope to see him next year as we're buying our fruits and veggies.
News Then, History Now
Wet Times in Kent: Approximately 5,600 years ago, a mudflow from Mount Rainier reached as far as modern-day Kent, which incorporated on May 28, 1890. By the time white settlers arrived, the mudflow had turned into excellent farmland, although local farmers had to deal with annual floods. Flooding ended once the Howard A. Hanson Dam opened in 1962, but then the cropland turned into a sea of warehouses, industrial plants, condominiums, and shopping centers.
The Prez Came and Went: On May 23, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Seattle and two days later he stopped briefly in North Yakima before heading off to Walla Walla, where he spoke at Whitman College. Five years later, Roosevelt sent the U.S. Navy's Great White Fleet on a trip around the world, and the ships arrived in Elliott Bay on May 23, 1908. Many Seattleites beamed with pride upon seeing the USS Nebraska, which had been launched from the Moran Brothers shipyard in 1904.
Mammoth Event: On May 28, 1909, Queenie the elephant ran amuck at Seattle's White City amusement park, tearing through the grounds and causing two women to faint. Oddly enough, this isn't the only incident of pachydermal pandemonium this week in Washington history. On May 23, 1958, a truckload of elephants leaving Woodland Park Zoo overturned in Seattle's Phinney Ridge neighborhood. The elephants were uninjured and proceeded to traipse around people's yards.
Taken Away: On May 24, 1935, 9-year-old George Weyerhaeuser, heir to the world's largest producer of lumber, was kidnapped on his way home from school in Tacoma. After a $200,000 ransom was paid, the boy was released unharmed, setting off the greatest manhunt in Northwest history for the criminals. Arrests were quickly made, but it took more than a year for the FBI to track down the ringleader.
Border Dismay: On May 28, 1936, a Canadian fugitive shot and killed U.S. Immigration Inspector Charles M. Flachs at the border crossing in Blaine. And on May 24, 1979, U.S. Customs Inspector Kenneth G. Ward was murdered at the same crossing. His assailant was quickly captured and soon convicted, but before his sentencing, the killer executed the bloodiest jailbreak ever to occur in King County.
Flights Gone Astray: On May 24, 1961, an Air Force C-124A Globemaster II crashed near McChord Air Force Base, killing 18 crewmembers and critically injuring the other four. On the same day in 1987, two small planes collided in mid-air near Ritzville. They were carrying members of the same family, three of whom died.
Lest We Forget: Memorial Day is this week, and HistoryLink is proud to host the complete online honor rolls of Washington state citizens who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War I, World War II, and in Korea, Vietnam, Granada, the Gulf, and more recently, Iraq and Afghanistan. We also maintain online honor rolls of University of Washington students, faculty, and staff and of local public safety officers killed in the line of duty.
Quote of the Week
We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
--George Bernard Shaw
Image of the Week
Pomeroy residents voted to incorporate on May 28, 1917.