Secular Seattle welcomed its new Kingdome in 1976 with a crusade by Rev. Billy Graham that fitted the replacement all-purpose stadium to be seen as an answer to our prayers to become a “Big League City”.
I was riding Rev. Billy in an elevator whose concerns about the stadium were predictive: would it be miniaturized on a distant podium? Would the location be convenient for the crusade to grab the audience’s attention? Would those who volunteer to hug Jesus get lost at the beginning of their spiritual journey?
The domed stadium – a conservative talk jock called it a “doomed stadium” – has disappeared. It’s one of those one-off big stores that was replaced in a rapidly changing Seattle. The “Big League City” is actually becoming a BIG city. But a price has to be paid: change has resulted in a loss of familiarity and funky.
We can no longer go to Rainier to Chubby and Tubby to get a cheap Christmas tree. Children once played in the Fun Forest, a long-lived holdover from the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. Nowadays, adults visit the Chihuly Garden & Glass Museum on this corner of Seattle Center. The Seattle Waterfront Trolley, a valuable creation by Councilor George Benson, has disappeared. Such is Benson’s Mission Pharmacy on Capitol Hill.
However, we can keep memories.
The now-demolished Northgate Theater welcomed thousands to see James Cameron’s epic epic movie “Titanic” in the late 1990s. The night we went, teenage girls wiped their tears as the young lover let go of Leonardo DiCaprio and sank into the icy North Atlantic. Who would think that Leo would one day play J. Edgar Hoover?
I loved Kathy Bates as the “unsinkable” Molly Brown and especially enjoyed the moment when the cocky survivor, looking at the pictures of her young self, announced, “Wasn’t I a dish?”
– As a Bellingham kid, I heard on the radio when Leo Lassen announced Seattle Rainiers games from Sick’s Stadium. The rising star of the Rainiers was Vada Pinson, who was soon destined for the majors. My dad drove me down to a ball game where we saw Pinson hold out a triple. I was down when Joe told me we wouldn’t be seeing Pinson here much longer. Given my father’s complaints about the price of popcorn, what would he think now?
We actually had a heavyweight championship at Sick’s Stadium in 1957 when Floyd Patterson defeated ’56 Olympic gold medalist Pete Rademacher. Rademacher was a local favorite. The last time he went on screen, the radio picked up a tormented fan and shouted, “Pete! Pete! Make history to get up!” Sicks stadium was demolished in the late 1970s – I go to the Lowe’s hardware store that is now there.
– An old Seattle Post-Intelligencer colleague, Eric Nalder, defected to the Seattle Times. I’ve reviewed his book, Tankers Full of Trouble, the lynchpin of Exxon Valdez’s reporting, which won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize. I had to speak to Eric to find out some impressions from reading the book.
Eric had a big idea: he would give me a brief introduction to the Times building. We’d break bread in the cafeteria. The building was imposing in a way that was shared by the Seattle PI dig at Sixth and Wall. It was a sense of self-importance. It shouldn’t stay that way. Fairview Fannie would move out of his tall building, creating a security and fire hazard. As with Winston Churchill, who had spoken twice in the UK Parliament, Eric would eventually return to the PI.
– Sound performed remarkably well in the Kingdome, although the Mariners only occasionally gave cause to make a lot of noise. Even so, it was a stadium for bank jockeys. One night starting pitcher Randy Johnson threw four perfect innings but went wild in the fifth. We sat right behind the first base. My partner, Seattle attorney Mickie Pailthorp, yelled at the hill, “Please! Crazy about us!” Randy turned and stared at her.
The grumpy Cleveland Indians (later White Sox) thug Albert Belle came to town. We sat behind the dugout seats. Belle recently sparked an obscene Mike Pompeo-style nut on NBC Sports’ Hannah Storm, one of the first female sports reporters to conduct locker room interviews. When Belle went to the plate, his fan Tim Egan shouted “Jooooeeeyyy!”, A nickname that Belle despised. Then: “You caused quite a storm in the locker room.”
Belle looked up with a look more fierce than anyone else’s before. Then he appeared.
– We had one of the most beautiful little racetracks in America in Longacres for almost 60 years (1933-92). The food was excellent, many in the clientele seemed to know each other, races were competitive and, even if your bets were bad, the mild surroundings made for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.
It was a political place. Longacres would defend himself against a dog racing initiative with a memorable “don’t let the stain die” ad with an emaciated greyhound. Former lawmaker Martin Durkan (Jenny’s father) was due to be roasted for charity on a Sunday afternoon. Big Martin grumbled, “I wanted to go out on the track.” I’m not taking anything away from Emerald Downs and I miss the old place.
– As the first Manning’s Cafeteria and later as Denny’s, the restaurant was just there on the 15th NW and NW Market in Ballard. We had to know that. In the incarnation of Denny, you could go there anytime, get (very) staple foods and revitalize yourself with black, leaded coffee.
The Landmark Preservation Board visited the premises in 2008 but did not act. The old meeting place was over. His death symbolized the gentrification of Ballard. We’d run to Beth’s Cafe on Aurora only to find out last year that the building was for sale. A city needs its meeting places!
– The Czech restaurant Labuznik was one of the best restaurants in Seattle and is located on 1st Avenue north of Stewart Street. It was created by chef Peter Cipra, who made it out of his homeland in 1968 just before the Red Army tanks.
A strange ambience was part of its appeal. On rough, dark winter nights you can take a warm and cozy window seat and watch the rains on the street. There was a porn theater on the other side of 1st Avenue. Occasionally a lone male patron with his coat pulled up would pay stealthily and go inside.
– The viaduct on Alaskan Way was hard to love, though outside of town visitors would marvel at the prospect of the Olympics while their local host would forever negotiate tricky traffic patterns. A controversial, spectacularly unsuccessful citizen activist would try to save part of it as a park. Voters rejected their proposal by a four-to-one margin.
However, we introduced the ugly waterfront freeway from the 1950s in style. It was given to pedestrians at regular intervals. The demolition was quick and the promise of a city reconnected to its waterfront.
However, visit the waterfront today and you’ll have a number of construction projects to negotiate. It can get harder to get there if City Hall tears open 1st Avenue to build the Center City Connecter car.
Will we see this “shining city on the water next to a hill” that Mayor Jenny Durkan promises again and again? Or more precisely, will we live long enough to see it?