History, politics, people of Oly WA

Month: May 2015

Imagine a different Olympia, without the capitol

When I think about my little kick about the metonymy of Olympia, I usually eventually think about how much of Olympia’s identity is really tied up with state government. The legislature, the governor lives here and a lot of the people you know have some connection to state government.

But, what if it wasn’t like that?

What if, before the current state capitol was built, some other city (let’s say Tacoma for the sake of hating on Tacoma) was successful in swooping in and stealing the seat of government. How would have Olympia been different.

Here’s my brainstorm:

1. The power of the Light and Power company. 

Instead of limiting themselves to diversion on the lower Deschutes, the Olympia-based power utility takes to the countryside and claims a project in the upper Nisqually. Driven by Hazard Stevens in the last years of his life, they shut out what would have been projects by both Tacoma and Centralia, Olympia Power and Light eventually becomes the sole hydropower purveyor on the Nisqually River.

2. Consolidation

Instead of Tumwater and Olympia staying separate (and Lacey growing out of Olympia’s eastside), there is only Olympia. Tumwater soon sees the benefits of joining with Olympia, cooperation to save the greater Thurston County after Tacoma’s treachery!

3. Smaller, yet still largest city in the deep South Sound

And, obviously, we don’t grow as large. Maybe 40,000 people in the entire area around Budd Inlet. I don’t know why I’m guessing this. Maybe even fewer.

4. Streetcars Stay

Now, this is a total fantasy, but the Olympia Light and Power Company keeps the streetcars, updating and improving the system while most urban transit utilities go to busses. So, currently, there is a long east to west line going from Cooper Point Road out to Phones Road. Another line up Puget Street and then down Eastside and looping around to Boulevard, back up to Pacific. And, a line going down Capitol Way, possibly over to Tumwater Hill. And, some odd arrangement on the Westside.

I don’t know, total fantasy.

5. The old capitol campus area becomes one ritzy neighborhood

You think the South Capitol neighborhood is nice, check out what they do when they sell off the old campus that never was. Larger lots, bigger homes. Palatial.

6. I-5 never comes close to town. 

Instead of cutting through Tumwater and bumping into Olympia, the interstate highway cuts well south of town, turning east just south of the airport, following the railway route generally into Pierce County.

7. Just a few more smaller notes:

  • Olympia High School stays where it was on Capitol Way (I mean Main Street)
  • Capitol Lake is never built, because Wilder and White never showed up!
  • Evergreen still gets built. Just because. But, maybe its closer into town. Like where the Capital Mall is.
  • So, if the lake is never built, there is an actually impressive bridge across Budd Inlet.
  • The old state capitol becomes city hall.

Just some blog links. No theme here folks (Olyblogosphere for May 25, 2015)

1. The West Side pollinator pub crawl is a lot less exciting than it should be. But, if you’re into that sort of thing, I mean, it seems like it would be okay.

2. Janine points out that sometimes people straight up buy time on local websites. And, as a reminder, I write (and get paid to write) for said website. They’re nice people.

3. Is it really a local election without Prophet, right?

4. Elaine went back to the land of her birth and came away realizing how much of a Cascadian she has become.

Downtown Olympia in context

One of the things that strikes me about the dialogue about downtown is how the people with different perspectives about it seem to talk past each other. One side seems to discount anyone’s fears about being downtown. The other side discounts the other’s want of a vibrant, real and therefore not necessarily clean and refined downtown.

I think one of the reasons for this is how each frames downtown. What context they put the oldest part of Olympia into.

1. For people who fear downtown, their context is literally other places they could go to buy things. The newish commercial westside. Lacey. Commercial area of Tumwater or Hawks Prairie. These areas also have bookstores, movie theaters and restaurants. They’re convenient because there is ample free parking and people know what they’re getting.

Downtown on the other hand is inconvenient and vibrant to the point of unknowing. You can’t know what to expect, so you choose a more convenient option. There are plenty of places to go that aren’t downtown, so they just go there.

And, when it comes time to think about downtown at all, the easiest thing to go to are the reasons not to go there at all.

2. For people who love downtown, they also think about it in context of the extreme local options. But, they also think about it in terms of the regional. Seattle and Portland are two remarkably great cities. And, are a lot of which Olympia strives to be, but on a more local scale. Downtown Olympia (and its nearby west and east side institutions) define Olympia for folks who like downtown. Olympia is the quirky little artsy city because we have what we have downtown. This is true even though the combined acreage of downtown and nearby neighborhoods is a small fraction of the North Thurston urban area.

These people are literally seeing different places.

Olympia needs a lot of things in regards to history and knowing itself

If I was invited to the historic meeting of historians, I think I would’ve had something to say.

And, this is it: we do need a lot of things in terms of communicating and preserving our history here. And, a museum would do a lot of things. But, I’m not sure it’s the biggest problem we have. Or, rather, the idea with the most potential.

There are at least two other things that I think should enter the discussion at the same level. 1) A new library in Olympia and 2) much more dedication and funds towards bringing public what historic resources are available.

Mostly my concern for a new library is sharpened by my experience on the Timberland Library board (which operates the current Olympia library as part of a five county system). Our library was out-dated as soon as it was built in the late 1970s. And, since then we’ve only had one serious try at replacing it.

I love the idea of museums, but there is no reason at all a museum (and archive for that matter) couldn’t be part of a new, larger Olympia library.

That said, buildings are buildings and knowledge is knowledge. If I had $1 million to spend on Olympia history today, my first stop would be expanding electronic resources available to people who write about history.

Most notably, I’d spend whatever I’d have to of that $1 million to cracking open the Olympian archives (and whatever other newspapers have been digitized) for public use. Most publicly available newspaper archives drop dead after 1922 (after which copyrights can be enforced). But, it is possible for libraries to open up newspaper archives to their patrons.

The Seattle Public Library was able to do this with the Seattle Times archive a few years back. And, at least to me, that one resource has been invaluable. Applying what are usually hard to access newspaper to word searchable archives in incredibly useful. The bias of an individual newspaper notwithstanding, a daily ticktock of the activities of a community, searchable via computer? Now, that would open history to a community.

Then build me a new library. Then build me a museum (if you couldn’t fold it into the library).

A US Open Cup blowout and a dream of one big league around here

I was on hand for about 65 minutes of the 5-2 blowout of FC Tacoma 253 by the much better organized Kitsap Pumas. Enough about the US Open Cup being the real US Open.

What I want to talk about is the one big league.

I sat in the back of the stands at Mt. Tahoma High School. To the far right, at the other end of the stands, most of the Kitsap Pumas fans gathered. I was surrounded by a dozen or so folks obviously connected to the FC Tacoma organization. Then, way down the other end of my row sat a lonely fellow with yet a third team, standing out in his South Sound FC Shock track suit.

None of these three teams, though representing roughly the same level of American soccer, play in the same regional league. The Pumas play in the Premier Development League, where youngish and collegians play during the summer. And, both SSFC and Tacoma 253 play in different leagues that represent the high level end of things, the Evergreen Premier League and the National Premiere Soccer Leagues. The EPL(WA) has a more independent and homegrown flavor.

This is a lot of complexity in what should be a pretty simple thing. Back in the day, like in the 1960s and 70s, there was only one big high level amatuer/semipro soccer league in Western Washington.

Just like the formation of an independent indoor soccer league and the machinations of various soccer teams indoors, the existence of three outdoor leagues covering the same geography speaks to something. It points to internal league politics that were settled by simply breaking up into different leagues. Because we aren’t forced to live in a unified league system here, we can create whatever leagues we want.

This obviously serves the politics of each owners, they can align themselves with whichever other owners they like or get along with. But, it doesn’t serve the fans. Nineteen or so clubs across three leagues should be able to get together and hammer out some sort of unified league system.

Whether by promotion or relegation or splitting into north/south or east/west divisions, it would be very possible to create some sort of local April to August league around here.

I happen to prefer the home cooked flavor of the ELP(WA), mostly because I don’t honestly know why we need national non US Soccer organizations running low-level leagues.

Maybe that’s what needs to happen. Maybe these national groups, the NPSL and the PDL need to step away, or US Soccer needs to provide an alternative structure that leagues like the ELPWA could roll into. Something that allows for automatic births into the US Open Cup and the National Amatuer Cup.

But, something that brings these teams together and serves the interest of fans is much needed. Even though Kitsap thrashed Tacoma, there is simply not enough difference between the teams to justify totally different league systems between them.

Local Treasures (Olyblogosphere for May 11, 2015)

1. Man, you want to talk about local treasures? Your Daily Hour With Me is a local treasure.

2. David Raffin is pretty awesome. For a local treasure. I really like his books. But, I didn’t notice recently he’s been upping the post count on his blog. And, this is a recent one.

3. Common theme going on here. Local Treasures, David Scher Water is one as well. He’s also raising money (and knowledge) for a new book.

4. Lastly. Olymega. Man, what a treasure. These folks are also coincidently raising money.

When was the last gray wolf shot in Thurston County?

Wolves are on their way back in Western Washington.

At one point in our past, wolves roamed the place we now call home. Certainly Thurston County was on the edge of where these big dogs roamed, but obviously there were some that roamed down the Black Hills from the Olympics.

The last wolf pair was shot in the Olympics in 1938. That was the absolute end of wolfs in Washington until very recently.

But, as far as I can tell, wolfs came to an end in Thurston County maybe a few decades before. The last record I can find of a wolf being shot here was in 1909:

Joe Easterday came back home from a hunting trip that year, ranging from the Black Hills down to Oyster Bay. Among the dozens of animals he and his friends shot was a “timber wolf.” He pointed out that he likely would have stayed out longer, but the number of animals he had bagged was just too many to lug around.

Plus, Joe’s body had literally given out:

He says he would have been still in the woods if it was not for the fact that has shot so much that his arm is swollen and his fingers have increased to such a size that he can no longer pull the trigger. He visited a doctor to have his arm and hand attended to and while here will have his clothes padded so that his shoulder and side will not get black and blue in the future from the recoil of the weapon.

The expanding human footprint, plus “varmint hunts” and other likewise less than nice ways to say predator extermination programs, did the wolves in.

A notice for a varmint hunt in the 1911 Olympian listed the points given out by the Thurston County Association for the Protection and Propagation of Game and Game Fish. Two teams worked from May 1911 to February of the next year. The top hunter of either group would get $20, with lesser prizes for second and third. The losing team would throw a party for the winning side.

If you shot a cougar, your team would get 1,000 points. A wolf, 750 and likewise for a coyote. A fisher would get 500 points. And, last on the list of a dozen animals and their corresponding points, was the blue jay. That would get you 75 points for your team.

From the Morning Olympian, October 1909:

Just in case you’re wondering, I’m very pro-hunting. Very pro-killing animals for food. And, sport for that matter. Food is a higher moral calling though.
That said, I’m also pro-eating chocolate cake. But, no one should eat so much cake, or hunt so many animals, they literally have to go see a doctor about it.

Quick survey of a possible book: Cascadia Rising, how the far corner of the United States is actually taking over America (in response to Dixie Rising)

I should probably buckle down and read Dixie Rising, which seems to be a pretty interesting book. If only because it struck me as a political artifact of the pre-9/11 political writing in America. That stuff that wanted to drag the new Republicanism against the New Leftism, Clinton vs. Gingrich, that kind of stuff that crescendoed with Bush v. Gore, but seems so out of place today.

Anyway, the book (from what I can tell from skimming it a half dozen times) picks apart Southernism and looks at how it was infecting the U.S. back in the mid-90s. To get what I’m getting at, this survey of the book seems like a decent enough look.

Of course, in Dixie Rising, the author uses locations to illustrate his larger regional and national points, so I’ll try to do the same thing here.

1. South Lake Union and the Big Sort

This is the cutting edge of the technological wave that has crested and crashed along the west coast for years. New cancer research, new tech centers deep in urban Seattle bring yet again another wave of tech immigrants to Cascadia. This isn’t just a new decade, new well-educated immigrant rush to our region, this is the next wave of the Big Sort. The Big Sort has been the defining political and demographic trend in the last 50 years and its razors edge right now is South Lake Union in Seattle.

2. Crescent City and the Nones

Crescent City isn’t the least religious community in the United States. That award goes to Seneca Falls, NY (According to the 2010 US Religion Census. But, this small city on the far southern edge of Cascadia, isolated against the Pacific is the least religious community in the least religious part of the country. The Cascadians have never had much need for religion, and this trend is starting to creep across America.

3. Grants Pass and Scientific Denialism

Ugh. This is literally a dumb trend that I wish would go away. But, anti-vaccination activists are at a high tide in Grants Pass. But, it is more than anti-vaccine. It is an anti-science thing, anti-authority is more like it. From this one place, we can look at how science, government and authority is challenged in Cascadia.

4. Portland and the Sport of the Internet

As a passionate Sounders fan, I hate to highlight the Portscum Timbers in any way. But, for this narrative, I’ll have you know I am nothing but fair. But, the Sport of the Internet must be highlighted. From what is literally the third level of hell, we can see how American soccer fans found each other before old style media even took the sport seriously. That nowadays it isn’t about the media letting you know something is good, its about you knowing something is good and finding other people who think the same way.

5. Olympia and the DIY Platinum Record

DIY culture is a massive part of what makes Olympia itself to most people who don’t live here. Ben Haggerty is from Seattle, but he went to school at Evergreen. Likewise, for Kurt Cobain, I’d argue Olympia was much more important than Seattle. So, much like soccer making itself big and religion making itself small. Culture in Olympia and Cascadia finds itself, and sometimes doesn’t do shit. Other times it spawns The Heist.

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