Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Northwest Living Taste Now & Then Sunday Punch


Batting a Thousand
Arriving at a milestone rouses the pleasure of searching memories

In 1919 the five-star corner where Westlake Avenue originates from the intersection of Pike Street and Fourth Avenue was considered the modern center of the city and so the proper place for celebrating the homecoming of servicemen returning from World War I.

IT IS GRATIFYING but not particularly draining to type out "1,000." For a reporter with a daily beat, 1,000 articles may be delivered in a frantic four or five years. But for this weekly columnist my 1,000th article, and the 999 before it for that matter, have been approached at a more leisurely pace. It has taken about seven months short of two decades to create a thousand "Now and Thens." Now thicker and grayer, I'm moving at a more leisurely pace, too.

What hasn't changed much is the format of the column. The scholarly name for the convention I've used from the beginning is "repeat photography." In practice, it means I've gotten to double the already pleasing practice of searching for old photographs I fancy by returning to the place from which the original photographer took the "then" and repeating it with my "now." In playing this game of hide-and-seek I have become acquainted with many more than 1,000 folks. Practically every one of them has pointed me in the right direction.

In the nearly two decades between 1982 and 2001, there have been big changes in the two blocks seen here from the southeast corner of Pike Street and Fourth Avenue. Across Pike Street, Rivkin Jewelers left in 1997 after 50 years on the ground floor of the Seaboard Building. Owner Herb Rivkin, who turned 70 that year, decided to take up golfing again. Across Fourth, the classical facade of the old Colonial Theater has been replaced with the modern facade of Borders Books. Around the corner, Westlake Mall has been developed; Pine Street closed and then reopened to traffic.
For the 1,000th "then" I have chosen my own "now" that appeared with my first column on Sunday, Jan. 17, 1982. There I titled the historical photograph - also reprinted here - "Seattle's Own Regiment, The 63rd Comes Home." I identified the date, March 12, 1919, and the occasion, the end of a mid-afternoon parade by the 63rd Coast Artillery returning from World War I. Since the original - borrowed from the University of Washington Northwest Collection - included no caption, I had to search the historical scene for internal evidence. Although easy to find, the discovery was still exciting. The name Gladys Brockwell appears far left, on the overhead sign of the Colonial Theater. On the day of the parading local heroes, her film, "The Forbidden Room" was completing its four-day run at the Colonial.

Tougher to find than Gladys Brockwell has been the identity of the blonde (probably) espresso barista holding a copy of the 1919 scene on the right of the "now"-turned-"then." I failed. However, if someone else succeeds in identifying her I will join both for a cup of clam chowder on my dimes! Coffee sometimes upsets my locally heterodox tummy.

The 1982 photograph actually dates from 1981. I photographed it for an exhibit I titled "Now, Then and Maybe." With Seattle Times columnist Erik Lacitis as my go-between, Pacific editor Kathy Andrisevic agreed to try out the "repeat" convention - dropping the "maybe" - for a few issues. She must like it, for I am still around. (Only now while reminiscing does it occur to me that with my editor I am the lone Pacific regular from 1982 - although she works five days a week.)

Since 1982 only five assistant or associate editors have read my copy. They are Larry Anderson, Ginny Merdes, Molly Martin, Richard Zahler and most recently Kathleen Triesch Saul. Writers with leaping imaginations are often fearful of editors and their fetters. I have been often blessed by their gentle grounding. Every one of them has helped my writing. I also have a "readers corrections" file that, while not stuffed, is full.

Another pleasure of this work has been my association with heritage groups and other historians. When I began my study of regional history in the early 1970s, the people who gave their full time to the subject could be counted on the right hand of a careless sawyer - about 2. Now we are legion. The vitality of the Museum of History and Industry is inspiring, and the building online encyclopedia of Seattle and King County History at is exhilarating and a great boon to both teachers and toastmasters.

Finally, I should note that I am - I hope - an advertisement for government support of the arts. Although I no longer remember what the acronym "CETA" stood for, in the early 1970s I was given a monthly federal CETA stipend - administered through the Seattle Arts Commission - to research local history with the intent of producing a film. While it took me nearly 20 years to produce the video "Seattle Chronicle," I must thank Richard Nixon for getting me started. Since then I have written a few books as well. The years have not been so leisurely after all.

Vol. 1 and a new edition of Vol. 3 of Paul Dorpat's books, "Seattle Now & Then" are $19.95 each from Tartu Publications, P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.


Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Northwest Living Taste Now & Then Sunday Punch home
Copyright © 2001 The Seattle Times Company