Voices from the Past


An oral history from David Coy

You know [as a boy] we’d come around in a skiff, and we’d climb up the anchor chains on these sailing ships and get right up on the bowsprit and jump. That was probably back around ‘32, ‘34, something like that. We had a houseboat and my dad would pull it with a boat, and we’d come into the moorage and hook up the water and put the clamp on, twist the wires together, and boom we’re in business. And we’d stay wherever, and we’d move again.

An Oral History from Steve Greaves

We share the houseboat with ducks, geese,and herons. It faces east and the mornings are beautiful. Then the seasons change. You have these times in the summer on beautiful, hot, Sunday afternoons, Portage Bay is just filled with pleasure boats, canoers, kayakers, and little sailboats and that’s great fun, but then there are those gray, drizzly mornings in November and February where you are all alone and there’s nobody else but there, and those are beautiful too. I’m really fond of those. So the cycles of living on the lake just kind of get engrained with you.

An Oral History from Richard Amberson

I was a teenager at the time of the war and in Lake Union was a beautiful, large, four-masted sailing ship, which was interned throughout the course of the war. Its name was the Fantome. It was at anchor in Lake Union for many, many years until after the war it was towed away... was the highlight of Lake Union in those days.

An Oral History from Sophie Fry Bass

When I was a little girl, I first saw Lake Union surrounded by giant trees. There were deer runs and bear trails, and my parents warned me of cougars that lay on the branches of firs and cedars. I heard the cry of a cougar one night, and it sent chills racing over me.

An Oral History from Emily Inez Denny

When Seattle Was A Village the game was not then all destroyed; water fowl were numerous on the lakes and bays and the boys of the family often went shooting. Rather late in the afternoon of a November day, the two smaller boys, taking a shotgun with them, repaired to Lake Union, borrowed a little fishing canoe of old Tsetseguis, the Indian who lived at the landing, and went to look at some muskrat traps they had set.

It was growing quite dark when they thought of returning. For some reason they decided to change places in the canoe, a very ticklish thing to do... the boys nearly drowned but were saved.

An Oral History from Tom Sandry

When the streetcar turned west on 34th, I would usually see a couple of ships tied up at the docks along Northlake Way, near the barrel factory. When the streetcar turned to cross the Fremont bridge, on our left, there was this huge screaming sawmill, Bryant Lumber Company.

The streetcar followed Westlake at a rapid 35 mile-an-hour clip, heading south along Lake Union. At the first bend of Westlake, I’d see Able’s Dock on the left, which is still there under another name.

The Lake Union streetcar continued around a bend, and looking out on the lake, I remember seeing 40 ships anchored out there, the wooden ships left over from World War I.

So we continued on down in the streetcar... and there would be the glowing fires in the sloping side of Queen Anne Hill – the ovens of the Seattle Brick Company... When the furnace doors were swung open, you could see men shoving pallets of new clay bricks in there.

And then finally, on the left side at the southwest corner of the lake, there was another giant, screaming sawmill... I could see the huge headsaw sticking out the end of those red-painted buildings. We’d see the logs coming up out of the water, slowly, towed up a ramp by a steampowered endless belt, and they’d come into the headsaw. We’d see the first cut, and then they went inside to the bandsaws...



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