Cafes, curio shops and an aquarium with its own orca joined ubiquitous tour boats before and after the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.
INTERMITTENTLY, KODACHROME slides by Lawton Gowey might be expected with this weekly feature. Lawton was a good friend with whom I often compared and shared photographs. He began his clicking with his father before the second World War and continued exploring Seattle with his camera until his death in the mid-1980s. Lawton was both a creator and a collector, and Jean Sherrard’s and my illustrated lectures — what we used to call “slideshows” — are elaborately enriched due to Lawton’s many interests. Lawton took this week’s “Then” photo of Seattle’s waterfront.
Lawton worked as an auditor for Seattle City Light, at the corner of Third Avenue and Madison Street, about five blocks east up First Hill from this Elliott Bay slip between piers 55 and 56 at the foot of Seneca Street. His office was an excellent point from which to keep an eye on the waterfront.
It was Lawton’s helpful practice to consistently and clearly name and date his subjects on the borders of his slides; this one reads, “The Nippon Maru, Pier 56, June 29, 1965.” It was the last full day of the Japanese training barque’s visit to Puget Sound before it returned to Tokyo by way of Honolulu. Captain Isao Kieda, the ship’s master, thanked the 29,849 people (by his count) who had boarded his ship during its stay: “My young cadets have been deeply impressed by your goodwill and kindness.”
Parked in front of the Nippon Maru are two vessels belonging to Lynn Campbell’s Harbor Tours, long since renamed Argosy Cruises. Campbell, self-taught, lectured his passengers on waterfront history, or anything else that came up. Following World War II, he started a tugboat business hauling logs across Puget Sound; it soon developed into the popular showman’s affordable and interpreted floating tours, most of them around Elliott Bay and/or between it and Lake Washington. Campbell’s daughter Charlotte, a wharf rat, was often aboard. She recalled that in the early 1950s, “This was a working waterfront. Train cars backed into docks. The bows of great ships loomed over our heads.” That soon changed.
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By 1965, the year of the Nippon Maru’s visit, Seattle’s waterfront was well into its metamorphosis from traditional maritime work into a midway of cafes like the Cove and import curio shops like Trident — both seen here on Pier 56. Ted Griffin’s Seattle Public Aquarium had opened on the bay end of Pier 56 for the 1962 World’s Fair.
The general scramble to fill the entertainment holes left by the fair when it closed in fall 1962 included the ambitious Griffin’s aquarium, which became home in 1965 to his orca, Namu. Griffin’s convoy pulled Namu, a net-caged killer whale captured in Alaska, down the inside passage to a new pen. Griffin paid for the prized orca out of a gunnysack filled with $8,000 in loose change he had gathered from friends and businesses on the Seattle waterfront. Along the way, news of Namu spread rapidly, and an excited flotilla of naturalists, reporters and others formed, with nothing more pressing on their schedules than to follow a killer whale to Seattle.