Not sure whom was parading, or exactly when, but the signs provide some clues.
WHILE THE LEAD SIGN at the center of our “Then” photo exhorts one to follow it to Civic Field, I have not, I confess, as yet figured out when these spry workers were marching. The carefully dressed cadre of men — and they are all men, it seems — is heading north on Second Avenue. It is mostly women watching from the curb.
In the historical photo, you can see the street signs for the intersecting Seneca Street holding to the comely light standards on the far left. A Seneca sign also is gripped to the less-ornate pole in the “Now” photo.
It is the other parading signs that give us some clues to the “Then” year. Somewhat hiding behind the “Follow the Parade” sign is another to “Increase Dry Dock Facilities for Seattle.” This was a popular call following World War II. The combination of ships damaged in battle and the thousands of military men returning jobless in 1945-46 made labor’s promotion of dry docks beside the famously calm inland sea of Puget Sound an easy and sensible call.
The next professionally inscribed sign reads, “No More Hoovervilles!” As many readers will know, Hoovervilles were the ordinarily waterfront communities of rigged shacks politically named for the reflective Republican Herbert Hoover, the first president born west of the Mississippi (in Iowa). The lifelong Quaker was inclined to peace but ineffective in battling the first months of the Great Depression that fell during his first year in office, 1929.
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His successor Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs for public works and employment were followed by the employment opportunities connected with World War II and the Puget Sound’s shipbuilding revival. The grandest of the Seattle Hoovervilles sat beside East Marginal Way, west of Seattle’s current sports palaces. It was intentionally burned to the ground in 1941.
Above the “No More Hoovervilles” poster is an illustrated sign showing uniformed men carrying a wartime coffin captioned with the popular wartime truism that soldiers had died “for our right to vote.” The next-to-last-distant sign reads, “for jobs pass the full employment bill.” That refers to Vice President Henry Wallace’s “full employment” proposal that Roosevelt took to and promoted before his sudden death while on vacation in the spring of 1945. The bill was meant to “link management, labor and government into an effort to guarantee as many jobs as necessary for full employment following the war.” The new president Harry Truman’s tagalong was ineffective, and a long menu of postwar progressive bills, including national health and minimum-wage rules, was not to be.
Our last timely clue for this photograph falls from the fate of Civic Field itself. Built in the late 1920s with the city’s new Civic Auditorium and Ice Arena, the field’s roof and timber bleachers were failing by 1946. On Jan. 13, 1946, the city and its schools agreed to cooperate in building a new covered concrete stadium on the same site. Groundbreaking for Memorial Stadium began in late June 1946. It seems possible (perhaps likely) that our photograph was taken sometime in 1945 after Roosevelt’s death, when labor was still invigorated with the hopeful heat of the Full Employment Bill.