Monday, August 22, 2011

The Girl and the Fish

Washington State Historical Society, Asahel Curtis Negative Collection
The photograph has occupied an important wall in every place I’ve lived over the past 30 years.  For most of that time, I did not know that the woman is Eleanor Chittenden, the daughter of Hiram Chittenden, Seattle District Engineer for the Corps of Engineers and after whom the locks on the Lake Washington Ship Canal are named.
It is August 1, 1907.  Eleanor’s jacket, neck sash and straw hat maintain a coolness that pushes through the years.  She is on the very first annual outing held by the cool, new club, The Mountaineers, organized just a year earlier.
The fish is a steelhead – maybe 15 pounds – which she has just picked up from the rock on which she stands.  The photo seems an afterthought of the photographer, Asahel Curtis, one of the founders of the Mountaineers.  The reel of the bamboo fly rod has been put away, perhaps just recently, and before the rod is broken down, Curtis asks Eleanor to hold the fish and the rod and pose by the side of the river, the Elwha, soon to become the first river in Washington state to be dammed, the first of the many dams that will follow.  In June of this year, the power at the Elwha Dam was turned off and the river behind it allowed a more normal flow in preparation of the dam’s demolition over the next three years.

University of Washington
Special Collections

So many characters have come together in this picture.  Let’s start with the photographer, Asahel Curtis.  This photograph is one of 60,000 or so that he took over his career, photographing literally everything that happened in the Puget Sound until his death in 1940.  Overshadowed by his brother, Edward, whose obsession with the photography of Native Americans made him famous, Asahel was a good businessman and a promoter and no slouch with the camera either.  No boat launching, no new train service was complete without Asahel Curtis lugging his tripod past the parked cars of the guests. He was once the official photographer of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. 
He was a practical guy and a joiner.  He and others saw value and pleasure in promoting the natural wonders of the region so they formed The Mountaineers in 1906.  It’s hard to imagine anyone as influential in the development of the Mount Rainier National Park.  He was chair of its advisory committee from 1911-1936 and its chief guide in 1917.  He wanted everyone to see it and worked for a system of roads through the park that would allow them to see its wonders.

US Corps of Engineers

Another person contributing to the aura of this photograph is Brigadier General Chittenden, whose career in the Corps included the construction of the Port of Seattle and the connection of Lake Washington and the sea, accomplishments enough.  However, after graduating from West Point, he worked on plans for the Missouri River system and became engaged in the creation of Yellowstone Park, designing its road systems, bridges and the stone arch at its Northern entrance. 
Along the way, he wrote the definitive history of Yellowstone and later, an admired history of fur trading in the west.  The lush gardens at the locks serve to remind us of an engineer’s softer side.  At the end of his career, he served as President of the Port of Seattle.  

Olympic National Park
Lurking near the photograph, three years away and downriver, is the Elwha Dam, built to supply electricity to nearby sawmills and, ultimately, to a Crown Zellerbach paper company.  Built illegally by the Olympic Power Company -- state law required fish passage -- it blocked prodigious runs of salmon numbering 500,000 which included a race of very large Chinook Salmon. 
Olympic Power cut corners on the cost of the dam.  As they began to fill the dam, the lower part of it blew out, destroying the houses on the Lower Elwha Reservation near the river’s delta. 

Crown Zellerbach began the effort to relicense the dam in the late sixties/early 70s and finally had to confront its responsibilities to a more observant citizenry.  Over time, the idea of removing the dam along with its upriver neighbor dam Glines Canyon developed powerful allies, among them Michigan Congressman John Dingell, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and a fisherman.
In 1996, a Record of Decision was signed stating that dam removal was the preferred alternative.  Fifteen years of environmental work and preparation followed before the generators were turned off last June.  The dams will be gone in 2014.
Eleanor is 15 in this photograph.  She was popular, showing up frequently in the society pages with her friends at the Pantages Theater, or, in 1913, christening the new ferry, Leschi.  There she is again with the announcement of her engagement to James Bell Cress and then her marriage, September 14, 1916, at the Chittenden home.
Top row, Hiram Junior and Eleanor, bottom row
Nettie Chittenden, Theodore and General Chittenden
Corps of Engineers
Like Eleanor’s father, Cress was a West Point graduate and was a lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers.  Cress’ father and General Chittenden were classmates at West Point.  At the wedding, Eleanor was given away by her brother, Hiram Chittenden Junior, not her father.  Perhaps it says something about an especially close relationship between them.  He became a professor of engineering at the University of Washington and remained there for 42 years.
After the buffet, the newlyweds left for Banff and Lake Louise, to make their way back to Washington, DC where they would make their home.  Chittenden senior died the following year.
After the wedding, we learn that Cress is sent to France in anticipation of the arrival of American Forces in World War I.  Now a Captain, he is one of the authors of a report on American readiness for war.  That same year, we learn that Eleanor and several Delta Gamma sorority sisters hold a fundraiser in Seattle for Belgian war victims. 

Cherbourg, 1944
United States Army

In 1925, she shows up once again in the society pages of The Seattle Times, in Greensboro, North Carolina, with Colonel Cress and their two young girls, Ethlyn and Lois.  In World War II, Colonel Cress is in charge of the engineering battalion that enters Cherbourg in June of 1944 to restore the devastated and booby trapped port.  The first cargo comes across its docks in eight days.
In 1949, Eleanor and parks writer Isabelle F. Story edit the fifth edition of Hiram Chittenden’s book on Yellowstone Park.  A decade later, the family donates their father’s papers to the Washington State Historical Society and we learn that the last year of his life was spent trying to keep the US out of the European war.
Major General James Bell Cress, United States Military Academy, 1914, First Captain of Cadets, died in 1967 at 77 years in southern California. 
Though Eleanor, who died three years later, is buried at West Point with him, for me, she is always at her post, slowly revealed again, standing on the rock, holding her fish, looking coyly at Mr.  Curtis as the waters behind the Elwha Dam recede and start to think they might form a great river once again. 

Washington Historical Society Curtis Archive
University of Washington Curtis Archive
Popular Mechanics: Tearing Down the Elwha Dam

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mark Hatfield, Saint Bonneville

All of us draw on personal events or experiences to give us our sense of the value and dignity of other people.  These experiences, constantly reprocessed and reconfigured around new information, become the basis of what we actually think and do. 


For Mark Hatfield, the former United States Senator from Oregon who died last week, there were several experiences that we publicly know of and they shaped a person whose high moral purpose was the lead in every obituary.
As a teenager driving his Mom’s car, he hit a pedestrian in Salem, Oregon and the woman died.  As a college student, it became his job to drive African American performers like Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson back from Salem to Portland where they could find a hotel that would rent them a room.  His naval service had him piloting the landing craft that put men on Iwo Jima and Okinawa and, on the return trip, the various parts of them.  Less than a month after the horrible flash, the young naval officer was walking the streets of Hiroshima.  After the war, he was stationed in French Indochina.    
An aloof, seemingly patrician, man, Hatfield's policies were populated by real people he actually saw.  The positions he advanced in his Senate career were rooted in actual images of suffering, death and justice.

At Hatfield’s retirement dinner, President Clinton said that the Senate will now have to hire a Chaplain. 
High purpose did not affect his ability to take care of his home state and the region.  In particular, he protected, shaped and drove the Bonneville Power Administration through crisis and reform. 

Bonneville Power Administration

Every republican president since Eisenhower pledged to get rid of the Bonneville Power Administration and one democrat, Clinton, toyed with the idea of letting it become a victim of deregulation.  Since he took office as a United States Senator in 1967, it was also part of Hatfield’s career to keep the agency intact, headquartered in Portland and responsive to the Northwest congressional delegation.
The Reagan Administration put on a sustained assault against the agency throughout its term of office.  Early on, the Reagan initiatives were poorly timed.  The region had just completed a reform of its own, the Pacific Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Act became law a month before Reagan took power and it apparently resolved a number of questions.  Would the aluminum industry in the Northwest have an assured supply of energy?  Would residential and small farm customers of private utilities share the benefit of Bonneville’s lower rates with customers of public utilities?  What was to be done about the declining fish returns and who would pay?  What role would conservation play across the region and who would pay for it?
It was a grand bargain with a clear regional consensus that seemed to settle a large portfolio of future  Bonneville issues.  However, the collapse in 1983 of the region’s nuclear building program and the subsequent debt default on two of the plants had Bonneville’s future clearly on the line.  Bonneville’s rates shot up to cover its share of the abandoned plants and the financial viability of its defaulting customers was in doubt.

Energy Northwest

Peter Johnson, an Idaho businessman, was then Administrator of Bonneville.  To the public power faithful, Johnson was the man who would try to take down the agency for his boss, Ronald Reagan.  But Johnson was no ideologue and realized that the real boss of his agency was the northwest delegation and, within it, the Senator whose inclinations, committee assignments, seniority and party affiliation relative to the administration was his boss.
With the republicans in control and Senator Henry Jackson relegated to ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the boss in this crisis was Mark Hatfield, chair of the Appropriations Committee.  Together, under withering criticism at home and across the country, Johnson and Hatfield held the organization together during the crisis and found a way to survive. 
A series of laws had been complicating the electricity industry and adding cost for some time.  The National Electric Reliability Council in 1968, the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969, the Clean Air Act in 1970, the Clean Water Act in 1972, the Endangered Species Act in 1973 all added an extra amount of care and diligence to the production and transportation of electricity.  The Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act in 1978 put privately developed electric power on a roll in the country that would peak in the nineties.  The Pacific Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Act in 1980 put conservation in the forefront of energy planning and natural gas went through a series of deregulations that cut its cost.   Congress put electricity on its deregulated path with the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and California began the changes in state law that would put Uncle Market in the driver’s seat by the millennium.
Events gathered.  Shortly before the passage of the Pacific Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Act, House Energy Committee Chairman John Dingell added a word to the bill’s language about fish.  “Protect and mitigate” had long been a staple of the fish language in federal law, but Dingell’s amendment, adding the word “enhance,” would have huge implications for the cost of Bonneville electricity. 
Coincident with the power act was the publication of author Bruce Brown’s book about how dams had destroyed the magnificent salmon runs on the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula and how hatchery fish were a dangerous innovation crowding out the precious wild stocks that ultimately would save the biological diversity of Northwest salmon.  Mountain in the Clouds was a kind of Silent Spring moment, connecting the dots of Dingell’s “enhance” with Brown’s concept of “wild” and the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.
As the decade of the nineties began, Bonneville was trapped in a cycle of growing debt propelled by higher costs.  Salmon enhancement had become a small industry in the Northwest.  The debt in 1993 was $16.3 Billion and was 96% of the agency’s total assets.  BPA was a couple of bad water years away from losing its low cost advantage and having customers with a choice choose another provider.  In 1992 and 1993, BPA’s costs exceeded revenues by $600 Million.   More than half its revenue was directed toward debt service.  In fact, in 1996, the wholesale electricity market was a better choice than BPA, a first. 


Fortunately for Bonneville, Hatfield was back as the Chairman of Appropriations in 1995 and provided the leadership to ward off a potential calamity.  Hatfield helped the agency cap its salmon enhancement costs and refinance much of its Treasury debt, stabilizing its finances.  Hatfield retired after his term was over in 1996.
Hatfield’s retirement would mark the close of a period where the Northwest had a particularly strong position in the national legislature. Speaker of the House Tom Foley was not elected in 1993, Senate Finance Committee Chair Bob Packwood resigned in 1995 and Hatfield retired in 1996.
Hatfield’s efforts to protect Bonneville were not his passion but his duty.  But Bonneville is grateful to have had his confident judgment even if it didn’t have his heart.

1994 GAO Report on Bonneville's Financial Condition
Live Better Electrically, 1957

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thomas Jefferson Hampson, Prisoner of War

Thomas Jefferson Hampson returns this week to recount his experiences as a soldier in the Civil War.  In 1861, he joined the Union Army after the shelling of Fort Sumter and he and his friend were sent to Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania to be outfitted and organized into Company A of the 4th Regular Cavalry. 
His unit was sent West to northern Missouri where it fought its way through the state and, in early August, were camped around Springfield, Missouri, in the southwest corner of the state. 
On August 10, 1861, Hampson and his unit followed Nathaniel Lyons, who would that day become the first general officer to be killed in a Civil War battle, to a place called Wilson's Creek.

The death of Lyons
National Park Service

By eleven o’clock that morning, there were 2500 casualties on both sides and the Union Armies withdrew North and East to a town called Rolla, and the Rebel Army claimed Springfield.

Hampson wrote about the war some fifty years later in Bonanza, Colorado, near where he made a little money mining silver after his tugboat business in Pensacola, Florida had failed.  He did meet Elmira Knapp in Pensacola, and they raised four boys.

His unpublished memoir is a way for us to offer our respect for the hard times and sacrifices that characterized America in the great Civil War.  Hampson’s granddaughter, Mildred, was my Mom. 
We last heard from TJ Hampson when he was in the basement of the Greene County Courthouse with a burial party coming to take away the dead bodies stored there, including, by mistake, his own.  As they went to move him, someone saw him blink and his status improved from that of a dead man to a badly wounded prisoner of war. 
He doesn’t get very specific about his wounds except to say that his ribs were broken and sticking out of the skin on his chest.   He also tells us that the tail of his shirt was cut off to bandage a wound on his leg.  It was in this condition he surveyed a room with no furniture and a floor strewn with dead, dying and seriously injured men.

Springfield, Missouri, 30 days after its capture by Union
Son of the South
Unfortunately, the courthouse no longer stands.  Three days after Springfield was re-taken by the Union Army on October 25, 1861, a deranged man who had been imprisoned there set it afire and it burned down. 

Unlike the other episodes I’ve shared, I had to edit this piece some, mainly for length.  But I’ve also edited for redundancy.  Unlike other passages of his memoir, Hampson repeats himself in this section frequently, as if he had to write it down again just so he could believe what happened to him in the summer of 1861. 
Thomas Jefferson Hampson, Prisoner of War in Springfield, Missouri
“I was in a most wretched state”
The hospital was in a court house, a sort of impromptu affair, destitute of beds or cots or any other necessaries.  Our wounded were laying around the floor destitute of any covering and the treatment we received at the hands of those confederates was cruel in the extreme.  All medical stores intended for our wounded had been taken by the Confederates for their use, and many a poor wounded soldier’s life could have been saved with humane treatment and proper care, but the Johnnie Rebels were not troubling themselves about our comfort.
Words are inadequate to describe our suffering.  Rebels were allowed to come in and abuse and insult us in a most brutal and cowardly manner.  How I ever came out of that trying ordeal is one of the mysteries of life.  A hard floor for a bed, a piece of rag carpet for covering, a single garment for a shirt, with an abbreviated tail as some kind and thoughtful friend had used the appendage for a bandage for my leg.  Lying on the hard floor caused bed sores on my hips; only one surgeon was left to attend to the several hundred wounded, and my turn to be examined by that functionary came around about ten days after I was brought to the hospital.
The broken and splintered ribs were protruding through the skin, and taking everything into consideration, I was in a most wretched state.  As we had not ether or chloroform in the hospital, all operations were performed without the aid of those essential pain killers and those who had the misfortune to come under the surgeon’s knife had to grin and bear the pain as best he could. 
About three weeks after the battle, the hospital stores were allowed to come through the lines and after that the wounded fared much better, but to many a poor fellow that had answered the last roll call and lay out in the lovely field used for a burial ground – those medical stores were of no use to him. 
After a month of existence in that living hell, I was able to move around on a pair of crutches that a comrade made me.  My wounds were doing nicely, and I felt as if I would pull through all right. 
“A stylish suit of clothes...a rebel coward”
A lady who lived in Springfield took pity on my situation in the way of clothing and concluded that I could have a suit regardless of looks and general fit.  Her husband was a Union man, and a Captain of our service.  She often visited the hospital and did all in her power to alleviate our sufferings.  She rigged out an old cast-off suit of her husband’s; it was not a handsome or even a stylish suit of clothes, but under the circumstances, it was a welcome gift, and I was proud of it as if it had been made out of broad cloth and cost a hundred dollars.
About this time the government, on hearing of the condition the hospital was in, managed to furnish us with beds and bedding.  After that, we were quite comfortable in the way of sleeping accommodations, but that same favorable change caused a terrible disaster to befall me as I slept in my bed that first night.  I had taken my beloved suit of clothes off and laid them on the foot of my bed, and when I awoke in the morning they had disappeared, vanished!!!
We had no protection from the authorities; anyone was allowed to come in the hospital and say and do as they pleased.  If it suited their fancy to mistreat the helpless prisoner, it was their privilege to do so, and no one to say “nay.”
A big burley Rebel came in to our ward and made all kinds of insulting remarks.  I seemed to attract his attention probably by my utter helpless condition and he came up near and called me a “damned Yankee.”
In return, I called him “a rebel coward.”
Drawing back his foot he gave me a kick in the side making the blood fly from my wounded chest.  Then drawing a huge knife and deliberately drew it across my throat, saying that he had a mind to cut my head off.  There I lay helpless, unable to even raise my hand, and that big cowardly brute taking advantage of my condition.  Even to this day if I should ever meet that miserable cur, I would shoot him as I would a dog.  To hear a sickly sentimentalist talk about forgiving your enemies makes me disgusted with the cant of any denomination.
“A feeling of gladness”
An old lady who lived on a farm five miles from Springfield came into the hospital and hearing about my misfortune, came to my cot, where I was taking an enforced siesta, and had quite a long conversation with me; she offered to take me home with her if the prison authorities would not object.  She was the wife of a Union man who was with our army at Rolla; consequently, she was under the ban of the Confederacy.  They owned a large farm and were quite wealthy.
I explained the ridiculous condition I was in owing to the theft of my clothes.  She said when the Rebels had raided her home, they had taken every stitch of wearing apparel of the male persuasion, but she thought she could find some kind of material to make me a pair of pants and a jacket.
The commanding officer made no objection, except his requirement that I give my word of honor not to attempt to escape, which I gave readily as I was only too glad to get away from the hospital.  All of this occurred in the morning and she informed me that she would come after me in the afternoon.
About three o’clock she drove up to the hospital and rest assured I was all ready for the journey.  I went with the joyous prospect of going out in the country away from the scene of suffering and death, away from the pressure of the brutal rebel soldiers, and overbearing guards.  Out in the quiet and beautiful country where we could hear birds sing their sweetest carols and see the flowers and green grass; away from the busy haunts of man, out into nature’s own domain.  A feeling of gladness came over me as I had never experienced before.
When we arrived we were met by an old negro woman, one of Mrs.  Phelps old servants, who had gone away with the others, but had repented her desertion and returned to stay with “Ole Miss” and when she saw me she exclaimed, “Foh de Gawds sakes, Ole Miss – whar’ you get that poo-ah sta’ved boy?”
After supper, Mrs.  Phelps and Aunt Jane held a consultation on the subject of making me some clothes.  The most important item to be considered was to obtain the necessary material.  It was finally determined to cut up one of Mrs.  Phelps old calico wrappers and make a pair of pants and a jacket out of it. 
Now, Mrs. Phelps was anything but a seamstress when it came to cutting and fitting a pair of pants.  She was at a loss at how to commence.  Aunt Jane had no experience in that line but was full of suggestions, yet could not put them into any practical use.  However, she was to do the measuring act and getting a string, she put one end on my foot and the other half way up under my arm.  I suggested that she was getting them too long.  “If dey’s too long honey, you can roll ‘em up – got plenty of caliker to make ‘em long.”
The next day about supper time the suit was ready for delivery – such a suit as it was.  I don’t know whether I will live a thousand years or not, but if I do, I will never forget that pair of pants and jacket.  The pants were simply two long bags, the coat was a conglomeration of gorem (sic), and with a draw string in lieu of a waist band.  The buttons were a job lot of odds and ends.  They were lined with some kind of white material and looked very much like the remnants of a wrecked white skirt.
As they did not understand the mysteries of putting in pockets, they simply left slits in them like pants for a kid.  Aunt Jane, in explaining the absence of pockets said, “You all got no use for pockets, honey – for if you had anything to put in them, the Rebels would steal it.  We left’ dem slits, honey, so you could scratch yo’self.”
At this time my weight was about eighty-five pounds – almost a skeleton, and anything would fit me. 
Words would fail in their mission should I attempt to describe my happiness while a guest of good Mrs.  Phelps;  she did everything in her power to make me feel comfortable, everyday some little act of kindness placed me in her debt.  My wounds were healing nicely, and I was in clover. 
"Back among my companions in misery"
The weeks passed away pleasantly; on the last day of our stay at the farm, Mrs.  Phelps and myself were just settling down to dinner when we heard the tramp of horses.  Upon going to the door, we discovered a troop of Rebel Cavalry coming up to the house in command of a sergeant who dismounted at the door, walked into the house, walked up to Mrs.  Phelps and told her he had an order from General Price placing her under arrest.
She asked him what the charge was and he told her that it had been reported that she was harboring Union men who were on their way to join the Union Army.  Well, here was trouble indeed.  We were allowed to eat our dinner, then we were all taken to Springfield.  I was placed back into my old quarters; Mrs.  Phelps was sent through the lines and joined her husband at Rolla.  I was back among my companions in misery.

Next:  Escape!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Marion Anthony Zioncheck

The recent erratic behavior of two congressmen, New York's Weiner and Oregon's Wu, calls to mind poor Marion Anthony Zioncheck, the Congressman from Seattle's First District, a manic depressive and alcoholic who hurled himself, in 1936, from the Fifth Floor of the Arctic Building in downtown Seattle, hitting the sidewalk 20 feet in front of his newlywed wife, then sitting in their car. 

Congressman Marion Zioncheck on the left,
Senator Lewis Schwellenback in the middle
and King County Prosecutor Warren Magnuson.
There were always signs of his manic depression, but they never burned brightly enough for people to call the fire department.  He was certainly a striver.  Born in Poland, he came to the US as a three year old and lived first in Chicago, then moved to the Northwest.  He attended high school in Olympia, entered the University of Washington after but had to leave because he ran out of money.  Many logging camps, fishing boats and tramp steamers later, he was able to re-enroll, at the age of 25, where he supported both his studies and his parents. 

Mayor Frank Edwards
UW Special Collections
He was a natural at campus politics.  He chaired the student election committee and introduced voting machines.  He ran numerous successful campaigns, including his own, as Student Body President.  He took on the jocks over the issue of whether the Athletic Pavilion or the Student Union Building would be built first.  A number of jock zealots roughed him up and threw him into Lake Washington.  In 1928, a year ahead of Warren Magnuson, he graduated from the UW Law School and, after practicing law, an opportunity rose to return to the political life he loved, when he was asked to run the 1931 recall of Seattle Mayor Frank Edwards.

Then, both the private utility, Puget Power, and Seattle City Light, the public agency, competed for customers.  Each utility's light poles faced each other across every street in town.  R. H.  Thomson, the great city engineer, had founded the public utility and hired J. D.  Ross to run it.  Ross would become a mythical figure, eclipsing even the great Thomson, but the Seattle City Council was not always worshipping at the Church of Public Power.  One day, with the public power pews less than half full, Mayor Edwards struck, fired Ross and had his Board of Public Works assume control of the utility.

James Delmadge Ross
Seattle City Light
Zioncheck ran a brisk, efficient and brutally successful recall campaign, crushing Edwards.

The story was of such significance that the Seattle Times pledged to announce the results as soon as the polls closed with its air horn -- two long blasts would signal a successful recall, four short ones would mean Edwards survived.

The New York Times, private power to the core, summed it all up this way:

"Mr.  Edwards is out.  Mr.  Ross is restored to utility control.  The power trust has a flea in its ear and the Moscow papers will have a good story."

Mayor Harlin
City of Seattle
A picture in the Seattle Times shows the dweebish city council president, Robert Harlin, now the Mayor, shaking hands with Ross.  The cutline has Harlin saying:   

"The job's all yours."

The populist Zioncheck was a shoo-in for Congress in 1932 and was considered a studious and serious member.  There was no backlash against Roosevelt in the off-year elections -- in fact he built on his '32 landslide in '34 -- and Zioncheck was among the beneficiaries of FDR's considerable coattails and the strong support of the Washington Commonwealth Federation, the liberal to socialist political organization that was powerful in Seattle then.

Zioncheck and Rubye Nix in 1936
WSU Collections
Always a quirky personality, his little quirks became more serious.  He drove his car recklessly, 70 miles an hour up Connecticut Avenue.  He drove onto the White House lawn and sent a package of empty beer bottles and mothballs to President Roosevelt.

He married Rubye Louise Nix, 21, a secretary at the Works Progress Administration.  He described their courtship this way:

"I met her about a week ago then she called me up one night.  She asked me down and so I went down and looked her over.  She was OK."

Rubye noted the "excitement and hubub wherever he goes" and she was "glad to go along with him." 

They couldn't get married in Washington, DC because of a three day waiting period, so they crossed into Maryland where no such statute stood between true love and its fulfillment.  Zioncheck paid for the license fee by borrowing two dollars from the Deputy Clerk, who refused Zioncheck's watch as collateral. 

Their honeymoon started in Puerto Rico where, let's say, they got off on the wrong foot.  He joined a student riot, drove his car through a rich man's gate, bit his driver on the neck and lapped, as a dog, the soup of a nearby diner.  

Spirited by the US government out of Puerto Rico, he and Rubye went to the Dominican Republic where, with a collection of reporters around, he spontaneously invented a new libation, "The Zipper," hair tonic and rum. 

Zioncheck arrested after assaulting
his landlady
On arriving back in DC, more speeding episodes took place, including a scuffle with a police officer.  He called every tenant in a toney Washington, DC apartment building on New Years Eve while looking for a friend.  In Pittsburgh, PA, he visited the Mayor Bill McNair to convince him to run for President.  When the Mayor would not see him, he slept in the Mayor's waiting room.  Taken to a Maryland hospital in a straight jacket, he climbed the fence and escaped back to Washington and assaulted his landlady, who had sent his belongings away from his trashed apartment.

He was in for re-election and out, promising to go into medical care and plunging into a campaign, which is why he was in the Arctic Building, on August 8, 1936, his campaign office of a few days.

Bill Nadeau, Zioncheck's brother in law, agreed to take Rubye and Zioncheck to a labor event.  About six o'clock, he parked the car and went up to get Zioncheck.  He got in the elevator of the Arctic Building and took it to the fifth floor.  The door was locked and a janitor let him in and he saw Zioncheck scribbling at his desk. 

Nadeau gave the Seattle Times this account:

"Marion was sitting at his desk, his coat off, writing a note.  I looked at it and it was about life and a lot of stuff like that.  I said, 'come on kid, forget it!"

Some political banter about the night's event appeared to help Zioncheck and Nadeau got him in his coat and turned to find Marion's hat.  Zioncheck sprinted toward the window as Nadeau dived for his feet.

Mrs.  Zioncheck ran to the body and stayed until she was pulled off it and driven away to their house, where Zioncheck's mother resided at 1209 E.  41st.  Outside, she sat in the car, alone, for several hours until people could figure out where she would stay that night.  A decision had been made that Zioncheck's mother, extremely ill, should not know about these terrible events.

Warren Magnuson was the King Country Prosecutor and had decided to run for Congress when Zioncheck first said he would not seek to retain his seat. 

Magnuson was everything that Zioncheck was not -- a football player at the UW, a joiner, a fraternity guy, a moderate, a person who enforced rules as a county prosecutor.  Despite the differences, he liked Zioncheck, admired his commitment to principle and thought of him as a friend.   

Warren Magnuson with J.  Robert
Oppenheimer in 1945
Magnuson's own account of the Zioncheck's death, given 40 years later, has Zioncheck lying on the street for a lengthy period of time while officials searched for Magnuson.  Magnuson said he had just finished a murder trial of an Alaska Native woman involved in a drunken murder of her partner and, distressed by his responsibilities in the face of this pathetic woman, consumed several drinks and was asleep in a room at the Olympic Hotel. 

The Seattle Times account has none of this, but doesn't specifically say when the Congressman was taken away from the site of his death.

Whatever the facts of Zioncheck's disposal, Magnuson's real career started there, when he became a Congressman and Senator serving 44 years and whose influence in Washinton, DC changed the face of his adopted state of Washington.

What is tragic about Zioncheck, is that his life was as short as Warren Magnuson's career was long.  Marion Anthony Zioncheck was just 35 years old when his life expired on a Seattle sidewalk on the early evening of August 8, 1936.

Rubye in the Center with her sister, Jesse
Stitt, two days after the suicide
Seattle Times
Rubye received $10,000 from the House of Representatives, the equivalent of a year of her husband's salary.  There was some cash from Zioncheck's estate as well and she announced that she would enroll in the University of Washington.

Zioncheck's mother died shortly after and soon a dispute arose between Rubye and Zioncheck's sister over the disposition of assets from the estate.  Sometime in the late winter of 1937, Rubye moved to Hollywood with the intent of becoming an actress.  In April of that year she returned to Seattle and, still newsworthy, let on that she was going to appear in the next Ruby Keeler - Dick Powell film due to start shooting momentarily. 

Unfortunately, the last Keeler-Powell film was done in 1935 and there is no evidence another was either shot or released.  She had changed her name to Lynn Melton by now and there is no mention of her name in the filmographies of either Keeler or Powell. 

The last reference to her I could find was in an International News Service Report from Hollywood, nearly a year to the day of her husband's suicide:

A promotional photograph of Rubye take in 1937
Silver Screen Magazine



— Answering frantic telephone pleas from Mrs. Ruby Zioncheck, who fired one shot thru her bedroom window at a suspected intruder, police today raced to the home of the widow of the late Congressman Marion Zioncheck.  The exclusive residential area in which she resides was thrown into an uproar as radio patrols on two occasions made thorough searches without finding a trace of a prowler.

Mrs. Zioncheck came here under the name of Lynn Melton to enter motion pictures after her husband plunged to death from his Seattle, Wash., office building."

I am betting that the Rubye Louise Wilson, who died in Los Angeles County in 1992 at the age of 77, is the same woman who married Marion Zioncheck, sought her own fame in Hollywood, and carried a gun.