Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Those Norwegian boys from Everett and the 1926 Rose Bowl


George Guttormsen  Graduation, 1927
UW Tyee Yearbook
I ran into George Guttormsen a couple of weeks ago while writing about the Central Everett Library, its architect Carl F.  Gould and the events leading up to the firing of University of Washington President Henry Suzzallo in the Fall of 1926 by a Washington state governor who anticipated the Tea Party by nearly 100 years, Everett’s Roland Hartley.

Guttormsen showed up in a Seattle Times article where he was addressing a crowd of 3,000 people, mostly students, who went to president Suzzallo’s house to indicate their support late in the day he was fired by Hartley’s railroading board of regents, October 3, 1926.  Guttormsen spoke at the rally and was identified by the Times as “student body president and captain of the varsity football team.”  I’m a sucker for that combo, so I followed him through time and discovered a kind of Forrest Gump figure – a really smart Forrest Gump figure – whose journey brushes past some amazing events and people in Cascadia.

During the month of December, I have obsessed about the Guttormsen family and the late twenties in Seattle.  It was a time when Seattle's population had consolidated and exploded, its public university was becoming a really good one, and its arts and culture were thriving, though the rest of the country hardly noticed.  But people in Seattle were seeing something they really liked and there was considerable pride in the place they lived.  I have obsessed so much I've turned this piece into a two-part series because it is too long to comfortably read in a single sitting.  The first part starts with the immigration of the Guttormsen family from Norway to America and then Everett, Washington.  It ends 23 years later with one of the great Rose Bowl games ever and the establishment of the University of Alabama and the University of Washington as national football powers.  

There is a big external cast in the Guttormsen story. Let’s start with the real Tarzan, the one selected personally by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the one who looked and talked like Lord Greystoke and, unlike Johnny Weissmuller, didn’t grunt.  Then there is arguably the greatest football player ever to play at the University of Washington, George Wilson, whose skills propelled the university’s football program into the big time and who shared, in 1925, the All-American backfield with Red Grange and Ernie Nevers, matching them stride for stride and maybe a foot or two ahead.  

Guttormsen is closely involved with two of Puget Sound’s best known and most accomplished women writers, one of whom becomes a lover.

We meet the state's greatest high school football team, a team that lost one game in a decade and played a game for a national championship 82 years earlier than this year’s Bellevue High School national championship team.  

George with 1928 broadcast team Walter
Reseberg at left and Arthur Lindsay center
Associated Press
Guttormsen is in at the very beginning of sports broadcasting on the radio in Seattle, the information live, the young law student Guttormsen confidently striding along the sidelines and providing color, analysis and other information to football fans who were used to getting news of their sports events delayed by several minutes or even by a couple of days.  Some of the techniques used in today’s college football  broadcasts were invented by Guttormsen and others like him at the end of the twenties.  

When he ran for student body president, he had as his campaign manager one of the great tactical politicians the state has produced, a man who self-destructed as a widely publicized congressional clown and then as a suicide from the fifth floor of Seattle’s Arctic Building.
 
Geberg in about 1917 on front row left, George with hand
on Geberg's shoulder, Agnes seated right in front row
Geberg Guttormsen Decendents Facebook page

In addition to bumping into so many interesting Cascadia citizens, Guttormsen’s story is about the successful absorption of an immigrant family in Everett, Washington at the beginning of the new, 20th century, an even dozen Norwegians who found their way here and would entertain us, defend us, nurse us, log our forests, catch our fish and make our plywood, paper and airplanes. 


So, let’s start this story with the vessel Carpathia entering New York Harbor from Liverpool in 1903 where George’s dad is the advance man of the Guttormsen journey from Steigen, Norway. The rest of the family stays in Steigen, until Geberg Guttormsen, just into his thirties, has scouted out the new place across the country from New York.

Awaiting word are Gunnar, five years, twins Esther and Ethyl, two years, Andrew, one, wife Agnis (later Americanized to Agnes) and George, our varsity football captain and student body president, in utero. 

Geberg is a blacksmith.  Stepping into the mayhem of Ellis Island and the lower east side docks of New York on June 8, 1903, you can imagine him saying, in Norwegian, something like “I’ve got to get the hell going!” Jeg må få helvete går. His family follows about a year later, George arriving in Everett at six months old.

By 1910, they are living in a house at 1801 McDougall Avenue in Everett, Norwegian immigrant families acoss the street, at 1802 and 1810 and down the street at 1813.  Their playmates are Mathias, Sigret, Carl, Magnus, Belle, Ole, Engveld and Inga, to name a few.  Norway supplied nearly 600,000 immigrants to our country between 1890 and 1910.  Along with North Dakota and Minnesota, Norwegian immigrants had a knack for finding their way to Washington state.

1801 McDougall, Everett, WA
Google Earth
Their house is now across the street from a Key Bank branch and is still standing.  A granddaughter of one of the kids, Eleanor, still lives a block away.  In addition to Gunnar, now 11, and the twins, now ten and Andrew, seven and George, five, Geberg and Agnis have added by 1910 Harold, three and Caroline, five months.  Also, John Westlund, Agnis’ brother, is staying at 1801.  Each Guttormsen is listed by the census taker as speaking English.


The Guttormsen men, about 1916.  The little guy is Leonard,
then George, Harold, "Tip" as Andrew is called, Gunnar
and Geberg
Guttormsen Descendents Facebook
Andrew, George and Harold grew into terrific athletes in a town that worshipped its football team.  It's clear that Gunnar would have been a powerful athlete as well, but he left school after the 8th grade to work and, later, join the Navy and serve on a submarine.  

It’s astounding how good Everett High School football was during the early part of the last century.  Coached by the former Broadway High School player and University of Washington star Enoch Bradshaw, the football teams after 1910 were nearly unbeatable.  By nearly, I mean that they lost only one game in the decade and had a handful of ties.  Everett's 1919 and 1920 teams each played a game against a standout Ohio team on the following New Year’s Day to determine the best high school team in the country.  The 1919 team tied Toledo and the 1920 team beat Cleveland Tech soundly.  They were good, for sure, but great because of George Wilson, as good as any football player the state ever produced.  With Wilson on the field after 1917, the Seagulls were simply ridiculous.  In addition to being undefeated, the 1920 Everett team beat the University of Washington Freshman team 20-0 and the St. Martins College Varsity 17-0.  A 1915 team allowed just six points all season, while scoring nearly 400.    The amazing David Eskanazi, the living memory of Seattle sports, reported on Sportspress Northwest, that the Everett Seagulls had a collective victory margin of 3,001-365 in the incredible Bagshaw decade .

Andrew at Swarthmore
Of course, there then was no official national high school champion, but just like today, there always is a national champion high school team, the title Bellevue claims this year.  George Guttormsen played on that 1920 team as a young, 145 pound reserve quarterback, two years after Andrew went off to play football and track at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. 

A 1928 Seattle Times sports page feature headlined “Guttormsen Brothers Like Variety – Gridiron Kind.”  The piece noted that the last football shoe to drop in the Guttormsen family would be that of Harold, a star on the Everett High School football team of 1925.
 
Harold Guttormsen, UCLA
in 1930
UCLA
He enrolled at the University of Washington in 1927, George’s last UW football season, but was apparently too small, at 150 pounds, to contend for a spot on the freshman team.  He went off to sea for two years and came back a solid 170, but somehow had been drawn toward UCLA’s football program and enrolled there in 1929.  The Seattle Times article had him headed for stardom at UCLA, but while on the roster in 1930, he did not letter and he moved on to life outside of football, living with his sister, Ethel, in Los Angeles, working construction for the LA public schools.  He may have harbored dreams of acting, which he was good at in high school.

A particularly disappointing season for the Huskies in 1921 – punctuated by a 72-3 loss to Cal -- led to the firing of coach Stub Allison after just one season.  Everett’s Coach Bagshaw took over and he brought a new coaching staff that included Tubby Graves as the key assistant.  Husky football fans were delighted to see the change. 

Enoch Bagshaw, 1921 Everett High
School Yearbook, Nesika
“The gridiron outlook for 1922 cheers the heart of every Washingtonian. We have a real coach – a crew of husky material – and the determination to do or die,” the Tyee Yearbook writer gushed.

Bagshaw was the key to attracting George Wilson to the University of Washington. It was likely the number one reason he was hired. Wilson’s brother, Abe, another Everett High School standout, was playing there, but Bagshaw lit the way for Wilson and many other Everett players, including Guttormsen, following Wilson a year later.  In all, seven players from the national high school champions of 1920 went to the University of Washington and they all started as first year varsity players. Players then only had three years of eligibility, but when Wilson ended the freshman purgatory, in 1923, Bagshaw’s team immediately produced.  The 1923 season led to the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, where Wilson led the Huskies to a 14-14 tie against Navy, the victory denied by a “tricky wind” pushing an end-of-the-game field goal three feet to the right. 

George Guttormsen,
1925 Tyee
Actually, George Kicked
Left-footed

Guttormsen joined the varsity in 1924 and the team lost only one game, to the University of Oregon, in a muddy, 7-3 scramble in Eugene where the Ducks only touchdown came when Wilson punted from the endzone, the ball striking the crossbar of the goal posts, sploshing into the end zone mud where an Oregon player covered it for a touchdown.  It cost them another appearance in the Rose Bowl of 1925 which went to Stanford and Notre Dame.  Especially heartbreaking was that Stanford lost to Washington 13-0 in early November of 1925, with our boy Guttormsen returning a punt 70 yards where the Stanford great Ernie Nevers pushed him out of bounds on the Stanford eight.  Nevers hurt his shoulder on the play and did not return.


Walter Camp in 1924
He would die the
following year
Colliers
A highlight the 1924 season, though, was the west coast swing of Walter Camp, one of the inventors of modern football and then the singular arbiter of America’s football talent -- to football then what Robert Parker is to wine now.  Camp’s list of outstanding players each year came to be known as “Walter Camp’s All-Americans” – and he had come to see the great UW Junior George Wilson play a game of football.  The game was against the College of Puget Sound and Camp saw plenty of George Wilson, who scored five touchdowns.  George Guttormsen secured his reputation as a great kicker by booming the ball out of the Loggers’ end zone time and time again.  The score was 96-0 and Wilson was five yards from 102 when he was wrestled down as time expired.

George was an excellent student and deeply involved in the social and political life of the institution.  He liked public speaking and was good at it, of course.  He was planning on being a lawyer.  He liked being a leader.  The fact he was an outstanding football player on one of the great teams in the country proved a useful bow on the package.   

1920 drawing of Husky Stadium
University of Washington Collections
During George’s career at the UW, the campus was experiencing a massive building boom which surfaced a number of political issues.  Which buildings should be built first – those for academics and student life or those for the growing popularity of collegiate games?  Some students, like Marion Zioncheck, thought that athletics were playing too big a role in the capital budget.  Husky Stadium, replaced Denny Field in 1920 and it had a capacity of 30,000.  A lot of games, even those played by the mid-twenties Bagshaw teams, were played before significantly smaller crowds of 8-15,000 people.  When the team would go south and play at Berkeley or Stanford at Palo Alto, the crowds were much bigger and some students thought it was envy, not student interest, that motivated the athletic department.

Marion Zioncheck
UW Student Body President
Tyee Yearbook
Zioncheck, who became the congressman whom Senator Warren Magnuson once called the best political strategist of his day, was deeply involved in campus political life and believed a building should be constructed to support student life sooner than just another building for jocks.   Planning for a building called the Athletic Pavillion, a basketball court known today as Hec Edmundson Pavillion, was underway in the 1922-1925 period and Zioncheck fought it, proposing instead that the student building, today’s Husky Union Building, be constructed first. 

Looking for support, he turned to George Guttormsen, befriended him and served with him on the Board of Control, the student executive council.  He urged Guttormsen to run for Student Body President, ran his campaign and supported his election by successfully advocating for voting machines on campus to make it easier for the sometimes apathetic student body to vote. 

Two years after Guttormsen, Zioncheck became Student Body President and despite his friendship with Guttormsen had a rough time with the jocks and the greeks on campus.  He was once thrown into the campus fountain by a bunch of angry football players and frat rats, a chunk of hair cut off.

He lost the fight over the basketball building which was completed in 1927, 22 years before the Husky Union Building opened in 1949.

Zioncheck went on to lead the recall against Seattle Mayor Frank Edwards in 1928 (Edwards had fired J. D.  Ross, the hero of public power in the Northwest) and won the First District Democratic nomination in 1930 and was elected to Congress in 1932.  Zioncheck killed himself in 1936.

George Wilson runs the ball against Alabama,
1926 Rose Bowl
The 1925 football season ended with the Huskies once again invited to the Rose Bowl.  The Huskies at first voted not to accept the invitation, confirmed it with a second vote but bent to pressure and finally said yes on the third.  It was hard to find a team to play them.  Eastern powers like Dartmouth voted against going and Tulane begged off, saying the Huskies were just too big and fast.  Finally, Alabama voted to play the Huskies for the 1926 Rose Bowl title. 

Huge underdogs, the much ridiculed hicks from the south beat the Huskies 20-19, scoring all their points in the third quarter when George Wilson lay on the sideline, knocked senseless.  The game was a mixed bag for George Guttormsen.  He scored on a 20 yard pass from Wilson, but his usually reliable drop kick failed him, he missed twice, the last hitting the crossbar.

28 second clip shows Guttormsen scoring on a pass from Wilson and then missing the drop kick extra point. Watch him turn away in disgust when the kick hits the bar.

It was, however, a tremendous football game, the first Rose Bowl played by a team from the South and it put football in the South on par with programs across the country.  The Seattle Times called it “The Greatest Thriller” and Times Square was packed to watch the mechanical recreation of the game on the side of the Seattle Times building.  It was the first Rose Bowl broadcast on the radio and cemented the idea that the Rose Bowl was the national championship game -- at least that was what they were saying in Tuscaloosa.

Our post next week will have the movie stars who played in the 1926 Rose Bowl and George's encounters with literature and the law.  We'll also tell you whatever happened to all those Guttormsens.

Documentary on 1926 Rose Bowl
Sportspressnw often has terrific sports history to go with its intelligent sports reporting.
Historylink's essay on George Wilson
Marion Zioncheck's Suicide





Sunday, December 2, 2012

All This and the Everett Public Library Too


I drove up to Everett the other day to spend some time at the little jewel box that is its central library, a space imagined by one of the region's finest 1930s Art Deco practitioners and filled not only with books, but also with wonderful Northwest art and a first rate coffee shop where I met up with Margaret Riddle and David Dilgard.  Margaret is a staff historian at HistoryLink.org who spent a career at the Everett Library and David runs its nifty Northwest Collection.


Historic Everett
The harmonics on this day are particularly powerful.  Nearby the library is the house of Roland Hartley, a penny pinching governor who plotted against the architect who built the Everett Library, Carl F. Gould, forcing him out as the founding Dean of the University of Washington’s School of Architecture in an academic putsch that claimed as well the very top of the university’s leadership, Henry Suzzallo, the school’s popular and effective president.  That evening in October, 1926, three thousand students massed around President Suzzallo's house chanting their support.  

It was Gould who designed and supervised the building of the great, Gothic library on the University of Washington campus now named after Suzzallo.  Nothing at the University of Washington is named after Hartley which seems about right. These reverberations and others are with me as we walk through the terrific library in Everett.

Everett Library
It was a ladies book club that started the path to this library with stops in a book club member’s home, then three rooms in City Hall and finally, in 1905, with a Carnegie Library the industrious ladies of the book club stocked with nearly 3,000 volumes.  

As one of the few soft stops in an otherwise hard town, the library was soon too small and, with a gift of $75,000 from one of the former mill owners, the library board was able to attract some additional funds, $35,000 from the New Deal.  It seemed improbable, but in the middle of the Great Depression they were looking for a designer to create a brand new $110,000 library.  Carl Gould, the most prominent of the state’s architects from the firm Bebb and Gould, was their choice. 

The building today reflects the timing of their choice.  Gould had begun thinking about the design of the Seattle Art Museum in Seattle’s Volunteer Park in 1931 and began working up ideas for the Everett Library a few months after.  Like the art museum, the library design features gentle curves on the outside of the structure and in internal spaces that play off the straight lines of its basic rectangular shape.  

A later renovation and expansion in 1992 did a wonderful job of both restoration and new construction and provides an additional entrance, one that leads to the coffee shop and from there to the front hall of the building, through the reading room and its arching ceiling and then to a lovely terrace overlooking Gardner Bay.

Gould loved art and tried to create a culture in the design of his buildings where art was incorporated throughout.  Often he did decorative pieces himself and placed them on his buildings.  The Everett Library has clearly adopted that culture and art is fully incorporated into the building both in its original design and its wonderful 1992 expansion.  

Many of Gould's designs have a Christmas tree quality to them, simple squares or rectangles creating the structure with decorative touches popping out of the simplicity.  This lovely aluminum representation of a book is a piece done by Virginia Paquette and is part of the renovation and expansion and hangs above the new entrance. Gould would have been highly pleased by it.

Many of the University of Washington buildings designed by Gould and Bebb contain decorative work done by Dudley Pratt, an artist and teacher at the University of Washington.  Gould asked Pratt to decorate the main hall of the Everett Library and Pratt chose the history of books as his theme.  Originally anticipated to be carved from wood, the wood pieces did not stand out enough against the oak panels of the entrance hall so Pratt turned to a shiny metal called Britannia that is similar to pewter though more pliable. 

There are four panels.  One is of two Stone Age men carving on boulders.  The person on the left is diligently creating creating pictographs on a stone, using a deer horn as a stylus.  On the right, the second man is rubbing a sharp stone over the boulder.  Pratt writes:

“He is absent-mindedly rubbing his stone back and forth, only half interested, having nothing better to do.  Many anthropologists believe that this is the way that literature got its start.”

A second shows two Egyptians with papyrus scrolls, an eagle perched between them.  Pratt comments:

“One scribe, plump and middle-aged has succumbed to a comfortable job; the other, too young to accept the monotonous formality of Egyptian life and literature, sits thinking dissatisfied thoughts.”



My favorite is the image of two monks copying their manuscripts, the light flowing up from a candle nearby and below.  They look diligent, fat and comfortable, their work meticulous.  They look fresh here, as if at work in the morning, after prayers.  In the afternoons their minds cloud over, thinking of the wine they will drink and the sausages and onions they will consume that will make them even fatter. 

Finally, the last panel shows an early, bulky printing press.

“The square, blocky lines of the press, the tight-lipped, hunched-over printer, and the boredom of the apprentice as he counts the pages symbolize the advent of the machine age in literature,” Pratt writes.

Gould also asked another artist colleague, John T.  Jacobsen, with whom he worked at the University of Washington library project, to produce murals for the Everett Library.  


Jacobsen produced murals from the Pacific Northwest's history, starting with Vancouver's dropping anchor in Everett's Gardner Bay.  You can see Jacobsen's images inside the Suzzallo Library as well.

The expansion done in 1992 created some new public spaces inside and it was clearly a beautiful job.  

The big windows in the back of the reading room carry out the Art Deco theme elegantly while also letting in substantial natural light.  It is a comfortable room surrounded by beautiful detailing in the woodwork and in a stained glass clock at the back of the room set off by an enormous half globe emanating light while hovering in the air at the room's center. 

A window looking out from the children's room contains an aluminum piece, also done by Dorothy Paquette, that appears to show a flock of books on the wing, flying magically away to someplace only the children know.

Many of the pieces in the library hail from the depression era Federal Arts Program and back to the beginnings of the Northwest School, a group of artists who gave the rough and tumble Northwest a place on the international arts map.  The Federal Arts Program was supposed to get money to artists whose livelihoods had melted away in the crisis. Some people said there was nothing worth buying in the Northwest, but from the debris of the Great Depression famously came the Northwest School’s finest artists -- Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, Mark Toby, Morris Graves and many lesser known but highly talented artists whose bread was buttered, in part, by the New Deal. 

As Harry Hopkins, the Roosevelt sidekick who headed up the program, famously said:

“They’ve got to eat like other people.”

In the eight years it operated, the Federal Arts Program resulted in 108,000 paintings, nearly 18,000 sculptures, 11,200 print designs, 35,000 poster designs, 2,500 murals.  Community arts centers were set up across the country, employing artists to teach the theory and practice of art outside its usual homes in the formal education system or in academia.  It also created the Index of American Design, a huge research program that showed how Americans created art that explained their unique cultures across the country. 

Everett Public Library
The Everett Library has always been open to new things.  In the twenties it started one of the first bookmobiles in the country.  Recently, it has expanded its digital collection, making available thousands of photographs from the Everett Herald newspaper and old photographic collections as well as documents from the private sector and government. 

A 1923 modified Ford Model T was the bookmobile.  Named Pegasus, it is still kicking.  You can see the restored bookmobile at any serious parade in Everett.

Hartley is second from the right
Everett Public Library
Roland Hartley was an accountant who married the boss’s daughter and went on to work for him first when the boss was Governor of Minnesota and then when the family moved out to Everett to get at fresher, bigger timber.  Soon he was rich and Roland had a big house on Rucker Avenue overlooking the bay.  He would have been disgusted that the government spent money maintaining a list of historic places and that his home was on it.  He had a Grover Norquist-like, “drown it in the bathtub” point of view about government.  He used slightly different imagery than does Norquist today or his contemporaries then.  When some in Hartley's era campaigned with a broom or a mop, Hartley’s image for the proper role of government was a spittoon which he faithfully carried on campaign trips as a frequently utilized prop.

Wikipedia Commons
He hated spending money.  When he took office as Mayor of Everett in 1910, his budget laid off a third of the police force and most of the sanitary workers of the city.  He also turned off the street lights.  The citizens of Everett raised the money to turn them back on. 

He moved on to the state legislature where he became a perennial candidate for governor, running as a Republican in 1916 and 1920, where he failed to get out of the primary.  In ‘24, however, he emerged from the primary with less than a percentage point lead.  In a time when Republicans in Washington state were solid locks in a general election, Hartley nearly got upset by the Democrat.  The new governor was not loved, but he could survive.

His survival cost his attorney general, John Dunbar, his marriage and his health.  Hartley ignored Dunbar's advice, constantly put Dunbar in boxes he could not get out of and frustrated the man completely.  Dunbar died a drunk after abandoning his wife and child.

Henry Suzzallo
University of Washington Libraries
Hartley watched the transformation of the University of Washington from the site of the Alaska Yukon Exposition with growing alarm.  Buildings were flying up out of the ground at an alarming pace and he thought it was a clear case of out of control spending.  He blamed lots of people for this, including the regents, whom he thought as tools of the President, Henry Suzzallo, a socialist, of course -- Croation parents and his support of the eight hour day for timber workers all the evidence you would ever need.   If you needed more, however, there was the 1915 session of the legislature where Hartley tried to attach a rider on a University of Washington appropriation restricting the University from offering “any teaching of political economy.”  Suzzallo led the successful charge against.  People who were not like Hartley were either socialists or bums or, more often than not, both. 

University of Washington Collections
Another tool of the university president in Hartley's view was the architectural firm of Bebb and Gould.  They had hired on as campus planners and architects in 1915 and had 22 different commissions on the campus.  The most substantial commission was the Gothic library at the center of the campus where the ceiling was 65 feet above the richly appointed reading room, sculptures of past geniuses posing outside the structure -- Moses, Pasteur, Newton, da Vinci, Franklin, Homer, Darwin, Beethoven, Grotius, Guttenberg, Justinian, Adam Smith.  You can hear Hartley now, speaking ardently to his spittoon:

“Do they really need all of them?  Won’t two or three do?  And those hand-carved native plants on the bookcases!  What a waste!!”

Ground broke on the new library in 1923 and, as it rose up in all its glory, Hartley finally took over as Governor in 1924.  After just a year in office, Governor Hartley was pleased to note that two members of the seven members making up the Board of Regents left in January, 1926 and he replaced them quickly.  Later, Hartley removed three other regents and replaced them with his own people.  Hartley now had five of seven regents and was ready to move. 

Suzzallo was brought before the Regents at 6:00 PM October 4, 1926 and asked to resign.  He refused.  The new UW Regents feared an even stronger political reaction if they fired him, so because his contract was up in June of 1927, they took the action of placing Suzzallo on indefinite leave.  The two non-Hartley Regents resigned.
 
Governor Hartley protested he knew nothing of Suzzallo’s removal, saying that his regents acted on their own.  However, the Seattle Times quickly pieced together a different story.  The morning of the fourth, Hartley was staying at the Olympic Hotel, a Gould and Bebb project, incidentally.  He and his group made a great show of leaving the hotel to head back to the office in Olympia.  But the governor actually decamped to the New Washington Hotel (today’s Josephinum), ordered up rooms and extra chairs, hosted his brand new regents and played out the strategies and messages that would be deployed that evening.  They decided that the official reason for Suzzallo’s dismissal would be “discord between the administration and some of the faculty,” a tried and true reason for axing a university president, then and now. Hartley left Seattle before the meeting began and was nearing Olympia when the deed was done.

It was a tradition to install a baseball diamond on the
side of the Times Building and follow, in real time,
World Series play.  
University of Washington Collections
Publisher Clarence Blethen of the Seattle Times was a big booster of Suzzallo and the university.  He also lived in a Carl F. Gould designed house and worked in the Times Square headquarters of the paper, a Bebb and Gould design.  His son, Frank, was a leader in student government and was earning a letter in 1926 as the coxwain of the University of Washington crew.  He loved what Suzzallo and Gould were doing at the University of Washington as did many people.  When Suzzallo started, there were 2,000 students at the University of Washington.  When he was sacked, there were 7,000.  People in the know and people who didn't pay much attention could see the that the university was rising in stature and mostly because of Henry Suzzallo.

In a Seattle Times edition almost completely dedicated to these stunning events, Blethen led with a front page editorial:

“Let’s Get Rid of this Pitiful Man!”

“Picture a small-spirited man who wears the habiliments of the governor’s office as a two year old might wear Dempsey’s overcoat, and then look at Dr.  Suzzallo, cultured, accomplished and able!” 

“Ten years from now, Suzzallo will be a still greater name.  But who will remember the governor who tried to injure him?”

Three thousand chanting students gathered around the President’s House at the university.  Finally, Suzzallo came out the door to a five minute round of cheering.  Suzzallo cautioned the crowd.

Guttormsen, on the right, did color commentary
for KOMO radio after graduation
“If you are tempted to do anything that might injure the university, I advise you to go to the front of our library building.  Look up at it.  That will be your inspiration to refrain from doing anything that might reflect on it.  Will you promise to do that?”

Another great cheer.  Then George Guttormsen, a young man from a sports-minded Everett family who was the president of the student body and also the captain of the varsity football team, came forward. 

“We come here tonight to show Dr. Suzzallo our heartfelt appreciation for his work in building up the university.  We want to show him our devotion to the University and his ideals.”

By the end of the month, the Regents had forced out Gould as well, claiming that there was some kind of conflict between being Dean of the School of Architecture and having a financial interest in planning and designing buildings for the university. 

The Times later wrote that "an audit of the university books was ordered and the governor's accountant was going through all records like divine grace through a camp meeting."

Despite the Times support and that of the alumni associaition, the effort to recall Hartley ran out of gas and failed due to lack of signatures.

University of Washington Libraries

Gould was a New Yorker from wealthy and accomplished families on both his mother’s and father’s sides. After Harvard, he attended the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, the national fine arts school in Paris, where he stayed for five years, returning to New York to practice architecture. 


As a young man in New York, he certainly had significant range as an assistant to older mentors.  He worked on the layout of the Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison and on the planning for the rebuilding of San Francisco after the earthquake.

There is a bit of a mystery why he suddenly came to Seattle in 1908. Yes, he had been ill in 1907 and may have sought a healthier climate, but a good supposition is that he was practicing in New York along with three brothers-in-law, all architects, all accomplished. His health might have been the reason. It could also have been his elbows.  


Larrabee House, Bellingham
Lairmont Manor

His design skills and taste in the arts led him quickly to many clients along the gold coasts of Capitol Hill, the Highlands, Lake Washington and Bainbridge Island, where Gould was a full time resident until 1920. He built residences for William E. Boeing, Clarence Blethen, the lawyer Lawrence Bogle, the lovely home in the center of a ten acre garden done by the Olmsteds for Arthur and Jeanette Dunn. There was the unusual Charles X. Larrabee home in Bellingham and one of the Seattle's first three car garages, in 1912, attached to the home of the David Skinner family.


Charles Bebb
UW Libraries

He also fought for the Bogue Plan, a city beautiful planning effort that failed to produce a civic center with grand boulevards spiraling out from the 4th and Blanchard area near Westlake. The decision to build the county courthouse where it is today, across the way from the Smith Tower, where most of the city’s lawyers were, doomed the Bogue plan.

His partnership with Charles H. Bebb in 1915 began the intimate association with the University of Washington that abruptly came to an end that Fall of 1926. He was able to finish his work on the Henry Art Gallery on the campus, largely because it was privately funded and tax money was not at stake.

After 1926, the Seattle Art Museum, the Everett Library, the Public Health Service Hospital were his major projects. He returned to the university after Governor Hartley left office, designing the College of Pharmacy and Smith Hall, along with a sorority house. He died in early 1939.


His buildings aren’t his only legacy. His daughter, Anne Gould Hauberg has been a primary force in Seattle arts as both a collector and patron for seventy years. One son became an architect and the other a research engineer. 

Gould's illness was brief and his sudden death a surprise.  Anne rushed home from school in the east and arrived on January 1, 1939, prepared to take his place at the firm until her father's illness was over.  Gould died on the fourth. 

Both Gould and Suzzallo died in the 1930s, Suzzallo six years before Gould in 1933, the library they built together was named for Suzzallo within a few days after Suzzallo's death.  Gould Hall, the home of today's UW Architectural School, was named for Carl Gould in 1971.  Their nemesis, Roland Hartley, though without a namesake public building, survived them by many years.  He died in 1952 in his home in Everett at 88 years.  The state government shuttered its doors for one hour during the time of his funeral, a touch he would have appreciated, though the tightwad in him might have said, "not enough hours."


Read About Dudley and Virginia Pratt

The Fall of John Dunbar and the Rise of Virginia Boren


Pacific Coast Architecture Data Base, Carl F. Gould

Index of American Design

Northwest Collection at the Everett Library

Dedication Program, Everett Public Library

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thinking of Mitchell Baker


Isaac Baker, left, with President Obama
A friend sent along an email with a photo attached on election day, 2012. The photo is of a young man named Isaac Baker standing next to President Obama and it looks like it is taken backstage, prior to an event.  I’m assuming it is an event in Ohio, because Baker worked on the campaign and later the staff of former Governor Ted Strickland and he was also communications director for Senator Hilary Clinton during the 2008 Ohio Democratic Primary. 

After she left the race, the Obama campaign hired him.  He now works for David Axelrod’s political consulting firm and I’m assuming he was using his Ohio expertise that day before this election to make sure the state fell to his candidate one more time.
 
This is a young man near the top of the biggest political game.  Though his life and ours are so different and we don’t connect that often, we work hard at being so very proud of him, because his father, our friend, can’t.  Mitchell Baker died while Isaac was a student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism with Isaac's interesting life almost completely ahead of him.

Mitch died in 1999 before the Internet provided so much information about people and made it so convenient to find them.  All you find about Mitchell today is his listing as an author on Amazon, of something called “The New Neighborhood at Sand Point”, a 26 page plan to accomplish the city of Seattle’s vision of how a piece of US Navy surplus property would be developed.  The document shows how we would transfer the land from the feds to the city of Seattle and our ideas for the development options of the property.  It’s mistakenly listed as a book and, Amazon reports, the “binding is unknown.”  It’s the plan Mitchell and I worked on together and the reason we met, giving new purpose to a 20 acre radio transmitter site used by the US Navy to support Sand Point Naval Air Station during World War II.  At the same time, the early stages of the sensational Warren G.  Magnuson Park were coming together nearby.
 
I hate it when wonderful people with many different accomplishments are missing in action on the Internet.  One of the reasons I write this blog is that I want to bring people who are Internet dead to greater awareness in cyberspace.  And I also miss Mitchell Baker, something I share with many of his other friends who worked with him and who wish he could have been at the event we had earlier this month, celebrating a victory we feared we would not see.

When I met Mitch, he was working in the city of Seattle’s Department of Community Development as a neighborhood planner and he was bored there, thinking that his skills were underused.  He was also a new father of this boy, Isaac.  Mitch saw a job we had posted internally and said he was interested in applying.  The Mayor’s Office was looking for someone to work full-time on the Sand Point project, particularly after The Community Development department showed so little enthusiasm about our ideas for affordable housing, associated day care and energy efficiency.
  
I read Mitch’s note and we arranged to meet.  He was on the outs with the administration of his department, run by a cerebral, articulate guy we had hired, likely because he was cerebral and articulate.  Mitchell was interested in leaving the city, but hesitated because he loved public service.  He yearned for a bigger role.  He wanted to make things happen.  And nothing much was happening for him.

Mitchell was the strongest candidate because he clearly understood that this development wasn’t a carpenter’s job, but a politician’s kind of work.  This would be the first low income housing in the largely white North end of Seattle and the neighborhood was thick with activists who were, at that time, not liking growth very much and sharpening their considerable community expertise by killing freeway projects and making sure they got what they wanted in the brand new Warren Magnuson Park. We didn’t need a grant writer, we needed a person who could survey the field and make both subtle and not so subtle judgments about what we could do and should do.

I knew intuitively that Mitch was the right one, but I was concerned that his negative views about his work in the city meant that he was likely to leave shortly, even if he had such a cool job as this exciting project.

So, I scheduled another time to talk, this time at the Lockspot Tavern, a regular guy kind of tavern in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, a place once known as the Scandinavian neighborhood, but now known more for its Scandinavian history and the fertility of the young people who have taken it over.  A few days ago, at Ballard's Firehouse Tavern, a fine place for an after movie dinner, the place was packed with kids eating its Sunday night fried chicken special, $15 bucks for several pieces of chicken, a biscuit that could pass for a Volkswagen, a pile of carrots and pan gravy. 

Ballard was once the only place in Seattle you could buy Lutafisk, the gelatinous goo soaked in lye to preserve fish, usually a cod, though it worked with other fish.  I knew all about Lutafisk.  I represented the Mayor, my brother, at all five of the Lutafisk eating contests held in Ballard while I worked for him.  They were staged outside in a small park in Ballard’s downtown with a Ballard elder doing play-by-play.  The Seafair princess always gagged and shrieked and the council member stared straight ahead while the stuff was dumped on his paper plate.  I smiled, ate the stuff and pretended to be a good soldier. 

I love neighborhoods during Seafair, when each unique Seattle neighborhood celebrated its heritage with a locally organized celebration, nearly all with a parade, this one burdened only by the forced ingestion of Lutefisk.

Sometimes Ballard High School cheerleaders would be at the park and chant the school's famous cheer:

“Lutafisk, Lutafisk, Lefsa, Lefsa.”
“Do we like Ballard?”
“Ya, Sure! You Betcha!”

At the Lockspot, over more than one beer, Mitchell told me about his family, his journey from eastern Pennsylvania to Seattle and his Jewish faith, described aptly by the Rabbi who officiated at his funeral:

“Let’s face it, Mitchell was not a familiar presence at Temple.”

By the end of the evening conversation at the Lockspot, Mitchell had a new job and a new friend to go along with it.

We cemented the friendship during the complicated process of transferring property under the ownership of the Department of Defense to the city.  Despite the considerable help of United States Senator Warren Magnuson, the federal to locality land transfer is a treacherous process.  We had nearly buttoned up the transfer when hoards of soccer field interests descended on us and then on the City Council. Fortunately, the only thing that the neighbors disliked more than new housing were soccer fields and their lights, traffic and noise. 

Burke Gilman Place
Google Earth
Burke Gilman Place, we called it, referring to the old rail line that was converted to one of the country's first rails-to-trails projects.  It ran right next to the property we started calling ours.  

Once the land was in our hands, however, we had to find money to put homes on it.  That required two different sources of money because we had promised the neighbors that Sand Point would be a mixed income development.  The Seattle Housing Authority was a very willing participant for the low income part, but getting the market rate housing was tougher.  Then Mitch came in one day and described the problems an office building developer was having because he wanted to tear down an old apartment complex to make room for his building.  This required him to build replacement, affordable housing and the boom in Seattle’s center city was then so big he could not find property downtown.

Mitchell had written up a little proposal he thought we should take to the developer, assuring him of support for his project if he put the replacement housing units he was obligated to build into Burke Gilman Place.   “That’s a stroke of good luck,” I gushed to Mitch.  “Let’s do it.”  

Taking back the letter, he left scowling and I later understood why.  The luck was Mitchell.  He had greased it with the council, the neighborhood activists who had passed the replacement housing ordinance and the Law Department.  He had made it possible to make good on the mixed-income pledge.

Two things conspired to dramatically affect Mitch’s future while he was working on Burke Gilman Place.  One was the sudden death of Senator Henry M.  Jackson and the second was the near collapse of Washington State’s oldest and biggest bank, Seattle First National Bank, then known as Seafirst.
 
Henry M.  Jackson
HistoryLink.org
When Senator Henry Jackson died of a ruptured artery in his heart on September 1, 1983, just two weeks before the primary election, I was no longer working for the Mayor.  But there’s an old saying, “once staff, always staff” and I got a call soon enough from my brother.  He wanted to talk about offering his name in the special election that would replace the Senator and, by the way, he had offered my name as someone who would drop everything and help him.  He knew he was right.
 
A special primary was scheduled for October 11, 1983 with a general election to take place on the regular general election day in November.  It was a dash of a few weeks played out in an open primary where voters could choose between a collection of Republicans and Democrats -- former Republican Governor and interim Senator Dan Evans, Democratic Congressman Mike Lowry, conservative television commentator Lloyd Cooney and Mayor Royer, whose office is non-partisan though everyone knew he was a Democrat.
   
The mayor finished fourth in that scramble, taking just over 15%, and it stung.  Particularly galling was finishing behind Cooney, a right wing blowhard with a Harley Davidson and an ego that would just barely fit inside Mount Rainier. It turned out that Evans went on to defeat Lowry in the general election and replace Senator Jackson.  

In the ruins of the Mayor’s defeat, he recognized a serious threat to his ability to continue being mayor, a job he loved.  In the middle of his second term, it was clear that a big piece of the constituency that gave him 65% two years before was thinking that he wanted to be somewhere else.  To top it off, he had been elected President of the National League of Cities, a role that involved a lot of travel.  He was the subject of many political cartoons with air travel themes.  In one he’s buckling into his Mayor’s Office chair.  In another, he’s entering the council chambers, his boarding pass in hand. 
Mayor Charles Royer, 1982
City of Seattle Archives


Charley told HistoryLink, the on-line encyclopedia of Washington State, that the loss woke him up. "I hadn’t been paying attention to my political base. Nothing like a hanging to focus a guy, and I got hanged.”

In short order, he hired Mike Lowry’s campaign manager to be his Director of Community Development and brought Mitch Baker into the Mayor’s Office to fix his political base. There was a lot to fix and some real urgency. Norm Rice, a popular councilmember who would later become Mayor, was getting ready to run for the office in 1985, originally assuming that Mayor Royer would not seek a third term and then deciding to run anyway when the Mayor said he would run for a third term.


By the time the election came around, Mitchell had worked his magic again. Two intense years of community work and a locally focused Mayor paid off with a 2-1 victory for Mayor Royer over Councilmember Rice.

Shell Oil Company

The Alaska Pipeline was very good to Seattle, the great supply barges staging in Elliott Bay and dashing up the Inside Passage to the North Slope oilfields when the weather stabilized. All during the 1970s there was this feeling that Seattle was once again a frontier town for some activity in Alaska that was very valuable and needed supporting.

Bill Jenkins, the Chairman of Seafirst, the state’s premier bank, would watch this tableau everyday for years -- the barges filling up with houses, trucks, cranes, 48’ steel tubes, the tugs standing off smartly, ready for another run. Seafirst did what came naturally, providing loans in Alaska for exploration. As the cost of oil ran up during the seventies, Seafirst got into oil exploration loans deeper and deeper. In the Alaska oil rush, two volatile personalities with too little maturity and too much money met and the combustion nearly brought down Seafirst and a few other banks around the country.

Bill Patterson, right, with his Lawyer

Bill Patterson was a wild and crazy guy from Penn Square Bank in Oklahoma City who sometimes came to work in a Mickey Mouse hat and sometimes in an SS Uniform. He ran the energy department at Penn Square, was a graduate of Texas Tech and was fond of shaking up his north of Mason Dixon Line clients by drinking beer from his boot.

John Boyd was the one man energy department at Seafirst and soon was having a hell of a good time with Patterson and also doing a lot of business, running up $1.2 billion in energy loans, $400 million of them from Penn Square. Many of those loans, according to subsequent lawsuits, were a mess. In the end, $800 million of the Seafirst energy loans went sour.

At the beginning of the 80s, oil had dropped from $40/barrel to $10 and Seafirst losses started piling up. By 1982, Penn Square Bank had been closed by the government but the losses continued to mount at Seafirst, $300 million over the three years between 1981 and 1983. The leadership of Seafirst was sacked, including Jenkins, who was allowed to retire early. A lawsuit was settled with the five former leaders of the bank agreeing to a judgment of $110 million with the condition that the only money to be collected from the judgment would be what the insurance companies would ultimately pay. It was a little bit of accountability, but from today's vantage, not very much.  Reading the settlement today causes me to get up and walk around the kitchen, where I am writing this.  Although, among my thoughts is the fact that Jenkins was an explosives guy in the US Army, one of the first to crawl out of the sea at Omaha Beach.  This accountability stuff is not as easy as it seems.
Richard Cooley
Bank of America


Dick Cooley, a banker from California, was hired as Chairman at Seafirst to figure out what it would take to keep the bank alive. Ultimately, he agreed to its hat-in-hand sale to Bank of America that brought in enough cash to keep the bank standing and the regulators from locking up the front door of Seattle’s biggest bank.


Cooley stabilized the bank after a couple of years and the bank began to focus less on survival and more on profits, performance and solving a host of old problems that the regal Jenkins felt beneath him. Cooley’s second-in-command, bank president Luke Helms, found himself doing some community work with Mitch Baker on an issue about the Seattle Center, Seattle's World's Fair site. Helms was impressed and saw an excellent negotiator in Mitch.  Turns out Helms was looking for a negotiator.

Long before Cooley and Helms were working at Seafirst, many administrative and technical employees at the bank voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers and Jenkins, true to form, handed the problem to the lawyers. Now, twelve years later, it appeared that the Seafirst lawyers might lose what was likely the last appeal.

So, Helms hired Mitchell as Vice-President of Labor Relations and, of course, Mitch found a path that got to yes.

Mitchell steadily rose at Seafirst. He handled the charitable giving, intergovernmental relations and many other things. Mitch was a homer. He loved local art.  Seafirst began collecting it.  Even when the bank’s name was changed to Bank of America, he got something out of it. Bank of America became the naming sponsor of the newly remodeled basketball stadium at the University of Washington.

One day in 1999 Mitchell called me up and said he wanted to have coffee. Mitchell was a fine base toucher and list maker and was up to something. He told me and his friends that after many tests, doctors had found the problem that was disturbing his sleep and making him tired. A tumor had wound itself around one of his kidneys and the cure was removal of the kidney. It was a serious, though not an earth shattering procedure. He was going into the hospital in a couple of weeks and his wife, Sandy, would give everyone a call when he came out of the operating room.

She called. Mitchell was laughing and joking in post-op and would be delighted to see his friends in a couple of days when he got detached from all the medical bells and whistles.

She called. After the move from post-op, Mitch’s heart had stopped. He had been moved to a regular hospital room and the fact that no oxygen was going to his brain was not detected for at least a half hour. She had to make the call whether he would be detached from the ventilator.

After the service, many who had worked for Mayor Royer with Mitch went to a bar on Lake Washington, but there wasn’t enough air in that room. Mitch was just 50 years old.  We just stood there, trying to say something that had meaning or gave context to what had happened.  But there was no context.  It was just a bummer deal.  There was so much fun in Mitch -- plenty of dark as well -- but he was a talented guy whom we loved and thought there was so much more accomplishment to come, for him and with us.  Hoping to toast Mitchell, we just went home, defeated.

Mitchell would have been delighted about the election and nearly all the other political events of November, 2012 and be especially proud that his son, who grew up in the Seattle Mayor’s Office, was there to claim Ohio when Karl Rove could not.