The Story of Olympia, Washington … The Great Earthquake of 1949

Join us in a conversation with some old-timers who experienced the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck at 11:55 a,m. on April 13, 1949. It was the largest earthquake since non-Indian people arrived in Puget Sound. Have a listen! click here

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The Story of Olympia, Washington

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Merry Christmas from decades ago! Here’s a chapter from The Story of Olympia about Christmases of the past. I hope you enjoy the reminiscences and have a most happy holiday season! Just click on the link below

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Nature’s Jewels

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My iPhone is the best ‘toy’ I’ve ever owned. My wife Kirstan and I love our place, and over the past 20 years we’ve added various flowers and shrubs to complement the bounty of native plants that surround us. As … Continue reading

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I’ll Settle in Seattle

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Hey! Let’s go to Seattle with Rainey Burson (vocals), Joe Baque (piano) and Cary Black (bass)! Music and lyrics by Joe Illing … ©2022 … arranged by Joe Baque  … feel free to share! … click on your ticket below … Continue reading

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3:22 AM

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This is a true story. It’s about my friend Steve who’s good at many things, but especially sleeping. Emergency siren? Steve sleeps. Lightning and thunder? Steve slumbers. Fierce winter storm? Steve dozes like a baby with a full belly … … Continue reading

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The Story of Olympia, Washington … Amanda Smith, Political Pioneer, and Mid-Century Olympia Politics



AMANDA SMITH, POLITICAL PIONEER, Parts 1 & 2 … Women of accomplishment fill the pages of Olympia’s story, but none have had a greater influence on the city than Amanda Smith. Her two terms as Olympia’s first woman mayor changed the city more dramatically than any mayor before, or after, her tenure.

When Amanda assumed office in 1953 Olympia was a far different place from the city we know today. It was blue collar-rowdy with a unionized bib-overall working class and a hard-working God-fearing middle class. State government represented but a thin slice of its economy and citizen-legislators frequented here far less than do their modern, more professional counterparts.

The city’s major employers were the brewery in Tumwater, the Olympia Canning Company and the Port with a buzy marine terminal and a myriad of mills scattered all over the Port Peninsula. Those mills filled the sky with wood smoke, polluted Budd Inlet with creosote and God-knows-what, and filled the pockets of over a thousand workers with family-wage jobs.

In 1953 downtown still had its ‘unrestricted zone’ north of State Avenue where bars, gambling dens, bawdy dance halls and red-light brothels attracted an unending stream of sailors, lumberjacks, mill workers and local farm boys. Soldiers had to sneak-in as all of Olympia as ‘off limits’ to the military.

Back then Olympia’s shopping and core services lay within six downtown blocks south of State Avenue and east of Columbia. Mothers and daughters would get fancied-up for a trip to Sears, J.C. Penney’s or Millers, and dads would hang out at Ben Moore’s or The Spar where they could lay bets on their favorite baseball or football team and enjoy a beer while they watched up-to-the-minute updates sent via ticker-tape, then scribbled on a chalkboard the size of a two or 3 ping pong tables.

By the time Amanda left office in 1960, the unrestricted zone was gone and its unsavory habitués packed up and headed off to greener pastures. The DesChutes River was dammed, Capitol Lake created and a brand-new Interstate 5 sliced through the city. Olympia had changed forever.

MID-CENTURY OLYMPIA POLITICSDan L. McCaughan, an Olympian native and local businessman, served as a City Commissioner following World War II. His tenure on the commission was marked by the challenges of urbanization, rapid change and prosperity.

Jack Taylor, described by the Seattle Times as a “can-do public servant,” began his political career in King County as a County Commissioner. He later served as state lands commissioner, assistant state treasurer, director of the state Pollution Control Commission and CEO of the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission.

I sincerely hope you’re enjoying these episodic posts of the late 1980s oral history show (link below) cablecast as The Story of Olympia … and if you do enjoy and are so moved, please feel free to share

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The Story of Olympia, Washington … Bordeaux, Our Black Hills Ghost Town

In this chapter of the Story of Olympia we travel to the ghost town of Bordeaux, Washington, a lazy fifteen-minute drive from Olympia. We even get to visit with a couple of authentic Bordeauxans, Armeda Tupper and Roy “Jiggers” Layton. … Continue reading

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The Story Of Olympia, Washington … A Very Special Woman, Katherine Draham

The Story of Olympia began at the headwaters of Budd Inlet

The Story of Olympia begins at the headwaters of Budd Inlet

Many women of accomplishment have called Olympia home. Katherine Draham was one of them. Born in 1898, ‘Katie’ came to Olympia at age 10 with her father Dr. H.W. Partlow. After listening to her personal story and all the extraordinary things she did, I’m sure you’ll agree … Katie Draham was a very special woman.

A few decades ago, I tried to add a short page or two to the history of Olympia, Washington. At the time I counted among my friends many of the people from Olympia, and Thurston County, who’d been important to the area’s history. This was at the same time a new medium appeared in the county called community television which allowed for countless innovative ways ordinary people could display their various talents and interests. It was a hit and miss affair, but it was also a lot of fun. It presented an irresistible opportunity for enthusiastic lay historians to give voice to a part of Olympia’s history, straight from those who’d made it. What a perfect way to do something more than a dry chronology of events. We thought, here’s an opportunity to add warm flesh and a beating heart to what would otherwise be a calcified skeleton of past events and personalities.

Although we had between little and no experience in such things, we were given the keys to the studio and resources of Thurston County Television (TCTV), and off we went. I invited some of my more elderly friends who’d accomplished so much, and who have now sadly passed, to join me in the studio for conversations about their part in the region’s affairs over the past half-century or more.

We called it “The Story of Olympia”and TCTV cablecast it as a series. Dick Pust, hall-of-fame radio personality, provided voice-over for the intro script; a film of early twentieth century Olympia was given us by local entrepreneur Hob Zabel; and the incomparable, irrepressible Andy Crow added an original soundtrack recorded on an old pipe organ. We’re proud of what we did, and sincerely hope you enjoy listening in on talks with some of the great people who cared about their city and left it a better place because they were here. Please, feel free to share.

Have a listen here:

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The Story of Olympia, Washington … On the Waterfront with Gordon Newell

This visit to Olympia’s Waterfront features Gordon Newell, acknowledged Northwest maritime historian of the first rank. Gordon grew-up in Olympia, lived in Seattle where, among other things, he served as a Port of Seattle Commissioner and member of the Parks … Continue reading

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Mary, oh Mary

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Mary, oh Mary is a Nativity song, and my Christmas card to you I hope your Christmas is happy! Click on the link to Mary below: Please, feel free to share if you care … joeilling © 2021

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