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

The Story of Olympia began at the headwaters of Budd Inlet

The Story of Olympia begins at the headwaters of Budd Inlet

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 Board; authored over 20 books; soldiered in WWII and the Korean conflict; wrote editorials for the Daily Olympian. He returned to Olympia for his ‘golden years’ and passed in 1991.

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, such as Charlie Kirry and myself, 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:


About Joe Illing

I hope you'll find my posts entertaining, occasionally edifying and worth whatever time you can spend with them ... Joe
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