Baseball with the Seattle Pilots

Ball Four by Jim BoultonThis challenging season for local baseball fans brings to mind another last place team in our fair city, the famous and short-lived Seattle Pilots of 1969. An expansion team in the American League, they played at Sicks’ Stadium, a converted minor league ballpark. In their one year here they launched Jim Bouton’s literary career through his tell-all bestselling book, “Ball Four.”

Bouton was a former All-star pitcher on the Mantle-Maris era Yankee juggernauts of the early sixties. In decline and with a sore arm, Continue reading “Baseball with the Seattle Pilots”


In 1917, the West Seattle Branch of the Seattle Public Library had a Knitting Club, to help in the War effort. Girls would meet once per week, and while one of their members read out loud, they would knit socks and ambulance pillows out of sturdy wool. A Red Cross volunteer handed out the yarn, and shipped the finished articles to Europe for World War I soldiers.  If someone did not know how to ‘turn the heel’ of the sock, perhaps they had a book of instructions nearby, such as Longman’s Complete Course of Needlework, Knitting and Cutting-out by T. M. James, published in 1901. Ninety years later, sock knitting has become a much less common skill, but in the last 5 years, a renaissance in knitting has caused an explosion of new books, from instructional how-tos to fiction!
The socks those girls knitted for solders were probably black, but More Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch is full of wildly colorful designs, Continue reading “Knitting”

Bringing the Ghosts to Life – Doing House History Part 2

Going back to the 1900 census to do similar searching, I learned that my house was not there at all, and so had apparently been built some time between 1900 and 1910. Useful information indeed! I focused now on the family I’d found, and now that I had a family name to go by, my search was much simpler.

The Seattle City Directories listed residents by name, and I could find out lots about the Nienau family, going back before the 1910 Census. I learned that Henry, the father, most often identified as a “laborer,” worked some years for bottling firms, and that his son, Herman, worked as a driver, a bottler, or a packer for a bottling company, sometimes Rainier Bottling. Looking backwards year by year, they showed up at my address, with varying family members there, until 1904, when they were listed but not at my address. In the years before 1904, they boarded at various places, sometimes together, sometimes not. Henry is listed as a laborer in the 1899 directory, and by 1894/95, there are no members of the family to be found.

I could imagine the family coming to live in Seattle, boarding in homes east of downtown (all the residences were just east of the business district), finding employment, and eventually Continue reading “Bringing the Ghosts to Life – Doing House History Part 2”

Buildings and Cities

The Seattle Public Library has a large and varied collection of books about architecture and city planning. Here are a few that I find interesting and useful. I hope you enjoy them too.

Death & Life of Great American CitiesThe Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
Jane Jacobs’ classic ground-breaking attack on the planning of American cities, published in 1961, is still widely read, and has great relevance for us today. What, she asked, makes cities and city neighborhoods work, and what makes them die? What can planners do to save our great cities? She presented what were at that time completely new principles of city planning, including dense population and diversity of uses, principles which are coming into favor today. She writes with passion as a city dweller; this is an exciting book.

 The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: a Complete Catalog by William Allin Storrer
Among the many books available on Frank Lloyd Wright, this is the only Continue reading “Buildings and Cities”

Bringing the Ghosts to Life – Doing a House History

People who live in old houses must sometimes be aware of the residents who came before them. Just for the briefest time, there may be a shadow, or a current of air—something that suggests another presence or, perhaps, earlier residents. Sometimes they have left some physical object behind, tossed in a corner somewhere … that is how I came to own the drill bit.

Sitting in my (their) living room, I often wondered about the owners before me—what kind of people were they? How did they live? Living in their house, I felt curiosity, but only vague kinship, until the day I discovered, wedged in an unfinished basement wall, a carpenter’s bit from a brace and bit. Wedged pretty tight, too—I had to work to gouge it out. But holding it in my hand, I felt a very strong sense of the man who had worked there years ago, gotten it wedged into the wall, and finally abandoned it after some effort to remove it. (I could see very old chisel marks around where the bit had been.) This was so like something I might do, that I wanted to meet the man who had left the bit behind—but Continue reading “Bringing the Ghosts to Life – Doing a House History”