Friday, August 3, 2012

Shocked & Appalled to Learn About Seattle's Coon Chicken Inn

I first saw the image you see on the left about a month ago in a movie called Ghost World.

Ghost World is an amusing movie.

The Ghost World world premiere occurred on June 16, 2001 at the Seattle International Film Festival, where one of the actresses in the movie, Thora Birch, won the Golden Space Needle Best Actress Award.

The Coon Chicken Inn ad poster played a key plot point in the Ghost World movie. I thought the Coon Chicken Inn ad poster was a bit, well, offensive, as did some people in the movie, which is why it was a key plot point.

I assumed something as offensive as the Coon Chicken Inn ad poster was just a movie fabrication.

And then, last night, I watched another movie, that being C.S.A: The Confederate States of America. The idea behind this movie is that the South won the War of Northern Aggression, with the Confederates taking over the entire country and then most of the Western Hemisphere, except for Canada.

C.S.A is done like a mocu-mentary, complete with breaking for fake "ads". One of the ads was for the Coon Chicken Inn. I sat there watching this feeling totally bum puzzled, thinking is this a real thing?

And then, at the end of the movie a title comes on the screen saying something like, "The following actually happened in the United States of America following the Civil War into the 1950's." Or words to that effect.

Starting with the Civil War, the movie then shows the viewer things that one thought must have been fiction, but were actually real, like the Coon Chicken Inn.

And then, when the movie was a bit more specific about the Coon Chicken Inn, I became totally appalled. I figured this restaurant chain must have been located in the South. Like at a place like Fort Worth, Texas.

I was wrong.

The first Coon Chicken Inn opened in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1925, followed 4 years later by another Coon Chicken Inn.

In Seattle!

That's right, a Coon Chicken Inn opened in Seattle, on Lake City Way, to instant success, even with the Great Depression soon being depressing.

And then the next year, 1930, a Coon Chicken Inn opened on Sandy Boulevard in Portland, Oregon.

All three Coon Chicken Inns were a booming success, with Seattle soon adding a cabaret and orchestra and Salt Lake City expanding its dining room.

The restaurant's specialty was southern fried "Coon Chicken," plus sandwiches, chicken pot pies, burgers, chili and seafood.

Black people were employed as waiters, waitresses, cooks and cleanup crews, but were seldom seated as customers.

The racist genius behind the Coon Chicken Inn concept was a man named Maxon Lester Graham.

Maxon figured out he needed a gimmick to get kids to want to come to his new restaurants. So, he came up with the brilliant idea that kids would like to walk through an entrance with a huge, winking, grinning face of a black man in a porter's cap. Coon Chicken Inn was spelled out in his teeth, with the doorway being through the head's mouth.

This giant head became the logo for the Coon Chicken Inn, with variations of it showing up on all sorts of items, like dishes, silverware, napkins and menus. These have become collector's items worth so much money that there is a black market of faked Coon Chicken Inn memorabilia.

As one might expect, in the eventually very progressive, liberal states of Washington and Oregon, something called the Coon Chicken Inn would eventually become controversial.

Above civil rights protesters are protesting in front of the Seattle Lake City Way Coon Chicken Inn. I believe this was some time in the 1950's.

By the late 1950's Maxon and his wife decided to get out of the restaurant business.

The Seattle Coon Chicken Inn became Ying's Drive-In. The Salt Lake City location became something called the Chuck-A-Rama and the Portland restaurant became the Prime Rib.

Today I learned in Seattle there is something called the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project.

The Project has a website.

On that Project's website there is a webpage devoted to the Coon Chicken Inn, titled "The Coon Chicken Inn: North Seattle's Beacon of Bigotry."

I can remember having pancakes at various Sambo's restaurants, back before it was realized that Sambo's was a bit inappropriate, with protests, over that inappropriateness, eventually leading to the demise of Sambo's.

I don't ever remember having fried chicken at the Seattle Coon Chicken Inn before it closed. Probably because it was before my time.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Spencer Jack is Picking Strawberries Somewhere in the Skagit Valley

From photo evidence I found minutes ago on Facebook, it appears my Great Nephew Spencer Jack has taken a liking to picking strawberries.

And eating them whilst picking.

I do not know whose strawberry field Spencer Jack is picking in. I do know it is somewhere in the Skagit Valley of Washington.

I suspect, maybe, Spencer Jack is doing his picking and eating at Ole and Sven's.

Ole and Sven are known for having the sweetest strawberries in the Skagit Valley.

Maybe Spencer Jack is at the Sakuma Market Stand. The Sakumas also grow some very sweet strawberries. Tess Sakuma was the sweetest Sakuma I knew when I was in high school.

Maybe Spencer Jack is picking strawberries at his Great Grandpa/Great Grandma's field. Spencer's Great Grandpa and Great Grandma's raspberries used to be the sweetest in the Skagit Valley. I suspect Spencer's Great Grandpa and Great Grandma have likely retired from the berry growing business.

When I was a kid, in summer, kids just a little older than Spencer Jack were loaded onto buses and brought to the fields of the Skagit Valley to help harvest the strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and cucumber crops. And likely some crops I'm not remembering.

Child labor laws have since made it a no-no for young kids to work the fields.

I remember it as fun, for the most part, particularly picking cucumbers while laying on a padded board on an automatic cucumber picking machine.

Strawberry fights were also fun, though those could get you in trouble.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ocean Shores Washington

The above postcard arrived a couple days ago, sent by my favorite aunt, who had just had fun weathering a severe winter storm, or two, at my cousin's place in Ocean Shores.

I don't remember, for sure, the last time I've been to Ocean Shores on the Washington Coast. My best guess is August of 2004, when I drove from Tacoma to the coast, hoping to go to a lunch buffet at the Quinault Beach Resort, at the north end of Ocean Shores.

When I was a kid my three favorite places to go on a family camping trip were Sun Lakes State Park, in Eastern Washington, Honeyman State Park, on the Oregon Coast, to play on the Oregon Dunes and to the Ocean Shores zone of the Washington Pacific Coast.

The modern era of Ocean Shores, as a town and a real estate development, began back in the late 1950s. At the time, it was believed, by many, that the Washington State Legislature would soon legalize casino gambling. And so Ocean Shores Development Corporation begun selling lots.

My Brother, Sister-In-Law, Big Ed & Sister
In Front Of The Catala Shipwreck
Soon a bit of a gold rush erupted as rumors spread of a California type development at a place called Ocean Shores. As lots sold, roads were built.

Soon, Hollywood's Ginny Simms opened a restaurant and nightclub. This brought in celebrities. On Ginny Simms' opening night chartered planes flew in Hollywood stars by the dozens, with thousands turning out in Ocean Shores to catch a glimpse.

Simpler times.

By late 1960, 25 miles of canals were planned, along with a golf course, mall, motels, more restaurants and an airport.

The ill-fated S.S. Catala was brought up from California to serve as a "boatel." Two years later a strong winter storm grounded the Catala, turning her into the most famous shipwreck on the Washington Coast.

Big Ed Climbing a Catala Smokestack While
My Brother & Sister Lean
Crooner Pat Boone became a resident in 1967. In 1969 Ocean Shores was dubbed the "Richest Little City in America" due to the assessed property value of its 900 residents.

Eventually the S.S. Catala became a bit of a hazard. In the late 1980s a girl fell through the shipwreck's rusted deck, resulting in a broken back and her family suing the State of Washington. The State then ordered the ship to be removed to sand level. But then, a series of storms gradually unburied what remained of the Catala.  In 2006 a beachcomber saw that oil was leaking from the wreck. The Washington State Department of Ecology then sealed off the area and removed the remains of the S.S. Catala.

Below is a blurb I gleaned from an Ocean Shores website that does a good job of characterizing Ocean Shores in the year 2012...

Ocean Shores is the top coastal destination in Washington State & boasts over a thousand  rooms in a variety of hotel & condominium complexes that line the beaches as well as a  population of over 5,000 full time residents. With more than six miles of flat, easily accessible ocean beaches & 23 miles of interconnected freshwater lakes and canals - coupled with plenty of recreation & leisure opportunities - it's easy to see why millions visit annually & people more than ever are relocating to settle in for a true oceanfront lifestyle. A brand new elementary school, a new multi-million dollar convention center, an 18-hole championship golf course, brand-new, freshly-paved roads, clean air, gorgeous views, an abundance of wildlife, small-town charm, great restaurants, tons of fishing, clamming & a casino on the beach are just a few of  the reasons why Ocean Shores is hotter than ever - even in this economy. If you're looking to just enjoy yourself at the beach, search for some real estate in the likes of a beach cabin, condo, vacant camping lot, getaway pad or even a fulltime house, you've come to the right place. See you on the beach!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Whatcom Falls Park in Bellingham Washington

Spencer Jack in Bellingham's
Whatcom Falls Park
Whatcom Falls Park in Bellingham is one of my favorite parks in Washington.

Whatcom Falls Park covers 241 acres. Inside the park are 4 waterfalls. The waterfalls are on Whatcom Creek which drains from Lake Whatcom to Bellingham Bay.

After heavy rains, when the Northwest goes into flood mode, the falls in Whatcom Falls Park can turn very powerful.

In Whatcom Falls Park you will find many miles of very well maintained hiking trails which cover a variety of terrain. Inside the park there is a fishing pond and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife runs a fish hatchery.

Whirlpool Falls, found on the Whirlpool Loop Trail, is my favorite of the Whatcom Falls Park waterfalls. Whirlpool Falls is a sort of grotto, with cliffs, a falls which sort of acts like a slide, plus a very popular swimming hole.

On June 10, 1999 the Olympic Pipeline blew up, with a massive explosion, which resulted in a lot of damage to forested land inside Whatcom Falls Park.

Spencer Jack with Whatcom Falls behind him
Part of the area damaged was Whirpool Falls.

For several years following the pipeline explosion disaster the city outlawed swimming at Whirpool Falls.

But. s

Swimmers repeatedly ignored and destroyed fences and signs designed to keep them out of Whirpool Falls. Eventually the city gave up controlling access and removed all barriers.

Of late my nephew has been taking my great nephew, Spencer Jack, for hikes on the trails of Whatcom Falls Park and sending me pictures.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Larrabee State Park On Washington's Chuckanut Drive

Spencer Jack at Larrabee State Park
That is my great nephew, Spencer Jack, on the rocky beach of Larrabee State Park.

Larrabee State Park is the oldest state park in Washington, starting with 20 acres in 1915, from land donated by the Larrabee family, with the park named after Charles Xavier Larrabee.

You can reach Larrabee State Park via the extremely scenic Chuckanut Drive.

You drive Chuckanut Drive from the north from Bellingham, from the south from the Skagit Valley.

Larrabee State Park is located near the border between Whatcom and Skagit Counties.

From its early beginnings Larrabee State Park has grown to be one of the largest state parks in Washington, covering 2,683 acres, going from sea level to an elevation of 1,940, on the west side of Chuckanut Mountain.

At Larrabee you will find a boat launch, 67 picnic sites, over 9 miles of hiking trails, 53 tent campsites, 26 trailer hook-up sites and 8 walk-in campsites. If you get the right permits, at Larrabee, you can go fishing, crabbing and clamming. You can also go scuba diving and rock climbing.

Heading east of the beach there are a couple trails that take you up Chuckanut Mountain, one is an old logging road that leads from a parking lot which is also the access point to Teddy Bear Cove. The other trail up Chuckanut Mountain is a hiking trail whose trail head you will find on the east side of Chuckanut Drive, about halfway between the north and south park entries.

The trails up Chuckanut Mountain eventually take you to 3 lookouts where you get expansive views of the San Juan Islands and Rosario Strait. The final trail destination is often Fragrance and Lost Lakes, which you can hike around, fish in, or camp on the lakes' shore.

If you are feeling very energetic you can continue on past Fragrance and Lost Lakes and hike the old logging road to the top of Chuckanut Mountain.

I've ridden my bike to the top of Chuckanut Mountain, via the vehicle access, then coasted the old logging road, at high speed, all the way back to Chuckanut Drive. A few years ago I dropped off Spencer Jack's uncle Joey at the top of Chuckanut Mountain, so he could take the fast bike ride down the mountain.

I believe Joey's bike ride is the last time I have been to the top of Chuckanut Mountain.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Giant Flying Saucers Spotted Hovering Over Mount Rainier

One of my sisters in Washington's home has a good view of Mount Rainier. Yesterday my sister sent me pictures of what look like giant Flying Saucers hovering over Mount Rainier.

I suspect these are not actual Flying Saucers, but are, instead, a cloud formation caused my moisture laden air passing over the frigid top of Mount Rainier.


These could be Flying Saucers.

Mount Rainier has had a long history linking the Mountain with UFOs.

The first UFO/Flying Saucer incident of the post World War II area occurred at Mount Rainier and set off Flying Saucer/UFO hysteria which continues, off and on, to this day, over a half a century later.

On June 24, 1947 Kenneth Arnold was flying a private plane near Mount Rainier when he spotted 9 flying objects moving very, very fast. Others on the ground saw the same thing.

Similar incidents occurred in following weeks in various locations in America.

You can read all about it in Wikipedia's Kenneth Arnold UFO Sighting article.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Juicy Snowstorm Hits Western Washington Today & Tomorrow

The Skagit Valley Herald's Juicy Storm Report
I am currently snow-free in Texas missing what appears to already be the worst snowstorm of the new century in the Puget Sound lowlands of Washington.

I heard from Betty Jo Bouvier, in Sedro Woolley, this morning, telling me the snow was already deep, with the Sedro Woolley school district on a two hour delay, with instructions to stay tuned for changing conditions.

Within the two hour delay the Sedro Woolley school district cancelled classes, going into Snow Day mode.

I suspect much of Western Washington is in Snow Day mode today.

Danny Mercer, a National Weather Service meteorologist said, "It's a juicy storm. It's not going to be hit and miss. It's going to be filling in everywhere, picking up and being quite heavy everywhere.

It appears this storm has the potential to be of epic historical proportions not seen in Western Washington in a long time.

The mountains are expected to get a couple feet of new snow today, with another foot on Wednesday.

With deep snow piled up on the lowlands and deeper snow in the mountains, if a Banana Express Tropical Storm blows in, with a rapid melt, like has happened before, really bad flooding could be the result.

This storm is also bringing strong winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour, which will cause snow drifts. I have seen amazingly big snow drifts in northern Whatcom County, but never very tall snow drifts in the county to the south of Whatcom, that being Skagit County.