( – promoted by buhdydharma )
We’ve been watching this for a week, and today it happened: the Seattle Post Intelligencer, after 146 years of publication, has silenced its presses. There will be some sort of online effort; Hearst is a big company, and MBAs will no doubt be called in to poke at the corpse and apply the art of marketing galvanics to the still limbs; but the PI, the paper I grew up with, is gone.
The first thing I thought of (besides the necessity of going out to buy five of them) was an article I keep close at hand, from the Post Intelligencer of July 6th, 1918. “Coast Shipping and T…” is the section, with First High Water at 6:37 am, 11.4 feet, and first low at 9:20 (1.7 feet). The lead article is “Admiral Line Schooner Launched at Harbor Island Yard”. Below it is a picture of a great ship on the ways, and below that, a picture of my grandmother, at 13 years of age, most serious of mien, a little worried. She had christened it that morning.
It is easy to imagine the day, an early bright Seattle morning, surrounded by suited men of commerce, the smell of Elliot Bay, salt water and kerosine on wood. Her kid sister, my Aunt Franny, was with her. My great-grandfather was a larger than life fellow, whose attitudes toward work and right living were written about in self-help books on successful businessmen of the era. She loved him fiercely, and always wanted to do the right thing.
She told lots of stories from that time in her life. Well, a few, anyway. One about the outbreak of the first war, running down the street to Volunteer Park to cry in the brambles. She must have been about eight; and if you’d known her, you would know that was her, completely: someone who took the world on and wanted it to be better, with all her heart. You can sort of see it in the picture.
A paper is also a window on the world, and the photograph making headlines today is the big, tacky, neon PI globe (the NYT has pictures today), which has been a Seattle fixture my entire life. It used to mock me, when I was a teenager. Are you ever going to see the world, or are you going to be stuck here? I’m still wondering that, but I’ve gotten to live in — and see — the places I only read about, long ago, in news stories.
Both sides of my family go back between four and five generations, between Seattle and Vancouver. Births and deaths and marriages have been recorded in this paper. The opening and closing of businesses, successes and failures. Someone was there to witness it, even as a bit item on a long page. This happened! It was important to someone. It was — in it’s minutae and detail — our history together.
History is personal, your grandmother when she was young and beautiful on a long ago morning, launching one of the last sailing ships.
I first read Emmett Watson in the PI. He was one of those crusty, angry dudes who reminded folks in the 80s that there used to be such a thing as wobblies. And that they were fighting for the good. He left the PI eventually, but without it I doubt his columns would have been around for me to discover.
Though I’m basically atheist, I identify Wiccan. There’s a saying in my religious tradition, young as it may be: “What is remembered, lives”. Seattle today lost a method of remembering, a window on the past and future. And we are all smaller for it.
If you are in Seattle, pick up a PI today. They did a beautiful job, and the love shows…