A Magnolia reminiscence, continued: Celebrating the Ballard Locks 50th anniversary

Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series about the 50th anniversary celebration for the Ballard Locks in July 1967, as recalled by Magnolia resident and amateur historian Robert Kildall. To read the first installment (Magnolia News, Nov. 30), visit the paper on-line at www.MagnoliaNews.net.

Hearing that Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson was coming to the 50th-anniversary celebration for the Ballard Locks on July 4, 1967, Seattle then-Mayor Norm Braman decided he could attend after all.

Brig. Gen. Elmer P. Yates, from the North Pacific Division Engineers from Oregon, would come to represent the Army Corp of Engineers. Maj. Gen. C. J. Quilter, of the 3rd United States Marine Air Wing from California, would come to speak. Also, the 29 Palms U.S. Marine Band would come from Toro Marine Base, Calif.

By July 4 everything was in order. Back in 1917, sea vessel the Roosevelt, which had been Rear Adm. Robert E. Peary's ship on his 1908-09 North Pole expedition, headed the parade. This time the leader was the Enterprise Jr., a model of the aircraft carrier stationed off Vietnam.

Following the Enterprise Jr. was the Preston, the Army Corps of Engineers sternwheeler used to pull stumps. The flotilla started at the Shilshole breakwater, went through the locks and finally tied up for public display. A banjo band on the Preston's forward deck created for the occasion a Dixieland atmosphere.

Other ships in the flotilla included the Zena, a vessel that took part in the 1917 boat parade, as well as the Meadowdale Queen, with Magnolian Edward Russell as captain for the day. Then came James Vallentyne with his steam tug David T. Denny, followed by two Foss tugs, a Foss barge and various Coast Guard vessels and police craft.

With the steady traffic of pleasure boats that day, it was likely the Locks' largest boat parade ever - and a mostly spontaneous happening.

During its 1917 dedication ceremony, a plane built by Boeing - then a one-year old company - flew over the locks. At the July 4, 1967, celebration, a replica of that first Boeing-Westervelt plane, piloted by Clayton Scott, flew low over the crowd.

At 2 p.m. the 29 Palms U.S. Marine Band put the crowd in a patriotic mood with a live performance. A half-hour later the 4th U.S. Marines Shore Party Battalion presented the Colors.

Sen. Jackson was then introduced by Robert Lucurell, a club trustee and master of ceremonies. The senator gave the main address, saying: "Those who had the keen foresight more than 100 years ago to press for this canal never fully appreciated its future in pleasure boating. Early sponsors promoted both the locks and the canal as a passageway for ships commercial and military."

Mayor Braman praised the locks as a great asset to the city. Jackson soon took off in a waiting helicopter, leaving just in time to make his flight back to the other Washington.

A little after 3 p.m., Lucurell introduced other dignitaries who spoke: Yates and Quilter, who mentioned how impressed he was with the event.

Then Col. C.C. Holbrook talked about the locks' world-famous horticultural garden, which was developed by Carl M. English, the locks' park horticulturist. Holbrook noted that English had gathered plants from many parts of the world. The garden's splendor was one reason why the World Congress of Horticulturist Societies decided to convene in Seattle in 1969.

Holbrook then presented English with the Army's highest civilian award, complete with medal and ribbon, for his work since 1931 in the 7-acre botanical gardens. The Corps renamed the gardens the Carl English Gardens. Dr. Arthur Kruckeberg from the botany department at the University of Washington, along with Betty Miller (representing the Seattle Garden Club and Ship Canal Beautification project), spoke of the tremendous work English had done to make the gardens so famous.

To commemorate the anniversary, a select group - Braman, Yates, Pat Cook and King Neptune - assisted Seafair Queen Erika Hokanson in unveiling a bronze plaque erected at the corner of the Locks Administration Building, where it stands to this today. John Murray, editor of the Magnolia Journal, wrote in his editorial column: "The words, 'sponsored by the Magnolia Community Club,' were in awfully large type at the bottom [of the plaque] and there is no reason in the world that they will wear out in our lifetime."

(John, by the way, was correct. The words remain intact after nearly 40 years.)

The four-day open house held on the locks grounds, from July 1 through July 4, attracted more than 40,000 visitors. More than 3,500 vessels used the locks, with several thousands passengers on board these ships.

There had been remarkable publicity. Herb Robinson, the editorial editor of The Seattle Times, ran several columns on the celebration. The Times and the Post-Intelligencer carried special-feature stories prior to and after the celebration.

Florence Ekstrand and Murray of the Magnolia Journal gave constant publicity. Shirley Hitchings of the Magnolia News printed full, front-page historic pictures of the locks, as well as ongoing articles about the event.

Announcements of the celebration were on many business reader boards. All Seattle television stations covered the affair. Seattle Magazine, Seattle Greeter, Marine Digest and other publications headlined the event. Sen. Jackson's speech was carried on the Associated Press wire. Stories were carried in newspapers as far away as Aberdeen.

The American Legion Post No. 1, sponsors of the official Seattle Fourth of July celebration, fully "dovetailed" their program with the locks event. They had their most successful Independence Day in years.

The Magnolia Community Club's Locks Anniversary office was located at the Magnolia American Legion Post No. 123. The Magnolia Kiwanis donated to the office expenses. Eleanor Russell was in charge, doing an outstanding job. Sometime after the event both committees were invited to the historic Cavander House at the locks for a reunion party.

Eleven years later, on July 2, 1978, Sen. Jackson returned to dedicate Commodore Park. Jackson applauded "both the outcome of the locally initiated citizen efforts and actions which reverse the outward trend and bring people back to the cities by making them more attractive."

Congressman Joel Pritchard pointedly cited "the efforts of [citizens] who spearheaded a drive to establish a park and oppose a rezone request for an apartment building on the canal-front site."

Mayor Charles Royer told how the Magnolia Community Club "raised $2,000, which it donated to the city as seed money to acquire the land for a requested park. Seattle voters' approval of Forward Thrust bonds and additional funds from the Army Corps of Engineers [and state of Washington beautification funds] provided the money for the $1.3-million project."

Magnolia had its new, 5.5-acre city park on the south side of the locks - adjoining the recently completed fish ladder and visitor center.

Bob Kildall, a longtime resident of Magnolia, has been active in the preservation of Discovery Park. Write him at mageditor@nw-link.com.[[In-content Ad]]