A Swimming Hole and a Watering Hole at Titlow Beach

The swimming hole is gone, but the watering hole thrives.

Bessie and Irene Grace the Lagoon

Before the Olympic sized swimming pool opened at Titlow beach, in 1955, there was a swimming lagoon.  In a previous post I noted that in the 1920’s it was pristine.  According to the 9/2/31 issue of the Tacoma Ledger, the plan was to make the place, “the most popular swimming resort of Tacoma.”  Bessie Ewing and Irene Tollefson  stood beside the control pipe that the Northern Pacific Railway installed to control the tidal flow in and out of the lagoon.

As I noted in a previous post, by 1938 it was not so pristine. and in July of 1949 Mrs. E. S. Wright wrote a letter to the Tacoma News Tribune in which she commented on the, “disgraceful condition of Titlow Beach,” noting that, “just outside the lagoon a foul sewer, complete with seagulls, empties out and washes in every time they open the gates. Fine thing for a beautiful, modern, city like ours to have especially with polio getting prevalent.” By 1958 the historic, but now deteriorated, Titlow swimming lagoon had become a salmon farm.  How long that lasted I have been unable to determine.

Titlow Lagoon Today at High Tide

Enter the pool.  In 1955 the Titlow Beach pool was opened;  the first of its kind in the Tacoma area and state-of-the-art. The 165 x 75 foot pool began as a salt water pool but in 1956 it was decided to try filling it with fresh water.  A public vote later that year favored fresh water nearly three to one, so fresh water it remained.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Styer. Visit her Flickr photostream and website.

It was opened to great fanfare. Dick Hannula was the director of the new pool and Ray Daughters and Clay Huntington were masters of ceremonies.

Dick Hannula and Ray Daughters were two of the biggest names in competitive swimming.  Mr. Hannula trained potential Olympic athletes, founded the Tacoma Swim club and was inducted into the swimming hall of fame in 1987.

David Eskenazi and Steve Rudman, noted that Ray Daughters, “Friends used to insist that, while swimming existed long before Ray Daughters came along, he was the one who perfected it.”  His career spanned the years 1916-1964.  “Daughters coached his swimmers to 301 American records and eight Olympic medals, including four gold.”   He also became a member of the swimming hall of fame.

Entertainment was provided by the Lincoln Aqua Maids ballet team, featuring: Mrs. Vivian Sterline, advisor; Phyliss Chapin, Pat Lautenmilch, Deanna Tullis, Nancy Bashey, Jerry Lee Irwin, Eileen Fallon, Joann Irwin, Mary Welsh, Christine Hager, Linda Myhre, Carolyn Bartell, Verna Munro, Kay Manful, Debie Dean, Coleen Bates, Marjorie McCaskie.

They were accompanied by the Stadium, (High School?), ballet swim team with Hazel Minton and Helen Simmons as advisers and Maureen McGowan, Janet Broussard, Janet Elrond, Sally Arthur, Jo Marie Fleming, Arrol Dammeier, Kay Blankenship, Sharon Viafore, Margie Moni, Consi Evans, Marian Williams, Geraldine Van Eechout, Eloise Engerbretson, Carol Berry, Janet Leonard, Ruth White, Joan Weller, Sharie Holmes, Fran Williams, Sally Gord doing the swimming.

And finally, the YWCA Ballet troupe, advised by Miss Revajlan Porter, featuring Susan Badbaw, Carmen Carmichael, Janet Devish, Wyn Gourley, Karen Ronstadm, Kay Turner, Mary Welsh, Joyce Barden, Charlene Marshall, Pat Frayne, Judy Erdahl, Ann Causato, Adele Ulvan, Darlene Simmons, Carol Benham.

June 1-5  part of the celebration included a “Griddle-Go-Round,” predicted to be, “the largest pancake feed show in Pacific Coast History.”  Featured was Aunt Jemima as performed by actress, dancer and singer, Palmere Jackson.

I looked for additional information about Ms. Jackson, who vowed, in the California Eagle, 9/23/1954. that, The”‘Aunt Jemima’ role for Pillsbury Flour is way far off from the ‘handkerchief head’ sort of thing that lots of folks suspected it would be.”

I found a piece in the Baltimore, Afro-American, 12/27/1930, which said, “Palmere Jackson whose pretty face is seen in the fast dancing chorus of the Apex nightly, is the daughter of the Rev. C. H. Anderson, now deceased, who founded New Hope Baptist Church years ago.  ‘Pal has great ambitious [sic] in the poetic field.’  She was schooled at Prescott, Arizona, High School.”  I also learned that she performed with the Sunkist Maids in a 7/13/29 article from the same publication which noted, “A chance to sail the seven seas came to a group of Sunkist maids when they sailed Tuesday for Australia to play a long engagement, with a company from the States.  Those billed to go were: Flora Washington, Dorothy Johnson, Ellen Stevens, Isabel Hodge, Palmere Jackson, Georgia Prestley, Gladys Jackson, Dorothy West and Dorothy Williams.

In 1957 the pool was the location of Tacoma’s first “Aquarama,” loaded with singing, water performances and I’m sure plenty of food and drink.  The free public performance was given on Friday, August 23rd, but there was a special performance the night before for Tacoma Country Club and Golf Club members only.  How the Day Island Yacht Club got excluded from this spectacle I can’t imagine.

Featured were the chorus and orchestra of Lincoln High School; songs of the south and west were performed featuring David Ellingson and Vern F. Anderson with 8-year-old Martha Happy doing a solo performance in a cowboy horse and rider water ballet sequence.  Linda Fix was the accordionist, Brainerd Lee, guitarist. The Swimming Waterettes appeared, Members of the University of Washington diving team performed as did the young swimmers from the Country Club and YWCA.  The Aquarama, directed by Richard Gray.

For over 50 years the Titlow Beach pool did yeoman’s service for the community.  But Tacoma was growing and the pool was showing its age.  Cracks formed in the bottom allowing fresh, heated, water to seep out and salt water for seep in, although not everyone believed the extent of damage was accurately publicized.  In 2005 a $6 million bond measure was passed to replace the pool, but in typical fashion for these things, it was eventually decided that another location would better serve the community.  In 2011 the pool was shut down and in 2013 it was removed.  According to the Metro Parks Capital Improvement Committee notes, from May 29, 2013, the completion of demolition was to end the following week; “the fuel tank had been removed and contaminated soil dealt with.”

When I started my research on Titlow Beach had no idea a pool had ever been there. Today, It’s a large lawn next to the former swimming lagoon, which is signed, “No Swimming.”

Where the Pool Was

And then there’s the watering hole. The Beach Tavern has been a thriving fixture at Titlow Beach since six months after the end of prohibition, in 1934.

Titlow’s Beach Tavern

As an aside, Washington got a jump on the whole prohibition thing. “On November 3, 1914, after prodigious Anti-Saloon League lobbying efforts statewide, Washington voters approved Initiative Measure Number Three, prohibiting the manufacture and sale (although not the consumption) of liquor statewide,” according to an article at Historylink.org.  The US 18th amendment to the constitution, making prohibition the law of the land, wasn’t ratified until 1919.  Sort of Ironic that Washington was one of the first to outlaw booze and one of the first to legalize happy smoke.  My, how times change.

On the wall in the Beach is posted a list of the owners, starting with Charles Porter from 1934-1939.  Harry Muir had if from 1939-1942 giving it up in the middle of World War II to Thad McCarthy, who kept it until 1951.  That year the reins went to Tom and Lena Hankinson until they turned them over in 1954 to Phil and Louise Jacobs.  The Jacob’s kept it until 1965, then it became the responsibility of Gene Hansen.  Gene didn’t stay long because he is only listed as the owner for ’65, in 1966 Dick Grenier took over and ran it until 1972 when Phil and Louise took over again briefly. Later that year Art and Mavis LeGault, (sp?), took command until 1981 when current owner, David Lean became the boss.

I have no idea if any of these people were related, other than the married couples of course.

Linda at the Tap

On Oct. 29th, after getting David’s permission to photograph the inside of the tavern, I went and spent some time doing that and chatting with Linda Sweigart, who was running the place at the time.  Linda consider’s herself sort of the matriarch of the establishment; she’s been there since 1986.  I guess someone who’s been there a quarter of a century should have a pretty good feel for the place.

Originally beverages, well, except soft drinks, were limited to beer and wine.  In the last few years a full bar was added.  Their most popular dishes are still burgers and fish and chips although I had the prime rib dip and was quite pleased with it.  At the time a wedding party had the place hopping.

I’ve worked in retail for 30+ years and I have lots of stories about odd occurences I’ve seen during that time, so I assumed Linda would have stories to tell.  Unfortunately, apparently, the crowd at The Beach is a pretty mellow group.  It used to be mostly locals, but given the time the tavern has been around, many of them have passed the tavern frequenting time of their lives.  Now they have a more diverse crowd and serve lots of visitors and local students. She did remember one incident from some time back when a regular was there, drinking his Friday night away.  She and another employee were watching the sports ticker when they heard a strange noise.  Her co-worker went around the bar to check it out and found that the patron, well…had it out…and had just urinated under the bar.  Linda grabbed a bucket and mop made the dude perform janitorial duties and then booted him.

Narrows Brewing Tap

I noticed a beer tap sort of off to the side of the others with an “NB” handle.  Linda told me that it’s a special tap for offering brews from the nearby Narrows Brewing Co., run by Dan Turner. I made a mental note to run over to 19th street, in Tacoma, and check out his work.

Their weekly specials run like this:  Monday– 50₵ wings after 5 pm.; Tuesday – Malibu Spiced rum, $4; Wednesday – Prime rib, 10 oz, baked potato, veggies and green salad, $14.95 after 5 pm.; Thursday – Taco Thursday, 5-8 pm 3 tacos $2.50; Friday– Tacoma’s best clam chowder – “Try the fish and chips too.”; Saturday – Fun night; and Sunday – Happy hour all day, $2 hot dogs, $3 chili dogs and 1/2 price bottles of  wine.

A brass diving helmet hangs above the bar, there’s a pool table.  The bar and the floor are comfortably worn, photos with bits of history hang around the walls and there’s plenty of neon.  All in all, a comfortable and friendly place to have a brew – or something stronger – and a solid meal in a place that has stood the test of time.

I leave you with a gallery of photos from The Beach Tavern, and other sights around the park and neighborhood.  Hope you enjoy.

You can check out more of my photography at my Flickr photostream.

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Some more about Aaron Titlow

A. R. Titlow signatureAs I covered in a previous post, Aaron R. Titlow  is responsible for the area in Tacoma that bears his name–Titlow Beach.  Among other things Mr. Titlow was the Pierce County Prosecutor in 1897 and 1898 and I wanted a better picture of what he did, which led me on a search for some cases he handled while in that office.  Ahhh, what fun.

If you have never gone on such a search, let me tell you a bit about it.  I started with the misconception that records of that vintage would no longer be stored at the Pierce County Courthouse, my experiences with another county years ago being that most of the cases that old had been forwarded to the State Archives.  Should you decided to do research of this type, be advised, Pierce County has theirs in their own house.

When entering a courthouse in America in 2013 one must expect to pass through security and I planned for this.  On my first visit I carried a camera on a tripod, the gradoo in my pockets, a small briefcase with my netbook and a tablet and pens.  The security officer was quite efficient, everything went well and I headed to records.

Once there I stated my mission and asked for records from 1878 1879.  The clerk was baffled…young and baffled.  He talked to a more experienced clerk…who was also baffled. They only knew of records going back to 1890.  I assured them I had called the day before to make sure they were there, they agreed to look into it.  I went home, pulled out my notes and discovered that I had asked for the wrong dates.  As I indicated above, I was looking for 1897 1898, not 1878 1879.

The following day I returned, with the same equipment, and arrived at the same security checkpoint.  The officer (not the one from the previous day), looked at my camera and said, “What’s that?”

“A camera,” I replied.

“What do you need that for?”

Resisting the urge to just say, “to take pictures,” I explained my project and that I was headed for the records dept.

“What’s that attached to it?”

“A tripod,” I replied

“What do you need that for.”

Not wanting to go into deep photographic technical stuff I said, “Well, there’s not a lot of light in there and this helps keep the camera steady so I can get clear pictures”

Meanwhile, everything else had passed through the appropriate scanners and all my pocket contents, belt, watch, etc. had passed muster.

“You can take the camera in, but I’m keeping the tripod here,” he said.  And he did.

Pierce County Case Books 4

Tome and Tomes and more Tomes

Pierce County Case Books 1

The big book of case files

Page 1051

Page 1051

There is a system to the huge tomes stored in records.  As near as I can figure, when the project to archive court records was conceived, each case was issued a number and they are listed in those big books numerically by that numbering system.  Unfortunately, the numbers have no logical system attached to them and the book I needed covered from 1890 to 1912.  Each case is listed, apparently, in order by date although the dates do not appear in the book.  Each case is listed alphabetically by the name of the plaintiff followed by the name of the defendant or defendants.  They do not indicate what kind of case–civil, criminal, what kind of crime was involved–but list only the names of the parties involved, leaving the records clerk to guess which numbers applied to the years and criminal cases I wanted.

After some trial and error, we got ourselves to the microfilm for the relevant years, but I was looking for criminal cases and the big books didn’t give us that information.  Finally an older, more experienced, clerk took pity on us and told us to look for cases listing the State of Washington as the plaintiff.  Done and done.  The clerk got the right microfilm reels and I spent the next five hours reading through them.  As I did so two things became obvious; the chairs at the microfilm viewers and my butt were not meant to be together that long and people were doing the same stupid and dishonest things a hundred years ago that they do today…it just took longer for the news to get out and it didn’t go nearly as far as it does today. 

There was the case of William Londerville who was accused, on the 28th of December, 1896, of, “with intent, attempting to kill and murder” a miner named Brotten.  Worse yet he did it in a “rude, insolent and angry manner.”  In fact, he was accused of, “striking, beating, shooting and wounding the said miner Brotten with a revolver loaded with lead bullets and powder.”

Revolver and ammoRevolver with lead bullets and powder.

Not any of those non-lethal bullets we have today, these were real lead bullets propelled by real [gun, we assume] powder.  And let us  keep in mind that he wasn’t out to kill or murder Brotten, he was dead set on doing both.

Now this was not just a he-said-he-said, William had a list of witnesses for his defense. According to his attorney, J. O’Brien, he needed W. S. Josh, L. P. Ferguson, Lewis Evans, John Warner, Julius Nelson, Warren Miller, Charles Pollard, Chas Shaw, Chas Stevenson and S. C. Chase, all of Anacortes, for his defense.  For some unexplained reason none of these gentlemen could make it to court so Mr. O’Brien  moved for a dismissal, and got it.

A. R. Titlow, the prosecutor, and Hugh Farley, the deputy prosecutor, dismissed the case on March 11, 1987 and Mr. Londerville apparently went on his merry way, undoubtedly avoiding a long stint in an anger management class.

Then there was Henry Flannigan, who, on April 15th, 1897,  committed an act that might be right out of today’s headlines.  Henry was just walking along the road between Wilkison and South Prairie when James Shaw and John Carpenter, riding their bikes toward Wilkison, spotted him.  Nothing unusual there, right?  Except that they noticed he had an upset seven-year old girl with him and he took her across the road and into the woods. Now that they thought that was unusual.

Shaw and Carpenter were suspicious and followed the pair.  When they found them Flannigan had the little girl sitting on a log and they decided some surveillance was in order.  As they watched, they noticed the girl crying and trying to leave while Flannigan “fetched her back,” telling her he would go home with her.  Shaw said Flannigan “had his hand under the girl’s clothing fooling around with her.”  He said she was crying, saying she’d get spanked if she didn’t go home and she got up and headed for the road again.

Mr. Carpenter made the same observations from his and Shaw’s place of concealment. After the girl and Flannigan made it back to the road, Carpenter confronted the creep and asked what he was doing.  Flannigan apparently replied, “it would not hurt any to play with her little ‘c**t’ a little.”

Mr. Flannigan had no technicalities to fall back on.  He was charged with Assault with intent to commit rape, made a plea bargain wherein he pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to six months in the county jail.

My guess is Mr. Flannigan appeared in court for similar reasons at some time in the future.

So while Mr. Titlow was a prosecutor, a businessman, and even the receiver of the failing United States National Bank in 1915, his cases tell us that life in 1897 was in many ways not so different from 2013.  He made money, built and ran a luxury hotel and raised a family and the world proceeded much as it does today…just at a slower pace.

You can see more of my photography by visiting my Flickr acct.

Titlow Beach, WA

Titlow Beach is really part of the City of Tacoma, but it stands as a place with its own bit of history; named after Aaron Rosser Titlow, a prominent attorney in Pierce County and the Democratic Prosecuting Attorney for the County from 1897-1898.  Not a native Washingtonian, he was born in Ohio in 1858 to Aaron and Sophia J (Casase) Titlow and arrived in Washington shortly before statehood was granted, Nov. 11, 1889.

You may see Mr. Titlow’s portrait by following the Aaron R. Titlow link.

A man of means, he decided that Washington needed a good resort on the shore of Puget Sound.  To that end, he purchased 200 acres located at the far west end of 6th Avenue, in Tacoma, and built the luxury hotel which he named Hesperides, (nymphs who tend a blissful garden in a far western corner of the world in Greek mythology,) in honor of his young daughters, Lone, Marcella, Constance and S. Lucille.  What the “S.” stood for I have yet to determine, however since Mrs. Titlow’s name was Stella, Stella is as good a guess as any.

Hesperides Luxury Hotel
Used courtesy of Tacoma Metro. Parks

The original three and a half story building cost $50,000 to build, had 30 guest rooms, a formal dining room, billiard room, barber shop and a ladies parlor.  It was constructed so that each room had its own balcony overlooking the picturesque Puget Sound.  And state-of-the-art hot and cold running water; both fresh and salt water according to one source I read.

Supplied with the finest china and silver, columns of Douglas Fir supporting beamed ceilings, the dining room was illuminated by twenty-two Tiffany lanterns and equipped with a brick fireplace at one end.

This was the kind of place where guests might arrive in their Roll Royce’s, their 1917 Locomobile Coupe’s; perhaps a Stutz Bearcat, or a Duesenberg!  And think of how our colloquialisms would have been lacking without the Deusenberg to give us the phrase, “Hey!  Isn’t that a Doozy!”  

Of course lodging was provided nearby for chauffeurs, although with somewhat fewer amenities I’m sure.

To provide the best food for his guests, Titlow added a farm to the property.  Not only was the meat and produce fresh and local, he added ostriches for the entertainment of his guests.

The grounds included a swimming lagoon, which was described as crystal clear.  Apparently it was designed to fill with the high tide, then hold the water so that the sun could warm it for swimming.  By 1938 the clarity was gone – but more of that later.

By the 1920’s the luxury hotel business was waning; the hotel was used During WWI—1914-1918— to house troops.  The Hesperides was closed by the time Mr. Titlow died January 6th of 1923.

The land was acquired by the Metropolitan Parks Dept. In 1926 and the hotel was reopened as the Titlow Beach Lodge in 1928, but the age was over and the hotel never regained its former grandeur.  It closed in 1937

If you go to Titlow Beach now, you’ll see a small lodge, one and a half stories, used as a community center.  Between 1937 and 1941, the WPA was asked to demolish the hotel; the parks dept. felt they could no longer afford to maintain it.  All of the interior decor was

Titlow lodge today

Titlow Lodge Today
Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

auctioned off, but persistent Titlow Beach Improvement Club members protested the removal of the building.  A compromise was reached; the size of the building was reduced to the current one and a half stories. The remaining building was converted to a dining room, kitchen and living quarters for the Parks Superintendent and his family.

I must insert here a thanks to Melissa M. of the Parks Dept. for providing me corrected information.  The original story we had heard was that the top stories were removed because the building was sinking.  She shared information she had found that refuted this theory.  The reduction was about money, not gravity.

Carl Larson lived at the lodge with his wife Geneva and Daughter Betty, (who later became Mrs. Martin).  Carl was the Superintendent in 1945 and held that position until his death in 1955.  Geneva took over the position and held it until 1973.  Betty grew up on the beach and in the park.

For another look at Titlow Beach, take a look at René Fabre’s – Rainmaker –  blog, at Active Rain.

Stone Thing

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

There’s more to the Titlow Beach story—Mr. Titlow’s personal history, ferries, swimming pool, the Beach Tavern— but we’ll save it for another time.  See more of my photography at Flickr.

Feather and Grass

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott