By Mark Derricott, former editor of the OHS Newsletter
I recently re-read a couple of my favorite books: The Histories by Herodotus and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.Aside from realizing that I was much too young when I read them last time, I happened to read those books as my personal life underwent some relatively dramatic turn of events. One repercussion was my leaving the Olympia Historical Society board and turning over the newsletter editorship to someone else (who shall remain nameless until such time as that person steps forward). These developments gave me reason to consider, and here I will relate, some of my thoughts on the three major problems that studying history presents.
As we’re all aware, we don’t have time machines that take us to the place we’re studying and that makes recreating history or even a particular timeline within history extremely problematic. Even though that ideal is impossible, it is the ultimate motivation behind the study of history. Amateur and professional historian alike, it drives the work. Let us turn to this example from the Father of History himself:
“So much for what the Persians and Phoenicians say; and I have no intention of passing judgment on its truth or falsity. I prefer to rely on my own knowledge, and to point out who it was in actual fact that first injured the Greeks; then I will proceed with my history, telling the story as I go along of small cities no less than of great. For most those which were great once are small to-day; and those which used to be small were great in my own time. Knowing, therefore, that human prosperity never abides long in the same place, I shall pay attention to both alike.” (Emphasis added.)
Herodotus here defines my first problem, the historian chooses the story to tell from sometimes unreliable sources. Herodotus describes the delineation of his narrative from the broader fabric of history and he was even kind enough to define the limits of his discretion. He explains what he is going to pay attention to within the sources at his disposal. He clings to the notion of provable facts, while still acknowledging that there are reasons to doubt the veracity of any given source. Of course, he also reveals a general personal worldview of city-states pulsating through the years in declinations and ascensions. Whether that in actual fact occurs we shall not here pass judgment. Suffice it to say that Herodotus was one of the earliest Western historians, and his stories still provide the typical template of telling and re-telling history all the way to our own time. We have embraced subjectivity just like Herodotus’s because over the years we have fallen in love with the spaces between a historian and a storyteller and we can’t help but celebrate the latter’s yarn spinning.
Herodotus’ method of presentation is perhaps his most important legacy. This is the narrative mode of the omniscient narrator. This is the voice that relates everything it sees, and if it were present in your room (as opposed to a book or computer in your lap), it would be able to fill in every single detail that the inquiring mind might have the desire to ask. We see this omniscient narrator often, and particularly in our histories, both in the novel and scholarly form. It’s natural but also powerfully authoritative. Rarely does that narrator betray any deficiency in telling the stories. In history retelling, this is extremely important because who would want to doubt the certainty of someone explaining the story?
The narrative mode appears in the form of Dostoevsky’s narrator in The Brothers Karamazov. How different would the story be without him? Would the story still be a story without the narrator? It certainly would not have been the same story and may not have become the classic that we know it as today. The author, in the voice of the narrator, just as the trial was about to begin explains his method:
“I will say beforehand, and say emphatically, that I am far from considering myself capable of recounting all that took place in court, not only with the proper fullness, but even in the proper order. I keep thinking that if one were to recall everything and explain everything as one ought, it would fill a whole book, even quite a large one. Therefore, let no one grumble if I tell only that which struck me personally and which I have especially remembered. I may have taken secondary things for the most important, and even overlooked the most prominent and necessary features…But anyway I see that it is better not to apologize. I shall do what I can, and my readers will see for themselves that I have done all I could.”
The second problem is people don’t always get it down as it happened and may not remember acurately what they saw. On the more brightly human side, nothing is more lovable but frustrating than the personable historian who might have left out a critical detail, or whose story is derailed by putting salient moments out of order. Those winding and erractic tales make getting to the point all the more exciting as we consumers experience the story. Our narrator apologizes and then recants the apology. Let no one grumble, indeed!
We adore the narrator who fully acknowledges his inability to capture everything because they remind us of a beloved relative telling us the story we love—the one that gets hazier as the years progress, but is still as wonderful as it was when we were young. The imperfect story-teller forces us to realize that there was more to the story than we’ll ever be able to know. There are angles unseen, sounds unheard, and bits of the events that anyone and everyone else there may have experienced absolutely otherwise. We are left with the product of a single individual for the events that interest us because we don’t usually get panels in the same room to describe these things, (though there are exceptions).
I find Dostoevsky’s apology just before the trial fascinating even more so because I can see in my mind’s eye that all those who were in courtroom then, all of their children, and their grand-children have long since passed away. I imagine that this story and its imperfections have become the only link we have with that trial—the crescendo of a spectacular story of a little town in Russia. If I were to study that trial as a historian I would be filling in the blanks as best I could knowing that the sources are every bit as questionable as those that Herodotus questioned 2500 years ago. That is one of the legacies and tragedies of the historian.
Much earlier in the same book is my favorite example. If you’ll forgive me for being so personal—aside from indulging me in writing about fiction in a historical newsletter—I’d like to present another passage. I have included along with it my reaction in italics last time I read it. I do this because this passage presents the third problem of the historian, to be shortly introduced.
“The house of Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov stood far from the center of town, yet not quite on the outskirts.”
A house not far from downtown must be like any house in almost any neighborhood adjoining Olympia’s downtown.
“It was rather decrepit, but had a pleasant appearance: one storied, with an attic, painted a gray color, and with a red iron roof.”
Not too big and decrepit—must be in the Eastside Neighborhood.
“However, it had many good years left, and was roomy and snug. It had all sorts of closets, all sorts of nooks and unexpected little stairways.”
I don’t know of many one-storied houses with “unexpected little stairways”, but nooks are fun.
“There were rats in it, but Fyodor Pavlovich was not altogether angry with them: “Still, it’s not so boring in the evenings when one is alone.” And indeed he had the custom of dismissing the servants to their cottage for the night and locking himself up in the house alone for the night.”
“This cottage stood in the yard. It was spacious and solid; and Fyodor Pavlovich also appointed his kitchen to be there, though there was a kitchen in the main house; he did not like kitchen smells, and food was carried across the yard winter and summer. As a matter of fact, the house had been built for a large family: it could have accommodated five times as many masters and servants.”
Oh, so it’s some kind of mansion! Up until this point in the book, I didn’t get that Fyodor Pavlovich was a wealthy man living in a huge mansion. One storied?
I’ve even spent a considerable amount of time in Russia and this passage still drew a bright line between my experience with the concept of a house in Olympia and upper-class living standards in mid-nineteenth century Provincial Russia. The realization came that this verse actually describes us (the subject) just as much—if not more—than it describes its own object, the house in which Fyodor Pavlovich lived.
Along with questionable sources and stories, along with questionable memories of the sources, there is further the questionable interaction between the historian and the object of her study. These interactions are the moments that have become narratives, pieces of stories, and presentation of circumstances that humanity–across all languages and every other social barrier–has come to love. This is history. And this is the presentation of history. History is not only the object but the subject; and they together are intertwined and wound inextricably. And to grasp a small part of it, we must multiply the millions of objects by the billions of subjects who have ever lived over the ages.
But I am discussing art and historiography should be scientific! What if we adhere to a scientific principle fit for the scholarliest of scholarship? We can, nay we must, do better! Consider if we’re studying cooking methods from ages ago, even if we use the same instruments: the wood for the fires, the pots that they used in the age we’re studying, and the ingredients taken from the most reliable sources; we still cannot replicate the same food because the trees are hundreds of years older, the pans are hundreds of years degraded (or fashioned newly for experimental purposes and never really used for anything else), and the food itself certainly cannot be reproduced as it would have been long ago. Let us not forget our object: the taste of the food would be compared with a subjective palate that has likely experienced McDonald’s and Starbucks. Would the comparative study be useful for us at all?
Just as if an ancient and untouched village whose centuries old traditions remain intact, where the people speak languages the modern world has never heard, was suddenly discovered. As soon as that modern world enters, flooded by those seeking answers to the questions that vexed academics—whether it’s cracking the code of an ancient language, or revealing extinct engineering practices—everything changes. Those objects interact with those subjects and those people then change how life is carried on in the little village. The residents begin to eat Snickers bars and drink Coca-Cola. They wear different clothing and change their ambitions from farming to moving to a city to experience life in a different way. Even if the changes aren’t dramatic enough to be visible, people act differently or at least not authentically. Our mere presence in our fictional village changes the composition in the village. Regardless of how this happens that village can never return to what it was. The same thing happens when we discover an unknown chapter of history to study.
We can talk and even dream about history, but we cannot recreate and cannot re-live it. It’s simply far too personal. One final, personal example: shortly after my father’s sister died a few years ago, I had a conversation with my dad. He began to talk about his father and I started asking him about a specific event of which my dad had no first-hand knowledge. Before he was able to say, “Your aunt would know” we both fell into silence and realized that a particular moment of my own relative’s life literally had been banished to dustbin of history. That banishment happens every hour of every day.
My family’s history is insignificant, but our collective history is made up of millions of individual moments that disappear over time like a beautiful tapestry slowly falling apart. And all that remains in that tapestry are the moments for which the time becomes known, pieced together from whatever shreds remain. Those remains ultimately form the historical narrative that defines the past—the stories of Herodotus and the unreliable tales of someone hastily taking down notes at the trial. Perhaps, we now live during the Gregoire and Inslee eras. Someone will write about that someday and will shed very little light on our time, now darkened by the passing years. It will be defined from the desks of our politicians and other powerful people but our worlds actually revolve very little around whomever those people happen to be, much less the predilections of whoever decides to write about them.
History is so much more, just like our personal lives are so much more. These stories can be captured, preserved, and protected through thousands of little organizations just like ours. This work will be so much more effective—it can only be effective—with your participation both as a consumer but just as importantly as a producer. It was wonderful to have been a part of this one for last few years.
|On a weekly basis, Members Lanny Weaver and Deb Ross catalogue the State Capital Museum collection now housed at the Washington State Historical Society (WSHS) in Tacoma. This project is made possible through a collaboration between the Olympia Historical Society and WSHS, and Deb and Lanny are grateful for the time and cooperation of the WSHS and Research Center staff in making this possible. This regular column informs you about their work.
In the fall of 2012, Deb was given a new ongoing assignment, to catalogue thousands of negatives from the Olympiancollection. These negatives were donated to the State Capital Museum in 1986 and only a few have ever been viewed since they were sleeved back in the 1950s and 1960s. Deb enlisted the help of Olympia Historical Society member Kay Foster to assist with this project. Kay moved to Olympia as a small child in the 1950s, so this project is right up her alley! On a weekly basis Deb is able to catalogue about 30-40 negatives, and Kay then looks through microfiche copies of theOlympian to find the articles that correspond to the negatives. Deb intersperses her Olympian work with other interesting photographs unearthed by Head of Collections Lynette Miller, and figures at this rate, she’ll be done with Olympian photos in about 12 years! You can contact the Olympia Historical Society if you wish to know how to view these catalogued items.
By Mark Foutch, President
Incorporation, Bylaws and Progress
(If the exploratory and organizational meetings of 2001 could be considered “conception” and “birth,” then early in 2002 the Olympia Historical Society was “confirmed” and took its first steps. And suddenly the “toddler” had lots of great ideas. The challenge would be to choose among them and then focus organizational talent and energy to turn them into reality.)
2002: The January 26th Meeting
On January 9, The Olympian ran a notice that “The Olympia Historical Society’s second organizational meeting will be 2 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Thurston County Courthouse…Agenda items include adopting articles of incorporation, electing officers and setting up committees. An additional meeting is planned for 2 p.m. Feb. 23.”
Present were Bob Arnold, Karen Bowen, Drew Crooks, Spencer Daniels, Roger Easton, Edward Echtle, Lynn Erickson, Lois Fenske, Annamary Fitzgerald, Gary Foote, Susan Goff, Beverly Gunstone, Jerry Handfield, Pat Harper, Genevieve Hupe’, Russ Hupe’, E.L. Johnson, F. David Kindle, Anne Kilgannon, Bonnie Marie, Charles Roe, Liza Rognas, Ann Shipley, Randolph Stilson, Rae Verhoff, Lanny Weaver and Tom Zahn.
Temporary Chair Annamary Fitzgerald opened the meeting with an announcement on meeting etiquette: “No one will be allowed to speak for more than 3 minutes before yielding the floor to another member.” Apparently the past meeting’s experience had caused this measure to be felt necessary.
The proposed Articles of Incorporation passed after a few amendments. Article I confirmed the group’s official name as “Olympia Historical Society.” Article II specified that the period of existence of the new corporation was to be “perpetual.” Article III laid out OHS’ “business and purpose,” drawn from the drafts considered at earlier meetings. Article IV gave the group’s location as “Olympia, Washington.” Article V listed Annamary Fitzgerald as the Initial Registered Agent. Article IV listed her address for the record
Article VII specified that the Board of Directors would number not less than three but that the final number, methods of election or appointment, and term of office, would be further specified in the Bylaws. Article VIII said that classes of membership, qualifications, rights, and method of acceptance for each class would also be specified in the Bylaws.
Article IX listed the Incorporators as: President Annamary Fitzgerald; Vice President Rebecca Christie; Secretary Spencer Daniels; Treasurer Shanna Stevenson; Board Member Drew Crooks. Article X directed that, if/when the Corporation were to be dissolved, its assets would be distributed to “another 501(c)(3) or nonprofit groups with similar purposes and objects,” and exempt from U.S. taxes, or to the Federal , State or local government for “a public purpose.” Any assets not so distributed would be disposed of by a Court. And Article XI allowed amendments to the Articles of Incorporation only by a general or special meeting of the membership.
Bob Arnold then moved approval of the draft Bylaws and Lois Fenske seconded. After five amendments were approved, Bob Arnold again moved approval, Drew Crooks seconded, and the Bylaws were adopted:
Article I dealt with membership and dues (not raised until 10 years later). Article II dealt with scheduling of meetings and quorum requirements. Article III established requirements for the Board of Directors, including a minimum number of seven. Article IV laid out duties of Officers and Directors. Article V established committees: Organization, Collections, Publications, Educational Programs and Outreach, Membership, Finance and Fundraising. All committees were to have no fewer than three members and chairs would serve one-year terms. Committees would submit quarterly reports to the Board. And other committees or subcommittees could be appointed by the Board or by a general vote of the members. Article VI dealt with Financial Provisions and Article VII, controlled acceptance of Gifts and Donations and called for a formal collections policy. Article VIII, Ethical Behavior, prohibited conflicts of interest by Directors in employment or contracting with/by the Society during a term of office or 12 months thereafter. Article IX controlled use of the Society’s name and image. Article X prescribed Robert’s Rules of Order for conducting Board general meetings. Article XI was the standard indemnity and hold harmless clause. (There seemed to be no Article XII.) Article XIII made the Bylaws effective upon adoption, except for Article III. Election of Directors by the membership would take place after six months or until the membership numbered 50 persons. Article XIV allowed amendments to the Bylaws only by a vote of the members at a general or special meeting.
The interim officers continued to manage the Society’s business until the conditions in Article XIII were satisfied. Meanwhile the Society continued with initial administrative tasks and began to explore program topics and other heritage-related activities.
The February 23rd Meeting
This meeting recorded lots of follow-up actions by committees. Attending were Bob Arnold, Ralph Blankenship, Rebecca Christie, Marilyn Connon, Drew Crooks, Spencer Daniels, Roger Easton, Edward Echtle, Lois Fenske, Susan Goff, Genevieve Hupe’, Russ Hupe’, Anne Kilgannon, David Kindle, Duane King, E.L.Johnson, Mark Johnson, Bruce Newman, Shanna Stevenson, Lanny Weaver, and Derek Valley.
Treasurer Drew Crooks reported that an account had been opened at South Sound Bank with a $100 deposit.
Organization Committee chair Rebecca Christie reported that the Articles of Incorporation had been filed with the Secretary of State for Washington State.
Also, a Post Office Box had been established and OHS’ official address was now P.O. Box 6064, Olympia, WA 98507.
Finance Committee chair Drew Crooks reported that he and Lois Fenske were working out the details to reimburse those who had advanced funds to organize the Society.
Education, Programs and Outreach Committee chair Drew Crooks reported the committee was looking for programs and speakers. He also stated that the Olympia School District would be celebrating its Sesquicentennial in the 2002-3 school year; Lynn Erickson was on a district committee for that event.
For the Society’s first program, Lanny Weaver suggested Lynn Erickson present her project, “The View From Sylvester’s Window.”
Lois Fenske said that South Puget Sound Community College was celebrating its 40th anniversary in September. Genevieve Hupe’ moved that OHS support the Olympia School District for their Sesquicentenial celebration; Duane King suggested OHS give financial support. Drew Crooks responded that financial support was impractical but that other support would be desirable, so Duane King withdrew his suggestion. Mark Johnson moved that OHS support the OSD effort with suggestions from the Education Committee. Drew Crooks seconded; motion carried.
For more program suggestions Drew Crooks also recommended Lynn Erickson’s “Sylvester’s Window,” OSD make a presentation, also the 75th anniversary of the Capitol Building (Legislative Building). Rebecca Christie asked if OHS could cooperate with State Capitol Museum evens and Derek Valley said yes.
Lois Fenske asked what geographical area of interest was OHS’; Rebecca Christie replied that the bylaws did not limit those to the city limits only.
Other program suggestions: Les Eldridge on maritime history; Ed Echtle for Chinese history; Lisa Rognas’ students from Evergreen; Lois Fenske on SPSCC; Eli Sterling on Heritage Park proposals.
Collections Committee chair Susan Goff had met with Bev Gunstone and Pat Harper. A Mission Statement should be developed and geographical boundaries set for collectios. Example: Lacey Museum had set North Thurston school district boundaries for their area of interest. OHS collection policy can be fine-tuned without changing the bylaws.
Webpage chair Ed Echtle reported that a web presence could be secured for about $100 per year, free of advertisements. Price included an Email address for the officers. He had drafted a covenant for the webmaster to access the OHS bank account to debit the account to pay for the web. The Board would discuss that after the meeting. Anne Kilgannon noted that web access would be a great tool to publicize the Society. Ed Echtle clarified that the cost would be $15 to start and about $9 monthly and that the URL www.olympiahistory.org was available.
Logo committee chair Roger Easton joked that it should be the “Loco Committee” because of all the possible logo options including two of the “oyster” versions, showing the old Capitol and the current Capitol buildings. Bruce Newman suggested the oyster logo would connect with Native American history. Marilyn Connon asked about the Lacey and Tumwater society’s logos. Members agreed “the simpler, the better.” After a suggestion to adopt an interim logo, Drew Crooks moved and Spencer Daniels seconded to approve an oyster logo in concept and have the committee bring back a refined version. The motion carried 13-5.
Rebecca Christie brought up the issue of a contact telephone number for the Society. Ed Echtle said Qwest offered a voice mail service to organizations and he would check into it. Spencer Daniels cautioned that someone must be willing to monitor the voice mail on a regular basis.
Regarding meeting times and locations, Rebecca Christie had polled many members and suggested that for those members who did not wish to drive at night the group continue to meet on Saturdays in the winter and in summer on the first Thursday of the month. She had also researched locations including the Library, Coach House, Women’s Club, Fire Department training room, and The Olympian community room. Duane King suggested Churches and she suggested he pursue that option. Roger Easton would check Puget Power community room and E.L. Johnson, Lincoln School. Mark Johnson noted that the Courthouse was free and OHS had no funds for room rental.
The group agreed to the following schedule: Saturday, March 30 at the Courthouse, then beginning in May, 7 p.m., the first Thursday, location TBA. On Standard Time, Saturday meetings would start at 10 a.m.
Committee Meetings followed:
Finance and Fundraising: Bruce Newman suggested pursuing City of Olympia Neighborhood organizations for members; Rebecca Christie noted they were already on the mailing list.
Membership: Members so far were E.L. Johnson, Spencer Daniels, Marilyn Connon, Lanny Weaver and Rebecca Christie. No chair designated yet. Drew Crooks will give Rebecca a list of people attending meetings but not yet paying dues. Committee will draft a cover letter for President’s signature and send them application forms. Forms to be sent also to City Councilmembers’ inboxes. Will contact neighborhood and homeowners’ associations asking for publicity. Will create a membership brochure (print and electronic versions) to be discussed March 12. Will need facts from other committees to draft brochure language. Asked OHS members for leads for new members.
Education, Program and Outreach: Will follow up on program suggestions. Aim for May or June for the first program. Will report OHS support to School District and plan an interactive OHS booth for Sesquicentennial Family History Day in August.
Collections: Chair, Susan Goff. Members Pat Harper, Genevieve Hupe’, Duane King and Bev Gunstone. Will draft a Mission Statement, proposed geographic area for collections and a collections site or sites for consideration at next meeting. Attendees’ input: Anne Kilgannon asked if collections would be limited to “paper only;” Susan Goff responded that the bylaws allowed other formats. President Christie agreed to forward Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws to members. Bruce Newman suggested a formal portrait of members when the 50 member threshold was reached.
Publications: Members were Lois Fenske, Shanna Stevenson, Anne Kilgannon, Ann Shipley, Roger Easton and Bob Arnold. Lois Fenske reported that the committee will present a draft newsletter at a future meeting. It will include basic information about OHS and also features about Olympia history.
Other Business: Rebecca Christie reported that OHS was applying for the Stormans’ rebate program. David Kindle noted that Albertson’s had a similar program.
The meeting adjourned at 12:10 p.m.
(Some participants at these early meetings report that they seemed tedious, and perhaps they were. But looking at all that was accomplished, and all that was laid out for future action, progress seems remarkable. Since then, some things have changed but much remains the same: The bylaws set the framework for a large, thriving future organization. The dues structure remained unchanged until 2013. OHS still has the same P.O. box, website URL, and bank account. The split 13-5 vote for the ”oyster logo” apparently did not bode well because today’s logo is entirely different. IRS 501(c)(3) status has not been applied for as the group’s income so far has not warranted it. The group still tries to schedule board, general meetings and programs a year ahead but often bumps up against individuals’ personal and professional schedules. Next chapter: Organizational progress, first programs, and more!)
By Emmett O’Connell
In 1903 John P. Fink, a newspaper man and promoter, had an idea for a baseball league.
Fink seemed to be a jack-of-all-trades sort of promoter in the era, is mostly mentioned in that gray area between public relations and newspapering. He wrote about sports, worked for newspapers, but also ran teams and leagues. In 1903 he is also noted in the first ever mention of the Southwest Washington League as “the manager of the Tacoma druggists” baseball team.
This is the same era that saw the consolidation in the high level minor leagues of the Pacific Coast League between California and Pacific Northwest teams. The highest level of baseball on the west coast to that point had been split between the two. In 1903 the two warring baseball regions joined together in an outlaw league.
The Pacific Coast League was operated outside the rules of organized baseball. That meant, for example, they could sign players outside existing contracts of other leagues that played inside the rules.
Was it because of the attention being paid to the Portland Browns, Tacoma TIgers and Seattle Siwashes in the press that Fink saw opportunity in a baseball circuit throughout timber towns in bottom left hand corner of Washington? The Pacific Coast League was no small undertaking.
Baseball had been growing along the west coast since after the Civil War, with Portland teams playing since the late 1860s. It slowly expanded from a game played between clubs and soldiers to a game of semi-pros and pros, business patrons and fans paying gate.
The new regional league from Los Angeles to Seattle was outside the bounds of baseball law, but Fink sought to toe the line. 1903 was also the first year of the National Association, the agreement major league baseball on the East and midwest and minor leagues throughout the country. This agreement gave certainty to players and owners (mostly owners) that contracts would be recognized across professional leagues and that poached players could not re-enter organized baseball without outlaw teams paying up.
This was also the agreement that Pacific Coast League ignored, if only for a year or so. But, the smaller (class D) Southwest Washington League was inside the law from the beginning. This was even fact trumpeted by the the league in “The Reach Official American League Base Ball Guide.”
The Southwest Washington League, under the protection of the National Association, enjoyed a most successful season, financially and artistically, under the able administration of President John P. Fink, of Olympia. The season opened May 10, 1903, and closed September 6, with Aberdeen and Hoquiam tied for the pennant. Hoquiam refused to play a post-season series to decide the tie, and the league directors awarded the pennant to Aberdeen.
Fink first reached out to organizers of local teams in the timber towns early in 1903, asking them if their communities had it in them to step up to professional baseball. First on his list were Olympia, Chehalis, Centralia, Montesano, Aberdeen and Hoquiam.
These six cities were at the time very similar. Today, they stand apart culturally and demographically, Olympia in particular. In more than a century, Olympia has gone from a timber town in the same classification as Aberdeen and Chehalis (with a state capitol) to a city on the southern edge of the Puget Sound metroplex. Olympia grew from just under 4,000 to more than 10 times that size.
But, as Fink sent out his inquiries in early 1903, these really were cities of the same league.
By February 1903 almost 20 Olympia businessmen had lined up behind the team, putting up the nearly the entire sum needed to enter the league. The entrance fee of $250 that Fink and other organizers wanted in 1903 to enter the league worked out to be about $6,000 today.
Gathering investors, officially forming the league, putting together a board of directors were early steps for the Olympia team in the Southwest League. By mid-February the local electric utility — Olympia Light and Power — promised to rip down a defunct veladrome (bike track) on the bluff above their powerhouse. The plan was to use the timbers to build a grandstand and bleachers on the stadium site, which also coincidentally was along the OL&P’s streetcar line.
In April, Olympia baseball men were calling the home field “Electric Park” but it was not yet fit to practice on. Process on the park is going slow, despite the effort of the OL&P company.
When the Olympia Maroons opened in a exhibition on April 19, 1903 against the Tacoma Athletes, an amatuer team, Olympia won 4-1. Six hundred Olympians supported the Maroons with “lusty yells” according to the newspaper account.
The board of directors meetings for the Olympia Maroons were public in 1903 and were covered like local government meetings. For example, a decision to charge admission is discussed in a regular news column. It cost 25 cents to get into the park, and additional 25 cents to get into the grandstands. Ladies get into the grandstands for free.
And, by May 10 the Southwest Washington League was in action.
The first really big event of the baseball schedule is on May 22 when President Roosevelt came to town and Aberdeen played a “President Day” special the same afternoon. A train full of Harborites came into town with their ball team to see the Bull Moose but the Pippins lost to the Maroons.
As it turns out, Olympia was a pretty bad team. By August, the Morning Olympian was advising against betting on the Maroons. Or, at least during league games, during which the Maroons were apparently snake bit:
Any man will tell you, provided he has money on the game, that he is willing to back the Maroons against any team in the Pacific National or the Outlaw leagues, on exhibition, but when it comes to Southwest Washington league games he will hereafter save his money to buy bread…
That’s a difference between today and then. While teams like Olympia would play throughout the week against teams in and out of their league, only weekend games played against other SWWL teams counted towards the standings. Apparently Olympia was a weekday team.
By August things were getting worse for the league on a much larger scale. Hoquiam was threatening to leave the league.
They seemed to have sarcasm back then as the Hoquiam Perfect Gentlemen were apparently not perfect or gentlemen. Well, if you assumed that amatuer ball players who worked mill jobs during the week and played in the SWL on the weekend, aren’t gentlemen. The all-amatuer team from Hoquiam was leading the league in August against teams made up of a mix of professional and amateurs. This apparently led to a decision by the owners of the other teams to expand the number of league games, which ate into Hoquiam’s small league lead.
Hoquiam stayed in the league, but not without dragging arguments through organizational meetings and letters.
At the end of the first season, half the league had 11 wins, the other 7.
Aberdeen Pippins 11-7 .611
Hoquiam Perfect Gentlemen 11-7 .611
Centralia Midgets 7-11 .389
Olympia Maroons 7-11 .389
In September the Maroons needed financial help. The Elks and Foresters clubs ended up holding a charity baseball game to support the town’s professional ball teams. This is an auspicious end to Olympia pro-baseball in 1903. Two amatuer ball teams were raising funds for the pro team.
The league would play three years before breaking apart. In 1904 the Maroons became the Senators and in 1905 Centralia was replaced by Montesano Farmers.
In early May 1905, the Morning Olympian introduced the players as if they’re elected officials: Senator Cook, Senator Christian, Senator Almost Stubavor Dye. “A newly elected member who represents the Solid South is Senator Autray.”
Its obvious why the Olympian was practically begging Olympians to come out to support the Senators in 1905. Its the same reason Mayor P.H. Carlyon was deciding whether to declare a half civic holiday for their home opener. Just like in the 1903 season, the hope of a warm Olympia May was smashed by the the heat of August and the league was again in financial trouble. In 1903, August featured a dust up between Hoquiam and the league. In 1905 it was the very fate of the league.
In early August the owners came together in an Aberdeen hotel. At the urging of Montesano and Aberdeen, they decided to press on, despite very real financial concerns for the rest of the league.
Then two days later, the Olympian carries this passage in a otherwise typical homestand preview:
The Kids (the team’s nickname in the paper is the Panama Kids for some reason) have played good ball all season, and have been a good advertisement for Olympia all the way. They have not received the support at home that they deserved. The league this year has been faster than ever before and a team that at this time is in second position with a chance still left for the pennant is worth of support of any city in this state. Turn out today, and tardy though you are, be there with the big boost and help the team out, not only with your presence, but encourage them with your two-bit piece. That’s where they need your help most. It costs money to run a team and every citizen should help defray this expense. Olympia needs a team and should be glad to pay for it when she has a team like the present one.
They need you two-bit the most, your fandom second. The team is an advertisement for the city. It costs money to run a team, Olympia needs a team, every citizen should pitch in. Seems like the newspaper is making an argument for a road or a school than a baseball team.
And, unfortunately, the Senators and what they mean for Olympia are in deep trouble as 1905 ends and the baseball men began to look to 1906.
1905 SW Washington League Standings
Montesano 25-10 (.705)
Olympia 20-16 (.555)
Aberdeen 17-17 (.500)
Hoquiam 9-27 (.250)
The Senators finished well behind the Farmers and in late winter 1906 the ground is being laid for a pro-baseball free Southwest Washington. While a league may not come around, but the possibility of an independent team in Olympia is brought up. The increased interest in baseball from amatuer clubs is also mentioned as a bright spot. A local league between Hoquiam and Aberdeen clubs (with the support of the streetcar company between the towns) is promised, but no one knows if they want to start a league between other cities.
While parlaying Olympia interest in reviving the D-level SWL, the Grays Harbor towns (Cosmopolis, in addition to Hoquiam and Aberdeen) jump up into the B-level Northwestern League. The class A Pacific Coast League (by 1906 not an outlaw, but a law-abiding member of Organized Baseball) includes Seattle and Portland along with California cities. The combined Harbor cities join other second tier cities in the region, such as Spokane, Tacoma and Butte, Montana.
Surviving as the Grays Harbor Lumberman and Grays, and the Aberdeen Black Cats, the Harbor super team plays in the Northwestern League until 1910 when the league drops them. The Northwestern League was in those years somewhere in the historic backwash of the legendary (and sometimes considered major league) Pacific Coast League. Cities like Seattle, Portland and Spokane would fall out of the PCL and into the Northwest League and then back up again.
After being bounced out of the Pacific Northwest League in 1910, Grays Harbor baseball supporters tried to put back the old SWL. Olympia had fielded an independent team in 1909 and felt up to the task.
But, only if things would be different in 1910. Olympia only wanted games on the weekend and no expanding the league schedule (like what happened to Hoquiam in 1903) to shoo out smaller clubs. Olympia also asked for a strict salary cap. “What we are planning on is a league run in such a manner that there will be no danger of it getting along nicely until the Fourth of July and then going to pieces,” said a baseball supporter. While Olympia wanted a ball team in 1910, they wanted it under more humble standards.
In addition to the old SWL towns (Olympia, Centralia, Chehalis, Hoquiam and Aberdeen), Elma, South Bend and two Tacoma teams are also considered. But, the 1910 Class D Washington State League did not end up including Olympia. The cost of travel, keeping players and drawing fans drove Olympia’s interest away from the league.
Olympia ended up fielding semi-pro, unaffiliated with Organized Baseball teams through the 1920s. Eventually even interest in that level of baseball lagged in the capital city.
Gordon Newell describes the final death of semi-pro Olympia Senators in Rogues, Buffoons and Statesmen decades later. The midsummer curse did the baseball Senators in again:
The coming of electronic home entertainment media may have provided the final straw which, added to the summer mobility of the family motor car, broke the back of paid admission baseball in the capital city. The sport itself was popular enough. The local merchants organized a twilight league and the sawmills fielded amatuer teams in the sawdust league. The Olympia Senators even began the season bravely under the leadership of ex-major leaguer Ham Hyatt, but by the end of July the lack of patronage caused the semi-pro players to give up in disgust and turn the new Stevens Field over to high school and amatuer teams.
By Mark Foutch, President
It was ‘Standing Room Only” thanks especially to John Dodge’s great write-up in The Olympian, as we started off the year January 26 with a great program at the Coach House. Gerry Alexander, Jim Brown and Bill Jacobs captivated the crowd with an informative and entertaining panel titled, “On The Homefront: Olympia During World War II.” Many attendees called it the best program they’d ever attended; the easy interaction among the three old friends made for a very enjoyable experience.
At the annual general membership business meeting immediately beforehand, Vice President Tim Ransom and Olympia attorney Charlie Roe were elected to three-year terms on the Board of Directors. Also, a special collection was taken up to help with the emergency costs of securing the OHS website and moving it onto a more modern and useful platform. Thanks to all who chipped in!
As this newsletter “goes to press” it looks like OHS’ leadership team will remain in place for 2013:
Board of Directors:
President Mark Foutch
Vice President Tim Ransom
Secretary Anne Kilgannon
Treasurer Ralph Blankenship
Programs Shanna Stevenson
Members Gerry Alexander and Charlie Roe
Collections Susan Goff
Web Content Deborah Ross
The Board was scheduled Saturday March 2 for a short meeting where officers will be elected and routine business conducted, followed by a planning Retreat. Topics for discussion included:
-Web page overview by Deb Ross followed by discussion of technical upgrades and costs;
-Preparing for all phases of managing the late Roger Easton’s bequest to the Society; and,
-Better orientation for new Board members.
Your Board currently has the absolute minimum number of members called for in the Bylaws. Considering our future challenges two more Board members, including one with banking experience, would help with continuity and tasking. Any volunteers?
What’s next? Shanna Stevenson has four programs in the works, details to be announced in the Bulletin. In May, OHS will partner with the City of Olympia for a Heritage Month celebration. And we hope to restore our prior practice, called for in the Bylaws, to hold the general membership business meeting by year’s end. Our website should be more secure and easier to improve, and the Easton bequest will be ours to manage according to the terms of Roger’s Trust document. This alone will be a “game changer” for the Society.
So hang on, it’s going to be a great ride!