RUMBLE RUMBLE….Hydroplanes and Blue Angels!

One of the engines

One of the engines at the Hydroplane Museum

One of the biggest adventures in my childhood was the Hydroplane races here in Seattle. I remember my Dad standing on the shores of Lake Washington, with me on his shoulders, and he was pointing to the lake and telling me that the boat that was flying by was the winner of the hydroplane race. This was in the mid 1950’s when I was little enough to be on his shoulders.  I think it was probably one of the Slow Motion Boats he was pointing at that won that year.

The Hydroplane Raceboat Museum is in south Seattle:   They have all kinds of memorabilia and hydroplanes.  They have restored some of them. They call them Thunderboats in their website title.

As I know it, hydroplanes used airplane engines, according to my Dad.

Anatomy of a hydroplane race boat:  and

Here is a tip, hang out around the pits on the shores of Lake Washington at Seafair in August and you will learn real quick what they mean about Thunderboats!

If you are close enough to the pits just wait in the crowd. You probably can’t get into the pit area unless you have a pass.  You can just stand near there or sit on your ice chest if you have one and wait. Soon you will feel and hear it….RUMBLE! The earth shakes and vibrates when they turn on the engines of the hydroplanes.  Now it is not just one engine it is many.  It is amazing…!  If you have a friend with you, watch their eyes get BIG!

Slow Mo Shun V rebuilt

Slow Mo Shun V rebuilt

A Timeline of Winners of the Gold Cup:

The Hawaii Kai won in 1958 and I was a kid then. The pink boat was my favorite. You know it was sunk by the owners and is at the bottom of Puget Sound, AUGGH!  What they have at the museum are models of the Hawaii Kai.

Model of Hawaii Kai

Model of Hawaii Kai 1958 Gold Cup Winner

Let’s see:  Slo Mo V and IV, Miss Bardahl, Miss Thriftway, Bill Muncey, Chip Hanauer, Mira Slovak are the ones I remember.  There is an amazing story about Mira Slovak defecting.

Miss Bardahl

Miss Bardahl model

Last week I took the drive down to the Stan Sayres pits on the shores of Lake Washington south of the 520 floating bridge.  They just opened the new one and it is now the longest floating bridge in the world. It was a beautiful sunny day.  I drove through the Arboretum an along Lake Washington Blvd. right by the water.  The whole trip from my house took two hours round trip but it was worth it. It is a narrow two lane road with various parks that you can stop at if you like and wish to dally.  The Blvd. goes under the floating bridge on the western side of the lake.

Stan Sayres pits on Lake Washington

Stan Sayres pits on Lake Washington

See the two buildings off the right of the parking lot in the above photo.  There is a courtyard between them with the tiles.  These tiles are dedicated to the memory of those who loved the hydroplanes.  My dad, Keith’s tile is there and easy to find.  See my toes are pointing right at it.  It is not real big but it works.

Keith's Tile at the Stan Sayres pits

Keith’s Tile at the Stan Sayres pits

When I saw it I laughed, it reads Memory of Keith MacDonald & Tony Mazuk McScubalub.  The reference is to the name of his boat, which he made and added hydrofoils to, and I have featured in a past post. It references Tony his dog and McScubalub who was a make-believe character of his sisters when they were kids.  The name is very long and complicated and sillier than what I have presented here. In the photo below the tile is almost up to the door on of the building on the right.

The courtyard area of the Stan Sayres park

The courtyard area of the Stan Sayres park

It was a quiet but beautiful day at the Stan Sayres Memorial Park.  The piers are lines up ready for the coming Seafair and August festivities here in Seattle.  Close your eyes and visualize and feel the crush of people, the colorful hydroplane boats, big semi trucks, trailers, mechanics and realize it is packed when the races are here and the noise and rumble of the engines when the race time comes close.  The boats are lined up around the course out on the lake.

Looking towards the bridge and the piers

Looking towards the bridge and the piers

My Dad even liked the little hydroplane boats that were raced on the Sammish Slough and I remember spending time at those races in Bothell. Apparently they are bringing them back. They have on the Seafair Schedule the Kenmore Hydroplane Cup. Cool!

The Blue Angels were a big deal for him as well. They are still pretty awesome. I can be working in my front yard and here them rumble when they are performing and sometimes one will come very close to my home.

Here is a cool photo of them over the Space Needle from the Queen Anne Neighborhood blog which has more wonderful pictures:

Blue Angels

Blue Angels

Somehow, I believe, that my Dad is out their still searching for that perfect airplane engine!

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Taking a tour of Seattle, the city he loved!

My father, Keith, loved this city of Seattle, his adopted home. I never thought of him as a Minnesotan but definitely a Washingtonian.  He ancestors and his life have been the focus of this blog but now that I have come to the end of his life, I would like to share some fun sites of Seattle.  These are all events in Seattle’s history that he was part of.

Dad would take us on adventures and the Washington Ship Canal was one of them and the Ballard Locks.  I remember watching the water rise and fall. What came after was the Opening of Boating Season and watching the boats making their way through the locks to Lake Union and through to Lake Washington.  It is sort of a celebration of this created waterway.

When the Seattle World’s Fair was here in 1962, I remember walking around with him and looking at all the wonderful exhibits. We did go up the elevator to the top of the Space Needle to observe. Several years later he finally got to eat dinner at the revolving restaurant at the top of the Space Needle, I think it was his birthday party.  This is still a treat and they have kinds of events at the top of the Needle.

Space Needle

Space Needle

The Seattle Municipal Archives has a nice article about the fair and if you scroll down you can find some photographs to check out:  Google Images has some really cool stuff to take a look at. and this is a good article:

We have a coffee table book about the history of the Seattle Center as it is called now. It is host to many activities throughout the year.

Several excursions to Woodland Park Zoo which is a whole new zoo now.  It has won several conservation awards and it is noted for its natural like habitats for the animals.  I don’t think my Dad would recognize it at all but he would be proud.

The Seattle Waterfront where the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop was a main feature with the mummy. This area will have a major change if and when Bertha fishes the tunnel and the Aurora Viaduct is a thing of the past. 

The Washington State Ferries were also a big deal and took us many places. The goal was to get to the front of the ferry-boat and let the wind hit you in the face. This of course depended on the weather. The website Evergreen Fleet covers all the ferries for a very large area.   Gee, I wonder what Dad would have thought of computers?

This link is more of the Puget Sound Ferries:

The excursion to Tillacum Village on Blake Island is short of a thing to do in Seattle and I was there with my parents.  It is a salmon bake and an Native American dancing show.  I am sure it is very fancy now from the pictures.

My parent’s and I took the Underground Tour which is a lot of fun sometime in the 1960’s. He got a big kick out of the book “Sons of the Profits,” by Bill Speidel, which is a tongue in cheek expose about Seattle’s history.

Seattle is not the city my parents knew. It has changed a lot since they both passed and has grown up, so to speak.  So many of the old buildings are gone now or repurposed.

A family member did a fun thing by placing memory plaques at two locations for Keith.

There is one at the Pike Place Market under the sign where everyone walks on his tile. His tile is near the 2nd sign, not the front entrance. It is the sign at Pine and Pike. I think he would get a kick out of the people walking on it.  Here I am trying to mark where the tile is but you can see it is very busy.

2nd Sign Public Market

2nd Sign Public Market

Keith's Tile

Keith’s Tile

Trying to get a fix on Dad's tile

Trying to get a fix on Dad’s tile

There is another at the Stan Sayre’s pits where they set up for the Hydroplane Races on Lake Washington.  I have not seen that one but need to get that remedied soon.

He would take us to the hydroplane races every year and various Sea Fair activities. Yes, there are airplane engines in hydroplanes!

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An Unfortunate End comes to Soon!

Keith in Selah with his sisters Vivian (left) Miriam on the right.

Keith in Selah with his sisters Vivian (left) Miriam on the right.

Little did I know that as I sat with him watching the Apollo 11 mission on TV in 1969 that he would be gone by July of 1970.  His death was a shock to us all.  He was the youngest of the McDonald siblings and the first to pass.  It is fitting to show the photo above, which was the last one of my father.  He is next to his sister Miriam, on the right, the one that started all this genealogical madness of mine and his older sister Vivian.  This photo was taken in Selah, Washington about June 1970.

On 9 July, 1970, Keith B. MacDonald passed away from a heart attack. He went to work that morning saying he was tired. He died on the roof catwalks at Plant II at Boeing.  He was found too late. He was two days from retirement. My Dad was only 60 years old when he died.  Too young, I think.  Plant II was torn down in about 1992.

Keith's Obituary

Keith’s Obituary

In the above obituary, the Ravenna Community Association paid tribute to my father about his work on stopping the R.H. Thomson Freeway.

Keith was caught in the big Federal cutback in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Remember the sign “Will the Last Person Leaving Seattle–turn out the lights.

A form letter from the Dept. of the Air Force dated 27 January 1970 (mimeograph style) reads: An agency may now request the resignation of employees who meet the eligibility requirements for Discontinued Service Retirement at any time the agency is placed in the situation of processing or planning a reduction in forceHe really didn’t have a choice so he opted to retire. They even gave them example letters to write their final decision.

Keith Barclay John MacDonald was laid to rest in Acacia Memorial Park in Lake City, Seattle, Washington. I have a memorial for my father at Find A Grave. There was a tombstone photo already there and the person kindly transferred his memorial to me.

Posted in Keith B. MacDonald, King County, Miriam McDonald, Seattle, Vivian McDonald McKanna, Washington State | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Threat of a Secondary Freeway…1960 to 1972 in Seattle!

The Tacoma-Seattle-Everett freeway open to traffic December of 1962. Historylink says it was February 3, 1965 . I remember riding in the car with my parents and taking the Lake City exit just for fun. This freeway cut Seattle in half and it is extremely busy and more so today. We have a north-south axis in Seattle and it makes it difficult to get around even the buses are oriented that way. Apparently the freeway was opened in sections with Seattle to Everett later on.

This link and the photos are pretty eye-opening on how this freeway affected Seattle.

The I-5 Freeway through Seattle is both a blessing and a curse.  I really don’t like our freeway and am fortunate I know how to get around the city having lived here all my life. I even lived in various areas like north Seattle, Eastlake, Fremont, Green Lake, the University District, Beacon Hill, and Shoreline. I actually like going the city streets because I get to see what renovations they are doing to my city. HA!

There was a curious twist to the history of the Seattle Freeway. That twist was called the R.H. Thomson Expressway.  It was another part of this freeway system that was being designed in the 1950’s.

If it had been built it would have taken my parent’s home. My childhood home would have been torn down to make way for a freeway or parkway. They would have been displaced in their 50’s, along with lots of other people.  Many neighborhoods would have been completed changed forever.

Fortunately, it was dropped by the Seattle City Council with a final Referendum in 1972 that killed the project. However, a few occasionally try to bring the R.H. Thomson freeway back. There are always references to the freeway ramps that go nowhere in the Montlake District.  They took them down, but I liked them because it would remind me of my Dad.

There was an organization called CARHT – Citizens Against the R.H. Thomson and according to an article written there were 13 organizations that were members of this organization. The author is Margaret Connon Johnson, written on July 1979. Title: The Montlake Community and the R.H. Expressway.  It appears to be housed at the Seattle Public Library. This PDF is 86 pages and is very detailed about the history of the R.H. Thomson and other projects being proposed at that time. Here is the link:

References in this PDF to the Ravenna Club in which my father, Keith, was involved can be found on several pages:

William Frantilla spoke of the Ravenna Community Club, which had become mobilized because of concern in the neighborhood about the impact of highway building on their northend community.” page 28.

page 32:  CARHT’s 4 points:  We oppose the R.H. Thomson route as a major traffic corridor. 2) We are against the proposed third and fourth Lake Washington Bridges. 3) We support a comprehensive mass transit system. 4) We oppose any further urban highway construction in the Seattle area until a comprehensive mass transit system has been authorized by the voters. The first five community groups to support the CARHT four-point program were the Ravenna, University Park and Montlake Community Clubs, the Harrison Improvement Council and the Mount Baker Improvement Club. 

page 41: The letter (buying up of land) was signed by the presidents of CARHT, Montlake Community Club, Ravenna Community Association, Capitol Hill Community Council, University Park Community Club, Mont Baker Ridge Action Group, Mount Baker Community Club, Leschi Community Council, Madrona Community Council, Harrison Community Council and the Central Seattle Community Council. 

“In closing, let me again emphasize that the Montlake community did not act alone; nor was the Thomson route through Montlake the only target of CARHT. Many organizations, many people were involved. The Ravenna Community Club mobilized more people than did Montlake.”

North Route of the Thomson freeway

North Route of the Thomson freeway

My Dad wrote to me when I was in college and he makes remarks about meetings he attended. He mentions attending Forward Thrust meetings and here is a link giving a quick explanation of that organization and its goals.

Here are my Keith, my Dad’s, comments:

Feb 6, 1969:  Tuesday Eve I went to a Fwd Thrust discussion. It was familiar stuff. When the environmental Consultants quickly rushed thru their stuff it was interesting even though it seemed remote…You have heard me chirping about City Transit subsidizing. I saw where at last the Council was thinking about stuff I chirped about over a year ago. Now I have to find a new topic. 

Feb 26, 1969 Monday evening M and I went to the monthly meeting of the Ravenna Community Club. Councilwoman Mrs. Lamphere was supposed to speak, but she went skiing over the weekend and Councilman Tim Hill had to pinch in for her. Attendance wise it was a bust, after peddling about 400 papers…Tuesday I went to a Fwd Thrust Transportation meeting. It certainly is nice to listen to people that know how to use their new brains. One person a Real Estate Economist proposed a bus system with centered stations. He pointed out that Downtown was not a point zero, and that the rail idea was too costly. He has to hustle to sell his point of view. It was great to see him he handled his pitch. Wish I could do it that good. 

March 5, 1969 – Went to a Fwd Thrust Transportation Session from 7:30 to 11. They have a schedule of completion with an April deadline. Its tough to try to stay with it…The State Hiway has been buying property doing the Thomson Way on the quiet. They got caught. Now there is a hassel over it. The city ended up having to resell these homes after 1972.

April 16, 1969 – Thursday the Lake Cityites will hold a Fight the Freeways confab. I’ll attend for Kicks. 

May 6, 1969 – The Ravenna deal is really going. I went to a meeting a Monday ago. I couldn’t believe it there was over 200 people. They had a good Times report on a statistical survey they pulled…Tonite its Fwd Thrust. I’m getting informed, but what will I do with the savy I’ve acquired?

May 25, 1969 – The Forward Thrust meeting last Thurs was significant. The Hiway revolters chirped. I believe the FTers who are cousins with the hi-waymen were shocked a bit. During the summary the chairman commented he was not sure of Mr. Thomsons position. He knew to listen and look ____ (I may have been Mr. Thomson) I’ll get the Interim Thrust going…yet. 

Don’t expect me to make sense of my Dad’s comments above. He had an odd sense of humor.  He was in the middle of the whole controversy from what I can figure out.

I know that Dad rented a “puddle jumper,” I mean a small airplane, probably the ones at Lake Union that land on the water, and flew over the area that the proposed freeway would be located. He took all that information and made two presentations boards on thin wood with maps and drawings and newspaper articles about the whole project. He used the R.H.Thomson Expressway Canal to Bothell “Corridor B Location plans from the Seattle Engineering Department Bridge and Arterial Design Nov. 9, 1962 as his background. As for the photos I don’t know what happened to them for I don’t have his negatives.

Freeway Presentation Boards 1967

Freeway Presentation Boards 1967

“The Ravenna Community Association – In the summer of 1967 Keith alone on foot delivered to every home in the Bryant-Ravenna area of the R.H. Thomson corridor his letter questioning the Thomson freeway. This letter raised so many questions in the minds of the residents that the community realized that an organization was necessary. Not one to rest, Keith provided the aerial photographs an enlarged maps of the areas to be paved so that everyone recognized fully the impact of the planned highway. Mr. MacDonald served as the first treasurer of the Ravenna Community Association.”  Submitted in 1970 and this organization still exists.

Five Proposed Routes

Five Proposed Routes on one of the boards

Here is a summary of the articles glued onto the Presentation Boards. It is possible that they could be found again probably taken from the Seattle Times or P.I.

  • Public Hearing Due – Four Routes Considered for Empire Expressway in North, Tuesday, Sept 2nd and 4, 1965 Page ?
  • Empire Expressway City Favors 25th NE as Corridor Route, Times, Page 1, Thursday Sept 4, 1963 maybe 1965. This article was all but destroyed.
  • Park Board is Concerned at Expressway, Sept 2, 1963, Thurs.
  • City Affairs, Arguments on Expressway Routes Set, Times, Tues, Sept 10, pg. 15, 1963.
  • Planners Favor 25th N.E. Route, Page 17, Tues or Mon Sept 6, 1963 Times
  • …….torn ion, of Expressway Route is Asked. Page 1, Nov. 13 or 15, 1965.
  • R. H. Thomson Names (torn), Don’t look for Signs (torn) xpressway Yet, Times Sept 29, 1983 pg. 14?
  • torn..not at Hearing….essway Routes Friday, Sept, 13, 1963 – Decision at Least 2 months Away.
  • Sports Financial page 29 – 25th NE Is only Logical Route, Says City Engineer, – Sept 15, 1963, pg. 29.
  • Wedgewood Favors 25th NE Routing – Tues Sea Times, Sept 10, 1963 page 10.
  • Expressway Expressions – 25th NE Alternative Hit, Pge 3 Times Sept 4, 1963 Thurs.
  • Expressway Route Hit by Northeast Residents, The Seattle Times, Tuesday, Sept 10, 1963.
  • Article ares totally destroyed and not possible to read
  • City, State to Urge Tube in Union Bay – no date
  • (torn)……ow on Street Vacations (Other article on page reads “Donors of $3…) Sec 11, 1963 pg. 60, not date.
  • Expressway Tube Plan Discussed – P I? Thurs Feb 20, 1964 pg. 37
  • City Affairs: Hearing Set on Arterial Improvements – Times Wed 12/4/63 pg. 23.
  • Next article is destroyed and unreadable.
  • V Corridor “B” area (PhotoBoard) 1967  (Space & Time)  K.B. MacDonald – with contact information.
  • Real Estate – North of Canal – Decision on Expressway Due Sooner, Seattle Times, June 25, 1964, Page 3
  • Letter typed and signed by my father. Partially torn 
  • Here’s Route Proposed for R. H. Thomson Expressway, Nov. 24, 1963 Times pg. 17, with maps and aerial views of the areas.
  • Expressway Route, Jan 30, 1964 pg. 3
  • Retired Teachers, Times pg. 14 Oct 4, 1967.
  • Picture of a sad Lady up against a house crying, the rest of the article is torn very badly
  • More of the aerial views of the area in question probably from number #1 above.
  • There is a background map that my father glued to the wood and then added the articles on top from the City Engineering Department. He then colored in some of the areas that were affected in read and yellow to show the extent of the corridors impact.  It spanned from 45th to 95th up at Lake City Way.  It was about 3-4 blocks wide.  In the widest area it started at Ravenna and went to 26th NE taking in 23NE, 24NE, 25th and then 26NE.

Here are some recently found Seattle Times Articles that I zeroed in on:

Seattle Times, Acquisition for Thomson Route Not Near, Tuesday, November 5, 1964 – maybe a long time before any private properties are taken for the north section of the R.H. Thomson expressway. The city has determined that the most desirable route would be along or near 25th Ave. NE. 

Seattle Times, Second Front Page, A, Thursday, October 5, 1967 – Empire Way Project Has Grown Big! by Herb Robinson, Assoc. Editor.  This is more about the expansion of the project for the Thomson Expressway.

Page A, Tuesday, March 12, 1968 Seattle Times

How State Views Parkway, by Herb Robinson, Assoc. Editor, The Times – about the elaborate plans to make it a “…a depressed roadway and rapid-transit right of way flanked or covered over by housing, shops, schools, parks and the like — a radical departure from what highway engineers had in mind during the original planning.…”  This was all dumped because they thought a rapid-transit system could transport some of the future loads but that was knocked down too, something called Forward Thrust.

The Seattle Times, March 17, 1968, page 39 – Map Shows Proposed Thomson I-90 Routes.

Seattle Time, G12, Sunday, March 19, 1972 – Thomson Project, It’s dead, but a hundred properties remain.  This article talks about the homes bought for the project and that would need to be resold.  From what I have learned they City did not take care of these homes that they had purchased.

Some websites of interest regarding the R.H. Thomson Expressway:

…..Thomson was supposed to have been memorialized by the R.H. Thomson Expressway,[1] which was scheduled to have run north from Interstate 90, through the Central DistrictMontlake and the Washington Park Arboretum, under Union Bay, and through Ravenna to an interchange with a proposed Bothell Freeway. In 1972, voters rejected the project, which the City Council had definitively abandoned in 1970.

In Summary:

What I have presented here is very limited. The R.H. Thomson Freeway was a major project of the 1960’s here in Seattle along with other projects being considered. You could spend hours and days studying what really happened. Ms. Johnson’s PDF written on July 1979. Title: The Montlake Community and the R.H. Expressway is very detailed about the R.H. Thomson and other projects being proposed at that time, here is that link again:

If my Dad’s project boards had been in better shape, I would have given them to MOHAI, or the Seattle Archives or even the UW.  I think he would have liked that.

Please be advised that these links may go away at any time, so if you are interested make copies now, don’t wait.

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