December 7th, 1941 a “day that will live in infamy”. Pearl Harbor was left a smoldering wreck. The day changed the mindset of Americans by nightfall. We were at War, and just waiting for President Roosevelt to say it. The mindset would include building a War Machine at any cost. In our little corner of the world, the closest corner in the United States of America, Seattle Washington, that meant building planes. The pre-december 7th mindset conventional wisdom said we were not going to spend a lot of money on the military. Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese Emporer were someone else’s problem. Out of sight, out of mind. But overnight, Boeing’s big bomber became the most important machine in the world. Plant 2 along the Duwamish was expanded from a four sectioned roof, to a 17 section roof (maximum capacity). The building went all the way up against the South Park Bridge, and over the Glacier fed, pristine waters of the Duwamish. The last sections of the building are built on wood piles. Additional land was acquired by the Federal Government, and all costs of building war plants and machines were put on the tab of Uncle Sam. This is why America wasn’t prepared for WW2. Corporations can’t foot the bill for creating an Army alone. The rules of economics don’t allow it. But William Boeing’s father was from Germany, and knew where that place was going. Being a good father he taught his son the neccesary lessons and perpectives of life. And being a Seattleite, at the turn of the century, he was a man that was always looking ahead and planning for the future. Sacrifice was a part of civic responsibility, and he and his fellows took great pride in building a City with a purpose. One of those purposes was to build an airplane town. Another was the responsibility to be ready for War, Which William took responsibility for, even if the federal government would not. He footed the bill for developing what would be the B-17 out of his own fortune.
Guiseppe “call me Joe” Desimone had donated the land in 1934, to keep Boeing in Seattle. It was an extremely large piece of valuable land. He was a man who knew how to do right by the community, and would take, but also give back. I wrote a story a little while back, now would be a good time to read it.
Now Boeing and South Park worked together to save the world. Both are patriotic and of great value. The rest of the story isn’t much of a story. Because stories usually involve something that happened. What didn’t happen was cleaning up after the War. Now when the War Began, the fed took over the Patents to Boeing’s plane, and issued specifications for how what was re-named the B-17, was to be built. Materials, processes, chemicals and solvents, enviromental rules an the like were all Federal government specifications and orders. No one at the time, whether military or civilian, questioned orders. They were happy to do it, and gladly put their shoulder to the wheel, to save their country and community. But after the War, thank-you very much and were on our way. We have some Commies to fight. Little Old South Park and the Duwamish was forgotten. They are left with a dirty stinking filthy river, and a broken bridge.
By the way, the military took over complete control of both the bridge and the town during the time of war. There are pictures of a unit of Black Soldiers manning smudge pots, in the book Seattle’s South Park, by Images of America. A smudge pot is a cauldron that is lit on fire to create black smoke to cover the town in case of attack. There is no doubt there was a great fear of a Doolittle style raid on Plant 2. The towers for the bridgekeeper, of the little bridge were also torn down during the war. Observers had to content themselves loking out the windows on the side of the bridge.
Now America is a place of re-paying debts. We don’t cut-and-run either. Another new pecept in fightng a war is to recognize that if you would like the co-operation of the People of a country that has been occupied, you need to not only provide security, but to provide infra-structure i.e. roads, bridges, schools, hospitals etc.. These are needful things for any funtioning society. It is a good strategy.
What I am asking for is re-payment of an old debt. The cost is small. $10 million dollars from each branch of the Military to build new substructure and superstucture for the bridge. We can re-use the Bascule leaves. The community is very into re-using things, and finding value in the things that are old. They still use military housing from the old Fort Duwamish that was located there, and in their neighbor Georgetown’s communities. They are very cool places, and I would like to invite the Generals for a visit. We can sit down on the last remaining section of the old military road, at the place we will hold our celebration at the Communion Table of the Brotherhood of Man this coming Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, and have a signing ceremony, and a new start. Lets push the Reset Button on South Park’s and the Militaries relationship. We can do the signing ceremony for the Boeing tankers at the same time too if you would like.
Additional reading for understanding the situation:
note: This is an election year and their is no way the Pols are going to vote for additional stimulus dollars (Tiger grants). It’s up to the military to do the right thing.
additional note: the color of paint on the bridge, and the color of paint on the early B-17’s are very similar. The feds orderd Boeing to discontinue painting the planes. I wonder if the extra paint was used on the South Park Bridge.