Seattle Libraries Contain History

After his Woodinville homestead burned to the ground in 1892, Hans Pederson, my  Danish immigrant father moved back to Seattle and spent the winter studying English and American history in the public library.  He died in 1933, one month after my birth.

When I decided to write about him from my home in Maine, I called the the Seattle library to request information. They sent passages from city histories along with newspaper articles about Hans Pederson. I had to wait a year for other articles that had been archived in the state library in Olympia since the building had been damaged by the 2001 earthquake. Finally, for the sum of $30, they sent me priceless information I could not have found in any other way.

Today you can read a book in e-format on a Kindle, buy one for $.99, or listen to an audiobook on your smart phone. Many believe that the internet has now supplanted physical libraries.

No way. Grand or humble, stone, wood, or fiberboard, these vital spaces are the repository of our history and our culture.

In 2013, a Parade Magazine annual salary survey listed a princely $8,840 salary for Mary Stenger, the Lost Creek West Virginia Director of America’s best small library. In this world of increasing noise pollution, a library can sometimes seem as peaceful as a mountain stream.

E-books are convenient for some. Audiobooks help multitaskers. Some readers still prefer the feel of a physical book. I mark mine up so I can find my favorite passages. Libraries are important. I don’t believe anyone has hacked one yet.

Hitler built a bonfire and burned books in one of his pre-World war II acts as Fuhrer.


Seattle Central Library Photo by Bobak Ha Eri, June 4, 2009 courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Today’s Seattle public library is worth the walk. The building will take your breath away when you see it. But to reach it from the waterfront you have to climb four blocks up  Seattle’s ever-present hills. The natives surely must develop strong legs.

A Pioneer Grandmother



Wikimedia Commons Courtesy T J aka Teej


Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, the inspiring story of the woman who saved the Appalachian Trail tells the story of a pioneer as brave as any of our forebears. This 67-year old abused mother of 11 walked out the front door of her Ohio house in dungarees and tennis shoes in the mid-20th century. She carried a homemade sack containing a shower curtain, a change of clothes, a few essentials, and $200. She got a ride to Mt. Oglethorpe in Georgia and from there hiked the entire 2050 mile Appalachian Trail to Mt. Katahdin in Maine, alone—completing the trek in late September, not much before the Yankee winter set in.

It seemed a remarkable accomplishment until I read about the abuse she had suffered in the years before she found the courage to start out on a solo journey that no other woman had ever tried before.
So if you want to be inspired by a story of what the human body and spirit can endure, read Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, by Ben Montgomery, published by Chicago Review Press.

“I get faster as I get older,” Grandma Gatewood said.

Time Then and Now


On April Fool’s Day they might as well say, “There’s no fool like an old fool.”

I’m not a time freak, but when my Zen alarm clock stopped nudging me awake with gentle chimes after two years, I had to find a replacement.

“Mom, get rid of that cell. Get a smart phone. It has an alarm. ” my son lectured me once again.

No. I don’t want a phone alarm clock. Who needs pulsating beeps and  wrong numbers in the middle of the night.

Target had a digital clock radio encased in flimsy plastic with two charging stations on top. So I drove  to our vast mall and crossed the concrete to search for Brookstone or The Sharper Image. Both stores had moved out.

I tried jewelry stores. “Try the home section of department stores,” they advised. No luck.

But then, tucked in an alcove, I noticed a diminutive, white-bearded Santa standing behind a glass case filled with 19th and 20th century clocks, wrist watches, and pocket watches like the one my Maine grandfather kept on a chain that curved into his vest pocket.

“Do you have any alarm clocks?” I peered into the case filled with sweeping hands and turning gears.

April Fool Santa frowned. “I might be able to get you one by Monday.” He noticed one on a tall shelf. “I’d forgotten I had this.” He reached for it. “I like things simple.”

By the looks of his inventory he could fix anything. I rummaged in my purse. “Less to break down.”

He dusted the clock with his sleeve. “$15.00.” Half as much as the flimsy Target model that looked as if it would break before I got home. I  left the mall, pleased with my purchase.

The clock is quiet. Its hands sweep in a circle—soothing and simple. One basic alarm sound. No beeps. No flashes.

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