The following un-edited stories are from readers who wanted to share memories of the Park:
During 1953-54 I worked the concessions at Pt. Defiance Park. I was at the old trailer by the bear pits and at Owen's Beach. I served a lot of hot dogs and Dad's Root Beer and swore if I never saw them again, would be too soon!
During this time, I met Wayne Howard, who was stationed at McChord AFB. He would come and patiently wait for me until my shift ended and made sure that I safely checked in at the pavilion with the money I had taken in that day. I would get a ride in his black '47 Chevy Fleetline, which was just too cool!
We were married June 18, 1955 - our 50th is coming up!
Eight years ago, time had taken away all my long time hiking friends. One day, my sister and I were invited to a breakfast in honor of our departing pastor on Vashon Island. The hostess, whom I knew from church, also invited her brother from Tacoma and he I did not know. For light conversation, mountain climbing took first place. I mentioned my desire to hike. "Brother John" asked if I had ever hiked the trails in Pt. Defiance Park. No I hadn't but I was ready to go. Although I knew very little about "Brother John", a few days later I found myself boarding a morning ferry to Point Defiance. John met me at the dock, slung on a small pack for goodies, and headed for the trails, using the "outside perimeter" trail. It was so beautiful and exciting and we never stopped talking. By the time we reached Fort Nisqually, I got a thank you kiss. We were married at age 70 and seven years later we are still hiking the trails at Point Defiance.
Unlike most people, who probably think of the park in the summer (Owens Beach) or the spring (rose gardens) or a sunny afternoon at the zoo, we both think of the Pagoda in the middle of winter during a downpour. On January 10, 1992 Steve and I were married in the Pagoda in front of a beautiful fire, the rest of the room lit with soft candlelight, surrounded by family and friends. It poured rain outside but we were warm and toasty inside the Pagoda. We had a beautiful ceremony followed by a champagne dessert and music and dancing. It was magical, and we think of it fondly whenever we go to Point Defiance or hear someone mention it.
Your article asked for memories of walking the trails, picnics, and the
rose gardens. Some of my better park memories are of the parks tennis
courts and a good tennis friend to many named Bill Nelson. He loved playing
tennis at Pt. Defiance. There is no other place in the PNW with a better
view than those three tennis courts. You have the rose garden, pagado,
water view, Vashon Island, and the never ending stream of cars, runners,
bikers, and occassional ferry horn blasts. Whether playing in the morning
or late afternoon you could often hear the wolves howl. The park courts
acted like a conduct to attract us from early spring to late fall
afternoons. Two or three times a week we'd use the courts because that's
where everyone was able to play. Bill was always there organizing the
teams, and we all miss his comaraderie. The park, rose garden, views,
colors, are great memories, but I especially associate my friend Bill and
the tennis courts when I think of Point Defiance Park.
My husband and I were married at Pt. Defiance Park in the middle of the Rose Garden. Talk about beautiful!
We met at work and dated for two years before tying the knot on July 17, 1993. We decided upon Pt. Defiance because of its natural beauty and romantic atmosphere. The day before our wedding we were rehearsing at the park and the rain clouds came in fast and dark! It poured down rain! Not just sprinkles, but down poured. In fact, the restaurant that our rehearsal dinner was held ended up being flooded from all the rain! We were so worried about our ceremony the following day. I never imagined it would really rain on our day! We proceeded to think positive thoughts and hoped for sun. Well, someone was listening and pulled through. The day of our wedding was spectacular! The flowers looked so outstanding, all in bloom. We had about 300 guests and no rain drops at all during our ceremony!
One week after our wedding, I read the news paper a story on how the deer came in to Pt. Defiance and ate the roses!! Oh my, glad I never knew they would do that or I would have been worried about more than the rain! Now there are fences sectioning off the beautiful flowers to hopefully preserve them for other weddings.
To this day, we are members of the Zoo and take our two children to the park often and reminisce about our special day at Pt. Defiance. The kids love hearing our stories of our wedding day. They even enjoy walking through the rose garden with us and hearing about mom and dad's wedding. We count not have asked for a more beautiful wedding setting or memories! Thank you Pt. Defiance.
Becky (and Scott) Fueston
Summer school ended at noon on July 21, 1961. My friend Carol and I had attended so we could get a couple of required subjects out of the way before our senior year began. It was a gorgeous afternoon so we decided to celebrate by packing a picnic lunch and taking a bus ride to Point Defiance Park. As we were walking out the front door of my house Mom reminded us not to talk to any strange guys and to be careful. We ate lunch and decided to walk to the boathouse and down the beach to the picnic and bathing beach area. We crossed the bridge coming back from the boathouse walking by the rose garden when a very handsome young man passed by, and we smiled and said hello. Then we stopped at a concession stand and decided to walk across the road and over to the duck pond. We eventually noticed the young man following and keeping an eye on us from a distance. We remembered what Mom had said, but when he walked up to us and asked if we knew whether the bird we were feeding was a goose or a duck, Mom’s words were forgotten. With an opening line like that I couldn’t resist. He was easy to talk to, but somewhat shy. We talked until it was time to catch the bus. I learned he was in the Air Force stationed at McChord, AFB. After Carol and I got on the bus and were discussing what a special guy he was, we realized we would probably never see him again because we had not exchanged names and phone numbers. I kept wishing there would be some way I could see the young man again. He seemed so different from the boyfriends and acquaintances I had known.
Two weeks after our meeting at Point Defiance, Mom took a carload of kids roller skating at King’s Roller Rink, and there sitting on the steps of an old building across the street was the man of my dreams!!!! He was waiting to see if I would be skating that evening. I had not remembered telling him that I skated every Saturday, and he had been working the previous two Saturdays.
The following day Bob came home to meet my family, and we spent the afternoon hiking the trails of Five Mile Drive after a picnic on the beach. We knew within a few weeks that we would eventually be married. We learned at Christmas Time when Mom wanted to send greeting cards to Bob’s family in Indiana, that Mom had grown up next door to Bob’s cousins in Mineral, WA.
We were married Valentine’s Day, 1963. Point Defiance Park has always been a special part of our lives. Much of our courtship was spent at Point Defiance walking hand in hand and taking pictures. When our children were young we took them to the zoo and Zoo Lights, and sometimes we would drive through the park just before bedtime, just to relax and take in the beauty at the end of our day. We have been married forty-two years, and still quite often walk the beach and drive through the park. The duck pond is different from when we first met there, but it will always be our special place.
I had recently purchased a nice camera and it was a beautiful day July 21, 1963 so I decided to spend my day off taking pictures of the flowers at Point Defiance Park to show my mother what a beautiful park we had in Tacoma. This was my first time out of Indiana and I was hoping to meet someone that lived here. After shooting a roll of film on flowers, I started toward the boathouse. I looked up the path and saw two nice looking girls coming toward me. One was a redhead and the other had long dark shining hair. The one with the beautiful long hair gave me a big grin and said “Hello” as they passed. I paused at the end of the rose garden and decided maybe it would be better to take more pictures by the duck pond since they were headed in that direction. They were feeding the ducks when I finally caught up with them. I took a picture of them feeding the ducks then walked up to the fence a short distance from them. Being shy, I didn’t know what to say to break the ice. Then this goofy looking bird came waddling up out of the water and I blurted out, “Is that a goose or a duck?” That was all it took to get the girl with the long hair to start talking. We chatted for about ten minutes before they had to leave to catch the bus. I walked back to the bus stop with them. You can’t imagine how disappointed I was when the bus arrived and it had a sign saying it was going to the garage. That meant I had to take the next bus and the girls had already gotten on the bus before I had remembered to get their names.
In our short conversation I had learned that she went roller skating on Sat. nights. Due to my work schedule it was three weeks before I could show up at Kings Roller Rink. Not being particularly fond of skating I decided to wait and see if she showed up before going in. I waited on some steps across the street from the rink. It wasn’t very long before this old Mercury full of kids came by and I saw her in the front seat. I knew she saw me because every head in the car turned my way. They turned around and pulled up in front of the rink to unload. They all went up to buy their tickets as I started to cross the street. By the time I got to the window everyone was inside. I bought my ticket and turned to go in. Her head popped out the door as she said, ”I’m so glad you came to see me.” We finally got acquainted and everything escalated after that. We made a date for the next day and spent the first of many lovely days together at Point Defiance. We walked and talked all over that park. It will always be special to us.
Back in spring l963 my then boyfriend and I walked the beaches looking at each other more than the view. We visited as an engaged couple polishing his red Corvette convertible in the shade over looking Owen Beach. We strolled under the trellises of roses many times since. We brought our babies to play and picnic on the beach many, many times.Last year my husband and I renewed our 40 year wedding vows in the drizzle in the picnic shelter on Valentines day 2004 with my best friend reciting the vows. Our kids and 7 of 8 grandchildren viewing it. We then walked the beach and took photos of the blessed event. Did I mention our names are Bill and Billie, believe it or not.
We were there just recently watching the boats sailing by and looking for agates and broken glass to polish. One of our very favorite places to visit is Pt.Defiance and Owens Beach and 5 mile Drive.
I has just occurred to me that the comic series, "Oscar the Octopus", most likely appeared in the Tacoma Times; that was the paper my parents took in those days, and that's where I would most likely have seen it. It may be though, that because of keen local interest in Oscar, the comic may have also appeared in the Trib.
Up in my cranial dust-bin, I've run into a problem. I could have sworn that in the comic series, Oscar had as his side kick, Dub-Dub; and my recollection is that Oscar "held forth" in Dub-Dub's tank out on the veranda; and also my recollection is that the cartoonist came up with the whole idea for his comic series when he saw Dub-Dub and his tank out on the veranda. Then the cartoonist just located Oscar there, too. I remember one time when Oscar foiled a pickpocket in the crowd of onlookers, but in my mind, I can't see the action anymore. In another episode, he was standing up on the platform in the tank, and reached out over the fence around the top of the tank, and plucked the hat off a woman's head. I don't remember why. Now, here's the problem: According to a Los Angeles website, the Oscar comics were published in mid to late 1938; BUT, if I remember right, Oscar wasn't caught until late 1938, and he was only a pup then. Am I guilty of remembering too much---sticking unrelated things together up there in the "dust-bin"? It's been nearly 70 years since I last saw those comics. I'm really looking forward to a chance to see some of them again.
William J. Erickson
My dad caught Oscar, for the aquarium, a short distance off the boathouse floats; and, as a “reward,” Mr. “Billy” gave Dad the privilege of naming Oscar. Dad took the boon very “seriously,” and thought about it overnight, and decided to name him (it turned out later to be a ‘her’) after his (Dad’s) favorite brother, Oscar, and that’s a story in and of itself.
Oscar the Octopus didn’t become really famous, however, until a cartoonist (Bill Woggon???) started his single (or was it “double”) panel comic series, “Oscar the Octopus,” which featured both Oscar and Dub-Dub, and was syndicated and published (for awhile) in newspapers nationally back around 1938. Of course, when that happened, Ivar Haglund had to jump into the act and try to hog the Oscar limelight for his own aquarium with his own ‘Oscar the Octopus’. Later, after some of Ivar’s silly antics backfired, he gave it up.
Bill Woggon (???) made Oscar famous by anthropomorphizing Oscar, and making him into a loveable, cuddly pet; and that’s the now universal character he has become---loved by children (and mothers, and authors, and educators) everywhere. I have a cute, little, Oscar plush toy hanging (from a ceiling light switch) about 30 inches from my head right now.
Which brings up a question: Do you have in the Park archives any copies of those Woggon(???) comics? Seeing them would settle for me the question: “Was the cartoonist really the famous (later) Bill Woggon, creator of Katy Keene?”
Very roughly around 20-25 years ago, Murray Morgan did one of his Tacoma History stories on Oscar the Octopus. I remember very little about what all he had to say, but I do remember that he included the story about how the cartoonist (Woggon???) got started doing the strip.
William J. Erickson
I was feeling blue. The days of chilly rain and months of political spin were taking an emotional toll. The clouds broke at dusk, low filtered sunlight teased the landscape and drew my eyes toward Puget Sound.
A mind clearing sunset bike ride was just the ticket, to purge or at least subdue my unappreciative mood.
Down the hill I rode, one half mile away, to a favorite Puget Sound overlook...
...The park was quiet, very few vehicles, and rich with moist forest smells. Spectacular fungus had bloomed in recent days. Tawny, yellow and bright orange mushroom caps poked thru the forest carpet.
Scattered deer were grazing in a few open meadow areas, virtually horizontal sunray probed the forest in the last moments before sunset. Things were looking up.
I rode west and north to Owens Beach, an area that bustles in the warm summer sun with families, dogs and strutting hard-bodies. Today the beach and parking lot was practically vacant, except for one (1970s) ford station wagon- windows rolled up, engine running, cigarettes (apparently) glowing behind vapory glass. I didn't look too close, didn't need or want to know. Turning west I continued along a trail parallel to the beach, on a slightly elevated hard packed soil bench. There are a number of picnic tables aligned with the water front. On one of these tables I saw some unattended stuff, stuff like beach towels and coolers. There was movement in the shadows around that table, but it wasn't the owners. I was witnessing a heist, perpetrated by an intelligent, opportunistic and motivated family, of Raccoons.
I counted one adult, probably Mom, and four younger animals. As I coasted to a stop, about 10 feet away, the four kids puffed up a bit and side stepped around the table. They side stepped back and forth in a kind of dance, their eight eyes never left my two. Meantime- I saw Mom, peripherally, climb onto the table. As I turned my attention to her she met my gaze, popped open the cooler, snatched a sandwich (on white bread) and bounded up the hill, followed closely by her proteges.
I continued to ride and came upon a women (in red) strolling. I assumed the stuff on the table was hers, and it was. I told her what I had seen; she took it in stride, exclaiming she was “only sorry her kids had missed it.” Her four kids and two dogs had gone for a walk down the beach after having had their fill of Peanut Butter/Jelly, on white bread. The lady in red did express some concern about the waning light and having lost sight of her family. She asked me to send them back if I saw them during my ride. I did- all was well. I glanced back, as I rode away, and noticed more nefarious movement by the picnic table- and another white bread sandwich going up the hill.
My father, Victor, was from around 1932 till 1942 the carpenter for the park system; and I kind of grew up at Pt. Defiance Park. He and other employees worked closely together as a team to perform new construction and to maintain the equipment, buildings, and other facilities at all the parks. The bulk of their work was at Pt. Defiance Park. On team projects, my father was usually the team leader; the "foreman" if you will. On large projects involving outside manpower and sometimes outside agencies, Dad was the park system's designated foreman over all the construction---projects such as the first phase (and possibly later phases) of the construction of the facsimile of Fort Nisqually, the original aquarium (and at least the first expansion phase) in the old boathouse, and the old "new" boathouse and restaurant. There were many smaller projects that I saw at some time or other during construction---a couple of picnic shelters, bathhouse and restroom facilities, Dub-Dub's tanks (three, I think), and numerous remodel jobs at the different parks.
Dad was also involved with the building of New Beach, but I have no recollection of just what his role was. Most of the work was done by the CCC. What I remember most about that job was Dad's talking about using dynamite to blast down of the hillside to provide the sand for filling in the pond and making the new beach, and to make a much bigger area for parking and picnicking.
Dad and two of his several co-workers, Harry Bixby, the plumber, and Gilbert McLean, the arborist, became buddies and life-long friends. Our families often visited and had dinner together at each other's homes. Harry, Gilbert (whom everyone called "Mac"), and Dad were neither "sportsmen" nor hung out in taverns; the Park was their "life." Only occasionally did they talk of much else. We also had other friends who did not work at the Park, but the men in the families enjoyed "talking shop." Mom and Dad came from big families. Most of their relatives lived in other parts of the country, but occasionally visited with us here, and they all had to visit the Park and see the things Dad built, and hear the stories. Dad was a master craftsman, hard working, dedicated to his craft, smart, and clever; he was very proud of his many achievements in the park system. So down through the years, I heard all the stories---many of them over and over and over again. Most of the stories I have long since forgotten, but some of them I have managed to retain---some quite vividly.
As America's involvement in Word War II became more intense, Dad left the park system in 1942 or 43 to take a job as a construction superintendent at Fort Lewis. After the war, Dad worked as a construction superintendent for a few different contractors building housing projects, commercial buildings, and schools, mostly. He spent the last several years of his career as superintendent for "Big John" Anderson's construction company.
"Growing up" at the Park, as I did, I too had lots of experiences.
I'm a life long resident (born 1944) of the Tacoma area and fondly remember our family outtings to Pt Defiance. One thing I remember, and as of yet have not read any reference to, was the popcorn cart parked along the beginning of Five Mile Drive. As I remember it - it was a 4 wheeled cart - similar to what other food vendors used at the time. Kind of a circus look to it - vivid colors. My high school friend, Terese Brown Jackson and I remember singing and dancing at our Parkland Elementary kindergarten class to the song "Do You Know the Popcorn Man at Pt Defiance Park."
Joni Zitka Hollyoak
There are so many. One of the earliest was riding our bikes down to the
park. We played a game of 'Seek' in the woods between the boathouse and
Owens Beach boat ramp and between the road and the shore. The hide team
would be given a few minutes head start so each individual could find
their hide spot in the brush, behind a tree, whatever. The seek team
members had to find each hide team member, run 'em down and touch them
to complete the Seek. Sounds difficult but we always found and caught
each other. No wonder we were in great physical shape.
I was a member of the Scubaneers, a very tight knit and active Tacoma
SCUBA diving club. Among us, young and old, there was never a
'generation gap'. Each April we held the Treasure Hunt on Owens beach
which was always a great time. The parking lot would fill with
participants and spectators that day. Divers would search for metal
disks in time limit events. Each lucky diver was entered for a prize
drawing. We always had a big 'clam chowder' pot to warm people up from
their dive. You could always depend on a great crowd reaction when, just
before announcing prize winners, we informed all that there wasn't a
single clam in the chowder. It was all octopus.
Before then, I well remember first seeing the mysteries of the Puget
Sound on display in those dimly lit squarish tanks. Bug-eyed fish sat
before bubbling aerators, apparently as delighted as the folks who wiped
the condensation away for a better view. And there was Cecil Brousseau,
the dedicated keeper of that aquarium. He almost single-handedly caught
or bartered for the fish food, sometimes shrimping from his boat right
below the boathouse docks. In later years those divers who contributed
specimens to the new very modern facility got a free backdoor entry to
visit and chat with Cecil. It was that kind and modest gentleman who to
me was the gem of Tacoma's gem, Point Defiance.
My wonderful memories of Pt. Dedfiance was riding my horse "Cindy" on all the trails through-out the park at the early 60's. I was very fortunate to board my horse at the stable which use to be by the zoo. It burned down in the mid sixty. But it was such a joy and wonderful way
to see all the beauty of our extraordinary natural wonder that we are all so blessed to have in our city.
Point Defiance Park has always meant a lot to me and my family. But most of all, its my memories of fishing off the Point with my dad. My dad and I used to rent boats at the Point Defiance boat house and use his little 12 horse outboard motor he bought from a Western Auto store.
Dad passed away in 1962 and I pretty much lost interest in fishing since my old fishing partner was gone, but one warm summer evening after I arrived home from work I told my wife to go ahead with dinner with the kids, I had and urge to go salmon fishing. My mother had given me the outboard motor and dads fishing gear so I loaded it up and headed for Point Defiance Park boat house. When I arrived I put the motor and my tackle box on one of the little carts they had and wheeled it in to the covered boat house. I was thinking this all seems a little strange with out my dad along but I attached the motor to my rented boat loaded up the tackle box and a dozen fresh hearing I bought at the boat house. The attendants then roll you and the boat over to an elevator, lower you down to the water you shove off and start your motor and your off.
I was going to fish the incoming tide and I wanted to get to the Point before high slack tide. There were lots of boats like always fishing off the Point in the summer. Dad and I used to have good luck mooching just inside the tide rip that moved around the Point . I fished for quite awhile, using up most of my hearing on dog fish. The sun was starting to go down and only a few boats were left fishing. I only saw a couple of salmon caught the whole time so I figured it was about time to quit.
I made a cut plug out of my last hearing and cast it out in the tide rip. The tide was almost full and when I looked around all the other boats were gone the sun was dropping down and I knew it was the boat house rules not to have a boat out after dark with no navigation lights. I wedged my pole under the seat and started to put my gear away to head back. The lights on the Narrows Bridge and the Point came on. All of a sudden I saw my pole jerk a couple time then bend over the edge of the boat till it touched the water. I grabbed the pole and set the reel drag as the line was peeling off fast. It was almost dark but I knew I had a big King salmon on and I wasn't going to give him up. I only had 10 lb. test leader so I had to let him run. He was starting to get tired and as I got him closer to the boat he rolled and I saw that big silver side. I had a net but I knew it would sure be nice if my dad was there to net him.
Just then I heard a big diesel engine coming around the Point. It was about a 50ft yacht with all his lights on bearing down on me and I couldn't pull out of his way with my fish on. All of a sudden the yacht cut its engines drifted up close to my boat the skipper came out on the bow and yelled if I had any problem. I told him I had a big King on and was trying to baby him in. The big yacht came along side and the skipper asked if he could help me net the fish. I said sure if he could get down to my level. He scrambled back to the stern of his boat and climbed out on the swim step. He had his friend slowly back the boat up to mine and I handed him my net. I slowly brought the big King up and headed him towards the net the skipper dipped the net and scooped up my fish! I got him in the boat,thanked the yacht owner profusely, started my motor and headed back to the boat house.
When I arrived at the boat house they were about to start looking for me and pretty mad that I had the boat out in the dark. I apologized then reached down in the boat and hauled out my fish. I said this was my excuse. They managed a smile and put it on the scale. It weighed in at 32lbs.! Some how I think my dad was along with me that evening fishing off Point Defiance Park.
During the second world war my uncle was the park ranger at Pt Defiance. My Mother Marjorie sold tickets at the aquarium and my Father John was the parking control officer in the parking lot at the aquarium on weekends. Of course gas was rationed and we had a 1936 Ford. That was before the days of power equipment on cars. We would get up early Saturday mornings and drive from the south side of Tacoma to the Park. When we hit the top of the hill of Pearl Street, my Father would turn off the motor, to save gas, and we would coast down into the parking lot by the boathouse. I can remember hoping that the traffic signals would turn green for us as some of the street is fairly level.
My cousin, Janet Crowe was the same age as I. We would walk along the beach between the aquarium and Owen Beach and return on a trail above the road. Purpose of our walk was to collect bottles that we could turn in for a penny or two. I remember Dub Dub the seal and two pups that had to be removed from the tank at night. They were put in garbage cans. I also can remember the patrol boats and the ferry coming in to dock. Sometimes I would get to spend the night in the cousins family living quarters which was either above or in back of the aquarium. For breakfast we would have eggs. Janet liked the white and I liked the yolk of the egg. Those were good times.
I am thinking of the times that our mothers packed lunches for us, and we found trails from the north-end of Tacoma, that created shot-cuts to Pearl Street, then into our playground. We hit the tennis court first, then to the pavilian, then to Owens Beach, and around the 5 mile drive. We ate our lunches where there were view sites and although we were very young at this time, our hearts were with the beauty of the land. And, most important was that our parents were not afraid to let us go for 8 hours or more during the summer months, where we could be free to enjoy ourselves. However, in the warm summer, it was pretty hot trying to get back up Pearl street to get home. We were tired.
Florence (Schaller) Wenger
In the summer when days were
hot, my mother would tell my sister, brothers and me to gather the
neighborhood kids on the back porch because she was taking us all on a
picnic. Once gathered, one of the older kids would watch for the
streetcar and when it pulled up on Tacoma Avenue run to tell the
conductor that Mrs. Bichsel and the kids would be along shortly.
When the streetcar pulled into Pagoda Station at Pt. Defiance, we'd
pile off, then walk along the water to Owens Beach. Mother always had a
stack of towels for those brave enough to jump into the bay and splash
around. Then she'd spread out plates of hot dogs and potato salad on the
In August 1991, my fiancé and I were to be married. This wasn’t a first wedding for either of us, and we had two small children (age 5 and 7) at the time who we wanted also to be part of the ceremony. Mark’s dad the pastor was to officiate, and he was all over having us create a fun unique experience for the whole family, and encouraged us (like we need it!) to be creative. We didn’t have much money at the time, and called around trying to find a cool location for the ceremony that wouldn’t be pricey. I discovered that the Zoo and Aquarium rented out space that we could afford in the shark exhibit area, so we decided that we’d get married there! It was lovely! We had a boom box playing a home recorded tape for the processional (Queen’s “Seaside Rendezvous”, and “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid). I walked down the steps, reassured by the tropical fish, to meet my groom, with the air warm and humid. The dreamy blue backlit shark arena was soothing, and the kids were thrilled with the fascinating visual backdrop. My mom wondered beforehand about the symbolism of saying marriage vows surrounded by sharks…. J We had our photos taken in the lagoon area and it looks just like we were in Hawaii rather than Tacoma! Those who attended agreed afterwards that it was a beautiful, romantic, and fitting location for us to share our commitment with those we love. We visit the zoo regularly after over thirteen years married together, with our youngest daughter (now age 9) and always spend some time there holding hands, and watching the sharks circle while we smile, remembering.
My family moved to Tacoma in 1945 and became fans of the Point Defiance park
immediately. I remember picnics, the wooden swings, the long bike trip
around the five Mile Drive, the ride down a slide into the water at
Funland, but mostly I remember Dub-dub the seal. My family always headed to
the dock and boathouse to see what was being caught, watch the boats and to
feed herring to Dub. Ove the years we became acquaitned with Cecil
Brousseau, who had hand-raised Dub-dub from a pup. Cecil became my neighbor
on North 30th street years later : I had introduced my chidlren to the seal
who lived over 33 years. Dub-dub was the reason for a trip to the zoo and
also why there is a wonderful aquarium today. Cecil assisted in the work
with Larry Anderson, I raised the money , and Dub-dub in bronze rests at the
zoo today. I can picture him still, splashing and racing about the pool to
get the herring people could buy for him at the dock.
Jane Plomasen Brosius
My most treasured memory of Pt. Defiance Park is the horse stable that
stood where the Zoo parking lot is now. It was run by a nice old fellow
I grew up at North 51st and Vassault. (At the time there was no Pt.
Defiance Village there. Only a forest.) We neighborhood kids had a camp
there with a trail running through the woods to the stable. We constantly
hung out there.
Schram charged $1 for a half hour ride through the trails. But we were
always running to him with 25 or 50 cents and begging him to let us ride the
horses. He'd usually give in and let us sit on the horses in the pasture. (I
now think they were the old horses because they moved very little!
Then one night (I don't recall what year.) the stable burned down.
Every one in the area was devastated. Kids especially. As I remember, four
horses died. That was the end of the stable. I don't know what became of
Schram, but we sure missed him. But I'm happy that the stable and Schram
were part of my life!
Pt. Defiance Park is like an old friend who is there every step of the way. I have so many happy childhood memories of the zoo and our annual “Nino” family picnic at Owens beach to celebrate my grandmother’s 4th of July birthday. I remember how fun it was to feed Cindy the elephant marshmallows – She was a gentle giant the way I remember her. Owens beach was so much fun for me, my brother, sister and cousins. We would slide down the big clay hills, play on the beach, skipping rocks and wading in the freezing cold (but we didn’t care) water.
My first job, as a teenager was working at the old Pt. Defiance boathouse concession stand. My arms were aching by the end of those busy hot summer days from scooping ice cream, but it was one of those good character building experiences! My husband and I had our engagement photos taken at the park and have been there for several weddings. What a beautiful place for those occasions!
Now we enjoy the park with our two young boys – the zoo, the beach, hiking the trails, biking the 5 mile drive. We love it all! Our boys also get to enjoy fishing with their grandfather who keeps his boat at the Pt. Defiance boathouse. They love that, and they have become avid fishermen!
I suspect we will still be enjoying the park when our “senior” days arrive. We will cruise the 5 mile drive and stop to enjoy the beautiful views! What a treasure our Pt. Defiance Park is!
I had my first job at Point Defiance. When I was fifteen (I'll be sixty in three weeks) I got my first real
job working in the Boathouse Grill. The owner was "Tiny" Reynolds and I
worked for usually ten hours straight for one dollar per hour. I did dishes,
cleaned tables, waited the counter, whatever needed to be done. The cook
was Ralph Taschel (sp?) who's picture is on the wall across from the
entrance to the current restaurant. I worked there when it was in the
same area as the bait and tackle shop before it burned down. After the fire I
worked in the new one for awhile also. I have many other memories of the
park such as the Poggie Club fishing derby, riding my bike down to the
Point (we lived by Jefferson Park) and fishing from the dock for bottom
fish. My dad, J. Ralph Williams, was a member of the Metropolitan Park
Board for many years and I can remember going to the park with him when
I was young. We used to occasionally visit Floyd Owens (Owens Beach was
named after him) and his wife who lived in the house by the Rose Garden.
I could go on and on with other memories but my first job there is
probably my fondest memory.
I graduated from Wilson in 1963 and then from UPS in
early-1968. During that time I used to go to the Park but it was mostly to
use our small boat that was lockered at the Point Defiance boathouse.
Unfortunately, I wasn't what you would consider a hippie so I don't remember
much about them and the Point. With the draft and VietNam staring me in the
face, I went into the service (Navy) right after UPS and was gone for three
years before ending up on Vashon Island.
I grew up in the north end of Tacoma, attending Sherman Elementary, Mason
Junior High and Wilson High School. My parents, Bob and Evelyn Stein helped
provide countless memories for my sister and I at Pt. Defiance. I'll just
send a list and you can pick your favorite.
The Horse Stables - dad would take me down to ride horses along the many
trails. Our favorite was "lover's lane" as dad called it, a place where you
just hoped your horse didn't embarrass you as you trotted past the couples
"smooching" in their cars.
Dad was an avid fisherman and alas as his only child I often got to be his
fishing partner. We'd take the 2hp Lawson outboard motor down to the
boathouse, rent a boat, throw in the oars and tackle box and head down to
the Point for some fishing off the clay banks. Mid morning we'd put ashore
and dad would build a fire, bring out the cast iron skillet and fry up some
scrabbled eggs for us. My favorite memory is getting to "cook" the little
clear jelly fish - yes, they melted, but ah, what a thrill!
Salmon Bakes - these are teenage memories. Many of our family memories
center around food and this is no exception. Salmon in foil, potatoes in
foil, corn on the cob in foil.... Yum. And maybe a grape snowcone at the
concession stand if you'd cleaned your plate. And climbing up the hill,
hanging onto the roots and then sliding down to the bottom!
Dub-Dub - This memory centers around the beloved seal(s) called Dub-Dub.
A visit from any cousin(s) warranted a trip to the Zoo and Aquarium. We
were always given money to buy fish to feed to Dub-dub. And the dank, dark
aquarium - loved it, in hindsight I should have been frightened, but I loved
Madrona Girl Scout Camp - Summers spent in Day Camp are especially
memorable. Sweeping the paths with branches, clearing the many layers of
madrona leaves that had falled overnight, mentholatum in little metal tins,
Flag ceremony at the beginning of the day, shellac on your scrapbook
(complete with leather hinges!!!). And one year my mom was a counselor and
her nickname was - yup, Dub-Dub.
College at UPS, married and living on N. 8th Street it's time to start our
own family traditions at the Point.
Running on the trails - it's like an enchanted forest at every turn.
Cindy the elephant - nuff said, but she was a favorite!
The monkeys - again, nuff said!
Ferry boat rides while dad watched the Super Bowl!
Time passes again....
New life, now it's walking on the trails. But I get to introduce someone to
the labyrinth of trails and discover even new ones!
Zoolights and listening to Tuba Christmas in the amphitheater.
Summers as a grandparent taking my grandson to see the new tigers - wow!
The great sandblasted art on the bulkhead between the new boathouse and
Taste of Tacoma - oh, there's those culinary memories again!! Now I watch
my grandson roll down the hill!
All in all the Point is part of my life - always has been, always will be.
Thanks for letting me share these stories. I'm sending a copy to my kids
and my grandson. Mom and dad are sitting on my shoulders reading as I
When I was very young and lived in Tacoma, my family visited Point
Defiance Park often. One of my favorite things to see was the seal "Dub
Dub". My family moved back east when I was a teenager and I didn't come
back to this area again until 1971. One of the first places my husband
and I took my 3 year old daughter, was Point Defiance Park. I was
thrilled to see that Dub Dub was still alive and there so she could share the
experience I had remembered as a child. I was also pleased to see that
the merry-go-round was still there so she could ride several times and
have that memory as well. I wish it had remained in the park. As an
adult, even though she lives and works in Seattle, it remains one of her
favorite places to visit with friends when she is in Tacoma.
Congratulations to Point Defiance for the first 100 years!
I had my first job at Point Defiance. When I was fifteen (I'll be sixty in three weeks) I got my first real job working in the Boathouse Grill. The owner was "Tiny" Reynolds and I worked for usually ten hours straight for one dollar per hour. I did dishes, cleaned tables, waited the counter, whatever needed to be done. The cook was Ralph Taschel (sp?) who's picture is on the wall across from the entrance to the current restaurant. I worked there when it was in the same area as the bait and tackle shop before it burned down. After the fire I worked in the new one for awhile also. I have many other memories of the park such as the Poggie Club fishing derby, riding my bike down to the Point (we lived by Jefferson Park) and fishing from the dock for bottom fish. My dad, J. Ralph Williams, was a member of the Metropolitan Park Board for many years and I can remember going to the park with him when I was young. We used to occasionally visit Floyd Owens (Owens Beach was named after him) and his wife who lived in the house by the Rose Garden. I could go on and on with other memories but my first job there is probably my fondest memory.
If you have personal stories or memories about the park you'd like to share, contact columnist Kathleen Merryman at email@example.com.