Old memories linger at new hotel
Seventy-one years ago ... Feb. 26, 1936 — my father, William Warshal, and his brother Adolph celebrated the grand opening of...
Special to The Times
LONDON — Seventy-one years ago — on Feb. 26, 1936 — my father, William Warshal, and his brother Adolph celebrated the grand opening of the new Warshal's Sporting Goods Company on the corner of First Avenue and Madison Street in Seattle.
It was the first large-scale sporting goods emporium on the Pacific Coast — with the most complete range of camera equipment, fishing tackle, outdoor clothing, camping and athletic gear, and a comprehensive gun department. Warshal's prospered for many years, but eventually gave way to a multistory hotel/condo/restaurant complex.
In June, I took my 89-year-old mother Edith (who was working at "The Store" as a young cashier when it first opened) to visit the new hotel. In our "tear it down and build anew" culture, it was comforting to imagine the spirit of Warshal's still flourishes in a corner of the new building.
The boutique restaurant, Boka, now resides where fishing tackle and a myriad of colorful lures, bait and sinkers were displayed. The Studio bar area has taken over the spot where outspoken Sam Angel and other camera-department specialists dispensed knowledge, gossip and photographic supplies to regular customers.
The gleaming foyer reception area now stands in place of the gun department. In the old days, customers bought handguns for the sport of target shooting, and rifles and shotguns were essential for sportsmen. Hunters proudly displayed their catches of elk, moose and deer outside the store after a successful weekend in the wilds. And the venerable Hollywood gunslinger, John Wayne, was filmed in the gun department in "McQ," a 1974 action movie.
The hotel guestrooms now occupy the old warehouse space once crammed with Evinrude motors, Spalding and Wilson athletic equipment, Brunswick bowling balls, Coleman coolers, Pendleton shirts, Zebco rods and Penn reels, a ski and camping rental department, a shooting range and more. A two-year supply of bat guano was also a prominent warehouse resident. My dad had purchased yet another special "closeout deal" from the bat caves of Arizona. We sold that guano for years — and it is now recognized as one of the best natural fertilizers.
But without doubt, the highlight of our nostalgic trip down First and Madison memory lane was a visit to the The Golf Club on the lower ground floor. Promoted as "a spectacular experience in a virtual-reality setting," you can hit real golf balls with real clubs on more than 40 top international golf courses, thanks to new technology and your own vivid imagination.
Bill Warshal passed away in 1999. He was an avid golfer and would have absolutely loved this golf-course fantasy world.
When we moved from Madrona to Bellevue in 1957, he found a Chicago supplier who would ship him old driving-range golf balls, which he would hit into Meydenbauer Bay. It was great practice and good physical therapy. As Bellevue grew and more people used the water, the local Coast Guard eventually told him, "This practice must stop."
Enjoying the atmosphere of the hotel golf club, I could only think how much my father would have approved of this innovation. I am sure he is looking down on the golfers, wishing he could be playing with them. If only the technology had been available, he certainly would have installed this virtual driving range in the store's warehouse — and probably in the basement of our home as well!
The new occupant of this historic downtown site, Hotel 1000, has produced a 2007 experience incorporating cutting-edge technology and design. Without realizing it, it has also created a meaningful link to the past.
The aroma of flowers and cologne may welcome sophisticated travelers on arrival, but it is the unmistakable scent of sports activity on the floor below that I will always cherish.
Steve Warshal, a Seattle native, worked at Warshal's until the early 1970s. He now lives in London and works with Greenpeace UK and creates conferences with Centaur Media. E-mail: email@example.com
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