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Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 12:00 a.m. Pacific

Remembering Seattle in the 1930s: Jesse Petrich

He's a frail man, with a wisp of a beard and gold-rimmed glasses hanging from his large ears. He sits at the kitchen table in his small apartment overlooking Pike Place Market, gazing across Elliott Bay as he recalls Seattle as a home port.

I was born in Tacoma in 1907, and I'm one month older than the Public Market. Left high school and started workin' on fishing boats — at first right here in Puget Sound, then up in Alaska. Went to sea pretty much all my life, except when I came ashore and went logging over in Grays Harbor. That's when I joined the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) and became a Wobbly. I liked that, but the boss had a daughter, and we got together and I had to get out of there, catch a steam schooner down in Aberdeen.

Seattle was all working waterfront. There were the tugboat companies, the mosquito-fleet steamers, the big freighters comin' 'n' goin'. In the wintertime, the Alaska steamers would be tied up side-by-side over there by West Seattle.

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First Avenue was all red lights, with women goin' for a couple bucks. The bars were further south, and some of those joints are still open. I guess the whorehouses are gone, but I wouldn't know. I didn't patronize those places. Didn't have to.

Seattle was also a union town. I recall when the Sailors' Union contract expired and we wanted a raise. It was spring, and Alaska Steam was getting ready to head north and they put out a call for crew. I said: "Let's not go!" And we held 'em up for a week before we got our agreement.

Today there's no port left. They built that viaduct and pretty much killed the waterfront. To see the big ships, you gotta go up to Pier 91 or down to Harbor Island.

But I'm doin' all right. Couple years ago, I fell trying to get on a bus up on First Avenue, and I sued the bums.

I'm still a Wobbly! Hell, yes, I am!

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