West Seattle Memories Part 1: Alki Beach

  • By Alyssa Burrows
  • Posted 8/16/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3491

This file contains Bob and Ada Hallberg's memories of West Seattle's Alki Beach and the log rafts swimmers could sit on and dive off up until the 1950s. It is an exerpt of an oral history interview conducted in 1999 by JonLee Joseph for the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.

Alki Beach by Bob Halberg

"My brother and I loved the beach. Even though I was only six and Dick was four, my mother never had any anxiety about us. It was a safe place to let your kids out of the house in the morning and leave them down at the beach most of the day and we would play with friends. We lived in Dash Point and my brother and I thought it was paradise.

"When we moved to Seattle, I thought that I would be miserable. Dad chose to come to Alki where he had found a home for us. He drove down Admiral Way and I think Dick and I must have been sulking in the back seat of the old Model A Ford, even though it was a gorgeous day ... feeling very sorry for ourselves.

"Suddenly, when we reached the top of Lander, here was this sparking bay with white caps on it. There were only a few homes in there, big old homes. We couldn't believe it! There was this wonderful bathhouse recreation center with three rafts bobbing in front of it and hundreds of people. We heard the squeals of the children way up the street when my dad turned on 60th.

"Our house was only one block from the beach! We could hardly wait to get out of the car and race down to that tide flat and then down to the beach where there were two rafts close enough to shore so that little kids who could just dog paddle could reach them. My little brother wasn't dog paddling yet and he could wade out to them. When you got bigger, you could go out to the deep water raft with a tower that you could dive off of. The tower looked to me to be about 30 feet tall. It seemed to go all the way to heaven. Later, when I looked at it, it was hardly even a tall man's height. Alki was just as nice as Dash Point, if not better! It is a great memory. ...

"In the fall when you went back to school there was the day that the Parks Department brought out the draft horses to the beach to pull the rafts out for the winter. I can remember several years being down there on hand and the Park Department employees didn't work on Saturday or Sunday, so this meant that it was a school day. The teachers were kind enough to let us out for a field trip to go down and watch those two huge draft horses inch those log rafts up on the beach. Somehow the raft was so constructed to put tie lines on. Of course, they waited for a high tide. That would be a critical thing so they got as much help from the tide as possible."

"Everybody Loved Those Rafts" by Ada Hallberg

"Everybody loved those rafts. Most of us learned to swim down at the beach and worked up from one raft to the next. We were always protected by the lifeguards.

"In the early fifties, the rafts were taken away. There was a meeting called at the Recreational Center by the school to discuss the beach and why they had taken the rafts away. I thought I was the only one there determined to save the rafts. I didn't know that half of Alki had moved back to Alki.

"The Park Department told us that they were afraid that someone would hurt themselves diving off the rafts at low tides and injuring their heads. All kinds of people were there saying, 'Bring those rafts back!' Then they said they would after they scraped the barnacles off. We were afraid that if we didn't have the rafts, we wouldn't have the lifeguards. Then there would be just a lone lifeguard walking the beach. But the rafts never came back."

 


Sources:

JonLee Joseph Interview of Bob Halberg and Ada Hallberg, 1999. Oral History project conducted by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. Transcript excerpts of these interviews were used in two Memory Book projects: West Seattle Memories: Alki (Seattle: Southwest Seattle Historical Society, 1999) and Memories of Southwest Seattle Businesses (Seattle: Southwest Seattle Historical Society, 1999); Excerpts are also available on a video produced by Valerie Vazza, BJ Bullert, and Sadis and Vaughn. All can be seen at the Log House Museum, 3003 61st Avenue SW, Seattle, WA 98116. See Log House Museum in HistoryLink Museum Library, (www.historylink.org).


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