‘Friday Historians’ talk about El Primero’s past, future

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The “Friday Historians” aboard the El Primero on a recent Friday morning at the Thea Foss waterway.
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Artifacts of a bygone era stored aboard the historic yacht.

A report from Richard Hildahl aboard the El Primero

On a recent warm and windless Friday morning on the Thea Foss waterway, a handful of Tacoma historians gathered on the fantail of the historic El Primero to, well, talk history.

Most Fridays, this small dedicated and passionate individuals with a keen interest in Tacoma History usually gather at the Tacoma Historical Society offices. The conversations sway with the season.  They call themselves “The Friday Historians”.

The group included Ron Magden, his wife Beth, Jerry Ramsey, Paul Michaels, a prominent sculpture and avid history buff, Richard Sims, Darlyne Reiter, and Richard and Connie Hildahl. Bill Baarsma, former mayor and president of the Tacoma Historical Society, dropped in to join the conversation.

Richard Hildahl gave a brief update on the El Primero initiative.

But the banter quickly turned to talk about the 120-foot former luxury yacht and her brush with Tacoma history.

The visit of four US presidents, including Teddy Roosevelt and W. H. Taft. Her role in the welcoming of the Great White Fleet to Tacoma.

Her fantail was even used as the judging platform for numerous events held on the Tacoma waterway, including the crew races of teams from Navy battleships and the tugboat races of 1933 — which were part of the celebration of the world premiere of the movie “Tugboat Annie” at the Pantages Theater.

Next year is a special one for the 121-year-old steel-hulled vessel, said Hildahl. It is the 150th anniversary of Sidney Albert “Sam” Perkins’ birth, the local newspaper publisher, businessman and prominent Tacoma booster.

Hildahl said he hopes by next year the yacht would be permanently moored on the Tacoma waterway in time for the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. His dream would dovetail nicely with other major development projects on the Foss Waterway and on Ruston Way.

“It is hard not to be proud and optimistic about Tacoma’s future while sitting on the deck where so many important accomplishments were witnessed a century ago,” Hildahl said.

 

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