South Tacom’s history celebrated in new book

Tacoma resident Darlyne A. Reiter celebrates the history of the southern section of the city in her new book "South Tacoma."

Reiter moved to Tacoma from North Dakota in 1969. She became interested in the history of her new home while doing research for a contest in a local newspaper. Her book draws upon information and photographs supplied by families with long histories in South Tacoma, as well as the archives of Tacoma Public Library and local history buffs, including Jim Frederickson, Bob Tschida and Tacoma City Councilmember Tom Stenger.

The first chapter, "A Grave Beginning," examines the role cemeteries played in the early years of South Tacoma. While the area had considerable land set aside for the dead, it was quite full of life, from social activities to industry.

"The Railroad Shops Entice" is about Northern Pacific Railway moving its railroad shops from downtown to South Tacoma in 1890, and the lasting impact they had on the area. There are numerous photos of the shops, trains and the men who worked there.

Chapter three, "An Infrastructure Develops," covers how the growing area came to have running water, streetlights, paved roads and other essentials of modern life.

In addition to infrastructure, the people had needs for social services. A chapter of the Humane Society was founded to care for homeless pets and ensure the proper treatment of horses and cows. In the absence of an agency to ensure the welfare of abused children, the society opened an orphanage.

The impetus for a library branch came from a reading room operated by Women's Christian Temperance Union as an alternative to hanging out in saloons.

"Embracing Education" examines public and parochial schools in South Tacoma. There are numerous class photographs from 1905 to the mid-1970s. Some of the earlier ones don't have complete lists of names of those in the pictures, but most of the more recent ones do. Longtime residents likely will recognize some of the children depicted.

"The People Create a Community" covers the establishment of businesses, social occasions such as weddings, politics and other aspects of life.

One of the more interesting photos is of Andrew Hazen and two friends. They are dressed in baseball uniforms, but not for a team they played for. In 1910 a recall effort was underway against Mayor Angelo Fawcett. The jerseys are emblazoned with the word "RECALL," an indication of where the men stood on the issue.

From large companies like Atlas, Roman Meal Company and Nalley Fine Food to smaller mom-and-pop businesses, Reiter chronicles the economy of the area. Of course, South Tacoma Way has a considerable history of businesses related to the automobile, and she covers that as well.

Steve's Gay Nineties looks like it must have been quite a fun place to hang out.

Darlyne A. Reiter will sign copies of "South Tacoma" from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 13 at Brown's Flowers, 4734 South Tacoma Way.


Reviewed by John Larson


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