Thursday, January 28, 2010

CryptoWA #15 - The Streamlined Ghost

There was a lot of excitement about the return of the former Washington State ferry Kalakala to our waters in 1998. After decades of service between Seattle and my home town of Bremerton, the magnificent streamline ferry was rescued, seemingly from oblivion on the shores of Kodiak island in Alaska and towed back to Puget Sound.

It's a funny thing. I usually champion any effort to preserve our local history, but I'm conflicted about Kalakala. It sometimes feels like we said goodbye to a cherished family pet, only to have it dug up and left on the porch.

Our memories of Kalakala from 1935 to 1967 can easily outweigh the awkward, accident prone vessel and concentrate on a the striking art deco creation it was. We can forget the fact that a coffee cup in the cafe would only be filled halfway, since vibrations that wracked the ferry made a full cup a dicey proposition. We can forget the times it plowed into docks and other ferries due to the poor design of its pilot house. We can just think back to the days it carried 5,000 shipyard workers per trip during World War II. We have years of great memories to look back on.

Kalakala is reported to be haunted by the requisite number of ghosts that hang out in spooky old boats, so I've included one in the second picture (it's tiny). This is meant to be Adelaide Bebb, a sad young lady who took her own life while aboard Kalakala in 1940.

But Kalakala is its own ghost. One look at its present state and that should be apparent to anyone. I sometimes wonder if it would have been better off out of sight, returning to the soil on a distant Alaskan beach.