A triumph

"History is more or less bunk," Henry Ford once said.

The old lion lived to regret that comment, as well he should.

Anyone opening the big and beautiful "Magnolia: Making More Memories" will be reminded that history, first and last, is people and their stories.

It's amazing, really, that a dedicated group of volunteers - in this case the Magnolia Historical Society - has produced such a book, weighing in with 392 numbered pages between its hard covers. Led by project manager Monica Wooton, "Making More Memories" is the follow up to "Magnolia: Memories and Milestones," published by the Magnolia Community Club in 2000.

That earlier project brought together many of those inspired souls who reassembled for this book, which focuses on the decades of the 1920s through the 1940s.

Written by 34 Magnolians, this is a big, Whitmanesque poem of a book, capacious, wry and heartfelt and generously illustrated with archival photographs.

The Interbay steam locomotives are here - the 1948 photograph by Hal Will on pages 70-71 is high art. West Point and its lighthouse are major protagonists, as are the archaeological digs there that have deepened our knowledge of Native American history. Wartime Fort Lawton, whose green acres were the mustering grounds for young Americans headed overseas, gets major treatment. The long-lamented Magnolia Theatre in the Village is captured in a May 19, 1949, photograph with an Oscar-rerelease double bill of "Johnny Belinda" and "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" on the marquee. A panoramic photograph of "Pleasant Valley" taken by Asahel Curtis in 1909, gave local historian Paul Dorpat a "transcendental jolt," as he writes on the back cover.

The book ranges from big themes to anecdotal, conversational memories, creating a kind of rhythm of breathing that blows away the cobwebs some people, like poor Mr. Ford, associate with history. A fold-out photograph of Magnolia taken from the air in 1946 is included for good measure.

Despite two world wars as backdrop, why, in some corner of the mind, is there a sense of lost innocence about those decades?

Opening to pages 192-193 helps us to understand.

The black-and-white, two-page spread, taken in 1943 from inside the old Magnolia branch of the Seattle Public Library, shows the faces of children and young teens looking in from the street. It's obviously cold out. Most of the young women wear scarves and everyone has on a heavy coat. The war is going badly for the Allies at this point. Terrible things are happening elsewhere, but these young faces form a choir of innocence. The Seattle P-I photograph is both joyful and poignant, capturing a time when history hovered over people's lives like a drunken bully.

History also means bringing back the wonderfully absurd.

The book's next-to-last photograph, taken in 1938, depicts a "For Sale by Owner" sign advertising "Best Buy, Best View on Perkins Lane."

"No Slides," the sign pledges. "Civil Engineer Says - Good Condition to Build On." Slickness had yet to be perfected as a popular artform.

A quote from Wallace Stegner appears on the book's overleaf: "No place is a place until things that have happened in it are remembered in history, ballads, yarns, legends or monuments."

Magnolia is a real place, all right.

And this is one coffee table book too good for the coffee table.

The limited edition "Magnolia: Making More Memories," is available for $45 at Catharine Blaine School, 2550 34th Ave. W. today, (Wednesday, Dec. 12), from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 15, 10 a.m-2 p.m. Magnolia's Bookstore, 3206 W. McGraw St. in the Village, also has a supply on hand.

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