Letters to the Editor

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KALAKALA: Shame on us for failing historic ferry

Letter by Jeffrey G. Orr, Tacoma on May 9, 2012 at 11:23 am | 7 Comments »
May 9, 2012 1:38 pm

Re: “Kalakala dilemma: Can’t stay, can’t go” (TNT, 5-6).

As a fourth-generation Northwest native and a student of maritime history, I marvel with dismay at this region’s lack of support and appreciation for historic vessels that at one point were restorable, only to be allowed to rot or disappear from our region forever, with the ferry Kalakala top on that list.

Consider that the MV Kalalaka was built by Alexander Peabody of the Black Ball Ferry Line as a symbol of hope for the people of the Northwest coming out of the bleakness of the Great Depression, that she was one of the first vessels to use an electroweld technique, that she at one point had the largest diesel engine (built by Anheuser Busch) ever installed in a single screw ferry, that she was, even in old age, the second most recognizable symbol of the Northwest after the Space Needle, and that she was the first commercial vessel to have a radar system. The fact that she has survived 45 years of retirement is incredible.

The Kalakala is distinctly Northwestern, an integral part of our heritage that fewer people appreciate in this landscape of urban homogeneity that Seattle and Tacoma resemble more each day.

At this point, the Kalakala is a bitter reminder of how the Puget Sound community willfully throws money at sports venues and other amenities that lose money, yet cannot preserve a single maritime vessel or ferryboat that helped transport our residents and build our region.

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