Get Out of Your Car by Morf Morford

“Get out of your car” should be the first Commandment of summers in the Pacific Northwest.

Local gems, wonders and treats are out there, but you’ll miss most of them if you don’t get out to see, hear and sometimes taste them.

Tacoma has many distant vistas that dazzle visitors, but a much closer – and slower – look has its own rewards.

Tacoma has a rich history expressed in its building and parks.

I’ve seen posters of doorways – Doorways of Dublin for example, but Tacoma has a treasure of unique, crafted front doors and porches – particularly attractive and interesting in the summer when plants are out and flowers and gardens are in bloom.

Home and building design and history are other attractions.

Did you know that Sears used to sell kit homes?

Sears would deliver an entire house – including plumbing, nails and windows to a building site.

Tacoma has several of these still standing. Wouldn’t a tour of them be fascinating?

We have several homes designed and built for wealthy (and sometimes eccentric) lumber barons, entrepreneurs and even a few organized crime figures.

Some homes have been the location of kidnappings, childhood homes of notorious criminals, movie filmings and start-up businesses that are household words today.

Reliable rumor has it, for example, that when Charles Manson was in what was then the federal prison on McNeil Island, his then-girlfriend and his son, lived in Tacoma. Could that be true? If so, where did he live? Did he go to school here? Does he still live here?

Up until the rise of chain stores, many neighborhoods used to have what were called ‘Victory markets” – little locally and family owned neighborhood grocery stores.

Many are still standing; and a (very) few are still operating.

Wouldn’t an organized tour – or even a self-guided walking tour – of some of these places be fun?

The majority of homes in what we now call ‘Hilltop’ were built by (and for) the stream of Russian, Italian and Scandinavian immigrants. Many of these classic homes still have fruit trees and gardens in the back yards.

Tacoma is packed with puzzles and surprises.

Who among us knew, for example, that the first public library in Tacoma was nowhere near South 11th and Tacoma Avenue – or any existing branch?

What other city has a park dedicated to growing blueberries? It’s one of Tacoma best-kept secrets – and it’s just off South 72nd street.

Who knew that the oldest (still operating) church in Tacoma is in Old Town?

The first school in Tacoma was also in Old Town – you can see a monument near North 28th and Starr.

While you’re in Old Town, check out the old houses. Many were built before 1900 – some even before statehood in 1889.

Look for the houses built before the advent of indoor plumbing – you can tell by the plumbing attached to the outside of the house.

And while you’re in Old Town, be sure to notice the vintage lampposts.

I’d love to see a tour of houses with rounded front doors. Or unique chimneys. Or stained glass windows. Or stone and brick walkways. Or creative dormers and porches. Or the nearly secret, tucked away neighborhoods.

Our city has a rich and varied history that we zoom by and rarely notice.

Get out of your car and see it!


*Besides being an occasional columnist for The News Tribune, Morf is a writer, teacher, word-nerd, 98% vegan, listener, community story-teller, poet, advocate of the oddities of earthly existence. Scavenger of the unlikely. Connoisseur of the ridiculous.