Memories from Seattle’s Pike Place Market and the Showbox

My earliest memories from the Pike Place Market are from my high school days, when I’d go downtown to buy bell bottoms from the Army Navy Surplus Store, and everything smelled of patchouli.

Years later when I worked downtown, I’d visit the Market on my lunch hour.

I’d grab something portable to eat and maybe pick up some fruit or flowers.

Mostly I enjoyed the walk and the sounds and smells of the lively, rough and tumble place.

Sometimes I stood on the corner and paused, near the same spot my great grandfather stood 100 years before,

when he took this picture.

O.T. Frasch was an early Seattle photographer, and my mother’s grandfather.

He took hundreds of photographs documenting Seattle’s history, and I’m pleased when I see them posted around town or referenced in the local paper and museums.

I don’t know whether he ever photographed the Showbox across the street, where my mom worked in the fifties before I was born.

I love her stories from that era and need to hear more of them while I can.

Of Guy Mitchell, who arrived drunk but sobered up enough to perform and bring the house down. I remember him myself from a record we had; I thought ‘Pretty Little Black-eyed Susie,’ was about me, though my eyes were blue not black.

Of Jack Smith, a friendly crooner who told her his life story; and another crooner named Eddie Fisher. There was Ginny Sims, Joni James, Woody Herman, and the Mills Brothers, who invited her to a party after hours where she visited with their wives. Many of these names are fading from history but are still alive in her memory and now mine as well.

The Showbox itself was nearly torn down a few years ago but was saved from the wrecking ball, just like the Market 50 years earlier.

For the history of the Showbox, click here.

For more about the Pike Place Market click here.

Inspired by my mom and Sunday Stills #Urban Focus.

~ Susanne

31 Comments on “Memories from Seattle’s Pike Place Market and the Showbox

  1. I love visiting Pike Place Market and watching the fish fly through the air at the fish counter. What wonderful history that your grandfather photographed and fabulous memories your mother has. I recognize some of those performers’ names.

    • Thanks so much! I love the Market, still the most authentic place in Seattle. And I was happy to squeeze in some of my mom’s history at the Showbox. I love her stories! πŸ™‚

  2. I would love to wander around a market like that.
    I have a Mills Brothers vinyl album that I bought in my teens. They had some great hit songs in Britain, including ‘You always hurt the one you love’. Classics now.
    Eddie Fisher was married to Liz Taylor for five years. He divorced Debbie Reynolds because he preferred Liz.
    He was the father of Carrie Fisher, (mother Debbie Reynolds) of Star Wars fame. He died in 2010.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Pete. πŸ™‚
      I believe you really would enjoy the market, one of the most authentic places left in Seattle. And the Eddie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds/Liz Taylor saga is legendary! Debbie and Carrie were really close so when Carrie died, it broke Debbie’s heart and she departed days later.

  3. Good memories! Some of my favorite restaurants and, of course, the smell of seafood always reminds me of crabbing and shrimping with grandpa on Hood Canal!

    • Hey, thanks for dropping by! I too think of Hood Canal when I see all those shrimp! Or is it shrimps?? Even after I googled it I wasn’t clear! πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks, Don. I’m so glad it’s still here, and it may not have changed as much as you think. It’s sometimes called the soul of Seattle, and has remained authentic and ungentrified, despite the growth around it.

  4. Pingback: Sunday Stills: An #Urban Focus – Second Wind Leisure Perspectives

  5. I have always wanted to visit this area, Susanne, and I’m so glad you shared this for “urban” in Sunday Stills. It’s perfect and your family’s memories make it more epic. I visited Seattle at age 9 in 1969 for a dog show and got to see the Space Needle, which was impressive. I became aware of the Pike Place Market when a popular training video came out in the 90s Fish! Philosophy. I wonder if the men who starred in the movie are still there? I viewed it countless times as I was the trainer for years. Cool stuff. One of these days. Glad citizens saves these treasured Seattle landmarks and how lucky for you to have the connection!

    • Thanks so much, Terri! I had to look up Fish! Philosophy as I hadn’t heard of it before! It makes total sense when you see the passion of the fishmongers at the Market. It’s so fun to watch them throw the fish, and the tourists head there first!
      Both the Pike Place Market and the Showbox are Seattle treasures and I’m happy they were saved, and for the family connection to both. The Space Needle is another symbol of Seattle and definitely safe from the wrecking ball – can you even imagine that coming down?!? In fact, it was renovated a couple years ago to include a glass floor. I haven’t been there since; I need to muster the courage to go so I can look to the ground, 600 feet below my feet. πŸ™‚

  6. When we visited Seattle for some geocaching, Pike Place Market was one of our stops! Wonderful to see your photos…

  7. Great photos Susanne. Pike Place is a treasure, as you say. John Clise, who used to run the place for a while, was the Mayor of Port Townsend for several years when I was there. I was pleased, too, that The Showbox was saved. Get rid of places like these and all that’s left is the soulless techie nightmare!

    • Thanks, Graham. The Market is really the heart of the old Seattle. So many other places downtown have been built up beyond recognition, especially south Lake Union. And I was happy the Showbox was saved too as it always reminds me of my mom and her stories of working there.

  8. We loved Pike Place Market and went twice while in Seattle. I loved seeing that old photo of it and realising how little it’s changed. Your mention of everything smelling of patchouli took me back to my teenage years in London, shopping in Kensington Market for trendy clothes that I could afford on my school girl’s budget and then going into Biba and fantasising about being able to afford the clothes there!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the Market. It’s a bit rough around the edges but that makes it even more appealing, I think. And patchouli is one of those fragrances that immediately transports me back to another era. I’m glad the memories took you back, as well! πŸ™‚

  9. I’ve been to the Market once but would love to go again. We were on the way to it a second time a few years ago, via the monorail. But it got stuck midway and they had to come rescue us with the other monorail, which took us back to the station. By then we were done with the whole idea and headed home.

    • Do you mean the monorail that runs from downtown to the Space Needle, or the Light rail that runs from the airport and through town underground? It’s pretty unusual for either one of them to get stuck, but I guess it was not your lucky day! I would have given up, too!

      • It was the monorail from the Space Needle. It got stuck and we had to wait for about an hour in the sweltering heat for the other one to come, and then they laid a board across the entrances to both trains and we had to walk across it over to the other train…not fun for someone who has a fear of heights!

  10. I am glad to know that it has remained. Boston used to have such a place when I was in college but it was torn down for “urban progress.” It has reappeared as a tourist attraction with lots of silly things but no authentic butchers and farmers.

    • Yes, it’s weathered many attempts at gentrification over its almost 120 years of existence. And I’m so pleased when I visit that it remains exactly as I remember, full of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms, seafood galore, singers with guitar case open for tips, and hustle and bustle!

      • At least we still have thriving farmers’ markets, but only part of the year. And no fish.

  11. More photo and article archives (you may know of this already?) Paul Dorpat/Seattle Now and Then. Columnist in the Seattle Times for years, everything he wrote and the photos have been gathered into a website. I grew up in West Seattle near “the Junction” and every week we took a city bus (I don’t think the bus system was called “Metro Transit” back in the day; the buses were diesel then, phew!) from West Seattle to the Pike Place Market. My mother was a midwest farm transplant to Seattle, she missed the little farm communities so much, and wanted to make sure we had fresh “everything” for a week and that included fresh flowers for the house. If there was one single thing that could convince me to move back to Seattle despite how terribly expensive Seattle has become, it would be the Pike Place Market. While we do have some nice farmers markets and really excellent organic farmstands here locally in the Willamette Valley, the Pike Place Market is just one of a kind and nothing else truly compares.

    • Thanks for your comment. Yes, I am very familiar with Paul Dorpat and always look at the Now and Then in the Sunday Seattle Times, as sometimes an O.T. Frasch photo shows up in the ‘Then.’ I grew up along Delridge Way in West Seattle and also remember taking the bus downtown (20 Delridge.) I think it was called Seattle Transit back then.

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