Our Northwest

End is almost here for iconic Kalakala ferry

Wednesday, January 7, 2015by  Jon Osterberg

Say it ain’t so!
   A Seattle Times headline today reads, “Kalakala headed to scrap yard at end of January.”
   Seattleites born after color TV became commonplace might say, “Who cares?” But for earlier folks who rode on the streamlined Puget Sound ferry until its 1967 retirement, it’s a sad day.
   The Kalakala is a local icon. Years before the Space Needle, Kingdome, and Great Wheel, the Kalakala symbolized Seattle to the outside world.
   Following a sad sequence of events, the venerable but decaying vessel will be towed across Tacoma’s Commencement Bay this month and scrapped, according to its current owner.
   Prior owners had big plans to restore the art deco Kalakala, but those efforts crumbled, and the once-proud craft that ferried so many people now lists in moorage, declared a “hazard to navigation” by the U.S. Coast Guard.
   I remember riding the Kalakala with my dad from Seattle to Bremerton in 1958. I was only 4, and more than just a little nervous – I misunderstood something dad had said, and for some reason I thought Kalakala was a submarine that would dive underwater.
   The ferry shook and rattled once underway, a personality trait that afflicted it throughout its career. That added to my apprehension. I was relieved when dad assured me we would not submerge, and from that moment on, ferry rides became sheer pleasure for me.
   Ever since Kalakala was retrieved in 1998 from Kodiak, Alaska – where it had served as a cannery – I held hope that someone would step forward with sufficient funds to refurbish the grand old ferry and turn it into a floating museum, an events venue, or something else befitting its once-noble stature.
   Seattle saved Slo-mo-shun IV and Virginia V. But locals couldn’t keep the USS Missouri from leaving, and we watched the Wawona suffer a sad demise.
    Here’s hoping a last-minute hero steps in to save Kalakala from a similar fate.

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