Photo Courtesy the Standley Scott family
Joseph Edward “Daddy” Standley in front of Totem Place, his Palm Avenue compound. His granddaughter, Jaqueline Ann Standley Scott, just passed away in West Seattle.

Granddaughter of 'Daddy' Standley passes away

So does a piece of West Seattle’s curious past

When West Seattle resident Jaqueline Ann Standley Scott passed away Sept. 20 at age 85, a major link to Seattle’s curious past was broken. She was the granddaughter of Joseph Edward “Daddy” Standley, who, in 1899, opened what would become Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the downtown waterfront. He also created Totem Place, his curiosity-crammed compound high on a Palm Avenue bluff adjacent to Hamilton Viewpoint Park.

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Jaqueline was the daughter of his son, Edward Venus Standley and wife, Edna. “Daddy” was born in 1854 and died in 1940. Edward Venus, who took over the shop with his brother-in-law, Russell James, passed away just six years later. James’ son Joe took it over from then.

“Our family was all a little Adams Family-esque,” acknowledged Jaqueline’s daughter Christina Scott, a Vashon Islander and flight attendant for a major airline, who said “Daddy” named his store after the Dickens book, “The Old Curiosity Shop.” It is still open down the street from the original spot, these days a bit heavier on tourist chachkas.

Her father, Jaqueline’s husband, Howard Scott, can still be spotted cruising proudly along California Avenue in his red 1921 Buick Roadster he restored almost from scratch. He and Jackie showed their car annually at the Junction Car Show.

“When I was about 10 I’d ask my mother's sister, Aunt Heidi, ‘How do you shrink heads?’ while other kids were asking their aunts, ‘How do you bake brownies?’” said Christina. “The answer is ‘hot rocks.’ Daddy had several heads, and heads with torsos from the tropical jungles of Ecuador. Those were my favorite things as a kid. I’d just stare at them. They were real people. I’d wonder what were the circumstances involved in their demise. That someone should have one as a souvenir is awful. Then there was his Native American medicine ball made out of walrus bladder rapped with reindeer hair and moss, sealskin and white throats of walruses. Well, we’re getting more politically correct as we go along.

“My mother admitted to me she was embarrassed by all the things on her grandfather’s wall,” said Christina. “Back then it was very unusual and, frankly, very weird."

Christina said he was curious, not just about tangible things, but also about different cultures worldwide. He traveled the world often. At times he’d wear a Jewish skullcap although he was not Jewish. Around his fireplace and outside at Totem Place were swastika shapes, a common Native American motif that of course pre-dated Nazi Germany. He covered the symbols up when Germany and America were heading towards war, she said.

“The compound had totem poles, eccentric folk art shell sculptures, whale jaw bones and a Japanese Tea House he named the Rubydeaux, after his sister, my great-aunt, Ruby,” Christina said. Ruby lived in it for two years while the family cared for her when she had tuberculosis. She got well, and decided to stay. Christina said Daddy was thought of as jovial toward friends and strangers, but less so around kids.

“They say he had a bit of the W.C. Fields in him, and my mom learned at times to keep her distance,” Christina recalled.

“It was dark, shadowy, mysterious,” said Christina’s brother John Standley Scott, of the shop as he remembered it in the mid 1950’s.

“When I was a little kid I’d go in there and poke around in the corners and there would be a shrunken head here, and over there would be the Lords Prayer written on a grain of rice,” said John, a retired nurse. “Once when I looked up at the ceiling there was this big bone there, and I pointed up to it and asked my grandmother, ‘What is that?’ and she got all flustered and embarrassed and finally said, ‘It’s a walrus penis.’”

Then there is “Sylvester, the desert mummy,” still on display at the shop.

“It was found in the Gila Bend Desert, and a couple of cowboys brought him into town, but no one could identify him,” said John of the legendary, but grotesque, human carcass. “He ended up being passed around, then ended up with Daddy. You can see the bullet hole in his skull, and shotgun pellets from a prior shootout. He wasn’t actually mummified, but subjected to old arsenic embalming.”

Daddy Standley donated the original totem pole at Admiral Way Viewpoint to the city in 1939 just before his death. It is believed to have been carved by the Bella Bella Indians of British Columbia. It rotted, and a non-Native replica, shaped with chain saws, replaced it in 1966. The current “story” totem pole was carved by a Duwamish artist and dedicated in 2006.

Original Native American items from Standley’s collection were displayed at 2003 at the Washington State History Museum, He was known to donate Native artwork to museums nationwide.

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