Patrick Robinson
West Seattle resident and KUOW personality Dave Beck spoke at the Southwest Historical Society Gala Lunch on Saturday. Nov. 9 The event was full to overflowing as more than 180 people attended and it exceeded the society's fundraising goals.

SLIDESHOW: SW Seattle Historical Society blows away attendance and fundraising goals at gala luncheon

The Southwest Seattle Historical Society (SWSHS) Gala Champagne Lunch on Nov. 9 exceeded all previous annual SWSHS gatherings with more than 180 people in attendance and after all was said and done raise a total of $37,000 in revenue -- including Fund-a-Dream Challenge (which itself was more than $11,000), Silent Auction, Dessert Dash, raffle and tickets.

The event at Salty's on Alki featured speaker and West Seattle resident Dave Beck, of KUOW radio who took a comical look back at his own personal history here, and the three Hallberg Sisters, Aly, Nancy and Tia who spoke about their mother and father (founding members of SWSHS) and their own lives in the community. They talked at length about the tendency of West Seattle to retain people who never seem to move far away and cited their own other family members who all live nearby one another.

The event also featured a silent auction with all the items coming from area businesses, a dessert dash, and a raffle.

The Hallberg sisters presentation was full of local references and memories that will be familiar to many in West Seattle. Here's their speech:

TIA
Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming out today to this lovely setting for this grand occasion. As Clay said, my name is Tia Hallberg.
NANCY
And I’m Nancy Hallberg.
ALY
And I’m Alyson Hallberg.
TIA
For just a few minutes, we want to share with you a bit of our story – our West Seattle story. Of course, we trust that you will find some of your own story in ours, because we all have gathered here today for a common purpose – to show our appreciation, and to share and celebrate and support the heritage of this wonderful peninsula that we call home.

NANCY
Of course, the core of our story is our parents, Ada and Bob Hallberg. Their moms and dads brought them to Alki, they were raised on Alki, they met each other on Alki and fell in love on Alki, they raised their family on Alki, and they spent their final years – yes, on Alki.

ALY
They are the reason that our families are still here. And what they instilled in us will live on forever.

NANCY
Our Mom was raised on Marine Avenue, the one-block street off Alki Beach, just around Duwamish Head from here, near the Pepperdock restaurant. The Woodhouse family home is still there. / Mom was very connected to nature. She was always a beach girl. She had the beach in her soul.

TIA
Our Dad was about 6 when he moved here, and soon his parents became the caretakers of the Alki Natatorium. When they got here, they were in their car, going west on Admiral Way, and as soon as they crested the hill and saw the water, my dad and his brother (our Uncle Dick) just said “Ahhhhh,” in complete awe. They thought they had arrived in paradise.

NANCY
Our Mom and Dad were about 14 when they met in the youth group at Alki Church. Later, as young adults, they did just about everything together on Alki. They walked on the beach and jumped on the logs. Our Dad rode our Mom on his bicycle handlebars. Our Mom roller-skated on the promenade. They often headed to Richey’s drug store, where our Mom loved to order a Green River. Decades later, they would pop into the bakery in the same building as Richey’s and order the same soda. Then they would laugh when the counter person wondered just what was a Green River.

TIA
Richey’s was an important gathering place for all kinds of reasons. During World War II, our Dad was a Merchant Marine in Japan. Back here, all the kids would go to Richey’s, where a list was posted with the boys in the service who were killed and missing. One day, one of the neighborhood kids saw our Dad’s name on the list and ran and told Mom. His ammo ship was sunk, but Mom later learned that he had survived. When he came back to Alki, they got married.

ALY
That was when they were in their mid-20s, in 1948. That same year, our grandfather pushed them offshore on a saltwater adventure. They took a small boat more than 40 miles south – all the way from Alki Beach to the family cabin on the Longbranch peninsula. Now, this was a long and risky trip. When darkness fell, a tugboat sensed their danger, picked them up near the Tacoma Narrows and took them to Gig Harbor in safety for the night.

NANCY
In the 1950s and 1960s, along came five children – the three of us along with our brother Robert and our late brother Per. From the beginning, Mom and Dad taught us all by example. They liked people. They had a lot of respect for people – people from all walks of life. For them, reaching out was a natural thing. And without really thinking about it, they created community.

ALY
Just like their own parents, our Mom and Dad liked all the same things about the beach – like the ritual of gathering firewood. Our Grandpa had a competition with Phil Ceis, the Alki Rebel, to haul in driftwood. On Saturday at 5:30 a.m., instead of staying in bed, our Grandpa would phone Dad, who was sound asleep and all snuggled in his bed, and say, “Bob, a big one came in last night. I’ve got to get it before Phil. Get down here right away.” / The basement on Marine Avenue was crammed with saltwater firewood. They heated the house with a wood stove, and their walkway from the sidewalk to the front door was made up of cobblestones from the beach.

NANCY
Soon we moved to Angeline Street, just off Beach Drive, near Emma Schmitz Memorial View Point. Those were the days when it wasn’t a big deal to swim on somebody else’s beach. Whole gangs of kids did just that. It wasn’t, “You can’t be there, kids.” Everyone was welcome. Our Mom and Dad – in fact, everyone – fostered that feeling of togetherness.

TIA
This was just one of the ways, as the decades passed, that we learned a commitment to community. Whether it was Mom’s passion for peace and justice or their partnership in preserving single-family homes in the face of massive beach development, it was all about community. To us, the cherished people in their circles became legendary: Doug Viney, Mary Lou Richardson, Betty Brewster – and so many more, including some of you here today, or your ancestors.

ALY
Community also was about building lifelong friendships. In that sense, there is nothing anywhere else like this place. Here, you talk with the friends you had in grade school, or junior high, or high school. It’s about your rootedness. And those roots spread quickly here – whether you grew up here, or you moved here recently, or used to live here, or you work here, or you have relatives here. We could see those roots in our parents as they sat on a special bench at Emma Schmitz View Point and looked out at the sunset. With reverence and a twinkle in their eyes, they would say, “Shhh, this is God’s country. Let’s not tell anyone, honey!”

NANCY
For about 10 or 12 years, all three of us tried other places to live. I went overseas to Malaysia and India.

ALY
I tried Texas and the East Coast.

TIA
I tried Oregon, California, Europe and Indonesia. But we all kept coming back. Today I live in my parents’ home off Beach Drive.

ALY
And I’m just three houses up the block.

NANCY
And I live near Lincoln Park, and our brother, Bob, lives in between us all.

TIA
So many of us from West Seattle come back – just like many of you in this room. The things that hold us are the land and the sea. When I come home from work, I drive down Charlestown Street, and I just gasp at the view. Very much like my dad and his uncle before me, I think, “How could I ever leave this place?” I’ve tried a lot of places, and still this is the best place I’ve found in the whole world.

ALY
There’s a specialness to the beach and to the connections – just walking to Pepperdock’s to get an ice cream. Maybe it’s the salt air or the old-growth timbers, but people here are totally enamored with the thought of history. At Alki School, when I pick up my son, people point at me and say, “Ask her. She’ll know. She’s from here.” / And when I watch my son play with other kids, I think, “These will be his friends for life.”

NANCY
This place has a lot of things to draw you in – and draw you back. Whenever my husband and I go down the hill to rollerblade along the beach, we say, “Oh, my gosh, we live in the best place.” We are so lucky. We say that about every other week.

TIA
We are now five generations of families here in West Seattle. We have built homes, and we are rooted just like our parents and grandparents. As much as it’s about place, we have learned that it’s also about people and their stories.

ALY
That’s why Mom and Dad were founding members of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. They cared about the people, and they valued their stories. Our Mom even took the initiative to interview scores of people and preserve their stories for the generations to come. She thought they had interesting lives. She had a real affection for those who lived here.

NANCY
Our Mom was so accepting of other people, even the characters – in fact, especially the characters. She knew that life is more important than wealth. And she knew that the historical society is the organization that can present the whole picture.

TIA
All of this comes down to one word – gratitude. We are so lucky that our parents were who they were. They had a vision for a better world that can exist without having to change everything. / Think about it. We are all here for a reason. If we want to keep the essence of that, we will be a part of historical education and preservation. Things will go out of control if we are not continually active and aware. And our present won’t be nearly so grand if we don’t preserve the best of our past.

NANCY
This is why, just like our parents, we three sisters got involved in the historical society. The work that everybody in this organization does to preserve the photos, the memories and the truly historic, one-of-a-kind buildings is so important.

ALY
It’s all about bringing people together for a common purpose. And what we are doing today, right now, in this room, is fundamental to our happiness, to our satisfaction with life, to our sense of well-being. We know that the heritage that we share, that we celebrate, that we support, has value to us and will one day have deep value to young people who may not realize it yet – young people like we were, like all of us were.

TIA
Think back to when you were a child. / Your story is different from ours, but we all have common threads of gratitude. And somehow those threads have become the ties that bind, that have brought us here today – to West Seattle. We hope that you have seen some of yourselves in our story, and we trust that you – just like Ada and Bob Hallberg – will give this organization your full support.

NANCY, ALY and TIA
Thank you!

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