Ferry nice donation: Edmonds Museum receives MV Kalakala 20th birthday photo

Woodway resident and former Washington State Ferries employee Barbara Ann Brown was cleaning out a few things when she opened a box and came across a one-of-a-kind treasure from our past: an Eisenhower-era photo of her presenting a birthday cake honoring 20 years of service for what was unarguably the most recognizable ferry to ever ply Puget Sound — the MV Kalakala.

“It was 1955, and I was working at the information desk at Coleman Dock with two other girls,” said the 88-year-old Brown. “They wanted someone to pose with the cake, and the other girls all said I was the prettiest, so I got the job.”

The Kalakala entered service on July 4, 1935, and became an instant Seattle icon. It featured a modernistic art-deco interior with a full-service galley, a ladies’ lounge and a mens’ taproom, and was frequently used for “moonlight cruises” with a live dance orchestra.

Notable for its unique streamlined superstructure, art deco styling, and luxurious amenities, the vessel was a popular attraction for locals and tourists. In 1962 it was voted the second most popular attraction in Seattle (the Space Needle was first) by visitors to the Seattle World’s Fair, despite having been in service more than a quarter of a century.

Retired from the ferry system in 1967, the Kalakala was towed to Alaska where it variously served as a crabbing vessel and later a fish processing plant. It was returned to Seattle in 1998, and despite many hopeful restoration efforts was demolished for scrap in January 2015. (learn more about the Kalakala at www.kalakala.org).

“This photo is a piece of our past,” said Brown as she passed it to Edmonds Historical Museum Director Caitin Kelly. “I’m so happy it now has a permanent home in the Edmonds Museum collection.”

— By Larry Vogel

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