Peg and I were looking for a picnic somewhere. The original plan was to visit Jack Hyde Park in Old Town.
Peg saw a good deal on walnuts at Grocery Outlet on North Pearl, which was in the opposite direction. We had delicious tuna salad sandwiches with pickled beets, red peppers, green onions, celery and Romaine lettuce. In our antique Dad’s Root Beer crate we also had some flavored water. To that we bought a couple bags of chips, and a miniature horseshoe game at Dollar Tree in University Place. On the way to the park Peg asked me to stop at the Swasey Branch of the Tacoma Public Library on Sixth Avenue. It’s never been open anytime we’ve stopped before, but we felt lucky. As we drove by it we saw a sandwich board declaring the library was open. The stars seemed aligned in our favor.
I dropped Peg off and then drove across the street and through the parking lot where we usually park when attending Tacoma Musical Theatre, which is directly across Sixth Avenue. I knew that on the west end of the lot there was a park that once was the road to the Narrows Bridge, but is now our War Memorial Park. I parked and spied a picnic table. I was taking a photo of the War Memorial sign just as my phone rang. It was Peg, “The library is closed.” Oh, well, thank god I didn’t buy lottery tickets.
Less than three minutes later Peg and I were walking down the path on the south side of the park and soon had one of Peg’s tablecloths covering the concrete table top. We had our sandwiches, water and chips out soon afterward in time to watch two squirrels look us over and determine we were not park pet feeders.
As we sat eating we looked at the memorial plaques. Each square carried the name of a person who died fighting for our country. The names had ancestry from around the world. It was humbling. The tiles gave famous names that drove home the point of our battles for freedom: Guam, Bataan, Wake Island, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, Battle of the Bulge, from World War I to World War II, Korean, Vietnam, and beyond.
After a while we wandered to the north side of the park in a similar landscaped alcove and read about the Cruiser U.S.S. Tacoma. The Tacoma was launched in the early 1900s and saw action in World War I. She made five round trips guarding troops and supplies. She saw duty in the Caribbean until the ship ran aground on a reef near Veracruz. The captain and three crewmen drowned trying to get the ship free. In 2024 the ship’s name was removed from the Naval Vessel Registry and it was sold.
There’s another north side alcove that I’m betting explains about the USS Copahee, which was built in Tacoma by the Todd Pacific Shipyards. It was launched in October of 1942. The ship was an escort carrier. It carried planes, stores and people. In October of 1942 she sailed to Guadalcanal with 20 marine fighter planes and 18 Dauntless Dive Bombers for delivery to Henderson Field. The Copahee ferried whatever was needed from Pearl Harbor and California to the South Pacific and many of the same islands my Merchant Marine father sailed to. It returned to Tacoma in 1946 and was decommissioned until 1955 when she became a helicopter escort carrier.
While we were at the park, we saw more bike riders than we did walkers. We saw one guy walking his dog, but mostly it was bikers, sometimes alone and sometimes in groups of three or four. I’m guessing they all came from crossing the waters of Puget Sound over the Narrows Bridge.
After eating and walking around the park a bit, we played a game of horseshoes. The entire game with its horseshoe pit, package of sand, and two horseshoes each (red and blue) fits into the palm of your hand. Peg got a ringer and beat me. I think I could probably beat her in a game of Donkeyshoes, however. After we picked up our paper towels, table cloth, chips, water, and waste bags we walked to a table closer to the entrance. There was a grandfather and two grandchildren (this is a guess) having lunch. We asked if they would like to play horseshoes. We placed the game on their table. They seemed really pleased and thanked us several times. Nice people.
We walked back to the entrance. There is a covered area just in front of the parking lot with the ship’s bell from the U.S.S. Tacoma on display.
We took one last look down the gently sloping park admiring the coolness of the shade and the beauty of the landscape. Apartments on the south of the park look down through the trees on to the park grounds. What a restful feeling those living there must have enjoying the gentle grace of the park.
The welcome sign was the last thing we saw of the park. Besides being a memorial to those who fought for our united states, the park was sponsored by garden clubs. That’s both touching and a wonderment. Sewing seeds of love and beauty in the face of death and destruction is such a wondrous idea. As I said, earlier. Humbling.