A little over a year ago, I had coffee with an old friend, Duane Vincent. We had been third grade students together at Stanley Elementary School in Tacoma. After school we played on the hills of the Wilkeson reservoir, ate the plums off his family’s tree and always enjoyed each other’s company. In the fourth grade I was in a split class for fourth and fifth grade students and then the next summer my parents bought a home in Lakewood and we moved away and we lost touch. Decades later Facebook connected us and it turned out Dwayne visited Tacoma numerous times. He had fought in Vietnam and went to work for the IRS. We met for coffee, talked about old times and then I invited him to dinner to meet my wife, Peg. We had a nice time and the years made no difference. He graduated from Stadium High School, while I graduated from Clover Park in Lakewood.
A week or two after seeing Dwayne I was at the Transportation Club of Tacoma. Dick Marzano, Port of Tacoma Commissioner, mentioned the connection of him, Duane, and me. Dick had been in the fifth grade at Stanley while Duane and I were in the fourth grade. He had continued the friendship with Duane on to Stadium High School and beyond.
Dick Marzano is a Tacoma native and long-term Pierce County resident. Dick worked as a Tacoma longshore worker for more than 52 years and served a six-year term as president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 23. Dick and I are members of the Transportation Club of Tacoma, along with fellow Port of Tacoma Commissioners Kristin Ang, Deanna Keller, John McCarthy, and Don Meyer (a friend of mine from the Rotary Club of Tacoma #8).
Dick and I mentioned about meeting for coffee ourselves. It took a while, but just a few weeks ago Dick and I met at the same coffee shop that Duane and I had met at and we looked back over the years. Although we had been at the same school, our paths didn’t cross personally, but we connected very nicely. We both loved the area around Stanley and K Street. The people were friendly.
I think the last time I got in trouble before moving to Lakewood was going to the movie theater on K Street with my next door neighbors David (four years older than me) and Kathleen (two years older than me). About three years earlier we had played with matches and set fire accidentally to a hill overlooking Nalley Valley. David and Kathleen lit one match each, while I demanded two. Our mothers hid us inside when the fire trucks arrived. K Street was also the home of an ice cream shop. The K Street area was heavy with Italian immigrants. My dad did the books for two businesses on 19th and K Street (a drug store, and a plumbing and heating contractor) before buying a motel at Ponder’s Corner.
Before marrying my wife Peggy, I started work at Boeing. We first rented a lovely room on North Yakima with a private view for $50 a month. We slept on the foldout couch. When we became pregnant, we moved to K Street. We rented an apartment, owned by Mr. Johnson of Johnson Candy. We loved the neighborhood. I parked in a parking lot behind K Street and got home from Boeing after midnight. Our apartment, just a few doors away from the old K Street movie theater, had three bedrooms and an upright piano. Sometimes people below would comment about enjoying the music. Across the street was an excellent restaurant. It turned out Dick’s aunt worked at the restaurant.
Later when I told Dick about moving to Lakewood and then to Ponder’s Corner and enjoying the pizza at the Roma Café, Dick mentioned his mother and his aunt worked at the Roma as well who took the recipes and menu to The Clover Leaf years later. At the Roma when my parents left me in charge of La Casa Motel, I would give my little five-year-old sister, Marsha, the money to pay for pizza. Then, I’d yell, “Run, Marsha, run!” when to run across the highway to the Roma and back. Our parents would be gone somewhere by then. We enjoyed eating our pizza.
While working late shifts at Boeing, I joined the Jaycees, Junior Chamber of Commerce, although I never attended much. Peggy lonely, and worn down with three kids (one girl, and two boys) born within three years, was blossoming with the women’s side of the Jaycees. Eventually, all my friends at Boeing were laid off and then finally I was, too.
Eventually I became a two-term president of the Tacoma Jaycees and stayed on for lots of fun. We had a good sports program but we got our tails kicked when we played in a basketball tournament. I swore that would never happen again, and recruited a number of athletes for our Tacoma chapter. Eventually, we beat everyone in basketball and baseball all across the state. I was the only non-athlete allowed on our teams.
Jaycee headquarters was in Ellensberg. We played at the Central Washington Basketball gym for first place. The other team missed their first shot and I wound up with the ball. My buddies knew I was not a great ball handler. When I crossed the half court line, my team started yelling “shoot it!” I did and the ball hit nothing but net. The opposition stood looking and one player said, “That’s their worst player?” I merely watched the rest of the game.
I asked Dick about another Marzano, Doug. It turned out Doug Marzano was Dick’s cousin. Dick mentioned that Doug had passed away, but he had been a short and powerful batter and lots of fun. I enjoyed Doug and all of the other athletes. We played pool together a number of times. Dick has the same style and personality as Doug. Both are great guys.
I’ve been a member of the Transportation Club of Tacoma for a number of years. It’s always good to see the Port Commissioners attending the meeting. We only meet ten months of the year, but most of our members attend to keep our transportation industry successful and an important part of Tacoma. Attendance is not mandatory, but nonetheless worthwhile. Each meeting brings a good speaker about Transportation in the area. Besides improving the transportation arena here in Tacoma, we also raise money for The Emergency Food Network, Habitat for Humanity, and more.
Here are three current issues about the Transportation Industry:
- The transportation industry is investing in electric vehicles
- There is a renewed focus on transportation accessibility
- Major workforce shifts happen in the trucking and sailing sector
During his time as port commissioner, Dick Marzano has remained focused on job creation and growing Port operations in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner.
Dick is always open for discussions and presentations. While we were drinking coffee, I mentioned a recent comment in the Tacoma News Tribune where a number of people are worried about possible unpleasant smells from a local rendering plant in the port. Dick thought that interested people would be welcome to talk and discuss the possibilities.