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35 years later, Mount St. Helens docs top Archives poll

by Brian Zylstra | May 21st, 2015 1:57 pm | No Comments


The anniversary of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens is still a memorable date for many Washingtonians. It also helped propel the documents related to that iconic volcanic event to an easy win in the May Archives Treasures online poll.

The St. Helens eruption docs, which include a letter from President Jimmy Carter to Gov. Dixy Lee Ray, gathered 49 percent of the votes. The 1975 Vietnamese refugee photos and documents finished second with 33 percent, followed by Seattle pioneer David Denny’s powder horn (18 percent).

We’ll start this month’s Library Jewels series soon, so be ready!

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May Archives Treasures: Let’s vote!

We’ve launched this month’s Archives Treasures online poll, so it’s time to vote on your favorite among these three choices: Seattle pioneer David Denny’s powder horn, photos and documents from the 1975 arrival of Vietnamese refugees in Washington, and documents related to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Vote using our online poll below. The poll closes at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, so don’t miss out on voting!

Seattle pioneer David Denny’s powder horn


1975 Vietnamese refugee photos, documents


1980 Mount St. Helens eruption documents

Mount St. Helens - 1980 eruption

What is your favorite May Archives Treasure?

  • 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption documents (49%)
  • 1975 Vietnamese refugee photos, documents (33%)
  • Seattle pioneer David Denny's powder horn (18%)

Total Voters: 67

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Letter-writing champs share their inspiration


From left: State Librarian Rand Simmons, Alison Amirault, Emily Cordero and Secretary Wyman. Amirault and Cordero are two of the state champs in this year’s Letters About Literature contest.

Authors’ ability to inspire and connect with young readers was never more evident than during a ceremony at the Capitol honoring top contestants in this year’s Letters About Literature contest.

Sponsored by the Washington State Library and the Library of Congress, the competition encourages students to write letters to their favorite authors of all time. About 3,250 students in grades 4-12 took part statewide.

During the Friday afternoon event, this year’s three state champions read their letters for Secretary of State Kim Wyman, State Librarian Rand Simmons, family and friends in the Legislative Building’s Columbia Room. Winners were:

• Alison Amirault, a sixth-grader at Eastside Catholic Middle School in Sammamish, Level 1 (grades 4-6) champion. Amirault wrote her letter to Rob Buyea about his book Because of Mr. Terupt. From Alison’s letter: continue reading

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Archives Treasure #3: Mount St. Helens eruption docs

Mount St. Helens - 1980 eruption

Monday marks the 35th anniversary of a tragic “where-were-you-when-it-happened” moment for many Washingtonians: the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

On the morning of May 18, 1980, the cone-shaped volcano erupted violently, killing 57 people and thousands of animals, unleashing devastating mudslides, damaging or destroying more than 4 billion board feet of timber and sending an ash plume 12 miles into the sky and covering much of Eastern Washington with the gritty ash. The 1980 event was the deadliest and most destructive volcanic eruption in the history of the continental U.S.


Four days after the eruption, President Jimmy Carter flew west to meet with officials and inspect the destruction with Gov. Dixy Lee Ray. A day later, Carter wrote this letter (above) to Ray, letting the governor know that “My administration will continue to do everything possible to provide assistance in repairing the damage caused by the volcanic eruption.” Carter also wrote:

“As President, I am extremely proud of the courage of the people of the northwest region of our country. The cooperation of efforts in dealing with this devastating phenomenon has surely been one of the most important single factors in minimizing damage which was potentially catastrophic. It is gratifying to see such a tremendous spirit of determination.”

Here is President Carter’s Daily Diary for May 22, 1980, which shows him starting his day in Portland, flying in Marine One up to Kelso for a brief visit, helicoptering back to Portland, flying to Spokane on Air Force One for a short visit, and then flying back to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

In the weeks leading to the Cascades volcano blowing up, Harry Truman, the owner and caretaker of the Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake, refused to leave his home despite evacuation orders. He is presumed to have been killed in the eruption. This letter sent by a Portland couple to Gov. Ray asks her to take steps to remove Truman from the mountain’s danger zone.

The letters and diary are part of our State Archives. They make up the third Archives Treasure for May.

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Wyman honors Seahawks for ‘awesome’ public service


Secretary Wyman presents Seahawks officials with a medallion and certificate at the VMAC. (Photos courtesy Philip Kerrigan) 

Secretary of State Kim Wyman has presented the Seahawks a special national medallion for exceptional public service through its charitable and community-building efforts.

Wyman made the presentation in a ceremony Wednesday at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton. She hailed the team and the organization for “giving so humbly and making such a difference in this state and region. We honor you not just because you are Super Bowl champs, although that is amazing, but because you have a culture of taking care of the community.”

The award was accepted by Peter McLoughlin, president and CEO, and Chuck Arnold, COO.  Russell Okung represented the team.

Kim and staff with Okung

Seahawks offensive lineman Russell Okung with Secretary Wyman and her staff.

The Medallion of the National Association of Secretaries of State is a national honor reserved for individuals, companies and organizations that provide meritorious service to their states and communities. They are often given for civic and voter engagement; in Washington, they have gone to small and large companies that give back to their communities in a significant way.

Washington’s project is called Corporations for Communities, or C4C: http://tinyurl.com/ybheyur .

Secretary Wyman said the Seahawks have been “spectacular citizens of our state, inspiring us with their athletic skills and their devotion to the public good.

“At a time when there is so much strife and division, the Seahawks have been a unifying force in our state and the whole Pacific Northwest,” she said. “People put on their jerseys and watch at home, continue reading

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Archives Treasure #2: 1975 Vietnamese refugee photos


Refugee leaders and their families listen as Gov. Evans welcomes them to Washington in 1975. (Photos courtesy of Washington State Archives)

The second Archives Treasure for May marks a special anniversary for Dan Evans, Ralph Munro and thousands of Washingtonians who endured a long, difficult journey to reach our state four decades ago.

As the Vietnam War ended with the fall of Saigon in April 1975, about 130,000 South Vietnamese fled their homeland and soon made their way to the U.S. Many Vietnamese refugees arrived at Camp Pendleton in southern California, where they waited, not knowing their fate.


Ralph Munro at the refugee camp at Camp Pendleton in 1975.

Enter Evans and Munro. Evans, Washington’s governor at the time, sent Munro to Pendleton to let authorities there know that refugees were welcome to come to Washington state.

After being at the camp a few days, Munro wrote a four-page memo to Evans to apprise the governor of the situation. Munro’s letter noted that “We are the first state to become involved in the refugee program and the only state that has stepped forward with a willingness to help.” The memo later reveals how the refugees were doing:

“The refugees are eating all the time. Most of them arrived there hungry and most are becoming acclimated to the area. They are settle back down to a three-meals-a-day type system, but nevertheless at all times there are lines to get into the mess halls.

“Soccer and frisbee seem to be the most popular recreational activity in the camp. There seems to be quite a need for warm clothing and even though the temperatures yesterday were in the 80’s a lot of people were traveling around in their heavy marine pea coats that have been issued to each of the individual refugees. We often forget that the temperatures in Saigon run into the 80’s, 90’s and 100’s and when it is 70 degrees it is quite cold in Vietnam. People here are damn cold and I am afraid that will be a major problem when they resettle in the Pacific Northwest.”


A view of many of the tents erected at Camp Pendleton to house the refugees.

Soon afterward, many of the refugees made their way to Washington to begin new chapters in their lives.

The 40th anniversary of the refugees’ arrival in Washington sparked several recent stories.

Munro’s memo to Evans is part of the second Treasure, along with several photos of the refugee camp, which included thousands of tents. Other photos show Evans welcoming refugee leaders when they arrived at Camp Murray.


Gov. Evans talks with some refugee leaders after their arrival at Camp Murray in 1975. The bearded guy just to the left of Evans is then-AP reporter David Ammons, now the OSOS communications director.  


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May Archives Treasure #1: David Denny’s powder horn


(Image courtesy of Washington State Archives)

It’s time to kick off the May edition of Archives Treasures with a selection belonging to one of Seattle’s famous pioneers – David Thomas Denny. He was the first member of the Denny Party (led by his older brother Arthur) to arrive in 1851 in what would become Seattle. He staked a claim to the future site of Seattle Center and in 1853 married fellow pioneer Louisa Boren.

Denny had a diverse and up-and down career in Seattle. He was a community leader, capitalist, streetcar operator and developer until he lost his fortune in the Panic of 1893. Denny died in 1903 and was buried in the family plot in today’s Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery. You can learn more about David Denny here.

The powder horn and bullet pouch in the photo above belonged to Denny. He carried them across the Plains in 1851 and used it in the battle of Seattle on June 26, 1856. Denny’s powder horn is the first of our three Archives Treasures this month. The State Archives acquired Denny’s powder horn and several other historic Washington memorabilia from a collector several years ago.

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D-Day survivor is latest WWII profile


George Narozonick holds a replica of an LST as he tells Secretary Wyman about his experiences in World War II. (Photo courtesy Laura Mott) 

A U.S. Navy sailor who took part in the Allies’ pivotal D-Day invasion is the subject of the most recent World War II profile by our Legacy Washington team.

Read the free online profile on George Narozonick, 89, here. Narozonick, a New Jersey native who moved to Olympia after the war, relives the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, and the shore-to-shore deliveries of men and machines across the English Channel.


Trucks depart an LST and drive ashore during World War II. (Photo courtesy of  Navsource.org)

Narozonick’s story, written by Trova Heffernan, is part of “Washington Remembers,” a Legacy Washington salute to World War II veterans ahead of the 70th anniversary of the conflict’s end. (You can read all Washington Remembers stories here.)

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the niece of a decorated World War II Marine, says Narozonick gives readers a you-are-there account of his experiences during the largest amphibious assault in history. The turning point in the war was crucial to defeating Germany.

“What an honor it was to personally meet George,” Wyman says. “He is among a diminishing number of living American soldiers and sailors who took part in an assault that changed the course of the war and the fate of Europe. His experiences teach us about one of the most important days in our history.”


George Narozonick during his Navy days. (Photo courtesy George Narozonick)

At just 17, Narozonick enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He became a ship fitter, a gun captain and sailed a ship historians call the linchpin of D-Day. Landing Ship, Tanks (LSTs) were as long as a football field and vital to the war effort. On D-Day and in the ensuing weeks, LSTs made shore-to-shore deliveries—ferrying men, vehicles and artillery onto the beaches before returning to England with prisoners and casualties. George’s ship made more than a dozen of such crossings. While the Allies secured a foothold, George was carrying men and vehicles across the English Channel.

For his service, Narozonick received the French Legion of Honor at Napoleon’s Tomb.

Legacy Washington will next release the inspiring story of Clayton Pitre, a longtime Seattleite and Montford Point Marine. Pitre, the son of a Louisiana farmer, is among the first African American Marines and was trained on a segregated base.


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Rare atlas tops Library Jewels poll


When it comes to our Library Jewels online polls, it’s hard to beat rare and really, really old. That was evident with the April poll, as a rare atlas nearly 500 years old easily won with 68 percent of the votes. Letters and photos of Secretary of Washington Territory Elwood Evans finished a distant second with 21 percent, followed by a poster honoring artist Christopher Stern (11 percent).

We’ll start our May Archives Treasures blog series later this week.


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You can donate to WTBBL through GiveBIG!

wtbbl logo redThis Tuesday (May 5), the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library is again participating in The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG!, a one-day, online charitable giving event. It’s all happening from midnight to midnight and together we can make a difference in WTBBL’s future!

Learn more and donate at WTBBL’s GiveBiG profile page here. For phone donations, please contact WTBBL’s David Junius at (206) 615-0417 or (800) 542-0866. The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library, which is part of the Washington State Library, within the Office of Secretary of State, provides equal access to information and reading materials for people unable to read standard print.

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Digital Archives milestone: 150 million records!


Since opening in 2004, the Washington State Digital Archives has been a source of pride for our office, as it is the nation’s first archives dedicated specifically to preserving electronic records from state and local government agencies that have legal, fiscal or historical value.

The Digital Archives recently hit a major milestone: it received its 150 millionth record! The landmark document is an appointment of successor, a type of land record, that was filed in King County earlier this year.

Besides holding millions of records, the Digital Archives possesses many cool and classic photo collections from yesteryear. It also has a wide variety of other collections to peruse, as well as genealogy resources.

The Digital Archives is located on the Eastern Washington University campus in Cheney, sharing a building with the Eastern branch of the State Archives.

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