Category Archives: Life in the 253

Tacoma’s First Underground Tour

My friend Jenya and I before embarking on the Underground Tour

I’m not one for tours. For the most part I like exploring things on my own, but when I saw Angela Jossy’s announcement of a ‘Once In A Lifetime Underground Tour of Tacoma’, I had to go. The Facebook page spoke of the legendary Shanghai Tunnels, the vaulted sidewalks, Old City Hall, and Never Never Land figures. For those who are unaware of some of these Tacoma legends, here’s a bit of background.

The Chinese Tunnels are among Tacoma’s oldest legends. Depending on who you’re talking to they were for literally shanghaiing unruly customers at shady bars, sending the unsuspecting patrons to the basement, through the tunnel and onto a ship down on the waterfront or they were for smuggling Chinese workers after their expulsion from Tacoma in 1885 or they were used as  opium dens. But as many stories as there are, there is a distinct lack of evidence of these tunnels.

Old City Hall is one of Tacoma’s oldest and most beautiful buildings. Sadly, due to a series of unfortunate events, Old City Hall is now vacant and in some areas unsafe. It’s future remains uncertain.

Walk the streets of downtown Tacoma and look down. Occasionally you’ll see thick opaque glass. These are the vaulted sidewalks of Tacoma. In other words, there’s something under that sidewalk.

And then there was Never Never Land. As a child I remembered going to Never Never Land at Pt. Defiance Park. There was a meandering trail through the woods where various figurines acted out parts from famous fairy tales. It was kind of cool but kind of creepy. Never Never Land closed many years ago and left behind empty areas along the trail where once stood Little Red Riding Hood or the Three Little Pigs. Recently even the trail was removed leaving almost no evidence that Never Never Land ever existed.

Given all of this, I was excited as hell to go on this tour. Unfortunately in the days leading up to the tour, Angela had to cancel the Old City Hall portion of the tour due to lack of cooperation from the current tenants. She also reminded people that any tunnels were long ago filled in and we’d only be seeing the entrance to one and that this was not going to be like the Seattle Underground Tours. None of this deterred me.

It turned out that Jenya, an old friend from high school who I hadn’t seen in years was also interested in going on the tour. We met up in the early afternoon to catch up and then headed downtown.

We were supposed to pick up tickets any time after 3:00pm at the Gritty City Gift Fair at 9th and Broadway. We arrived at around 5:30pm. When we got there, the earliest group we could sign up for was 7:40pm. We met up with a couple of other friends and went to PSP (Puget Sound Pizza) for a couple drinks and some awesome pizza while we waited.

We came back at 7:30pm to find that the 7:20pm team was just now leaving. We wandered around the Gritty City Gift Fair. I ran into Kris Brannon otherwise known as Sonics Guy as well as ThanksGIVING founder Heidi Stoermer. I also saw Fingerprint Confection Owner, Clay Richart along with his wife who were selling their amazing caramels at the Fair. It was like a 5 Question Friday gathering.

A previous tour returned. We were told to grab the hard hats from them and be sure to sign the release form. I heard one returning person say that the tour was ‘underwhelming’. Not knowing this person, I had no idea what they expected it to be so this didn’t really bother me.

As the time crawled past 8pm, I became a bit concerned. Luckily the tour started a few minutes later. It turns out that two of the tour guides had gone home. One had hurt their ankle and the other, we were told, um, stepped in a puddle. The result was that Angela and another guide whose name I did not get were taking almost two tours worth of people at once to help get things caught up. We followed her down the hill to Pacific Avenue then took a left towards South 7th Street.

As we approached Meconi’s Pub, we were split into two groups. One went into Meconi’s. The other group (my group) was taken around the back of the building to find a man named Darryl who would show us where to go.

Around the back was an open door and Darryl. He led us to a spiral staircase covered in plastic sheeting that went down to the basement. In this basement, there were dozens of figurines. Every one of them creepier than I ever remember them being. The idea that at one point these were meant to entertain children is disturbing. That I was one of those children is even more bothersome.

Here are some photos of these almost forgotten relics:

Three Little Pigs

Big Bad Wolf

Assorted Characters

Ummm…

Past the figurines walking towards the direction of the street was a dark area where the flashlights were absolutely necessary. The stone floor was wet. There was thick glass above us in certain areas that I recognized as part of the sidewalk. These were the vaulted sidewalks of Tacoma. You can’t really see through the glass, but it was clear that if it was day, the sunlight would have provided at least a little illumination.

Vaulted Sidewalk

We walked back past the Never Never Land figures and up the stairs to switch places with the other group. Once inside Meconi’s we were led through a door, down another staircase to another vaulted sidewalk. This one had a substantial pool of water on the ground. I assumed this was the puddle that took out a previous tour guide. I walked through it with no problem.

Back in Meconi’s we walked through to the back of the bar where we went through another door and another staircase. Here there was a wall of brick and cement framed by a doorway. This we were told was once an entrance to a tunnel that went all the way to the docks.

In the 1880s, this area of Tacoma was full of illicit activities so a secret tunnel to the docks wasn’t even a little far fetched.

We left Meconi’s and head back up towards 9th and Broadway by way of the Spanish steps, near the old Elk’s Lodge that McMenamin’s has recently purchased and promised to turn into what might end up being one of the best night spots in Tacoma. It seemed fitting to end the tour through Tacoma’s past with a glimpse of what’s in Tacoma’s future.

The entire tour took about twenty minutes or so and if I had been expecting something out of Indiana Jones, I suppose I too would have been underwhelmed. As it was, I had a great time with my friends exploring forgotten bits of the City of Destiny. That to me was more than worth the $10 price of admission.

As a side note, Angela Jossy recently found out that they’re not destroying the vaulted sidewalks in January like she thought and there may yet be time for another round of Underground Tours for those who missed it this first time around. If she does, I’ll post that information on this article when I have it.

I’d like to publicly thank Angela Jossy and everyone else who helped her put on this tour.

- Jack Cameron

4th Annual ThanksGIVING Food Drive Wrap Up

A couple weeks ago, I had Heidi Stoermer for 5 Question Friday telling us about her annual food drive for Tacoma Rescue Mission. Heidi and a small group of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers along donations from countless others made this year’s feed drive a rousing success. I asked Heidi if I could share her write up of the event and she graciously accepted. Here’s Heidi:

I’ve been pondering this wrap up for a few of days now, wondering how I can even begin to summarize this year’s drive. Let me start with a little history, and then we’ll get to the counts.

Our ThanksGIVING Food Drive began 4 years ago. I was working for a large company in downtown Tacoma, who decided to move operations elsewhere. My team had volunteered several times at the Rescue Mission, so we were all familiar with the great work that the mission does every day. The ThanksGIVING Food Drive was an extension of that volunteer work, and a way for the team to refocus our priorities in the face of a layoff.

That first year, we raised about $150.  A small group of coworkers took a shopping trip, and we filled the trunk of our car with turkeys, canned goods, stuffing, and potatoes. We dropped it all off at the Rescue Mission, and drove away feeling buoyant, thankful. There were high fives and hugs all around.

Karin Losk (my ThanksGIVING counterpart/partner in couponing) and I decided that we’d make our little food drive a yearly tradition. We nearly doubled our donations the second year, and filled my VW bus – Pickle – to the rafters. Last year, our 3rd, we had a very slow start. But friends came together, we wheeled and dealed, and once again, we were able to pack Pickle full of turkeys, pies, and all the fixings.

That brings us up to this year – our 4th Annual ThanksGIVING Food Drive!

This is the first year that we opened our food drive up to the community, not just our friends, family, and coworkers. We had high hopes for mobile donation stations and personal pick-ups for folks who couldn’t get to us on donation day. A good friend, Jack Cameron, interviewed us for TacomaStories.com, and we got a little more help from TacomaMama.com. Folks shared our event far and wide, committing to help us help the Rescue Mission.

As these things go, some of those commitments fell through. I had a pretty discouraging week or so prior to donation day, trying to nail down store discounts and our donation pick-up schedule. In the end, though, an amazing thing happened (again!) – friends started coming out of the woodwork, offering their time and energy to help make this drive successful. By donation day, we had so many volunteers that our usual all-day shopping trip could be whittled down to a 2 hour block. We split up into 3 teams – 2 shopping teams, and a mobile donation station.

The only store that agreed to help us this year was Top Foods, so we made that our base of operations. In our first hour of shopping, we’d secured 17 turkeys. The cashier asked us what was going on with all the birds, so we talked to her about the Rescue Mission and our ThanksGIVING food drive. Across town, team #2 was at Saar’s Market, also making out like bandits. Both teams made second stops at Albertsons stores, where another interested cashier tried to find us more coupons to use on boxes of stuffing.

In the meantime, our first mobile donation station of the day was having a pretty rough time out at the Krispy Kreme by the Tacoma Mall. Not a single person met us at that station, which we’ll definitely keep in mind for next year’s drive. We all met back up at Top Foods at noon, where things picked up again. We received a few last minute donations that allowed us to purchase 5 additional turkeys. The same cashier helped us the second time around, and let us know that she’d looked for us about an hour before, while we were at Albertsons. Someone had bought $1000 worth of groceries, which made them elligible for 6 free turkeys. The shopper didn’t want them, but the cashier made sure they got rung up anyway. Since we were away when the freebies came through, they weren’t part of our count, but those turkeys did make it to the Salvation Army. I’m so glad we told that cashier about ThanksGIVING – she said she wouldn’t have thought twice about it if we hadn’t come through her line that morning.

With all the donation funds spent, Karin and I made a run out to the Lakewood Walmart for our final donation station and a personal pick-up. For the second year in a row, our buddy Mark Manning and his partner Annie met us with a huge food donation – pies, butter, cereal, boxed meals – all sorts of great stuff that we hadn’t had the funds to purchase. Karin’s cousin, Kirtsen, also met us and offloaded apples staight off her trees and farm fresh eggs.

By the time all was said and done, we had 2 vehicles absolutely overflowing with donations. We caravanned down to the mission, where we unloaded our haul with the help of several mission volunteers.

I took a moment to ask about the typical donation that the Rescue Mission receives at this time of year, and one of the volunteers noted, “This is the biggest donation I’ve seen by far.” All of the planning, all of the stress, getting soaking wet and freezing in the rain, loading 500 lbs of turkeys from one car to another – it was all worth it the moment we heard that.

Without further ado, here are this year’s totals:

29 turkeys (average weight: 18 lbs)

10 hams

252 lbs potatoes

20 lbs apples

17 lbs carrots

10 lbs celery

7 lbs sweet potatoes

5 lbs onions

95 boxes of stuffing

86 cans green beans

86 cans corn

27 cans cranberry

14 large cans yams

12 cans olives

11 cans pineapple

24 cans gravy

12 gravy mix

72 frozen rolls

13 boxes pastaroni

8 boxes scalloped potatoes

5 boxes macaroni and cheese

3 lbs spaghetti

5 dozen eggs

4 large boxes stock

4 pumpkin pies

3 boxes butter

2 boxes Cheerios

2 tubs of cool whip

…and a single 2 liter of Dr. Pepper that we got for free since we spent so much at one of the grocery stores. :)

We were able to do this because cash donations this year were the most we’ve ever received. They came from all over the South Sound, as well as from friends in Nevada and California. Our friend Chris came the farthest to donate and lend a hand, joining us for the day from Salvador, Brazil. To everyone that donated this year – be it time, funds, or food – THANK YOU! We’ll see you next year, on Nov. 16th. Mark your calendars!

One footnote:

As we were about to leave the Rescue Mission, one of the volunteers came out of the walk-in freezer, and updated their turkey count to include our donation: 200 turkeys

That seems like a lot, until you learn that the Rescue Mission needs 2000 turkeys to meet the needs of our community this Thanksgiving.

Today, the mission hit 483 turkeys, with only 2 days to go. If you’re out shopping tomorrow and hit that $50 or $100 level several stores have right now, please grab that free or discounted turkey and get it to the mission. If it’s easier for you to make a direct donation, you can do so here: http://www.rescue-mission.org/donate

Please also remember that while our ThanksGIVING drive comes but once a year, the Rescue Mission feeds hundreds of people every day, more than 23,000 meals a month. Your donations are always welcome, no matter the season.

Happy ThanksGIVING!

5 Question Friday With ThanksGIVING Food Drive’s Heidi Stoermer

As the holidays approach, it’s natural to think of those less fortunate and imagine what we can do to help. It’s not just about feeling good by helping people. It’s about helping build a stronger community.

Heidi Stoermer is a good friend I’ve known for many years. She’s one of the most driven and generous people I know. During a recent outing to a local pub, Heidi told me about her work with Tacoma Rescue Mission. As I listened to Heidi, I realized that this was something that needed to be shared. Heidi agreed to join me for 5 Question Friday this week and let you all know what she’s doing and how you can easily help those most in need this holiday season. Here’s Heidi:
1. What is the ThanksGIVING Food Drive?

The ThanksGIVING Food Drive is actually 2 things, which both benefit the Rescue Mission here in Tacoma.

1. We’re expert Thanksgiving shoppers! We accept cash donations, which we use to purchase holiday food items such as turkeys, fresh veggies, stuffing, and pies. We’re able to maximize cash donations by working with store and meat department managers at the grocery stores we shop at. Stadium Thriftway, Top Foods, QFC, Safeway, and the Tacoma City Grocer have all given us a hand in previous years.

2. We’re a mobile donation station! This means that we set up meeting times in central locations where folks can drop off their donations, like the Krispy Kreme parking lot at the Tacoma Mall and the Walmart on Bridgeport Way in Lakewood. We’ll also come directly to you to pick up your order if you’re within a reasonable radius of downtown Tacoma.

2. How did you first get involved in the ThanksGIVING Food Drive?

This is our 4th Annual ThanksGIVING Food Drive! I was working for a large company in downtown Tacoma, who decided to move operations elsewhere. I had previously spearheaded a volunteer effort for my team, so we were all familiar with the great work that the Rescue Mission does every day. The ThanksGIVING Food Drive was an extension of that volunteer work, and a way for the team to refocus our priorities in the face of a layoff.

3. What is something everyone should know about this project?

We facilitate the ThanksGIVING Food Drive once a year, but the Rescue Mission serves more than 23,000 meals every month. Last year, we donated 18 turkeys out of the 2000 that the mission needs to ensure that everyone who asks for a hot meal over Thanksgiving week gets one. We’re just a drop in the bucket. Our goal is to make our drop the biggest and most effective.

4. How can people help if they want to get involved?

Folks can join our event on Facebook here, where we’ll be posting meeting times and locations: http://www.facebook.com/events/456365267738121

Donators can send me a direct message on Facebook or at heidistoermer@gmail.com with any questions, or to scheduled a personal meeting time for food or cash donation pick-up for Nov. 16th or 17th.

We’d also love to hear from you if you have a trailer we might borrow for the drive. :)

5. What do you see for the future of the ThanksGIVING Food Drive?

This is the first year that we’ve opened this food drive up to the community – previously, we’d collected only from friends, family, and co-workers. We’re expecting this to be the biggest ThanksGIVING Food Drive to date, and hope to continue the tradition for years to come. It will always be held the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, to ensure that fresh veggies stay fresh and frozen turkeys have time to thaw. :)

I’d like to thank Heidi for taking the time to join me for 5 Question Friday and I’m hoping those reading this will take the time to join in this great cause.

Update: Heidi wants to add a couple of things:

1. I say “we” a lot in this interview. The other half of the “we” is Karin Jenette Dhaese Losk. She deserves a high five (or 50) for keeping track of every single can and box and turkey and pie.

2. If you would rather donate directly to the Mission, that is A-OKAY with us! Our goal is to get the Mission as much help as possible over the Thanksgiving holiday, so if our drive doesn’t work for you but you’d still like to chip in, no worries – you can donate directly here: http://www.rescue-mission.org/donate

As always if you or anyone you know would like to participate in 5 Question Friday, drop me a line at jackcameronis@gmail.com

- Jack Cameron

How Tacoma Was Forever Cured Of Bieber Fever

Tuesday Justin Bieber played the Tacoma Dome. I didn’t attend. Wednesday Justin Bieber got on Twitter and told his 28 million fans that someone at the concert has stolen his and his manager’s stuff. He called the event ‘lame’ and ‘disrespectful’. However, it turns out that Bieber never filed a police report with Tacoma Police. And security footage from the Tacoma Dome shows that no theft actually took place. And now it turns out that the entire thing was a publicity stunt for his new music video.

In the past, Tacoma was known for its crime and rightly so. The early 90s had an influx of gang members from California that turned certain parts of this city into a small war zone. However, in the 20 years since then, Tacoma has improved and changed. Like any other city, we still have our share of crime, but to make an accusation that thieves stole his stuff during a concert, Justin Bieber inflames a stereotype and he did it for his own publicity.

There’s more to it than that though. By saying there was a theft in the Tacoma Dome, Bieber effectively calls into question the security of the Tacoma Dome. This can make it so other, more talented acts don’t come to Tacoma. Sure, it’s out now that it’s a lie, but I think it’s safe to say that not everyone who heard of the theft is going to hear that it wasn’t real.  The Tacoma Dome should sue Justin Bieber and they should never invite him back. In fact, the City of Tacoma should declare this city a Bieber-free zone.

Justin Bieber, take your cheap lies and your bad music and don’t ever come back. You’re not welcome  in the City of Destiny.

-          Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Poison Apple’s Jooley Heaps

Photo of Jason McKibbin & Jooley Heaps in front of Poison Apple

Owners Jason McKibbin & Jooley Heaps in front of Poison Apple

Last year Jooley Heaps was nice enough to participate in 5 Question Friday to talk about her store, Box Top Vintage, a vintage clothing store in downtown Tacoma. Box Top is no more but in its place is Poison Apple. I stopped by her shop a couple weeks ago and invited her again to let us know what she’s up to these days and how her new business is different from previous endeavors.  If you haven’t been to Poison Apple, you’re missing out, but I’ll let Jooley tell you about it.

1. What is Poison Apple?

Poison Apple is a different take on what I was successful with through Box Top Vintage. Vintage clothing was starting to become lackluster for me and I enjoyed selling novelties, retail, art and super fun stuff more. I teamed up with Jason McKibbin (who I’ve known for 20 years) and made it more pop culture with my items as well as comic books, action figures, cool dvds, music, etc.

2. How is it different from your old shop, Box Top Vintage?

What’s different is the store makes more sense than Box Top. Box Top was all over the place. Things are more organized, the paint colors work well together, the logo and cards are the same, thus the branding is more recogniziable. My friend JD Elquist and his team of boy wonders had a lot to do with helping me realize that. The shop is also more open and not as clustered together, making it more easy to shop.

3. Besides your own shop, what is your favorite local business?

Tacoma has a lot of businesses that I think are wonderful. Dorky’s, Embellish, Blitz florist, Dagmar Peterson “Henna Zilla”, Learning Sprout, What? Shoppe, Republic of 253, Top of Tacoma, Puget Sound Pizza, The Mix, Lulu, A little touch of magic, Cresent Moon Gifts, Supernova, Mad Hat Tea, Hell’s Kitchen, Pacific Grill, DOA, Comic Book Ink, there are literally SO many that I adore and that exist from coffee to vintage clothing to everything in between, Tacoma has a truly great mix of shops and people that run them. I know I’m leaving a bunch out, but that will give your readers a little work to do smurfin’ around to find them :)

4. You’re having an event this weekend. Could you tell us a bit about that?

We are having a free all ages open to the public event here on Saturday April 28th from 3-6pm. Phoenix Jones and Purple Reign, who are real life superheros, are coming down from Seattle to talk to folks and kids about domestic violence and bullying. These issues very important to Jason and I and we think that it will be a great event to be a part of. I’m stoked that they have the time to do it. Way cool.

5. What are your plans for the future of Poison Apple?

The door is wide open for world domination for the future of Poison Apple. We will continue to have super awesome gifts and products, we have a busy vending schedule of shows, events, and cons we will be at, and hope to have in store events. We are from Tacoma and love it and will always be apart of anything local we can sink our teeth into.

If you’re in downtown Tacoma, you owe it to yourself to check out Poison Apple. It’s located on 907 Pacific Ave.  You can also check out their Facebook page. I’d like to thank Jooley for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday and hope everyone can make it to Saturday’s event.

As always, if your or anyone you know wants to be part of 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

5 Question Friday With Pierce County Match Up’s Kate Miller

I know the weather hasn’t entirely cooperated lately, but it’s March. It will soon be spring. Many of us could stand to lose a few pounds. And even more of us could use some cash. So when Kate Miller from Pierce County Matchup contacted me about her program, I thought a lot of local people might be interested in this. Rather than trying to explain it myself, I asked Kate Miller to join me for 5 Question Friday. Here’s Kate:

1. What is the Pierce County Matchup?

The Pierce County Matchup is a three-month weight loss challenge in which teams of five compete to win $18,000 in cash prizes (first prize is $10,000; second place is $5,000; third place is $3,000).  The winning team is the one that loses the greatest percentage of weight during the contest.

The contest begins March 16th and runs through June 8th. The winners will be announced on June 9th at the Roman Meal Sound to Narrows. The entrance fee is $20/month for three months (or $60) for each member of your team.  The $60 fee allows you to compete for the $18,000 in cash prizes.

 

2. How did the Pierce County Matchup get started?

The Pierce County Matchup is a collaborative effort between HealthyWage, a popular, national company that encourages weight loss with three challenge offerings and cash incentives, Pierce County YMCA and MultiCare. Since 2009, HealthyWage has been helping been helping people across the country lose weight and get fit because they recognize that wellness is valuable.

 

3. How can people participate in the Pierce County Matchup?

Anyone can join the Pierce County Matchup. Signing up is as easy as visiting the Pierce County Matchup website. Verified weigh-ins must occur on March 14th, 15th or 16th at the following times and locations listed here.

 

4. What is your favorite thing about this project?

The best part of the Pierce County Matchup is being a part of helping the community get healthy!

 

5. What’s next for Pierce County Matchup?

The Matchup lasts for three months and will culminate with the exciting announcement of winners on June 9th at the Roman Meal Sound to Narrows.

 

I’d like to thank Kate for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. As always, if you or anyone you know is interested in participating in a future 5 Question Friday, contact me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

-Jack Cameron

Art, Ballet, Flamenco and Dirty Rock

Flamenco Master Jesus Montoya

There is always something going on in Tacoma. It’s one of my favorite things about the place. No matter what you’re into, there’s a good chance you can find it somewhere in Tacoma.

Here are just a few options coming up in the next few days:

Thursday December 15th  6:00pm – 9:00pm

THE ART BUS

Angela Jossy, the self-described Duchess of Downtown has made the Art Bus a monthly event that is always memorable. Tickets are $10. The Art Bus boards at 5:45pm and takes a tour of local art exhibits. She puts this on every third Thursday of the month. At last count, there were 11 seats still available.

For more information, go to http://tacomaartbus.com

Friday, December 16th  8:30pm – 11:30pm    

Flamenco singer Jesus Montoya with guitarist Pedro Cortes and dancer Savannah Fuentes

At The New Frontier Lounge 301 E. 25th Street

This is something special. Jesus Montoya has never played Tacoma before. If you’re interested in Flamenco music or have never experienced it, this is for you. And the New Frontier has a close and friendly atmosphere. There’s not a bad seat in the place.Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at this link: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/213666

For more information on The New Frontier: http://www.thenewfrontierlounge.com/  

Saturday, December 17th 9:00pm – Late

Midnight Salvage Company, Ten Miles of Bad Road, & Devil on a Leash

At O’Malley’s 2403 6th Ave.

You want a loud bar with good drinks and great music? This is the time and place. Three great Tacoma bands all on the same night and there’s NO COVER CHARGE. There’s not much more you can ask for on a Saturday night.  Ten Miles of Bad Road just completed their tour where they brought their dirty Southern rock to small bars up and down the West Coast. If music was violence Ten Miles of Bad Road would be a bar fight. Midnight Salvage Company brings the sort of rock that should still be on the radio. It’s good solid rebel rock with just a bit of asshole. Then there’s Devil on a Leash with a sound that reminds me of the last bar on a long night that no one will remember too clearly.

December 17th & December 18th at 3pm

Tacoma Ballet’s The Nutcracker

There are plenty of Nutcracker performances all over. However, Tacoma City Ballet’s is set apart as the sole production in the area to follow the story, scenic design, costuming and choreography as it was originally created by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.

Tickets range in prices from $19 – $60 and can be purchased at

 http://www.broadwaycenter.org/

And that’s just a few of the things going on in the next four days. Tacoma is about as diverse as any city in the world. And it’s all right here. People ask me why I love Tacoma, it’s because of things like these.

- Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With YOU!

This week we’re going to change it up a bit. Most of the people who come to this site are from Tacoma. So this week, 5 Question Friday is all yours. I’m going to ask 5 Questions and if you like, you can answer t hem in by commenting on this post. Let’s start with Tacoma Places.


Make your answers long or short, serious or funny.


1. Where is your favorite place in Tacoma to have a good dinner and why?


2. You’re drunk, but the night’s not over yet. What Tacoma dive bar is going to be graced with your presense?

3. What Tacoma business that is now gone do you wish would return?

4. Walking the waterfront. Ruston Way or Owen Beach?

5. What’s the most overrated place in the city of Tacoma?

I’ll be interested in what you come up with.

- Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Equal Time’s Frank Blair

Occasionally, I let others do 5 Question Fridays for TacomaStories.com. Luke Byram has previously contributed to Tacoma Stories with 5 Question Fridays from Amanda Westbrook and Kathleen Merryman. This week, he’s back with a 5 Question Friday with Frank Blair. Who is Frank Blair? I’ll let Luke and Frank answer that question.
-Jack Cameron

Frank Blair has been an active member of Tacoma for a while. He has been the facility manager of Manitou Community Center and was involved in the community garden which was created there. Frank’s daughter, Sheena was killed by a drunk driver in February of 2010 in Everett. Ever since that dreadful night, he’s been on a crusade to stop DUI crashes and stiffen penalties of drunk drivers. Lets find out how he has and is accomplishing this task. Without further ado, here’s Frank’s responses to a set of 5 questions that we put to him.

1. How long have you been co-host of Equal Time on KLAY 180 FM?
I have never done Equal Time on 180 KLAY. But I HAVE been co-host on 1180 KLAY in various incarnations since 1999. GREAT time to start a liberal talk show, just as the bush administration was taking office.

2. What subjects/topics do you cover on Equal Time?
Equal Time is primarily a political talk show. We have also covered everything from gardening to local artists, film makers, authors, organized labor and veteran’s issues.

3. Who’s been your favorite guest on Equal Time?
I think the greatest honor I ever had as a broadcaster was an hour long in-studio interview with General John Shalikashvili. This interview took place just before the war in Iraq was launched. I also hold dear our interviews with Dr Jeni Gregory, a trauma councilor who works with children traumatized by war. She works with child soldiers in Africa and has done work with other children in horrid situations around the world.

4. How are you working on preventing DUI wrecks?
My wife Carol and I are working to prevent DUI deaths in a three pronged approach. First, working with legislators to increase penalties for DUI and vehicular homicide to deter a percentage of the population from taking the chance to drive impaired. Second, through education in the sense of sharing how Sheena’s death has impacted and continues to impact our family. Third, and most importantly, providing viable alternative to driving drunk in the first place. We support programs to get impaired drivers home at low or no cost.

5. Why are you on a mission to prevent DUI wrecks?
We became active with DUI issues because our daughter Sheena was killed in a head on collision at the hands of a drunk driver. That night we were shoved into a line with thousands of other families of DUI victims in front of us. We feel that it is our moral obligation to shorten the line behind us. Every DUI vehicular homicide that we see on the news sickens us. Many people express that “Somebody should DO something”. Sometimes that “someone” is ME.

I’d like to thank Frank Blair for participating in 5 Question Friday and Luke Byram for conducting the interview. You can find out more about Frank Blair and his Equal Time program at: http://equaltimeradio.net/

As always, if you or anyone you know wants to be a part of 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

5 Question Friday With Jamie Chase from Credit Union Strategic Planning

I first met Jamie Chase many years ago. There are people you meet and you forget about them. If life were a movie, they’d be an extra. Jamie Chase could never be that. She’s smart, outspoken and willing to back up what she thinks with action. She’s exactly the sort of person I want participating in 5 Question Friday and amazingly enough, she took the time to indulge me.

With all the talk about corporate greed and big banks, I can think of no better time to start talking about credit unions. And there’s really no one better to do that than Jamie Chase. Here she is.

1. For those who don’t know, what are the major differences between a bank and a credit union?

There are two major differences between a credit union and a bank:

    1. Credit unions are not-for-profit service organizations. They exist to provide a community service. Banks are profit driven companies. In this environment banks are profit maximizing. Banks make choices to make the most profit possible for their business. Credit union make choices to give the best service possible.
    2. Credit unions are member-owned cooperatives, like the Tacoma Food Co-op, REI, USAA, and PCC. The member-owners elect volunteers to represent them, to protect them. As a result, the volunteer board of directors make sure the credit union never makes choices like Bank of America did this week to charge $9 a month to use a branch and $5 a month to use a debit card. This is one reason, beyond being not-for-profit, why credit unions do not have sky-high fees on credit cards and didn’t trick people into buying houses they couldn’t afford.

2. BofA and Citibank have both announced monthly fees for use of debit cards resulting in many people considering credit unions instead. What should a prospective customer look for in a credit union?

Given that all credit unions are not-for-profit. They are all a better choice than banks. When a person switches, they should look for a credit union that is located close to their home or work. I also recommend a credit union that is part of the shared branching network. With shared branching, credit unions from all over the country share facilities to give members thousands of convenient locations to perform transactions just as if they were in their home credit union. Imagine Bank of America sharing their branches with Key Bank, hilarious. Yes, credit unions really do this. Why? Because their mission is service. They work together, cooperate, instead of competing.

3. What is CU  Strategic Planning?

It is a small business located in Tacoma, WA that invents poverty reduction programs deployed through not-for-profit credit unions that serve distressed communities across the United States. We are the number one writer of Department of Treasury, Community Development Financial Institution grants for credit unions. As a result, every year we assist credit unions with obtaining millions of dollars in grants so that they can deploy loans to small businesses to create jobs, moderate and low income people to purchase or maintain affordable housing and for unsecured alternatives to payday loans that move people from debt to asset building.

4. For Tacomans, what credit union(s) would you recommend?

My top recommendation is BECU. It has the best rates and along with Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union (SMCU) is the most philosophical for consumers that love the cooperative principles.

Harborstone offers the best small business services. TAPCO has the friendliest head teller, Cindy, but they are not part of the shared banking network. Heather at Sound Credit Union’s 38th Street and Pacific Ave. location is one of the best tellers in the state.

Express Credit Union and TULIP Cooperative Credit Union serve low income consumers with poor credit scores. If your friends can’t open an account at a mainstream credit union, these credit unions have a special mission to help out.

5. With all of the recent bank consolidations, what do you think the future holds for credit unions?

Credit unions are the solution, and that will become more clear to people. Right now, we can all move our car loans and credit card balances to credit unions from the higher interest charging banks. Why would you not do this immediately. Run, don’t walk.  The mission of credit unions is, “People helping people to help themselves.” That is exactly what people need. I also see credit unions providing financial education and helping consumers to improve their credit. The new answer for credit unions that may have declined a loan to a consumer in the past will not be, “No, we can’t lend to you. “ It will become, “We can’t give you a loan right now, but if you take this class your credit score will improve and we will give you a loan in two months.” That is very powerful. They do this because they exist only to serve.

I’d like to thank Jamie for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. Feel free to comment below. Got comments you just want to send to me? Got someone in mind for a 5 Question Friday? Email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

-          Jack Cameron

As an added bonus, Jamie included the following piece below for those of you interested in leaving your big bank for a local credit union. Enjoy:

How to move your money from a profit-maximizing bank to a not-for-profit credit union:

  1. Withdraw your money. Close your corporate bank account.
  2. Use theGo to http://www.findacreditunion.com/ to find a not-for-profit credit union you are eligible to join.
  3. Joining the credit union is just like opening an account at a bank, only when you “join” you become an owner/member of the cooperative. Yes, credit unions are cooperative and you are the owner, in addition to being not-for-profit. This is the big ideological difference between the creation, management and motives of credit unions and banks.

The most important step in the switch from a bank to a CU:

  1. Ask the credit union to transfer your car loan, credit card balances and mortgage from your various banks into the credit union.
    1. You will save hundreds of dollars and pay off the loans faster! Credit union not-for-profit rates are much lower than profit-maximizing banks.
    2. This is how you really Occupy from Home. Stop the banks from making money off of YOU! They make their money from the interest you pay on your loans, far more profit than from your debit card fees.

And finally:

  1. Set up online banking, direct deposit and automatic payments that were previously connected to your account at the evil bank.

Your new credit union will help you with all of this. Why? Because you will be an owner, and credit union’s exist to serve. In fact the credit union mantra is:

“People helping People to Help Themselves.”

By: Jamie Chase, Instigator of Goodness, and inventor of poverty reduction programs deployed through credit unions across the nation serving distressed communities and underserved populations that are unprofitable to corporate banks.