On August 29th 1939 , Greg Marion was driving his 6 ton Mack truck full of groceries down off McKinley Hill on Pacific Avenue. It was 3:30 in the afternoon on a busy weekday and looking down on the city as he passed 36th street there was a violent roar of tearing metal. The drive shaft sheared off and took the brake lines with it leaving Marion behind the wheel of the truck as it rapidly gained speed. In the days before I-5 was built, Pacific Avenue was like a ski jump below the intersection with 32nd and the truck was quickly moving at 60 miles per hour as it flew through red traffic lights and Marion swerved wildly around cars and pedestrians with his horn blasting. Just passed 23rd another grocery truck leaving the Tacoma Grocery Building glanced his speeding rig and ricocheted its path directly toward the busy Texaco Silvertone gas station at 21st and Pacific (Pugnetti Park today). First he plowed through a fire hydrant, firing it 50 yards across the street just between a group of awestruck spectators. The impact jarred the rear axle loose from the undercarriage and it cart wheeled directly at the plate glass store front of the modern station while Marion was trying to steer the now spinning truck with its dragging rear end away from the bank of gas pumps. In the instant that followed the axle and double wheels took out the glass storefront and careened deep into the building while the truck spun into a shed and pump in the middle of the service island without touching the other pumps on either side. When Marion stepped out of the truck on Pacific Avenue it was upright and he was unhurt. In fact no one was serious hurt. For all the chaos and noise and flying objects that day on Pacific Avenue everybody was lucky. History as a game of chance.wild ride

Written by tacomahistory

This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it's surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It's also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character. For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.

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