Tacoma’s Winter Olympian

Just finished reading “The Boys in the Boat”, a really heart pounding history of the University of Washington 8 man rowing team and their triumphant Gold Medal victory at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. The Third Reich hosted both the summer and winter Olympics games in 1936 with Adolf Hitler attending most of the finals. Washington State played a major role in both summer Berlin and snowy Bavaria the following winter. Mt Rainier was a major training grounds for the games with both American and Canadian athletes using the slopes and back country as a substitute for the German venue. America did poorly as usual in the winter games winning only 1 Gold medal (in bobsled) and 3 bronze.
At the 1936 Winter Olympics the Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie cleaned up winning her 3rd Gold Medal(along with the European and World Championships). She promptly retired to a Hollywood movie career and in 1937 was at Mt. Rainier making her second film “Thin Ice” with mega star Tyrone Power. The whole film was basically written around Henie’s graceful ice skating and her inevitable romance with Powers but as a double for the skiing scenes, the studio tapped a local 18 year old Tacoma girl named Gretchen Kunigk. A decade after she imitated the Olympic medalist on film, Ms. Kunigk competed in the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz Switzerland winning a Gold Medal in women’s slalom. It was the first Olympic Gold Medal ever won by an American skier. Very cool!.

Written by

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: