After posting a photograph of elephants parading past this same intersection of Broadway and 9th in the summer of 1897 its interesting to look at the familiar downtown location in the winter of 1940. Some things had changed in the 43 years between, like the spanking new addition of the Art Deco Rhodes Medical Building in the distance and the missing 9th Street cable car tracks than were removed in 1936 but in many ways the heart of Tacoma’s theater district was still the same. The grand old 1889, 1800 seat Tacoma Theater (renamed in neon as the Music Box) still upstaged the busy streetscape and the legendary tobacco shop with its round interior woodwork, smokey windows and thick humidor atmosphere anchored the turreted corner. Across the street the flatiron shaped Bostwick Building, also built in the year of statehood, cuts into the public space like a steamship.
On this chilly winter day, Henry Fonda, Dorothy Lamour and Linda Darnell were starring in the Technicolor flop “Chad Hanna” at the Music Box along with aging child star Shirley Temple in a second bill movie, somewhat desperately called “Young People”. There was the cloud cast by the spectacular collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge just a few weeks before and anyone who read newspapers knew that the war in Europe and the build up at Fort Lewis were not good signs. But one of the best political leaders Tacoma has ever had, Harry P Cain, was the newly elected Mayor and the city was prepared for the events to come as the decade of the 1940’s arrived like an elephant parade. History waiting to happen.