Criminal Marathoners

The people in this picture are about to be criminals, guilty of breaking a Depression era law against dance marathons. On May 23, 1931, a grueling ballroom marathon under way at the Spanaway Pavilion Dance Hall, where couples competed to see who could stay continually on their feet the longest, was inharmoniously raided by police and the promoters, Norman Rieman, G. B. Breseman and Harold Avery were arrested. The slick announcer from Tacoma’s KMO radio station displays more suave than sympathy for the dancers who would stay on their feet and mostly awake for days in an attempt to outlast one another. The station paid the promoters, the ballroom paid the musicians, the promoters took most of the admission money and the winners got a cheap brass cup and a small cash award. No record of who paid for the nurses. Both photos were likely taken before the event.

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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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