If there is an intersection of story and place in downtown Tacoma, it’s the corner of 11th and A Streets. The Perkins Building (long the home of two daily newspapers), the Tacoma Building (once headquarters of the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company), and the Federal Courthouse and Post Office all face into the crossing that funnels east onto the Morgan Bridge.
In spring and summer of 1935, these buildings overlooked a particularly dramatic season of events that seemed to be staged right outside the front door of the workplace for most of the city’s journalists and press photographers.
Beginning in May, a tense waterfront labor strike that led eventually to a bloody clash between mill workers and armed National Guardsmen played out in the street, with clouds of tear gas literally wafting into the newsrooms. But this image captures a bigger, national story.
The moment is 6:35 p.m. on the 12th of the following June, and the snarl of Federal police vehicles, FBI agents and press awaits the arrival of arraignment on charges of abduction and extortion for Harman and Margaret Waley. The couple, along with an accomplice who was still at large, were the kidnappers of 9-year-old George Weyerhaeuser on May 24th. The child had been released only 11 days prior, after a $200,000 ransom was paid – a relieving contrast to the tragic ending of the Lindbergh kidnapping just three years earlier, which had cast a dark shadow over the highly publicized abduction and manhunt.
The Waley’s had been caught in Salt Lake City after 19 year old Margaret tried to spend one of the marked bills. After a flight to Tacoma Field they were convoyed to the Federal Courthouse where they faced U.S. Judge Edward Everett Cushman in his corner Courtroom. Just outside the window and across the street was the headquarters of the company brave little George would one day lead.
[Historic Photograph from Tacoma Public Library: Unique 27482]