Here’s a little humorous puzzle. Among the reels of audio tapes made by historian Murray Morgan is this short, obviously satirical mock radio drama that is set in the 1890’s but almost certainly is poking fun and 1950’s and 60’s relations between Seattle and Tacoma. The names and events are the clues along with the political era of the Rossellini hearings, Slim Rasmussen and civic graft in both cities. So what am I missing in terms of hidden characters, witty comments and Morgan’s inimitable sense of humor?

Murray Morgan worked for KMO radio in Tacoma for decades and was a familiar voice on the radio during a time when Tacoma was both prosperous and corrupt. Murray was the perfect witness to it all with his sometimes cynical perspective but always generous attitude toward his home town. Among Murray’s papers at the Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room are his personal collection of magnetic recordings on reels, an audio scrapbook of his work on the radio and his love of the spoken word. Lane Morgan, Murray and Rosa’s daughter, thoughtfully saw to it that the recordings went to the Northwest Room and an effort has been underway to transfer them to digital form before the increasingly brittle tapes are unplayable. This funny little gag is a sample.

I think Murray and Rosa would appreciate the similarity between the audio tapes and the Northwest Room itself. In one sense, they speak for themselves over time telling us our own stories and reminding us of the events and ideas that shape our present and future. But like the brittle tapes, the Northwest Room needs our attentions and upkeep or someday it will be too fragile and inaccessible to be used. But enough of this mirthless commercial about watching what the City Council does in the coming library budget, on with the radio program and the inside jokes.

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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