The News Tribune logo

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fife, WA - When Local History and Popular Media Universes Collide

I'll be up front. There was a time when I spent much of my free time immersed in the Star Trek fan universe - which included going to a movie or two. To be exact, I went to almost all of them. Years later there are still select scenes which remain deeply engraved in my memories.

One in particular from Star Trek: The Voyage Home (1986) when Admiral Jame T. Kirk and Vulcan's Mr. Spock finding themselves back in twentieth century San Francisco attempt to raise some quick cash while on a mission to save a pair of Humpback whales by reselling a pair of prescription antique spectacles that the Admiral received for his birthday from his former first officer.

Recently it just tickled my fancy when I learned that the man who played the part of the antique shop dealer has a direct connection to the City of Fife, WA, where I've been spending a good deal of time enjoying numerous opportunities to study and view the interesting and well-thought exhibits at the Fife History Museum, 2820 54th Avenue East, (253)896-4710.

Yes. I am a nerd. But it's moments like this when one universe in your life collides with another and the Serendipity which is life on this planet strikes a clear note. Happily this phenomenon is not limited to the mentally engaged and socially awkward. Having been personally aware since primary school days that my budding personal interest in United States and family history was not equally shared by many of my peers - of whom a famous slogan "History is dead" was attributed to an entire generation I'm glad to observe I'm not completely alone.

However I am occasionally lead to wonder if old classmates are able to relish with the same feeling as I the way so many wonderful people and events from your past have a unique way of coming back from a totally unexpected angle, allowing us the privilege of seeing something play come around in a full circle and re-enter our lives.

In this case an actor playing a bit part on the big movie screen turns out to be directly related to the same William Hutchinson Fife, who prior to the Panic of 1893 was said to possibly be the richest man in Pierce County and his son Spanish-American War hero, William J. Fife, an attorney from Tacoma, whose surname was bestowed on Fife, WA a growing settlement at the northwestern tip of Pierce County.

They in turn were respectively the great-grandfather and granduncle of actor Joseph "Joe" William Knowland. Joe is the son of William F. Knowland, who served in the United States Senate between 1945-1959, including a stint as the Senate Majority Leader for two years during the early to mid fifties. William F. Knowland in turn was the son of Oakland, CA publisher Joseph R. Knowland and his first wife, Elinor J. Fife. Elinor was sister to William J. Fife and daughter to William H. Fife.

Now anytime Fife residents have the opportunity to view an entertaining film as Star Trek: The Voyage Home; review how important legislative decisions were made during the Eisenhower Administration; or analyze how community institutions and resources came to be in the early days of Tacoma - it will be difficult not to be aware of the vibrance, industry and character delivered by members of this pioneering Pierce County family.

Needless to say, the Fife's of Tacoma are nowhere alone in offering area residents some interesting stories . Current exhibits at the Fife History Museum touch on life and day-to-day experiences of individuals and families pulled dsfrom the ranks of the majority Swiss, Italian, Japanese and Scandinavian immigrants and settlers. And all generations continue to benefit from the rich treasury of resources and history patiently gathered and cataloged under the stewardship of a dedicated and hardworking team of volunteers.

1 comment:

Lorraine Hart said...

You bring it to life...and family, Mizu.