History Detective

So I had have read several conflicting reasons for the name of where I grew up: Spanaway.

Most of them are summed up in the Wikipedia entry. Basically, the main lore is that it is either the measure of a “span” of track at 10 miles, or it’s some Indian word backwards.

But back when I was in junior high I did a whole cultural fair-thing that some 100-year-old guy was interviewed for who had grown up here.

He said it was a “span” after how you would measure a map from the distance between your thumb and forefinger on a map that was an inch-a-mile scale. If you took the tolley car to the lake in the area it would be a “span away.”

Well, I can’t find anything that says a span is 10 miles like the Wikipedia entry, but I can show several definitions that the old guy might have been more on target (even though the dictionary is between thumb and pinky). And shoot, I tape recorded the entire conversation with that guy, and I can’t remember his name (I know he was connected with PLU) or what year he was born, or the tape, but it had to have been early 1880s he was born.

Why do I remember this so well? Because he explained the “span” so vividly by using his thumb and pinky in an, almost, itsy bitsy spider-like way to show that in the early days that was a quick way to measure nine miles.

So this is what I was thinking about today…I talked to someone for a couple hours that was old enough to vote for Theodore Roosevelt and was probably about 20 when the Wright Brothers first flew. I have talked to a lot of amazing old people. He was around before anyone had heard of Henry Ford. My other big thing I remember is that University Place, according to him, got screwed when they gave the University of Washington to Seattle.

That’s quite a span our lives have covered.

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