Pike Place Market, 1969
I found the film’s soundtrack clever, affecting me enough that I had to wonder why. It opens with accordion music, crowd noise, and market speak. The accordion sets a romantic, communal, timeless mood with old folk melodies. It is the music of the people, fitting Seattle’s great market.
Accordions are used in folk music throughout Europe and North and South America. They are often used by buskers — street performers. Buskers are common at Pike Place Market itself, if not always with accordions.
At first we see an empty market, with some focus on leaking pipes and damaged infrastructure. In 1969, they needed to not only save The Market from development, but rebuild it from decades of structural neglect.
A vendor steps into view. We hear, then see The Market’s business being done, its teeming, happy crowds, some shopping for dinner and others with no apparent agenda. There is a lot of focus on prices, reminding us that without a profiteering middle man, The Market makes basic economic sense for both producers and consumers.
The accordion easily ebbs out of one melody and flows into another, many times over. It is as if you saw someone interesting in the crowd and tried to follow. You would get glimpses, then lose them at times, and get an occasional glance in return that would keep you following.
In the middle of the film we are shown the doors to the Athenian Inn Restaurant, next door to Lowell’s Restaurant & Bar. A 1960s, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass interlude overtakes the audio track. Their album “Whipped Cream & Other Delights” was all about food, and although it was four years old when this film was produced it was still all the rage. This is a nod to youths who not only made this film but generally contributed much to saving The Market. The instrumental music of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass did also appeal to many older adults, so it was a diplomatic choice.
We see a ferry and hear its horn while enjoying a view from inside Lowell’s. The interlude ends with a bit of “A Taste of Honey,” instrumentation including a Fender bass, an electric and an acoustic guitar.
It was over coffee at Lowell’s that Steinbrueck and friends hatched plans to save The Market in the 1960s. For nearly 100 years at both Lowell’s and the Athenian, there have been restaurants in this place where you could meet friends or make friends. They have been fertile ground for greatness for nearly all of Pike Place Market and Seattle history.
The accordion reemerges with a few ending scenes and the film credits. Daily business is done, a couple meanders, smiling arm in arm, and a grandfather leads his granddaughter by the hand.
The credits read “A University of Washington Film,” by B. Biggs, G. Coldevin, R. Dong, J. Dunn, D. Macdonald, D. Pratt, and C. Vollan, with Advisors J. Driscoll and T. Kirkman. To these Seattleites of 1969: for my many market adventures since 1992 when my family moved here and met The Market, and from 2008 when now I write: thank you.
Below: Peter and Victor Steinbrueck promoting the rehabilitation of Pike Place Market, also in 1969:
Photo courtesy Peter Steinbrueck and HistoryLink.org.
Article cover art by Brian Glanz, in part using images from the Seattle Municipal Archives.