Alice was lost and bewildered precisely because she went down a hole without a tour guide. Fortunately, Seattle’s Underground Tour at the Pioneer Square not only came with a tour guide, but a quirky sarcastic tour guide at that.
But wait… 15 feet below the surface. 90 minutes of history. Not exactly my idea of “fun”.
I was never excited about history lessons. My earliest memory goes something like this:
A grade three classroom at Pratt Memorial High School in Calcutta. Little Mrs. D’souza teaching us about Harshavardhana (or, better known as Harsha), a king who ruled North India in the middle of the 6th century. Me in my white shirt and green tunic uniform sitting inconspicuously in the corner, making silly rhymes to kill time.
But this underground tour came with the “untold” stories of the founding fathers of Seattle. A city that burned down to the ground once and was built twice over. A city whose failed sanitation system had the streets flooded with faeces. A city whose greedy mayor was more concerned about sucking out money from its people rather than remedy the situation. And, ironically, was elected mayor yet again.
Let’s just say this was a history lesson that did not have me day-dreaming.
The brainchild of Bill Speidel, this tour started in 1954 as an attempt to prevent the destruction of historical buildings around Pioneer Square. Speidel was onto something, as this tour is currently one of the highlights of Seattle.
But history or no history, when the time was up, and the tour guide led us out of the musty underground filled with the ghosts and memories of a forgotten era, I was happy to be back in the real world.
Yes, Alice, you have my sympathies.
Photographs: Copyright Sanchari Sur