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The Nose: ‘Tacomacitis’ a centuries-old plague with no easy cure

If Tacoma’s attachment to the mountain is a sickness, then maybe we don’t want to be well.
If Tacoma’s attachment to the mountain is a sickness, then maybe we don’t want to be well.

Anyone who’s had a mysterious health problem that won’t go away knows the value of a professional diagnosis. Only then can you seek treatment and focus on getting well.

So this is your lucky day, Tacoma. Dr. Schnoz is here to identify the ailment that’s afflicted city dwellers for generations — all the way back to 1868, when Tacoma was born.

Symptoms include crankiness, delirium and paranoia that outsiders are trying to steal your dignity and other stuff that’s rightfully yours.

This “peculiar malady” was described 98 years ago by a former Tacoma Ledger journalist named C.T. Conover.

“I know it well,” he wrote. “It has been classified by a well-known historian as ‘Tacomacitis.’ I have lived in Tacoma and I have had it …

“The peculiar thing is that a cure is impossible while one lives in Tacoma.”

So we have to flee the 253 to get better?

By the hammer of Thor, sir, you propose a medicine we cannot swallow!

It starts with a mountain: The Nose was introduced this week to the writings of Conover and several other men of his era who wrote scurrilous words about Tacoma. They were printed in a 74-page pamphlet that a legislative staffer shared with us recently after finding it in his late father-in-law’s belongings.

The pamphlet is as relevant today as it was when published in 1917. It’s a collection of testimony submitted to the U.S. Geographic Board “in the matter of the proposal to change the name of Mount Rainier.”

The Legislature at the time was controlled by eminently qualified leaders. (Tacomans, as God intended.) They had pushed through a resolution asking the feds to change the name to something more appropriate. (Mount Tacoma, as God also intended.)

These hardcore Tacomans refused to use the false name of the mountain, instead clinging to its Native American etymology, which means “snow capped mountain” or “the breast that feeds.” They considered it sacrilege that the U.S. government had named the peak for Admiral Peter Rainier, a limey who fought against America in the Revolutionary War.

Conover and his pals disagreed, strongly.

Tacoma, they said, is a generic Indian word that local natives may not even have used. Tacoma hucksters, they said, were trying to parlay their myth into a municipal advertising campaign, with help from the Northern Pacific Railroad.

The leading Seattle newspapers supported Conover and his crew, saying Tacomans were sick in the head.

“Tacoma always has taken the question of the mountain’s name altogether too seriously for its own good,” the Seattle Times wrote in a 1917 editorial. “”It has fretted itself into a state of mind where it regards the majestic height as a private asset of the City of Destiny.”

Amen! May it ever be so!

If this is a sickness, we don’t want to be cured.

It won’t stop with a mountain: Alas, our forefathers lost their campaign for Mount Tacoma. But there’s still reason for hope. Geographic names are always in a state of flux.

This summer, the feds took the bold step of changing Alaska’s Mount McKinley to Mount Denali — and predictably rekindled the Rainier-vs.-Tacoma debate.

And on Friday (Oct. 23), the state’s Geographic Names board sets its sights on Mount Rainier, or at least part of it. A Puyallup woman has petitioned the board to give the name “Vancouver Notch” to a large V-shaped cleft in the foothills.

We prefer “Tacoma’s Crack” or “Tacoma’s Cleavage.” But that’s chump change compared to the larger goal to rename the whole mountain.

For the record, we won’t stop there, just as our ancestors didn’t.

In 1884, when Washington was a territory on the verge of statehood, some folks sought a different name to ensure we wouldn’t be confused with Washington, D.C.

Guess what T-Town lobbied for?

“The Tacoma propaganda knew no bounds. It was not limited by the mountain or the city,” wrote Victor J. Farrar, a history researcher who was one of Conover’s confederates.

“The people of Tacoma went so far as to advocate the name ‘Tacoma’ for the future state,” Farrar wrote.

Again was revealed the virulent power of Tacomacitis, a fever that has rendered men blissfully sick in the head for parts of three centuries.

A city, a mountain, a state — then someday we shall conquer the world!

 
Kilmer: Proud “Star Wars” nerd.

Nerd or mercenary?: The least surprising news of the week is that U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor is a “Star Wars” geek. Next, should we brace for the revelation that he played on the Quidditch team at Oxford?

But we’re shocked — shocked! — to learn that Kilmer wants $250 campaign donations for the privilege of watching an early screening of the new “Star Wars” flick with him.

Perhaps Han Solo, the patron saint of smugglers and congressmen, said it best: “I’m not in it for you, Princess … I’m in it for the money.”

 
Trebek: Can’t pronounce “Puyallup.”

And the answer is: Puyallup!

So what if “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek murdered the pronunciation on Wednesday night’s show.

What’s impressive is that defending champ Robert Arrowood, a Realtor from Massachusetts, nailed the question.

Arrowood showed his prowess by winning three of five answers in the “State Fairs” category, including the site of the Washington State Fair for $1,600.

Which, coincidentally, was roughly the price of an Earthquake Burger this year.

Got news for The Nose?

Write to TheNose@thenewstribune.com.

Twitter: @thenosetribune

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