Special Reports

Practically raised in the park, it was like family


Dorothy Snapp was an only child. But in her family, Point Defiance Park was such a vivid presence, it might as well have been another relative.

“Most of the 21 years of my life before I was married, my dad was a parks commissioner,” said Snapp, 77. “He was a dentist, but the parks were also his life. Every Sunday, we would drive my grandfather in the Packard to look at the parks, to make sure they were all fine. At Point Defiance, they would put me out at Funland, and I would spend the time there. I rode the cars and the Dodgems, the merry-go-round. I learned to drive there.

“You got in these little open cars that had an accelerator and brakes, and you would drive around a wooden road.”

"At Point Defiance, they would put me out at Funland, and I would spend the time there. I rode the cars and Dodgems, the merry-go-round."


longtime park visitor


In Snapp’s memory, Funland afternoons were safer than ones she spent with her father.

“I used to go fishing with him,” she said. “He would rent a motorboat from the Point Defiance boathouse. I remember, there were fish everywhere. Everybody caught fish. I can feel the spray. We always got around by the Narrows, and then we’d get caught in the riptides, and shear a pin.”

Snapp would wail in terror while her father rowed back to the boathouse. She would wail some more while he cleaned the rock cod.

“They looked so horrible,” she said.

During the Depression, the park teemed with men trying to get by. There were Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Project Administration crews, and men hoping for day work.

“My dad would bring them home and have them cut a tree or mow a lawn, just so they would get extra money,” Snapp said. “My mother would always have a meal ready.”

At 14, Snapp got a job at the aquarium, earning 25 cents an hour selling admission to the exhibits of octopuses, sea cucumbers and dogfish that lay beyond the pool Dub Dub ruled.

Icon, ham, a celebrity seal, Dub Dub charmed kids who tossed him herring and perhaps a bit of popcorn.

“They fed him everything,” Snapp said. “I don’t know how that seal lived.

“When the crash boats came in World War II, that changed our lives,” Snapp said. “They were right below us, and we were surrounded by all these handsome, good-looking men. They were to rescue any crew from McChord field that crashed in Puget Sound. I think they were rather surprised to be in the Air Force and end up on a crash boat. There were six to eight men, including a doctor, on each boat, and they always kept one boat running. I could always hear the hum of the crash boat.”

“To me, it was all a part of our life,” she said of her days in the park. “A very important part of our life.”

If you have personal stories or memories about the park you'd like to share, contact columnist Kathleen Merryman at kathleen.merryman@thenewstribune.com.