Alaskan Way Viaduct: Interview with Mike Peringer

  • Posted 2/23/2012
  • Essay 10039

This interview with Mike Peringer concerning Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct was conducted under the Western Avenue exit of the viaduct in January 2012 by Dominic Black. Peringer was a reporter present on April 4, 1953, at the dedication of the viaduct. 

The Interview

DB: The Alaskan Way Viaduct was dedicated on the fourth of April 1953 and Mike Peringer was there as a reporter for the University of Washington and for KUOW. And Mike and I are standing on a windy cold day underneath the Western Avenue exit from the Viaduct. So Mike, first of all, tell me a bit about the ceremony itself -- what happened?

MP: Well there were a whole bunch of us there. We had reporters from all over, I don't know how many there are, were. But we all came in our own cars and we parked -- just to the north of where the ceremony was going to be is where they parked us all. We were the first ones in line, we got out and then a few minutes later they started the ceremony. There were all kinds of police and they had dancing girls, and they had the Seafair Princess -- or Queen -- and of course the mayor, and other dignitaries. And they did it rather quickly -- it didn't take that long, though everybody had something to say as you might expect. This was a big deal and nobody knew exactly what it was all about at that time, it was a brand new concept.

DB: And so what were the kinds of things they were saying in their speeches about this great viaduct.

MP: Well they were looking at it from the stand -- actually as a matter of fact they did have some vision because this was so new. I mean Seattle hadn't seen anything like this. I think there had been one -- the Embarcadero in San Francisco -- but nothing like this up here. So all along the waterfront at that time -- you know people today complain about it being an eyesore and all that sort of thing, but then it was a piece of beauty. It was a brand new construction, it had never been built before -- nothing like this had been built before in Seattle -- and I think they were a little bit -- not apprehensive -- but a little bit concerned about how people would accept it. And so they were looking at it and talking about it from a very positive standpoint -- that they wanted people to use it to justify the $8 million they spent on it.

As I recall -- it's been -- a long time ago -- as I recall most of the comments were very positive in that respect in terms of the future of the waterfront and the north south transportation connections.

DB: So describe the ceremony for me then and what happened afterwards.

MP: Well after the ceremony was all over and everybody had made their speeches and the party time atmosphere was kind of dwindling, it was obvious that it was over. We were kind of given the signal that now it's time to go back to your cars and drive on this thing -- see if it'll work. And so we were all parked to the south -- to the north I should say -- of where the ceremony was. So all of us reporter types -- we were the first ones to know about this -- we just ran back to our cars, hopped in our cars, started them up and headed south on the freeway.

DB: So you were some of the first folks to drive down the length of it?

MP: We were the first 50 cars -- roughly 50 -- that headed south on the thing, got off at Pioneer Square and we didn't know how to get back on because there was no -- you know, and that was it. It was all over. There were other cars in the back of us -- other people that came to attend -- just regular citizens and everybody. But we were the first people to go down the viaduct itself. 

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