New Book Revives Everett History: An Interview with Richard Porter
Richard Porter has lived in Everett for almost a decade, and has contributed to Live in Everett for over two years. In that time he has amassed a wealth of knowledge about the history of Everett, which he is putting into his new book.
Smokestackers! A Popular History of Everett is currently being crowdfunded via Kickstarter, and within 24 hours, reached its goal.
We talked with Richard about the the reasoning behind publishing Smokestackers!, and when we'll be able to get our hands on a copy.
Why write Smokestackers! A Popular History of Everett?
I wrote a bunch of history articles for the Live in Everett blog and a lot of the reference material was older than the 1980s. Really stale, a lot of footnotes, and I feel like it didn't do justice to the stories I was reading about, which was about real people struggling. Often they have a socioeconomic disadvantage... struggling to better their lives in a tough mill town.
So I wanted to pass on what I felt were exciting stories. Hopefully to inspire other people to learn more about the city's history, which is still very much alive in the buildings around here.
What does the title Smokestackers mean in the context of the book?
Everett was billed to early investors as Smokestack City, which was considered a good thing at the time. The library has a City of Smokestacks podcast and I was (also) thinking of (the Howlin' Wolf song) Smokestack Lightnin'. Smokestackers was sort of a nonsensical pulp-fictiony word that captured the off-beat stories.
(It made me think) of the working class heroes I wanted to write about.
A lot of Everett history books are out of print. Was this another motivation for writing the book?
Dave Ramstad (from the Everett Historical Commission) gave me some books that the Snohomish County Historical Museum (now the Everett Historical Museum) had published in the early 90s. You can't get them on eBay or anywhere. Some of (these) stories that I'm retelling come from one source and it's just somebody's oral account that's been written down in a book that I've dramatized and put into more of a dramatic narrative.
It seems like you find these really interesting people who have lived here and things that have happened here. Where do you find these subjects and how do you curate all of this history?
It's a lot of reading boring stuff *laughs*. (I want to tell) lesser known stories of people who are women or minorities who are kind of like a footnote, you know?
But drawing out that footnote and seeing like oh they're women and minorities living a hundred years ago. In the case of Betty Spooner, she opened her own dance school basically by hustling. She was a single mother and a widow and she taught dance lessons for money and I want to elevate those stories that have been passed over by maybe... I'm guessing a lot of these histories are written by white dudes *laughs* 50 years ago, you know?
Why did you choose crowdfunding to cover the cost of publishing Smokestackers! A Popular History of Everett?
I feel like I was really writing a story to the community and giving them their folklore. I also didn't want to put together something really crappy. I wanted (Everett artist and member of Sleepover Club) Sierra (Rozario) to do the illustration because she's really good and I wanted nice paper stock.
If you buy this book I hope you hang onto it and pass it on to somebody else.
The Kickstarter — it's almost done, and you've reached your goal, so what are you going to do with the extra money?
I'm looking at maybe doing a larger run, more copies, maybe a nicer cover stock... if I get extra money I'll roll it into my next project.
What's the next project? Is it a secret?
It will probably be more regionally focused. Trying to do (Smokestackers!) on a different scale.
When does Smokestackers! A Popular History of Everett come out?
There's going to be a book launch party in early October.
Donate to the Smokestackers! A Popular History of Everett Kickstarter
(Ends September 3)