The Road Taken | Back in Time

Let’s travel together vicariously – on the road taken – back in time. Come along to see places my great-aunt visited over one hundred years ago on her trip West.

From our twenty-first century vantage point, her photos literally represent a  reminder of … the west...

Hers are pictures of people who were more rugged and adventurous… people living in an environment on the edge of being dramatically changed by progress. Mrs. Alfred Carter’s annotated travel photos provide a glimpse back at how the Tacoma area of the Pacific Northwest looked more than 100 years ago.

First destination: The Tacoma Speedway

In it’s day, this track was considered to be second to Indianapolis. Board track racing was the rage from about 1910 to 1932. Races were held on circular or oval courses constructed with wooden planks. The Tacoma track was built with 2 million board feet of lumber and 15 tons of nails. The boards were gapped with gravel fill in between. A mechanic, Eddie Miller, said of the track:

“(On board tracks) You used to get hit with some terrific blocks and knots of wood. We all came in with pieces of wood bigger than kitchen matches driven into our face and foreheads…Tacoma was worse. You had the splinters and knots and all, but to save on lumber they had spaced out the 2x4s and caulked them with some mixture of tar and crushed rock. When Tacoma began it go it was like a meteor shower.”

Do these photos reveal the beginnings of our fascination and connections with… cars?

(Please click on first image to view a slide show.)

Second Destination: Mt. Tacoma (Mount Rainier)

Topographically, this is the most prominent mountain in the contiguous United States. Located in the Cascade mountain range, the 14,411 high stratovolcano is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. At the time of my great-aunt’s visit, eyewitnesses reported eruptive activity just 21 years earlier in 1894.

Are you wondering about how my great-aunt refers to the mountain’s name? At the time of her visit, folks in the City of Tacoma referred to the mountain most often by its Native name.

Other Names: Tacoma, Tahoma, Tacobah

Captain George Vancouver sailed his ship through Puget Sound in May 1792 and was the first European to espy the 14,000 foot mountain. He named it after his friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier.


He did this in disregard of the infinitely more interesting Native American name, Tacoma. (Since Native Americans have no alphabet, and pronunciation varied from tribe to tribe, the word has been transliterated into the Latin alphabet variously as Tacoma, Tahoma, Tacobah etc.) There are many interpretations regarding the meaning of the word Tacoma. Most of them note that the the word “co” means water in the Lushootseed language, and that Tacoma means “the mother of all waters.” The word beautifully evokes the mountain’s prodigious glaciers, which provide water to the many rivers and lakes in the area. One member of the Puyallup tribe says, “The Earth is our mother and Tahoma gives us drink, gives white water to the land.”

Cut from:  The Clymb

Do these photos herald our proclivity for land development and resource management?

(Please click on first image to view a slide show.)

Curious to see more of my great-aunt’s “Reminders of the West?”

Please enjoy the following short video-

Related Resources:

Paradise Camp
History of Retsil
Tacoma Speedway

19 thoughts on “The Road Taken | Back in Time

  1. What a wonderful trip back in time you’ve created here!
    We enjoyed seeing these photos and video today.
    Thank You Jane!

  2. Jane, what an incredible family treasure. The photos are wonderful. Life looks like it was so much more interesting back then. Thanks for sharing.

  3. What a treasure trove! You come from hardy stock, Jane. Thank you for posting these incredible pictures of a time when my parents were kids.

  4. Your aunt was obviously an intrepid lady, Jane, and what an adventure it must have been!
    (and how strange it must be to look at these and see how much less wild these places have become 102 years later…)

  5. You are very welcome, Jim. It’s great to read your comments. So good to hear from you 🙂

  6. Hello Marie-
    The album is definitely a treasure. My imagination ran wild as details in the original photos were accentuated by my digital copies.
    Happy to know you were captivated as well!

  7. Lindy… I have to imagine these would be photos from when your grandparents were kids!!
    You made a good point…I’d like to be inspired to be as hardy as my great aunt and her companions appear to have been.

  8. I’m not surprised that you lament the loss of wild spaces. It is amazing to me that the tent camp my great-aunt and her friends stayed at was the only overnight facility available at the time. Only a short time later, a lodge with improved amenities was constructed and the tent camp was used to house the workers during construction…

    We haven’t been to Mt. Tacoma/ Mount Rainier yet. I’m moving it up on my list of places to explore!

  9. You are indeed fortunate to have these memorabilia, Jane. We were not so fortunate with what our antecedents kept 😥

  10. As campers, wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have an experience like this must have been? Thank you for your thoughts.

  11. This is wonderful. I love learning about local history, and seeing it through the eyes of a contemporary is fascinating. Thank you for sharing these photos.

  12. Having this particular photo album passed along for our care is an honor. I’m grateful that Google makes finding historical connections become a task with near instant gratification. I didn’t know about board race tracks, Barney Oldfield, the controversy (still ongoing) about the naming of Washington’s grand volcano… I’m in favor of Mt. Tacoma. There are some other photos- Pt. Defiance, Soldiers Home Port Orchard, Lincoln High School in Tacoma- that are also fascinating that are glanced over in the video.

  13. I like the way you put together the video. I’ll have to look into doing that with something. Maybe my stained glass gallery 🙂

  14. Thank you, Maggie. It was easy to do using my iPad. If you have an iPad, I would be happy to share what I know to get you started. 🙂

  15. Maggie, I spent a little time on my laptop playing with the video making feature in Google photos. You can select photos for a video and add music of your choice. However, I’m not sure if it will allow the “Ken Burns” type effects. Perhaps someone with more video production savvy will weigh in on this 😉

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