|The Evergreen State Class
Having taken over ferry operations in 1951, Washington State Ferries was not terribly surprised to find itself in need of new vessels just a few years into
operations. Most of the vessels in the fleet had been built twenty to thirty years prior and were configured for the smaller, narrower cars of the 20's and 30's.
As cars ballooned to mammoth proportions in the 50's, all the vessels in the fleet saw their capacities drastically reduced.
The first step to alleviate the problem was to purchase the Olympic and Rhododendron. The second would be to add new vessels to the fleet.
Appearing in 1954, taking only 11 months from keel laying to entering service, the Evergreen State became the largest, most modern ferry in the fleet.
Immediately, WSF began replacing the Kalakala as the vessel in the promotional materials advertising the fleet; she suddenly became dated.
The airy, brightly lighted ferry was placed on the Seattle-Winslow run--setting off a controversy that rages to this day with the citizens of Bremerton, who
were used to getting all the new ferries up to that point--and became an immediate success. Passengers used to the Illahee or the much smaller Kehloken
found themselves in the largest passenger cabin on the run at that time.
The ferry was such a success that two more sisters were ordered. Shortly after construction started on the second vessel, the state announced they were
to be named Vacation State and Washington State--and the howls of protest began.
WSF had started a policy of dropping the Native American/Chinook Jargon names for the vessels. Upon arrival on Puget Sound, the Governor Harry W
Nice and Governor Herbert R O'Conor were named Olympic and Rhododendron--not Chinook names, but regional nonetheless. Likewise, the Evergreen
State, which is the Washington's nick-name, also slipped by without too much notice. But the declaration of the other two names--and such bland ones at
that--resulted in widespread criticism. Due to the pressure applied from the major Seattle newspapers and the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society (led by
former Black Ball publicist, William O. Thorniley, whose job with Black Ball had been to rename the new arrivals to the fleet) , the boats were named instead
Klahowya and Tillikum.
The Klahowya, completed in 1958, benefited from being second in the class. A few shortcomings on the Evergreen were ironed out, including a larger
passenger cabin and a smooth texas deck. She was assigned to the Vashon-Southworth-Fauntleroy route (sending up another howl of protest from
Bremerton) where, remarkably she has remained ever since. 2008 marked her 50th year calling Vashon Island home.
The Tillikum arrived in 1959 and took over the Seattle-Winslow run, freeing up the Evergreen State to work the San Juan Islands and become the goodwill
ambassador to Canada, working the International route. She would remain in the Islands with few exception until she was put into "stand by" mothball status in
|The Evergreen State undergoing seatrials in 1954. Author's collection.
|The Klahowya arriving at Vashon in the late 1950's, and the new Tillikum arriving in Seattle from Winslow in the early 1960's. Author's collection.