The Seattle Seafair Pirates Official Web Site - Pirate Kings of the Northwest since 1949  It's a high-humored heist by the Seattle SEAFAIR Pirates. The salty troupe's shenanigans and formidable float, the Duck, have become synonymous with SEAFAIR revelry. The Pirates, originally members of the Washington State Press Club's Ale & Quail Society, banded together in 1949 to promote Seattle and Seafair while having fun and serving the community. Despite their bad-guy image, the Pirates make dozens of appearances annually to hospitals and nursing homes. During the height of Seattle's SEAFAIR Celebration, they appear at several events and parades each day.  The 40+ Pirates are an elite troupe who carefully selects their members based on their ability to mix well with the public and for their unique musical or theatrical talents.

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KINGS OF VILLAINY

      Once upon a time... in 1950, Davy Jones, guardian of lost mariners, called upon the villainous Captain Kidd, king of pirates, to lead his troop of buccaneers in war with the upstart so-called-king Neptune. The battle was joined and each summer has seen a new campaign with no victory in sight for either side. — This has never stopped the Seafair Pirates from simply declaring victory and raiding at will across the Emerald City for a couple of weeks each summer since. From 1950 to today there have been fifty Kings of villainy who have answered imperial summons of Davy Jones and led the Seafair Pirates into battle armed with nothing more than big-hearted laughter, tricks and treats.

     Some of the first captains are unheralded. Their voyages are unrecorded, their high seas adventures forgotten now by all but the thousands of Seattle’s children of who have shared them. — One man though deserves particular mention here. In 1948 Jack Gordon was a leading member of the Washington State Press Club. When the city fathers took the idea of a festival to mark the 100th anniversary of Seattle’s founding to the Press Club, it was Jack Gordon who got the project moving. It was he who coined the name “Seafair,” conceived the battle between Davy Jones and King Neptune and wrote their legend to spread their heroic tale. In short Jack Gordon scripted the whole thing. Needing a few good men to serve as pirates he approached the Ale & Quail Society, a group of young active Press Club members and the Seattle Seafair Pirates were born. — While Jack Gordon never swung a cutlass at the head of our pirate crew, perhaps he should by rights be remembered as Captain Kidd number zero. Because Gordon eventually found himself head of Greater Seattle Inc. running the whole Seafair festival. If any man can be said to have “controlled” the Seafair Pirates then Gordon certainly did, through loyal lieutenants like Captain Ralph Ryder, Captain Don Reed, Captain Bob McCurdy and Captain Bill Beebe. The Seattle Seafair Pirates owe these men a lot. They set up the program we still follow today.

     To be a pirate king is, as the song says, indeed a wonderful thing. But it’s a heck of a lot of work too. Each year during the dark days of winter the Ale & Quail Society chooses a new captain for the next Seafair season. Captain Kidd enjoys both honor and privilege but the responsibilities far outweigh the honor. The Captain is responsible for planning and accomplishing every detail of every public appearance by the Seafair Pirates. He must oversee everything from setting up parades and charitable appearances to making sure the troops don’t overplay their parts and get in trouble. Don’t feel too sorry for the poor Captain though, because for the Seafair Pirates it’s possible to have our fun while getting into, out of, and avoiding trouble. Whatever happens every Captain will tell you that his year in command is the high point of his pirate career. — What follows are reminiscences both by and about the first fifty Captains Kidd.

 

 

1 • ralph ryder • Captain Kidd 1950

 

 

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2 • don reed • Captain Kidd 1951

 

 

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3 • bob mccurdy • Captain Kidd 1952

 

 

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4 • bill beebe • Captain Kidd 1952

 

 

 

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5 • joe mulivrana • Captain Kidd 1953

 

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     This was the year we heard of a trust fund, then worth over an million dollars, set up to ransom British Subjects who were captured by pirates. As a publicity stunt we thought we’d let her majesty’s government know that pirates were alive, well and still practicing their trade in the Pacific Northwest. Well I led the pirates down to “capture” the British consul and pose for pictures. Promoting Seafair was a big part of our program then so we were always trying to get into the papers. Well, we did, the Seafair Pirates made the front page of the London Times, but we failed to get into the local papers! What’s worse we didn’t see a penny in ransom.

 

 

6 • tom chase • Captain Kidd 1954

 

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     Did you know, the Seafair Pirates once had a budget? I’ll tell you the truth. Greater Seattle paid the bills - The pirates had a little checkbook. We’d go into a bar or restaurant. If it hadn’t been “set up,” and most of the time it hadn’t been, nowadays you guys got it set up different - in those days, if it was a restaurant or lounge, in we go - sing a song or two - sit down and have a bite and a couple of drinks - then write out a check and hand it over.

     I was Liaison Officer when Joe Mulivrana was captain and he set me an example of spending pretty free. He got me started in that direction, see? Well, in 1954 we ran up the budget - there wasn’t any place we didn’t go - just said “here’s a little tip for you,” and tear off a check! About half way thru Seafair they called me down to the office. Walter Van Camp said, ”Tom, Do you really have to spend almost $1000.00 a day on food and drinks?” I says, “Does it really add up that high?” He said, “So far. Could you kinda hold it down a little bit?” “Yes, sir,” I said. “So I cut the crew off for almost half a day! — Ed: Affectionately known as the “oldest living thing” Tom has grown into his nickname, he is one of the few founding members left from the original 1950 Seafair Pirate crew.

 

 

7 • dick dennison • Captain Kidd 1955

 

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8 • don clark • Captain Kidd 1956

 

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     It didn't take much talking for Bob Liles to coax me into the Ale & Quail Society. Bob drove a motorcycle for the SEATTLE TIMES. He had a pet monkey. And he made more than I did as a soldier in the ranks of that newspaper's underpaid ad salesmen. The "yes" decision, it's safe to say, ended my last claim to respectability.

     Life as a Seafair Pirate in 1955 was a tonic for a lackluster lifestyle, brought about more by poverty, house payments and three daughters who expected that many square meals a day. I don't remember much of my father's role as Davy Jones in 1950. I was in Juneau and mother, I learned, stormed the bastion (New Washington Hotel). "It's time to go home, Daddy," she said, and a subdued Davy Jones abandoned ship somewhere in his first two or three days of Seafair duty. In that brief interval, his black powder pistols destroyed the overhead (ceiling) in the Captain's quarters of a visiting British Man of War, and, by his very own sword, carved a large "V" in an antique bar that was the pride of the New Washington hotel.

     The original pride and distinction of having been selected to lead the 1956 Pirates quickly wore thin with the awareness of the fact that we were not much liked, nor respected, by Jack Gordon and the Greater Seattle crowd. That we were allotted only pennies as our budget for the 10 days of Seafair. And, that there was no alternative but for Capt. Kidd to scrounge and dig for freebies other than Rainier Brewery's never-ending supply of suds, which we kept cold in a bathtub at the now-abandoned New Washington. That included meals, too. No free lunch.

     Like in my Dad's time, there were no fake weapons. Swords, knives and such were steel. Guns used powder or, sometimes, shotgun shells. We "pinned" girls instead of yanking them onto fire engines like Dad did before cops and lawyers put an end to it. The art of pinning varied with individual talents, but we had real pins and enough to last a week if we used our smarts. My wife visited the hotel, too, but I got a stay of execution.

     Favorites were always the Tom Chase and Weaver Dial "twins" who entertained with flute and concertina. There were fearsome and funny "hunks" like Phil Sprang, baldheaded Bill Durfee and Frank "Cookie" Cook. And lots of varied talents. And then there were the enemies, such as the Commodores and the Lake City Vigilantes. In fact, anyone official! Except the cops like Bill Danbom who led the way for the duck on his three-wheeler.

     I think my wife and I decided, in terms of marriage and a compromised career, to quit Pirating. This sort of thing depends a lot upon the individual. In my case, I decided to give up drinking. I succeeded. On February 9, 1998! - Don Clark

 

 

9 • jim cosley • Captain Kidd 1957

 

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10 • tom gibbons • Captain Kidd 1958

 

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