Tacoma has museums, photo archives at the library, and many websites dedicated to preserving its history. However, a truly invaluable way of learning about the history of a city you love is talking to someone who actually lived it. One such person in Tacoma is Bob Piatt. Bob is a charming 81 year old man who has lived Tacoma through its last eight decades. If you are fortunate enough to talk with Bob, his enthusiasm about Tacoma’s history can only make you love our city more.
Bob’s enthusiasm for Tacoma began long ago. In the late 1940s he created a small local paper called The Tacoma Bulletin at the ripe old age of 12. The Tacoma Bulletin was not the simple childish project you would expect from a 12 year old boy; it was a well written and informative publication that easily looked like it could have been put together by a team of adults, not just a young boy.
While only in middle school, Bob had a passion for news and media and took his work seriously. He would make about 100 copies of his paper using a an old-fashioned copying apparatus called a Hectograph. He recalls it took hours and hours of work for him to write, arrange, type and copy the paper, but he kept going because it was fun and he loved doing it. An added bonus was that some of his teachers at school would just let him turn in his newspaper instead of the assigned writing assignments at school.
Bob distributed his paper by riding around on his bicycle and handing them out. He even got local businesses to buy advertising space for 25 cents. For two years Bob put out his paper every single week! He wrote about local events and how national issues such as the increase in postage prices affected Tacomans. He had little weekly segments like the “Housewives Weekly Helper” where he shared a recipe of the week and tips on housekeeping. He had jokes and quizzes and even a segment encouraging people to give generously to the Community Chest to raise money for community projects. He says he really enjoyed writing about his own personal interests as well, such as wrestling and radio.
Bob’s love for news and the media continued throughout his life. He went on to be a radio announcer during his time in the air force and continued to have a career in radio, and then television. Now he is a fountain of knowledge about tacoma and its history; he especially loves the history of the old theaters. Pick any building in Tacoma and Bob can probably tell you something interesting about its history. Even at 81 when you talk with Bob, it’s easy to see that passionate young boy who loved Tacoma so many years ago, and that is far better than any history book.