Snapshots of Mother’s Day in Tacoma History

Sorry to make your hanging basket and brunch date look bad, but the bar for great Mother’s Day gifts in Tacoma was set pretty damn high decades ago.

Here we take a look at snapshots of what Mother’s Day has been like in Tacoma history, including one son who took a big plunge to impress his old ma.

Women in 1943 celebrated their second wartime Mother’s Day. According to the Tacoma Public Library’s Northwest Room, during WWII “hundreds of local mothers took jobs in Tacoma’s industrial plants to help the war effort.

“Women employees like these photographed at the Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Co. helped the company that year achieve the coveted ‘E’ pennant for efficiency in production. During the war, much of the American work force was composed of women who had replaced the thousands of men serving in the Armed Forces.”

Here we see lunch being served on May 8, 1943, for wartime working mothers who were separated from their service men.

Mother’s Day 1950: Mrs. Florence D. Smith, of 4208 No. 27th St., poses with a basket of spring flowers. The longtime resident and widow of the minister of Mason Methodist Church was being celebrated as the mother of 10 sons, 4 daughters — and for being grandmother to 29 grandchildren.

In 1956 Tacoma distance swimmer Bert Thomas climbed out of the Puget Sound to give his mother a hug, having successfully swam from West Seattle to Old Tacoma.

Determined to complete the swim on his third try as a belated Mother’s Day gift for his mom, Bert Thomas made it 18.5 miles in 15 hours, 23 minutes. The water temperature was 46 degrees.

For Mother’s Day of 1931 the Federal Bakery at 1107 So. “K” St. (which is now Martin Luther King Jr. Way) displayed celebratory Betty Crocker’s cakes. The cakes sold for as low as 65 cents apiece. The McPherson family operated at this location since 1889.

In the 1950s (images below) K Street business owners and boosters put up a “Shop K St.” neon sign to attract customers. The Federal Bakery and other nearby shops were demolished in 1998 to make way for a new Rite Aid store.

Special thanks to the Tacoma Public Library’s Northwest Room.

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