Blue Angels


I was taking a much-deserved post-run nap this morning. Suddenly, I was ripped from deep slumber by the incredibly loud, house-shaking sound of roaring jet engines right overhead. "Please let it miss the house when it crashes!" I thought as I imagined a passenger jet from SeaTac airport crashing nearby any second. My heart nearly jumped from my chest.

Two years after a lightning bolt hit a neighbor's house in Idaho with an incredible, earth-shaking BOOM, burning it to the ground, I no longer assume such disasters always happen elsewhere!

Then I remembered: it's Seafair Weekend in Seattle, when the Blue Angels come to perform over Lake Washington.


Nap over, I went onto the deck. While I could hear the jets to the west, continuing their practice runs, trees prevented me from seeing them. I'm sure the single jet that woke me so jarringly had peeled off from the rest during some dynamic group roll maneuver.

All just part of the show!

Finn was nearly as alarmed as I was. The girls, perhaps remembering the sound of the Blue Angels from their earlier years in Seattle, kept snoozing, hardly lifting their heads.

Seafair, and the official Blue Angels air show over the hydroplane race course, is tomorrow. The Angels practice the Friday and Saturday before, between 1:00 - 2:00 PM, closing the I-90 floating bridge over the lake between Bellevue and Seattle as they run through their aerobatic routine.

I grew up on this stuff.

My Dad was a Navy Cadet pilot in WWII, then a Boeing test pilot. His younger brother followed him to Seattle and also became a Boeing test pilot. Yet another of the small group of test pilots from that early jet era - Brien Wygle - raced unlimited hydroplanes at Seafair and elsewhere for a couple of years in the 1950s, when I was very young. Needless to say, airplanes and Seafair were a big deal in our family. In many Seattle families.

I remember our entire neighborhood in Bellevue's north end gathering at the tip of our cul-de-sac, overlooking a portion of Lake Washington near Kirkland, to watch Blue Angel practice flights. Families brought lawn chairs, snacks, and binoculars for the annual free show. (In later years they moved their practice route to the present location over the I-90 bridge, farther south on Lake Washington.) Then, on Sunday, my family and my uncle's family would gather, draw bits of paper with the name of one of the hydros from a bowl, and cheer for "our hydro" as the race unfolded on TV. Some years, my uncle would take us out on his boat, tying up on the log boom to watch the hydro races up close along with thousands of other boaters.

A uniquely Seattle experience.

If you grew up in Seattle in the 1950s, in addition to J. P. Patches you probably remember towing hydroplanes made of plywood behind your bicycle, tied with a length of string. My dad would use wood scraps, cutting out the shape of a hydro, then adding a couple of fins on the front bottom and a tail on the rear top. We'd then each paint our hydro, maybe adding the racing number of our favorite boat (Miss Budweiser, Hawaii-Kai, Atlas Van Lines, Miss Bardahl, Slo-Mo-Shun were just a few; the drivers were like rock stars). An eye hook on the tip of the nose allowed us to attach the hydro's string to our bicycle seat posts. My brothers, always looking for ways to make games more exciting, would create jumps out of plywood sheets propped on 2 x 4 boards. Gathering speed on our bikes, we'd rush past the jump, turning at just the right moment so the hydro swung out in an arc, hitting the jump and flying through the air. (The landings weren't always pretty, but then, the real unlimited hydros flipped and crashed when they raced, too.)

Later, that skill came in handy when we graduated to waterski jumping.

Ah, growing up in the 1950s suburban Bellevue and Seattle, when there was little traffic and playing in the street on your bike - or a game of kick the can - was heaven. Pretty damn perfect. While we always had a dog back then, as did many of our neighbors, dogs who roamed freely through the cul-de-sac, I don't see them when I visualize these memories. Maybe they stayed inside, avoiding the noise of wooden hydros scraping on pavement as we flew on our bikes.

[Web site where the photos were found on the multimedia page which offers screensavers and wallpaper photos: Blue Angels]