May 21, 2001
Remembering Emmett Watson
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
For over 30 years, beginning in 1956, Seattle residents turned to Emmett Watson's column in the P-I to find out what was happening in their city. For six days a week, Emmett wrote about night life, politics, sports, celebrities and anyone and anything he thought his readers might be interested in.
When Emmett moved his base of operations to The Seattle Times in the 1980s, he continued his popular column, scaled down to once a week, until the newspaper strike last November. He was anticipating returning to work when he died from complications of an aneurysm May 11 at age 82.
Emmett was truly the voice of Seattle. But not many know that he spent part of his boyhood on what is now Remlinger Farms near Carnation.
Emmett, born in Seattle on Nov. 22, 1918, lost his mother and a twin brother in the following year's worldwide flu epidemic. His father, who couldn't care for the one-year-old, gave him up for adoption to a West Seattle family, who moved to the farm during the Depression.
Emmett wrote of those times in his 1982 autobiography, Digressions of a Native Son.
"I hated my dad's farm," he wrote. "My father ... was a bear for work. He had bought this farm ... and he tried to stave off the Great Depression by being his own man on his own land. He ... believed that a farm should be a proud place ‹ a place where you lived independently of outside needs.
To this end, I could be trusted with gathering the eggs, milking a cow, bringing in wood, or doing any of the 'chores' that required no long attention span. But my heart wasn't in it."
Emmett, while performing those "tedious" tasks, daydreamed or listened to baseball on the radio. Eventually, his father lost the farm to the bank, and the family moved back to West Seattle where Emmett sold newspapers on the street corners.
After graduating from Franklin High School, Emmett attended the UW where he played on the baseball team. He was drafted by the Seattle Rainiers, but was with the team only briefly due to his inability to hit a curve ball.
He began his journalism career in 1944 at the Seattle Star, moved to The Seattle Times, then to the Post Intelligencer, before going back to The Times.
I met Emmett in the mid- 60s, when he was learning to fly seaplanes at Lake Union Air Service. He wrote often in his column about the joys and satisfactions of learning that challenging skill during middle age.
Flying grew to be a passion with him, but he had another weakness ‹ oysters. He wasn't long into his flying lessons when he learned there was an oyster farm on Hood Canal. To him, the Canterbury Oyster Farm in Quilcene was the mother lode. It soon became his favorite destination.
I flew with him many times on his trips to pick up his favorite snack. Of many memories of those good times, two stand out ‹ him chasing me with a raw oyster, trying to get me to "just try it," and watching him talk on the phone.
He was hard of hearing and it was fascinating to watch him speak with the earpiece to his chest, where he wore his hearing aid.
He continued flying and finally bought his own plane, sharing with his readers the many trips and adventures he took with his best friend ‹ his beloved poodle, Tiger. In all, he had three "Tigers," who were also often column material.
Columnists have a tendency to share their lives with their readers in print, and Emmett was no different. He let us know what he thought, what he did and what was important to him, and we are all the better for it.