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Proclaiming Anacortes Home of the Original Seahawk
By Bret Lunsford
The Mayor of Anacortes, Laurie Gere, will proclaim Anacortes “Home of the Original Seahawks” on February 2, 2015, ninety years to the week from when the students of Anacortes High School claimed the name for their sports teams. It will also be the day after that NFL team from just south of here wins another Super Bowl; those Seahawks took up the name in 1975.
With virtually every northwest news story stressing some connection to those Seahawks, it was inevitable that the television cameras would turn north to Anacortes, where it all started. A KING-5 crew came to town on January 16th to cover the story at the Anacortes Museum and at the basketball game between the Anacortes Seahawks and the Blaine Borderites. At this point, no one in Anacortes has made anything but a historical claim to the name, unlike the “12th Man” trademark tug-o-war. Along with Mayor Gere’s proclamation there is an ongoing effort for more public awareness and Anacortes pride.
Leading the charge for this has been Eric Sundblad, an A.H.S. alum who resides deep in the “Cub Country” of Sedro-Woolley and is often reminded of it by roadside signs. “Why doesn’t Anacortes have Seahawk signs marking their turf,” he asked himself. Beyond that, he had a theory that Anacortes might be able to lay claim to being the original Seahawks, an idea he brought to the Anacortes Museum as a research request in 2013.
The term “Seahawk” arose as a nickname from both avian and literary sources. Strictly speaking, there’s no such bird, in zoological terms. The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is “also known as” Seahawk and Fish Eagle because its talons are uniquely adapted to catching and carrying fish - making it the ideal mascot for a fishing town like Anacortes. For A.H.S. students, initially “Seahawk” had less to do with birds than with cinematic pirates; meanwhile real fish pirates and rum-runners were active in the local waters before, during and after the Prohibition era.
What brought the name to the public’s attention was a best-selling pirate novel by Raphael Sabatini, published in 1915. His book, called The Sea Hawk, was about a 16th century Cornish gentleman who is betrayed by his brother but later escapes from enslavement to become the pirate "Sakr-el-Bahr" or the Hawk of the Sea. This novel was made into a silent film released on June 14, 1924. Within seven months of the film debut of The Sea Hawk, the name had been adopted by the students of Anacortes High School for its athletic teams.
The February 5, 1925 edition of the A.H.S. newspaper, The Anacortes Skyrocket, contained an editorial simply headlined “A Name:”
“Have you ever thought that the A.H.S. teams should have a name? The school has come to the place where such a thing is necessary. There are the Bulldogs, Cougars and Tigers; so it remains for the A.H.S. to complete the list with a distinctive name of its own. We favor the name “Sea Hawks,” because it suggests speed, strength, certainty and fighting spirit.”
This was the beginning of the Anacortes Seahawks, which eventually also became the name of the student newspaper. The school colors—purple and white– actually preceded the Sea Hawk name.
The student association took rapid action, weeding out such names as the Codfish, Hill Billies and the Rum Runners to establish Sea Hawks as the official A.H.S. nickname, which appeared in print for the first time in the February 12, 1925 article about the boys’ basketball team’s game against the Bulldogs of Mt. Vernon. This was the first recorded use of the Sea Hawks in reference to an A.H.S. team. Throughout the rest of 1925 it was used sporadically, and sometimes spelled Seahawks. Nothing was reported on how the name was finally selected, but presumably by a vote of the student association. Did the Skyrocket activists stop after the Seahawk nickname success? Not in the Roaring Twenties; they began their own stadium campaign, lobbying for a gymnasium, so that A.H.S. teams could play on campus rather than the Elks’ (now City Hall) basement.
Sea Hawk fever had taken hold by 1926, and the yearbook declared the “Sea Hawk Number” with a Sea Hawk and pirate theme throughout. All sports teams are referred to as Sea Hawks in the 1926 annual, which has remained the Rhododendron since its inception in 1910. The name of the Anacortes High School newspaper is another story; it was named The Anchor in 1915, The Sky Rocket in 1919, and The Sea Hawk beginning in 1928. Another name change occurred when the High School Store (located at 17th Street and K Avenue) became known as the Seahawk Haven and later the Seahawk Store, operated for decades by the Atterberry family.
Branding was a bit slower back then; it took a few years for the Seahawk emblem to arrive on jerseys and sweaters, notably on those of the Knight Hawks service club, which was “on guard against any dead beats who might try to enter without paying the admission price.” A standout of the Knight Hawks and Seahawks was future hall of fame coach Richard “Boots” Wooten, whose family’s local roots in the Samish Indian Nation extend to time immemorial.
At least one Anacortes resident played a role in the naming of the Seattle Seahawks; among the 151 people who suggested the winning name in 1975 was Deane Brazas, whose father, Alphonse, was a teammate of Boots Wooten in the early days of the Anacortes Seahawks.
“‘In addition to a framed certificate signed by the owners, I received a personalized book about the history of the team,’ said Anacortes resident Deane Brazas. He e-mailed seattlepi.com and shared his story. ‘In addition, I received two tickets to a preseason game every year until Paul Allen bought the team.’”
A more profound origin story has surfaced about the Seattle Seahawks logo, recently illuminated by Professor Bill Holm as a Kwakwaka’wakw transformation mask and currently on loan to the Burke Museum as part of the exhibit Here and Now: Native Artists Inspired on display through July 27, 2015.
The name Seahawk has been treated reverently in Seattle for four decades, and in Anacortes for fifty years prior. But both team’s monikers were hatched in a nest of flippancy. A list of names rejected for our NFL team included Abominable Snowmen, Nibblers, and Rain-Dears; two names that were near-misses for both Anacortes and Seattle: the Flounders and the Crabs.
Eric Sundblad (A.H.S. 1963) is credited for inspiring this story with his research request at the Anacortes Museum; it was written by Bret Lunsford (A.H.S. 1981)
City of Anacortes Proclamation
Anacortes: Home of the Original Seahawks
Whereas, the famous Seattle Seahawks team name was selected by a public vote in 1975; and
Whereas, the student body of Anacortes High School (AHS) voted and chose Sea Hawks as the school team name in February 1925; and
Whereas, this made the Anacortes Seahawks the “Original Seahawks” in the United States and the world; and
Whereas, the February 5, 1925 edition of the AHS student newspaper stated the name “Sea Hawks suggests speed, strength, certainty, and fighting spirit;” and
Whereas, the qualities that inspired the name, and the originality and creative thinking of those students still exists today;
Now Therefore, I, Laurie Gere, Mayor, do hereby proclaim Anacortes
Home of the Original Seahawks
on this 90th anniversary of the selection of the “Seahawk” name and encourage our community to take pride in this distinction.
This 2nd day of February, 2015.
CITY OF ANACORTES
Laurie Gere, Mayor