Past Lives

Be My (Blackout) Valentine

By Eric Scigliano January 14, 2011 Published in the February 2011 issue of Seattle Met

ON DECEMBER 7, 1941, Japanese planes pulverized the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The next day panic reached the mainland, in particular the Pacific Coast, where the next attack was expected. To foil bombers, a total blackout was ordered between the Mexican and Canadian borders. It was unnecessary in Seattle, where rain provided an antiaircraft screen. But, as Feliks Banel recounted on, that didn’t stop avowedly “patriotic” vigilantes from heaving rocks at a neon sign and illuminated clock. Shouting “Turn them out!” and “This is war,” they smashed windows at Friedlander’s Jewelry, which displayed electric candles, and the Drew English Shoe Company, where a night-light glowed in back, then began looting. P-I photographers meanwhile fanned out to capture the blackout in pictures. One lucked on this decisive moment between a sailor and a girl in a nameless cafe.

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