She looks like a sweet, cheek-pinching grandma, but cross Marjorie Stockham and she’ll put you in a headlock faster than you can say canasta. (Seriously, she’s done it.) Since 1979, the 86-year-old Kansas native has ushered Seattle sports fans to their seats—and drunks to the door—at the Kingdome, Safeco Field, KeyArena, and CenturyLink Field, and she won’t stop until her kids take her driver’s license. This July, the Seahawks’ and Sounders’ home turns 10, and Stockham will mark the occasion the same way she does every other cause for celebration: by making sure no one celebrates too much.
I was working at a record distributor, and a coworker said, “I have to be off at 5 o’clock because I have to work at the Kingdome tonight.” I had just moved to Seattle, and I said, “What’s the Kingdome?” “Well, we play all kinds of sports in there,” she said. I said, “Baseball?” “Yes.” So I said, “Bring me an application.” She did the next day, and I took it in that night. And she said, “Go to wardrobe and get a uniform. You can work tonight.” So I called my kids and says, “I won’t be home until after the baseball game.” I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
A lot of the players used to call me Mom. We’d go out with them after the game and drink pitchers of beer. You can’t do that anymore. They built the new stadium so you can’t get close to the players.
Remember when the ceiling tiles fell? They had to shut down the Kingdome, and the Mariners played the rest of their games on the road that season. But then a couple months later, before they opened the building back up, they called several of us in and gave us a job. Mine was flushing every toilet in the building to make sure they all worked. They were afraid that the contractors had stuffed one of them up and it would overflow. But nope, they all worked. That’s the first time I was ever in a man’s restroom—and I was in every one of them.
There’s no comparison between CenturyLink and the Kingdome. This stadium is beautiful. The Kingdome was never taken care of like it should have been. The plumbing was a problem. The roof leaked the whole 20 years it existed. And it had horrible, horrible food. They weren’t going to waste anything. Sometimes they heated them hot dogs up three or four times, and they was just as gray as they could be before they’d throw them away.
But I bawled when they tore it down. It was March of 2000. I got up early to watch it go down. I don’t know why I wanted to watch, but I did. It was like losing your home. Not many people know this, but I have the sign from my section: 119. I took my hammer and my pliers and I went down there when we were inventorying stuff and took it. I have several pieces of the cement, too. They’re in my rock garden.
There were two years when I took a break from the Seahawks, for the simple reason that I had breast cancer. But at the same time they were building the new stadium, which obviously wasn’t a dome. The Kingdome was a wonderful place to work because the temperature was always an even 72 degrees. I don’t think I would have come back if they couldn’t guarantee me I could work inside. My momma never raised any dummies.
Sounders fans may be a problem, but I never see them. Once that game starts, they get to their seats. And I know when it’s halftime because they all run to the restroom. But Seahawks? There’s drunks running in and out all day long and really giving you problems. You’re battling them the whole time.
It burns me up when I hear my coworkers talking bad about the players. When you’re accepting a check from them, you keep your mouth shut.
Everybody says I run too tight a ship. I don’t put up with nothing. If I got somebody in my aisle that’s acting up, I’ll tell him, “You’re going to be warned once. The second time, the cops are going to come get you. And that’s it.” And I keep my word. Nobody intimidates me.
I never thought I would ever get into sports like this. I used to get so angry when my husband would watch football for five or six hours a day. I’d have to leave the house. I thought, My god, can’t you get up and do something once in a while? You sit in that chair all damn day. We’re divorced now.
Most people just consider this a job. Or they took it to watch the games. But I’ve made friends with so many of the fans. At first they say, “There’s our favorite usher.” Then you start learning their name. Then, next thing you know, you’re talking about your family and they are, too. Some of these people came to my daughter’s wedding. They came to my son’s funeral. The thought of not seeing them is the thing that keeps me from quitting. Maybe you have to get as old as I am to develop that kind of relationship.
I wish I had kept a journal from the time I started. I could have wrote a best seller.