So I thought that I had a notion of what the word passion meant until I went on Don Perry’s Underground Tour of Port Angeles. Port Angeles is a small town on the upper left hand corner of the map that actually has quite a sordid past.
The first part of the tour is pretty tame. He does an introduction to the city and explains how the city elders used strip-mining equipment to build up the town. These murals are part of an underground miniature golf course in the basement of a bike shop. Somehow, Don convinced the owner of the store to allow him to cut a hole in her floor in order to gain access to the space. Did I mention that the man is passionate? It turns out he’s persuasive as well.
After that, it’s off to one of the original buildings in Port Angeles’ downtown. Currently, it houses Family Shoe Store. This shop has belonged to the same family for eighty years. Pretty remarkable when stores like Wal-Mart have laid Main Streets to waste countywide.
Aside from being a really nice and complete shoe store, it houses some wonderful elements of Americana. Above the Kiddie’s Korner is a mural of cartoon characters from a now defunct children’s shoe manufacturer. The mural in the back is mechanical and still is able to move.
After he shows off all of Port Angeles’ nostalgic bits, Don takes the tour group to the top of the shoe store. Why? Because that’s where the eighteen room bordello is. That’s right, once upon a time, Port Angeles had a fully functioning house of ill repute.
It seems that Port Angeles was filled with loggers and Navy men. Those fellows needed a somewhere to relax. The place on top of the shoe store was where a guy was charged two bucks to blow off steam as well as some other things.
Did I mention that Don is driven? One of the things that he has been able to do is preserve a two-block section of the old underground. Somehow, he managed to raise somewhere in the neighborhood of two million dollars to do it. I was very impressed, Don. You have done a stellar job of preserving an America that most of us have no idea ever existed.
He’s a fantastic storyteller. If you ever happen to find yourself in Port Angeles, I highly recommend talking this tour.