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Sunday, February 16, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Pacific Northwest Magazine / Now & Then

The Spud Sprouts

Brothers Jack and Frank Alger opened the Spud on Alki Beach in June of 1935. It was the beginning of summer but also the dead of the Depression. At 10 cents for a cardboard boat stuffed with fries and two big pieces of breaded ling cod, the English-born Alger's fish-and-chips serving was affordable, delicious and filling — but only in the warmer months. In late fall, the stand was closed and looked as it does here in this Works Progress Administration tax-inventory photo recorded Oct. 14, 1938.

To either side of Spud in 1938 was a line of small beach homes, a few small apartments, Turner's Shell station, Sea Home Grocery, Seaside Pharmacy, Alki Bakery, two groceries, a barber, a cobbler, a plumber, a tailor and four other eateries — two serving fish and chips. Most commonly on Alki Avenue Southwest were the vacancies, but most importantly for the life of the beach was the Alki Natatorium swimming pool across from Spud, built on pilings over the tides.

After the war the shanty seen here was replaced with a nifty modern plant featuring portholes and SPUD written in big block letters over the front door. Sheltered inside was a counter with four stools. By then there were Spuds at Green Lake and Juanita as well. The family continued to run the Alki Spud until Frank's son Rick decided at the age of 55 that he needed "to slow down and enjoy life more." Recently retiring to build their "dream home" on Hood Canal, Rick and Terry Alger sold Spud to Ivar's.

It was a sensitive and poetic choice. When Ivar Haglund opened his first café in 1938 — a fish-and-chips stand at the entrance to his aquarium on Pier 54 — the Alger brothers helped him. All were West Seattle lads.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

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