May 18 was a clear Sunday morning. So at 8:32 a.m., when the biggest landslide in recorded history sloughed off most of the volcano’s bulging north side, Blackburn probably shot some of the most spectacular photos of the 20th century.
Sadly, neither he nor the film survived the superheated cloud of gas, ash and pumice.
I wasn’t with The Columbian in 1980, and I couldn’t speak to what property we had or could loan, so I quickly turned the email over to my boss, Publisher Ben Campbell, and Reid’s widow, Fay Blackburn, who retired in 2016 after a long career at The Columbian.
I was quickly reminded that we didn’t actually have either of the obviously damaged cameras Blackburn had carried with him that day. In 2019, Fay Blackburn had donated them to be included in a time capsule being placed at the Space Needle in Seattle. It is not to be opened until 2062, which will be the centennial of Seattle’s World’s Fair.
However, we did have an external camera flash, some lens caps and some pens. The photo gear was found in Blackburn’s Volvo a few days after the eruption. Even though the gear was in the trunk, the heat and force of the blast had melted the items together. We also had a melted calculator and a piece of a camera tripod.
The parks department was still interested, and Ben has agreed to make a long-term loan of the artifacts. I’m hoping that they will soon become part of the display at the visitors center.
Talking about homelessness
As you’ve probably seen advertised in our paper, we’re organizing what we hope to be a recurring series of events called Columbian Conversations, where we bring together a diverse panel to talk about community issues with our journalists in a public forum. The first of these is set for 5 p.m. March 1 at the Kiggins Theatre.
If you’re interested in attending, act quickly to get your free tickets at Columbian.Ticketbud.com, as most of them are already reserved. Any unreserved seats will be available starting at 4:30 p.m. that day.
We’ve got a strong panel, and I’ll be interested to hear what new ideas there are now that Vancouver voters have agreed to spend $100 million in extra taxes over 10 years to ease our homelessness and affordable housing crisis. That’s a lot of money to be put toward a big problem and deserves the spotlight.