|CAPTAIN A. F. 'SPIKE' EIKUM|
Aboard M. V. ILAHEE
Washington State Ferries 1931
Williamson Coll 3148-31.
Original photo from
the Saltwater People Historical Society©
It's likely, I think, that every run of the state ferries will have some people making the crossing of Puget Sound to Seattle tomorrow to say goodbye to "Spike" Eikum, the ferries general manager who died this week of cancer. And it's fitting too because all of Puget Sound was Spike's office, and the toots of the ferryboats the background music of his life.
I remember once somebody wanted to change those toots, signals which date back to the old Black Ball fleet, and what Spike had to say about it.
Not that it could be repeated here.
Spike Eikum was the saltiest talking man I ever knew, and I was flattered that he considered me "one of the guys" enough to express himself without pulling his punches.
Oh, he wasn't vulgar –– compared to what appears to be acceptable in today's society, I guess Spike was fairly mild, but he was a fluent cusser.
I once wrote a column about him without giving his name, of course, in which I dealt with the problems created for a reporter by a plainspoken man, pointed out that in the instance of my unnamed friend, I was not accurate in my claim that what appears in my writings with quotes around it is exactly what was said.
Spike didn't even recognize himself in there until I mentioned it to him––he was so used to my doctoring up his statements for a family newspaper that I don't think he even knew when he was swearing.
Before we both got too busy in the last year or so, I used to go over and have lunch with Spike just to catch each of us up on what was going on. We always went to Rosellini's 410, where host Victor Rosellini always stopped by to say hello to old friend Spike, as did many others.
Spike was undoubtedly one of the best-known figures in Seatle, and the best known on the waterfront for his size alone, if nothing else. He was 6'7.25" tall.
He was also known for his fairness. He was tough. Everybody who worked for him in the fleet knew who "the big guy" was. But they knew that just as he wouldn't take any BS from them, they wouldn't get any from him either.
He carried no grudges. He was ready to listen to or help anybody.
He was as dedicated to providing the best ferry service there was as if he owned the fleet himself. And nothing aggravated him more than the petty bickering that goes on between the users of one run and another.
He was fiercely protective of the Bremerton-Seattle run, not just because he'd skippered that one for Black Ball the longest, but as he said, "you're talking about over 100,000 people a month –– what in the hell are you going to do with them. You can't shove them onto some other run. We're in business to serve people."
And where for a long time he was the main stumbling block over serving beer on the ferries, he finally became convinced it wasn't that bad an idea, and it was worth trying to help cut expenses.
It's hard to imagine that someone as big and as vital as Spike Eikum is gone. Spike Eikum was one helluva man and there'll never be another like him." A.F.
1943: Spike Eikum, on the waterfront since age 14, the son of Captain Jacob Eikum, who sailed on Puget Sound for 47 years. Spike went into maritime service in 1943. He was with the Black Ball Line until it was taken over in 1951 by the State. He was ferry captain, staff captain, and port captain.
1951: Captain Eikum became port captain for the Washington State Ferries and later was named operations manager.
1958: He served as Davy Jones for Seattle Seafair.
1966: Captain Spike Eikum was named operations manager for WSF and
1968: named Maritime Man of the Year.
1974, 30 November, passed away. Survived by his wife, son, father, and other family.