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Scarecrow on Seattle: FINDING THEA

In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with the Seattle Office of Film + Music to bring you reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest with an emphasis on how these films showcase the region's many filmable locations.

Finding Thea (2006)

As a non-native Seattleite who never had to take a Washington State history class, I will occasionally wonder about the history attached to all those familiar names around town. After 22 years here, I have a working knowledge of most of the big ones--or so I thought. Arthur Denny, George Vancouver, Carson Boren, Peter Puget, Doc Maynard, and Henry Yesler all have major streets or waterways named after them, befitting their status as explorers, founders and city leaders. If you've spent any time on the Puget Sound waterways or in the fine city of Tacoma, you may have noticed another name: Foss. Four simple letters, plain, yet unavoidable. The story behind this name has, until fairly recently, been relatively neglected in the telling of our state's history. In 2006, local filmmakers Lucy Ostrander and Nancy Bourne Haley decided to rectify that, and made a lovely documentary called Finding Thea.

Finding Thea packs a wealth of information into a scant 24 minutes, telling the story of maritime pioneers Thea and Andrew Foss, from their courtship in Norway to their move to Minnesota, and finally to their journey out to the Puget Sound region in the late 19th century. It's one of those great American success stories. Andrew was a woodworker who came to the Minnesota and plied his trade, paving the way for his siblings and fiancee to come join him. Then Thea and Andrew moved west, where they thought opportunities might be better than those in Minnesota. While Andrew was working, Thea bought an old rowboat. She painted it green and white and sold it at a profit. She used the profit to buy more rowboats, and then Andrew used his carpentry skills to add to their growing fleet. Before long, the Foss's had over 200 boats, which they used to transport logs for the growing timber industry.  Later they added a shipyard and boarding house and called the whole enterprise "Foss Launch & Tug." It became a major hub of activity amidst the growing shipping and timber industries in the Puget Sound region. And it all started with Thea's little green and white rowboat.

The beauty of Finding Thea is how it brings this history to life. Through photos, diary entries, and interviews with two warm, informative local historians, Finding Thea reminds us of the rich legacy that Thea Foss and her enterprising spirit brought to the region.

-Mark Steiner

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