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Mossback’s Northwest

How Seattleites Navigated Downtown Before GPS

No one knows where it came from, but the people using this mnemonic device knew where they were going.

December 10, 2018

At some point or another, every Seattleite hears this phrase: Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest. But what the heck does that mean? Well, it’s a mnemonic device, the kind of thing someone makes up to remember something. In this case, it’s the sequence of east-west streets that make up the city’s downtown core, from Pioneer Square to Belltown. The first letter of each word represents two streets, going from south to north: Jefferson and James, Cherry and Columbia, Marion and Madison, Spring and Seneca, University and Union, Pike and Pine. The era of mobile phones and digital mapping have made the device less important, but many Seattleites still carry it around in their heads, a remnant from a very different time. In this episode, Mossback explores the mystery about this phrase and attempts to divine its elusive origin.



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Eric Keto

From the Oregon Coast to the North Slope of Alaska, Eric enjoys telling stories from the western edge of the country. His nonfiction video work has been featured on The Atlantic, PBS NewsHour and Alaska Public Media.

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Knute Berger

Knute Berger is Crosscut’s Mossback. Born and raised in Seattle, he writes with his own Pacific Northwest perspective. He also writes the monthly “Gray Matters” column for Seattle magazine where he is editor-at-large, and is an occasional commentator on KUOW-FM’s “Week in Review.” He is the author of two books: Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice and Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the official 50th anniversary history of the tower. He was writer-in-residence at the Space Needle and has had a cocktail named after him at Ivar’s. You can email him at knute.berger@crosscut.com or follow him on twitter @KnuteBerger.

More stories by Knute Berger