Walla Walla: The Center of the Known Universe

Whitman is a great place to go to college. It has plenty of things to do any given night of the week on campus, the people are friendly, and the sunsets are spectacular. However, some are a little hesitant to spend 3-4 years of their lives going to college in the small city of Walla Walla. But few know of Walla Walla’s greatest draw: it is the center of the known universe.

A few months ago some family visited me at college, and to pass the time we decided to go to the Fort Walla Walla Museum, home of all things Walla Walla. Walking through the various exhibits we saw many interesting artifacts from Walla Walla, Pendleton and the surrounding area. One of the pieces on the exhibit was of a model of a U.S. Destroyer from WWII. Was this the U.S.S. Walla Walla? No. Was it made in Walla Walla? No, again. It was, however, crewed by a single person from Walla Walla, and the aircraft carrier it defended was captained by another individual from Walla Walla. This led to the model being given its own glass case and notecard, which you can come see if you visit the Fort Walla Walla Museum. 

This got me and my family thinking. If a U.S. destroyer could be given a place in the museum, what other things could be related to Walla Walla. Upon further thinking and inquiry, I have come to the conclusion that Walla Walla is the center of the known universe. Anything you can think of can be traced to Walla Walla, sometimes by only a few degrees of separation. 

If you don’t believe me, let me elaborate. Take for example the Chernobyl disaster, that recently got made into a hit HBO show. That disaster was caused due to unsafe practices in plutonium production, as the USSR tried to make an arsenal of nuclear weapons. This was after the U.S. demonstrated the destructive capabilities of the atom bomb in WWII. The atom bomb was created through the Manhattan Project, which Henry A. Fairbank worked on after gaining his Ph.D. Mr. Fairbank started his higher education at Whitman College, which is in Walla Walla. Had Walla Walla not existed, the Chernobyl disaster might have been averted. 

Walla Walla has been the nexus of happy occasions too. Take for example Gordon Ramsay, master chef, show host, and noted charitable donor. He gives money to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity. Little sick boys and girls get a better chance at life because of Gordon Ramsay’s charity, which is due to his success. In his cooking Masterclass, Gordon Ramsay tells students how to cook the Walla Walla sweet onion. Ask yourself this; without the famous onion, would Gordon Ramsay be as successful as he is today? Would he be as happy?

Even if Walla Walla is connected to Chernobyl and Gordon Ramsay, what does that have to do with you? Maybe nothing. But what about the clothes you own? Have you ever been to a Nordstrom? Do you perhaps own, or have you ever owned a piece of Nordstrom clothing? John W. Nordstrom traveled from Sweden to New York, and then he worked his way across the country and eventually to Alaska, where he made it rich in the gold rush. Walla Walla was the main shipping hub for some of the Idaho gold rush. Walla Walla and Nordstrom both became rich off of the goldrush. Coincidence? Yes. Lots of them. Some might say too many….

If I haven’t convinced you by now that Walla Walla is the center of the universe, then I don’t know what will. 


I poke some fun at Walla Walla’s history and relevance in this piece. I do so kindheartedly, and implore you to look into the city’s interesting history and importance within the stories of America and the world. It is a fascinating one. 


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