The background: Back in the 1940s, Old Captain Peabody ran the Puget Sound Navigation Company, and all of the ferries in Puget Sound. People didn't like him, or his price hikes, very much. (The historical record makes him sound like a bit of a prick—or maybe he was right and the unions were bleeding him dry. Either way, he was not a popular guy.)
On May 1, 1948, the state legislature created the first public ferry district, for Vashon Island. Two weeks later, Peabody threatened to land one of his ferries on the island and put their fledgling system out of business—so the islanders turned out to defend it:
Vashon Island ferry commissioners had received a legal opinion from their attorneys that if the ferry landed, the company would have a right to continue service to the island. The fledgling district was struggling as it was, and felt that they didn’t need the competition.
A group of vigilantes planned on assembling at the ferry dock in order to repel Peabody’s boat. Ferry Commissioner George McCormick, who also owned the island’s hardware store, opened the doors to his business so that those who were not armed could grab ax handles, hoes, pickaxes, and whatever other blunt instrument they could find.
As the Illahee approached the island that morning, the captain saw an angry mob on the dock. Nearing the loading ramp, he yelled out that he was going to land. “No, You’re not!” bellowed the crowd, clutching their farm tools menacingly.
The ferry shifted into reverse, and the crowd relaxed. Wives of the vigilantes plied the men with doughnuts and coffee, and two deputy sheriffs made sure no one would do anything rash. Just then the Illahee lurched forward again, and the mob rushed the boat...
And that, in part, is how our public ferry system was born—with a mob menacing private business with pickaxes and other "blunt instruments."