The end of World War II meant the end of most defense jobs in the country. Families living in Madison Park found it necessary to find work closer to other job opportunities as Todd’s Shipyard had been shut down.
Growth was slow in the neighborhood but singles began to discover it perfect for affordable living while they continued their education or took up work at blue collar jobs. Students, office workers, bankers and flight attendants populated the neighborhood.
Large, stately mansions were leased to several responsible types who threw parties requiring dress attire and propriety. The invitations spread by word of mouth from selected patrons at the various taverns. This was the thing to do in 1953 and everyone dressed to the nines. Hugh Hefner would be proud.
At one particular party at a house in a ritzier section of Madison Park, wait staff greeted us with champagne and hors d’oeuvres. One thing was missing — people!
Outside nearby we saw familiar folks in an open garden smoking as it was not allowed inside. Smoking wasn’t thought dangerous then, just smelly.
Down in the lowlands many found warmth at local taverns where the inherent friendliness lured steam fitters, carpenters, iron workers, attorneys, doctors and stock brokers. These professionals made just a fraction of the income they make today.
Cutoffs were the uniform of the day to casual parties. Most brought their own beverages, usually six packs. At one memorable kegger everyone was about to fold their tents and the last of the kegs were dry when a guy playing the hell out of bagpipes came from the bedroom followed by wheelbarrows full of beer and wine on ice!
After one party around 1 a.m. we wanted to refresh ourselves and go to the beach. We piled cans of beer and jugs of wine into pillowcases and swam out to the raft pulling the lot behind. Sitting in a circle, we passed the beverages singing Aussie songs like “Roll Your Leg Over, the Man in the Moon!”
A hint of light broke through over Kirkland but a light also appeared in the west. It was the Blue Meanies! An officer ordered us to the beach and said, “Great singing — oddly harmonized!” We stood quietly as he told us a neighbor had called in a complaint.
“Please be a little quieter, OK?” We turned toward the raft.
He added: “By the way, the beach opens soon. You might put some clothes on!”
To that we thanked him and swam back out to the raft.
While our Villa by the Sea was party central, we did sometimes follow the Party Bird who flew elsewhere. Magnolia was the destination, Perkins Lane — there were and are no shortcuts to Magnolia. Any one of interest claiming this locale home was deemed geographically undesirable.
The party was on the water on the western shore on a dark and stormy night. I found the house all aglow with Les Paul and Mary Ford playing on the 78 rpm turntable. That music would put a smile on anyone’s face. Cocktail in hand, rainy weather be damned, it was a great gathering.
I noticed some guys coming in wet from the rain. What was up with that? Upstairs a gal 50 degrees past sober was holed up in the bathroom — no one could get in as the door was bolted. People took to using the facilities outside but the gals had few options.
It was time to visit the great outdoors so with clenched teeth and eyes bulging I made my way. A few were gathered at the end of the porch, while I (in my modesty) walked down near water’s edge and stood by a lawn swing. The surreal quiet suddenly gave way to a wave hitting the bulkhead knocking me right into the soaking wet swing. The only thing that would have made this tolerable was a snorkel. I held tight to my scotch and Puget Sound cocktail and returned to the house.
Back to the warmth it was announced the distressed party goer in the bathroom upstairs was still not out and that bladder damage was running rampant amongst the rest.
Someone from Madison Park announced, “Dick is wetter than wet, plus he’s an ironworker!” Who better to climb two stories in the dark on a rickety unapproved ladder to the roof then climb up the very slippery roof to the unlocked bathroom window?
Being the door was bolted there was little chance of prying it open. So, off I went to save the day. There she was, next to the window passed out on the toilet. I opened the window quietly and said, “Hello, I’m Dick!” No response except for an agonized groan. I squeezed between her, a towel rack and some movable cabinets.
Upon hearing a knock I teased from the back side of the bathroom door, “Can you come back later?” Feeling guilty I opened the door to the kidney brigade.
Afterwards the lovely hostess handed me a brandy in a heated snifter glass to which I thanked her and continued to let the brandy flow. If anyone has pictures, I’m the one in the pink bathrobe waiting for my stuff to tumble dry.
One day the following summer I returned to the same residence to re-party where I told the story to new friends on and around the outdoor swing. Gazing up to the bathroom window I realized that the second floor was higher than I thought. Good thing I had the support of the crowd and some numbing inebriation.
By far the greatest story to ever be retold was the one about the Boll Weevil Stomp in 1966 — a gala so magnificent it was mentioned in the societal column. A plantation owner was to pay our Northwest a visit as he was a leading influence in the development of Boeing in New Orleans and was coming to assist in the commemoration of Boeing’s 50th anniversary.
Colonel Grapevine was to fly via seaplane to a lakeside mansion located very near the Seattle Tennis Club. John Welch, Dennis Young, Bill Dupuis, Dave Wallace, Dave Morse, Charles Manca and Richard Tate planned the notable event. The guys asked me to design invitations and a 4-foot by 30-foot poster with “The Boll Weevil Stomp” printed on it.
It was a warm summer day with a slight southern breeze: perfect for the Colonel’s arrival. Everyone dressed in cutoffs or the latest bikini fashion. Kegs were filled and chilled — all 14! A concession stand was stocked with bags of popcorn. Music filled the air entertaining no less than 400 people who covered the entire lawn to water’s edge.
Buzzing out of the East a huge Grumman Goose seaplane tipped its wings to say hello. As the masses cheered a self righteous salute, two cannons filled with tennis balls were fired over the tennis club. The aircraft circled south and flew east to land in front of the mansion to deafening cheers. There we were bound for the society page — a magnificent social affair surpassing any shindig the tennis club ever laid claim to!
The pilot aimed the two prop driven engines to the water’s edge. Above the main cabin the hatch opened topside and Colonel Grapevine popped up between two drop-dead gorgeous buxom bikini-clad ladies. We saluted them with more rounds of tennis ball bombardment.
Police came by to investigate a noise complaint but seemed distracted by the haps. One lovely lady asked the men in blue to return after shift. One did without his guns and paraphernalia. What a good Samaritan to support us in our Boll Weevil Stomp shenanigans and getting rid of the beer.
For a small neighborhood these parties brought neighbors and friends near and far together promising happy gatherings no matter how big or small. That kind of fun has gone by the wayside replaced by most excellent memories.