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The last bell to ring at J. J. McGilvra Elementary usually meant the summer vacation was about to proceed without a hitch. That first day on the beach meant freedom except for the parents who were there to slather baby oil and iodine on us for protection from the sun. We were tan in three days with that solution! Nowadays, SPF 50+ might reveal a stripe of sunburn from misapplication, but generally everyone stays a pallid white. Compliments like “nice tan” were common, but today complimenting one’s tan is generally not done.

Our parents use to insist we wait an hour after eating a favorite peanut butter and jam sandwich. Even if you were to put one toe in the water, you would curl up and drown right there on the beach! We had to sit quietly to digest and watch the clock on the ferry terminal move oh so slowly.

A positive side of summer was how our pets could really boost morale. There were many dogs and cats who roamed the streets. Vic Myers had a boxer named Timor who attended baseball games on 42nd and Newton just to be around us.

Timor would sit on Madison Beach and wait for us kids to arrive. We all swam to the raft, and he did too. It was Timor’s time to shine. Tossing a beer can full of water toward the lake, he almost caught it midair. It sank some 10 to 12 feet, but Timor dove down, grabbed the can in his mouth, climbed the ladder and dropped it at our feet! “Let’s do that again,” he seemed to say.

The biggest obstacle to enjoying our time off was the nasty little critter heard before seen in the cover of darkness, the dreaded 9 pound Canterbury Swamp Mosquito. We had one defense from the bite: If you were tan, the bug left you alone, but the quest for tender skin was paramount. They seemed to know to crawl under the sheets toward the torso then feast heartily on the medium rare dinner. Certainly, becoming airborne at that point was no easy task.

Hours later, the desire to scratch the itch was of utmost importance in one’s mind. Thankfully, our very own Madison Park doctor, Dr. Harris, suggested a brand-new item called Campho-Phenique, and it worked! One small problem, gravity took over after applying. It was not fun to experience as it crept toward the nether regions. It was better to have the itch!

The city of Seattle knew of the problem, and, for many summers, men in jeeps with tanks on their backs and masks sprayed a white cloud of insecticide between houses and in gardens. The cloud was so thick, you could not see across the street. We were not told if this chemical was harmful. but I seem to have suffered from moderate hair loss.

A favorite dog named Zephyr had a run in with a car and was left with an affected hind quarter. When he wagged his tail, it set him off center, but he was always the leader of the pack. He and his friends would wander into various homes, greet with a smile and leave never resisting a treat. One quiet summer morning we heard a whine. We ran a block away where a crowd gathered. Zephyr was in jail! Animal control got him for having no dog tags. A gentleman from the crowd asked, “What’s his bail?” When the officer yelled the amount, everyone chipped in.

Zephyr’s sentence was cut short, and he went to each of us, whining softly, rubbing us with his nose, and wagging his whole body uncontrollably.

The last pet story needs understanding and compassion! Really! A neighbor and I carpooled to work in Renton, but he moved to be near work. One day he asked, “Want to see my new pet?” Herb was a little on the bizarre side. He pulled a gunny sack from his trunk and held it in front of me. It hissed and rattled so I stepped back. It was a baby rattle snake.

He had bought it in eastern Washington and built a cage for it so all could see “Baby, the Snake.” The CEO of the company was not thrilled that it hissed as he walked by, so Baby was evicted. Herb brought Baby home where Wife had a few words dealing with Baby.

“Baby can live downstairs with a light bulb for heat,” she announced. Every time she went down to do the wash, Baby would get upset. One day Wife told Herb, “Your pet is finally getting used to me — he doesn’t hiss when I do the wash!” Herb was thrilled — at long last harmony. But one day, Baby was gone! No note — gone! Now Wife was beyond upset.

Herb and friends tried to search for Baby to the tune of two six-packs. The conclusion was that Baby had left the basement, but Herb was given the choice of eternity on the couch or move.

They moved.

Our critters come and go, but they can be as beloved as any human. It’s hard to lose the four-legged type. Gnats, skeeters, wasps and such can leave us alone, but let’s hear it for the birds and bees!