A beautiful summer day set the background for the Madison Park’s Children’s Parade on July 16, with the essence of Lola McKee hovering over — one could almost see her walking with the kids down the street.

Madison Park memories would not be complete without her.

The Madison Park Hardware store was the center for finding cheap rentals in Madison Park in the ‘50s. Its proximity to the lake, the friendly shops and two of the top-10 taverns in Washington state were the main attractions. The Red Onion drew college kids, as well as the regulars, and the Attic had just opened after a general overhaul. The name alone was intriguing, but the wood barrels for tables, smaller ones for chairs, sawdust floors and free peanuts shells dropped unashamedly were what created its distinctiveness. The two taverns provided plenty of entertainment for the 25-cent schooner set.

I found a place with two brothers and a third person I called “Couchguy.” The three-bedroom was built over water and floated, tied to pilings. There were four other houses also tied to the pilings rented by other singles. The four of us shared rent, utilities and chores. We even had a four-passenger boat with a roof and a lawnmower-sized engine that we cruised all the way to Madison dock. 

We thought it best to set forth some roles mainly pertaining to when one was busy with a particular girl, he should be granted “space.” This worked quite well but there was one Flying Tiger stewardess with too much personality and, by airline standards, really outstanding! We argued over brews and arm wrestling over who would be the one to ask her out. There was no answer from Couchguy as he walked into the kitchen smiling and said he had already dated her twice and was soon to have the third date. It’s always the quiet dudes that say nothing, even during a poker game, then lays down a royal flush. 

One of my roommates dated a stew, nothing serious, just buddies. When not dating each other, they’d see each other at functions. There was word of a dinner party happening, so my friend went to invite his buddy. The door opened, and it was her roommate, and definitely an equal in regard to looks. She said her roommate was flying but that she would go, and why not? It was a great evening and both decided not to mention it to the dating buddy. When buddy got back, they dated as previously, same as ever. This goes on. There were gatherings at the last moment, and he always had a date. Everyone went to everything, date or not. Even with a date one might acquire a phone number here or there. 

One Friday night, my roommate walks into the Red Onion, and there in front is his dating buddy and her roommate sharing a pitcher, smiling and having a good time. A lesson learned by this, even though the two never discussed dating the same guy, was not to place oneself in such awkwardness. Dating more than one at a time had to be done with extreme caution. The stews left for other bases, so the situation resolved itself. 

A nurse living in one of the floating houses was a good friend. One night after work she came over with a couple of Rainiers and noticed I had stitches in my lip. She said she had a kit and could take them out. It was nothing compared to why I got the fat lip and bruised ribs in the first place, which was just part of being single. She had a friend from Madison Valley that she dated now and then, who was married but I wasn’t privy to the details. There we were, standing out in the sun to remove the stiches, and who shows up but this guy. She says hi and goes to her house, and he walks over to me, gets up in my face and suggests I am hitting on her. 

I’m thinking, “Any other time, but not with a lip and ribs on the mend that only hurts when I breathe!” 

So, they left and that was that. Weeks later I secure the big round booth in the old Red Onion with a couple of friends. Sometime between two and three pitchers, the nurse walks in and asks, “May I join you?” “Sure,” we answer. Now our happy group was almost laughing in cadence. 

A bit later, who should walk in but Madison Valley dude — with his wife no less. I wave them over to the booth and say, “Come on, we’ve got room!” He was not smiling and sat next to the nurse with me on the other side. What a happy group. I could not stop laughing; the whole thing was like a play. 

That scenario was typical back then, and certainly not acceptable. Be that as it may, long-time well-established residents and the influx of younger folks melded very well. There was parking for all then with no meters or time limits. 

The coming and going, the leaving and returning, and all the history, Madison Park continues to represent home sweet home.