Lehman
Lehman

Growing up in Madison Park was truly extraordinary. There were more neighborhoods in Seattle back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, but only Madison Park has stood the test of time. 

The children were free to explore the wooded areas like Canterbury, swim in Lake Washington, play baseball in the street and so on. We had to make the fun happen as opposed to staring at our iPhones.  The one thing we all agreed was missing in our Villa by the Sea was a movie theater. 

A rumor started in the ‘50s that a theater would be starting up. Madrona and Capitol Hill had one; why not Madison Park? Sadly, it never came to pass, so we concentrated on developing our imaginations and appetites.

There was no full-service restaurant yet, but we had plenty of fast-food businesses like Ella’s Café on 43rd. Ella’s served the perfect hamburger — one you could actually pick up with both hands and take a normal bite out of. Burgers today are tasty, but some you need a shoehorn to get it in your mouth.

Around the corner, west on Madison was the Quality Café that served a hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes piled higher with gravy. Soups and pies were the other mainstays. There were only two taverns — the Red Onion and the Attic — serving mostly bar snacks like cashews or pickled pigs feet. Between them was a dime store where the owners, Bill and Ada, sold glasses and bar supplies to the various establishments. 

West of that was and still is the Madison Park Bakery, where each morning coffee and fresh pastries were sold. The coffee was 10 cents and refills 5 cents, except if you were a regular, and then the refills were free. Down the street was Ken Lindley’s Drugstore lunch counter, and west of that was Broadmoor Drugs. Here you could find homemade soup and sandwiches, not to mention the double scoop of hot fudge over two scoops of ice cream, whip cream and a maraschino cherry on top.

Further west was the Broadmoor Café that served fast food to the Broadmoor Tavern next door. These two places, as well as the Purple Poodle (where McGilvra’s is now) closed in the early ‘50s.

Up near McGilvra and Madison, Mr. Hamblin had a lunch deli and served a great corned beef sandwich.  It took a while to put it together, but it was well worth the wait. 

In the late ‘40s renters in the area worked at Todd’s Shipyard in Kirkland, and got there by way of the ferry at the end of Madison. When the war was over those folks moved elsewhere to be closer to other jobs, and Madison Park lost a large amount of its population. 

Soon folks got wind of what an affordable paradise this was, and our quiet neighborhood became inundated with single people: College students, office workers and, oh yes, flight personnel. The Pacific Northwest was a base for many airlines like, Flying Tigers, Pan Am and United. All those vacancies were filled and overnight the two taverns were on the top-10 list in beer sales in Washington state.

It was now an official singles neighborhood but best to keep it a secret. Still, there was no full-service restaurant.

I bartended at The Attic ,which was making an attempt to imitate a real restaurant. One evening a friend and a date came in, sat at the bar and ordered beer.

My friend says, “I’ll have your steak sandwich.” 

“Very well,” I said, “Great to have you dining with us.” 

I proceeded to fold two paper napkins, placed them with plastic silverware in front of them and before their very eyes slipped a steak sandwich in the toaster oven next to the cash register.

“Would you like a wine with dinner?  We’re serving an aged Thunderbird (the gum label was almost dry) with a twist -off metal cap for freshness. Also, may I suggest a 7-Up to smooth the finish?” 

My friend declined but his date accepted the wine. I smiled, as any sommelier would do, and poured the drink about the time the toaster bell rang announcing the meal was cooked. 

The aroma of the sandwich and burned cellophane raised the anticipation of the entire process. Mustard, ketchup and all the accouterments really made the meal. I toasted them with a bottle of Heineken.

Fast forward to the early ‘60s.  The Crepe de Paris opened, and it could be called our first full-service restaurant (where Park Place at Madison Park is now) except for no hard liquor. French food is all about quality not quantity, so your stomach wouldn’t be full and your wallet empty. It was always followed by a peanut butter fold over at home. 

To be …