[Editor’s note: Richard Carl Lehman’s columns on his experiences in Madison Park in the 1950s inspired this author to share his own experiences in the neighborhood from around the same time.]

Our spirits began to pick up on Friday, about an hour before school was out. My friend Henry and I sat in the last row of Mrs. Wilson’s fifth-grade classroom at McGilvra School, eyeing the clock and sneaking glances at each other as we counted down the minutes until the week was done.

When the bell finally rang and we’d stepped outside the school doors, I felt like a leash had been removed.

Walking home on those afternoons, anticipating the weekend, was bliss. There would be basketball on TV on Saturday mornings, Husky football on Saturday afternoons, playing at the lake with my friends on Sundays. 

But those after-school hours on Friday were better than the weekends. They were like a bonus of freedom before the weekends even began.

On some Friday evenings, my parents would give me a couple dollars, and my friend Mike and I would walk to the Ice Creamery, a café and soda fountain in the Madison Park business district.

Mike, who was Catholic, would get an egg salad or tuna sandwich, and I’d have a hamburger. Fried on a grill, with lettuce, mayonnaise and a dill pickle, it had that short-order taste that homemade hamburgers could never match.

We’d finish with Green Rivers, made at the fountain from lime syrup and soda, and chocolate sundaes. It was a meal we could never get at home.


Fishing for bait

Sometimes, Henry and I would go out on Friday after dark to catch night crawlers to fish with the next morning. The best hunting was on front lawns late at night, following a rain.

We’d creep through the dirt mounds with flashlights and coffee cans, keeping an ear out for a front door opening or a rap on a window.

The worms, 6 or 7 inches long, lay partially out of their holes, like they were sunning themselves in the dark. When I’d grab one, it would pull back hard to its hole. They were surprisingly strong, and if they pulled hard enough, I’d let them go, afraid that I’d tear them.

Henry and I would get six or eight apiece and call it a night. 

Using them as bait pretty much assured we’d have good fishing the next day.


Friday-might football

During football season, my dad and I would go to Memorial Stadium on Friday nights to watch Garfield High School football games. With stars like Ardess Hunter and Charlie Mitchell, Garfield was a perennial City League power.

The stadium had a dirt field, and on rainy nights, it was a mud bath. Halfway through the first quarter, the two teams were indistinguishable. When a new player dashed onto the field in his clean, white uniform, the crowd burst into laughter.

I loved the smell that drifted up from a couple of rows below, where hefty, middle-aged men in overcoats gesticulated with their cigars while lecturing their friends on what some kid should have done on the previous play.


Hitting the pavement

When I accompanied my friend Phil on his Friday-night newspaper collections, it was mostly from a sense of obligation. He didn’t like knocking on strangers’ doors every month, asking them to pay up, and I thought I ought to support him by tagging along. 

He’d knock on a door, someone would open it and Phil would say, “Collecting for The [Seattle] Times.” 

Most people would pay; some would even tip, but not everyone. 

Occasionally, someone — usually, a man who looked like he’d been drinking — would say he didn’t have the money and would pay next month. I knew he was lying, that he was stiffing an 11-year-old who had no choice but to say, “OK,” and leave.

I felt bad for Phil, but I also knew I never wanted a paper route.

Sometimes, though, there were compensations. 

One Friday night, Phil knocked on the door of a duplex, and a girl in her 20s answered. She wasn’t much taller than I — slim, pale and somber, in black tights and top, barefoot, with no makeup and frizzy, pale-blond hair.

She left for a minute to get the money, then came back and paid Phil without a word.

I was intrigued and attracted. Even at my age, she seemed exotic, sexy — my first contact with a bohemian-style I’d heard about but had never seen.


A glimpse into the future

Wedged between the end of the school week and the weekend, those Fridays after school were the best times of the week. But, sometimes, they were more than that. 

Sometimes, they’d brush up against the adult world, one where grownups seemed to expect more of kids than kids could deliver, where adults sometimes used power in callous ways.

At other times, though, they’d hint at temptations, stirring feelings I was barely conscious of at the time — a bridge between childhood and a richer, more alluring, but more complicated world to come.

PAUL MICHELSON now lives in Davis, Calif.