Diver down at Madison Park

Our summers were filled with as much activity as possible. Kids who experienced the ordeal of losing loved ones to the war hung together, kindred souls finding support from each other. It created a special bond between us.

All the wealth we gathered playing "penny-nickel-dime" was not making a dent in the ultimate goal of buying a boat. It was amazing how everything stopped when someone steered a craft near the dock. We dreamed of seeing points beyond the dock by way of a water vessel.

Then mowing lawns began to pay off, with Mom matching my earnings. While walking along on the beach in what is now the Canterbury area, I spotted the yacht of our dreams. The craft belonged to a kid named Floyd who lived in the Edgewater apartments. It was the perfect size. No stateroom to vacuum, no big diesel engine to maintain. All 13 feet of it, with a 20-hp Johnson motor, for sale for a mere $75.

Checking my capital and forgoing new school clothes, I went for the boat. My buddies and I caulked and painted it, giving it new life, and removing the center seat gave it a spacious look where we could stretch out in luxury.

We cruised the shallows off Edgewater, gazed steadily into the clear water and dropped anchor if anything looked interesting. Skin diving expertise allowed us to inspect several boats that had been scuttled around the Montlake cut after World War II. We were unable to stay under water long enough to explore thoroughly. So I came up with a plan.

Water-skiing wasn't as popular in those days, but board surfing was. When given the chance to try the sport, I found that if I stood close to the front of the board it dove under the water. This was the answer. We were going to have a sub!

A construction site provided us with the perfect board. After rounding off all the corners with sandpaper and drilling two holes to attach a long rope, we were ready.

We attached the board to the boat with a 20-foot rope. Taking the first turn on our maiden voyage, I leaned forward on the board. The boat took off slowly and I dove down to the point where I could no longer hear the motor. It was a quick descent, leaving ample air in my lungs. Passing through the thermal layer, the seaweed brushed against my face as I sailed across the sandy bottom.

One of our dive spots called for an underwater look-see at an interesting bulging sack. It was full of old blue bottles and some containers with labels still on them. One was a can of maple syrup shaped like a log cabin.

One big find was a full bottle of whiskey. We passed it around our craft and smelled it, seeing who would take the first drink. No takers. It smelled real and that was enough.

There were old wooden ice boxes tossed to the deep, as new, modern electric refrigerators had become the norm. I have seen those ice boxes in antique stores selling for $600 or more. Who knew?

Old car parts were plentiful, and on one dive we found a gigantic saw blade attached to logs; it must have been related to the old logging operation in the area.

Near Monkey Island in the cut we found a huge, white boat half-submerged in the muck at the bottom. Even with our new invention it was too deep, so we just viewed it from afar.

By the looks of where garbage landed, people didn't bother to row out very far to discard it. Most of the refuse probably sank deeper into the silt, or was more expertly mined for its worth, or perhaps it was lifted out during the construction of I-520.

What I know is, when my wife and I attempted to find some of these riches diving with the proper attire, all we found before we gave up was deep silt, one or two old bottles and some sunglasses. We really wanted to find the old coal car, but every time we kicked our fins the cloud of muck blinded us. It was an effort in futility.

Others have attempted the same dive, and I wonder if anyone has had better luck. Surely there are treasures yet to be discovered uncovering more tidbits on the history of Madison Park.

Longtime Madison Park resident Richard Lehman can be reached at mptimes@nwlink.com.[[In-content Ad]]