Kirkland, the way it used to be

This past May, Paula Riggert interviewed George T. Harris Jr., a Kirkland resident since 1950, for the Kirkland Heritage Society's Oral History project.

Paula Riggert: Can you tell us a little about when you came to Seattle and the Kirkland area?

George Harris: Yes. We first came here to live in Houghton several [years] past 1949, I guess it would be. We were living in wartime housing over in Seattle at that time-near Sandpoint-and I was a student at UW. Lakeview Terrace in Houghton had been built during the war, and veterans had priority in acquiring the housing. It seemed a good opportunity for us. We applied and were accepted there at Lakeview Terrace and moved in March 1950.

That was a very hard winter-the house that we had moved into had been empty, and the plumbing had frozen. We nailed blankets up on the wall to keep warm. We had our firstborn, who was about a year old at the time. We kept him in his snow clothes all day, inside the house, because it was that cold. There was snow on the ground early that winter. It was snow conditions on the pass, and the plows had piled the snow in Cle Elum higher than the car.

PR: What was your house like then?

GH: Well, we had to get some things fixed up. Almost everybody at Lakeview Terrace did some remodeling. We were all do-it-yourself type of people-we didn't hire anything out. I remember a lot of us were up at Seward Heights when they tore it down, getting bricks and materials we thought we could use. You paid and loaded materials up yourself, and took them away yourself. Like a U-pick operation for strawberries or something. A lot of the Seward Heights material ended up around in local houses.

The houses were in a way similar to the developments today where one developer puts in houses that all have the same style. Ours was a two bedroom house, but the bedrooms were quite small. The house itself was probably around 600 or 700 square feet. Not real large, but we were glad to be there.

PR: What were your neighbors like? What other people lived in the neighborhood then?

GH: Well, we didn't know many other people there at first. We did eventually get acquainted with other young people, most of them veterans like us. Some of them are still there-practically 50 years later. There wasn't a whole lot of social interaction, but they were all friendly people.

PR: How did you get to your studies at UW from Kirkland?

GH: Oh, well, we had the '37 Chevrolet and that, but we didn't use it. Gas was about 24 cents a gallon, and we were on a tight budget. I usually took the ferry that ran over from Kirkland to the end of Madison. It was 10 cents for a student fare at that time. Then I walked down from Madison, down through the arboretum and out to the university. I don't remember ever taking the car over to UW at that time. It was always the ferry or the bus.

PR: What was the rest of Kirkland like when you moved in?

GH: Let's see now. I remember the first time we came to Kirkland, which was probably in '49-the year State Street was paved. It was a two lane street with dirt on both sides. A lot of people in Houghton had chickens, so there were chicken coops around. The town had several major stores, like McEvoy Rogers, the old lumber company. It was a very important place for us, and for a lot of young people who were buying their lumber there. Richardson's Five and Dime was important to the town, too. And the Penney's was right next door to it. They still had their cables at that time, where if you made a purchase down on the main floor, the clerk would put the money and the receipt in the little capsule and it went up the cable, up to the balcony where someone else would record it. Then there was the Halversen Drug Store on the corner, where I think Hallmark Realty is now. And then across the street, where the jewelry store is now, was Coleman's drug store.

PR: Where did you do your shopping?

GH: Elves' grocery was up there in Houghton, by the railroad tracks. It was an interesting place. The Elves' people had several boys. The old folks operated the grocery store during and after the war, then the grown children tried to expand and make a kind of shopping center there, which was going for a while. It was where the Houghton Shopping Center is now. In September when the Yakima tomatoes came in you could get a crate for 99 cents. We did our own canning. JoAnn, my wife, was very into canning, like a lot of the young housewives at the time. The WPA built a cannery on 6th, where they have smoked salmon and such now. Back then it had big vats for cooking peaches and pears and canning sting beans and everything.

PR: Did you have a lot of social activities in the neighborhood? Did Kirkland have a 4th of July celebration?

GH: I don't recall Houghton doing any of those things, but Kirkland did have their Strawberry Festival Days every summer. It was a big local event. The fire engine was always part of the parade, and the kids in their wagons or on their trikes with red, white and blue bunting. They used to have a few old cars, and people dressed in vintage clothes from the 1890s would ride in the cars. Firemen would shoot hoses from opposite sides at a tire that was suspended on a wire down where Marina Park is now. There were some other water activities. I know that once they had pig races, but that was before our time, back in '48. It was a nice, small-town thing.[[In-content Ad]]