(This was previously published in the October issue of Madrona News. It is reprinted with pemission.)
Conley Hats has, after 23 years, left Madrona. We have truly enjoyed our shop on 34th Avenue. We have experienced the many wonders of Madrona. We have seen many children born and grown up in this area. We have seen them blossom into mighty warriors for mankind.
I'm the owner of Conley Hats, and I came to this area as an actor at the old Black Arts West Theater at 34th Avenue and East Union Street (now glassybaby). Back then, Seattle had a summer program that employed kids at the theater. I helped many Madrona kids get summer jobs. It was such a breathtaking program for actors like me. The kids often could not remember our real names, but they could always remember the name of the last character they saw us portray in a play. The kids worked around the theater in the daytime and would often come watch us rehearse at night.
We did lots of shows that involved the audience. The shows were usually on Friday and Saturday nights. Kids would come to the shows, look up at the entrance desk and ask, "Mister, how much for kids?" We would tell them "50 cents," and they would run away and soon return with 50 cents. They were so cute.
Some of those kids grew up to become doctors, lawyers, professional dancers, actors and wonderful mothers and fathers. I've seen some of them around the neighborhood with their own children. What a marvelous feeling to see them and to think back to the days when they were small kids around the theater.
Upon coming to this area as an actor, at the Old Gene Keene Theater (which was the first theater at the Black Arts West Theater/glassybaby location) I never dreamed that I would settle down here as a hatter for the next 25 years. This area is absolutely magic. Some of the most fabulous people in the world are in Madrona. For me, this has truly been a love relation.
I was one of the original Chattanooga shoeshine boys of 1945 - Glen Miller wrote a song about us shining shoes. We loved our hats and shoes. We often wore coveralls, but our hats and shoes had to be totally pristine.
I was a shoeshine boy in a parlor that also contained a hatter and a cleaner. A gentleman could come to this parlor and pick up his hat, get his shoes shined and sit in the backroom and sip an effervescent drink while waiting for his pants to be pressed. That hatter taught me to be a hatter mostly because he used me to carry notes to the ladies on the street out front. Soon I became indispensable, and so he taught me the trade well in order to keep me there. And therefore a hatter was born.
I imagine that old hatter could not in a million years figure that his love for the ladies could never, ever, touch a community 3,000 miles away in a community called Madrona.
I will never forget Madrona.
I have moved my shop to my house, only seven blocks away. I am still in business so please come see me. My home is at 913 27th Ave., between East Spring and Marion streets.[[In-content Ad]]