Madison Park underwent a vast change in the late ‘40s. The once thriving restaurants that served hearty meals for those working on the war effort started to shut down or move. Many university students and office workers took advantage of the cheap rents due to the vacancies of these folks who moved, trying to find work elsewhere.
Riley’s on 43rd and Madison closed when the Leschi ferry made its last run in 1950. The Quality Café closed and, after a long vacancy, became the Attic Tavern. Broadmoor Café closed, and even the drugstore lunch counters stopped serving food. Ella’s remained open and continued to serve a great burger.
Word was spreading fast. A caravan was moving in! (no, not that one!) Tall, single flight attendants were coming in droves!
I remember being invited by a Flying Tiger attendant to see her new dwelling. It was located in the alley between 43rd and 42nd. A schoolmate of mine from J.J. McGilvras had lived there during the war years with his mom, dad and many sisters. The rooms were divided by sheets and blankets, to give some semblance of privacy. It was remarkable how this dwelling had been transformed with a woman’s touch.
Many garages became rentals. One such garage still exists just north of the Attic in the alley. My friend Valerie, who was studying law, paid $40 a month there. It’s a bit weather-beaten, and it’s odd that it still stands.
Walking along 43rd in the ‘50s, taking a right on Madison, Herb Nyquist would be in his meat market open to the street, and always said, “Hello.” Next was Jaffee’s Shoe Store, which kept all of Madison Park’s shoes looking tops! Turnaround was sometimes weeks, so you needn’t ask him to hurry, as he was a one-man operation.
Next, the Hollywood Barbershop hosted three barbers: Al had chair No. 1 by the window, Bill (2) and Guy (3). There was usually a wait— $1.50 for a razor cut by Bill ,or $5 by Guy, who was the oldest and cut it family style.
Big things were happening to the Attic. It was becoming an attic! The walls were covered with World War I sheet music like, “Come with me in my flying machine.” It was mesmerizing to walk around and find something printed from the early teens. Patrons also really enjoyed the $20-cent schooners and with wall-to-wall single flight attendants, it was a good place to be single. The Onion was just as popular, and the two were in the top ten for beer sales: The liquor board confirmed that.
Both the Onion and the Attic served fairly decent steak sandwiches, but there wasn’t much diversity in the dining department. Still, with mostly singles and 20-cent beer, an evening out could set you back $4. If you were short of “bread” or “coin,” you could always be “on-the-wall” credit with no interest.
Between the two taverns was Bill and Ada’s 10-cent store. They sold candles, cards and types of things for any occasion. Between the taverns and our bakery, we had grocery stores; even a Safeway! In all there were five grocery stores and five gas stations.
The triangle building across the street is now a realtor’s office, with a few apartments above, but it used to be a Flying A gas station. The owner, Chic, would close the station and walk to either tavern and join the crowd. Gas had jumped from 19 to 23 cents a gallon, and there were no discounts. Mr. Hilliker bought the property and built the Triangle building.
Bert Croshaw’s grocery store was first located where Bings is now, but moved to its present location on 41st and Madison, which was next door to the Lakeshore Deli. (It first was a Tully’s Coffee but is now Homestreet Bank) Croshaw’s stayed open till 6 p.m., but Ken Frazer, who owned the deli, stayed open until 10 and was open on Sundays. This was wonderful for the Madison Parkers, as they had a fine wine/beer collection and sold lottery tickets
In the ‘40s there was a bicycle shop west of the deli that sold Schwinn bikes with gearshifts for$49. In the late ‘40’s, I owned an old one with no fenders, but it did have a rack for my paper route. For seven days of work a week, I made $52 and received much abuse when trying to collect.
“Why isn’t the paper inside the screen door? It’s always wet,” to which I could only respond, “Have a nice day?”
For many years Madison Park remained a blue-collar neighborhood, starting with the original older group during WWII, and then becoming a singles haven. No group’s income was too much more than the other. It became a mixed group of the old and the new socializing together at the taverns and other social functions.
Some social functions centered on the lake and/or lakeshore — so exceptional they made the paper, but that’s another story. Need time to censor.
Have a great day in the hood!