Revisiting the Park: Sociability and unity

Revisiting the Park: Sociability and unity

Revisiting the Park: Sociability and unity

Madison Park has always been very social, partly because of its size, but also for the similar backgrounds and interests of the villagers. The love for and the history of our neighborhood has created a mutual abiding consciousness.

My particular introduction to civilization was in Riverton Heights, south Seattle. Mom and Dad would take me out to different diners, adult gatherings and even Mom’s garden parties.

Later when we moved to Madison Park, I became a student at J.J. Mcgilvra Elementary and began to enjoy a new culture.

During World War II, when folks saw the gold star in the window of friends' homes, they gave them time to cope and then slowly coaxed them back. We kids were involved in the many paper and metal drives, which turned into fun connections and events.

In the summer you could actually hear folks traipse to the lake in their rubber shower shoes, bathing caps, scrub brushes and Lifebuoy soap (the orange color floated) to bathe and co-mingle.

“Come on down” they yelled on their way toward the little dock just west of the ferry landing. Wading out to their thighs, they’d scrub each other’s backs, and, yes, some even brought whiskey to share and ward off hypothermia.

A good friend had access to a truck and offered to help us move into my house. That Saturday in 1963, the girls arranged the kitchen, bed and bathroom into a functional situation. The truck friend bought a keg that he wheeled by way of a hand truck down 42nd offering beer to anyone while announcing Dick Lehman had just moved in. Many accepted the free beer, and some came to welcome me to the neighborhood and perhaps get a refill.

Early Saturday mornings a neighbor could be seen raising the hood of his car to find why something went awry. Soon, another guy would chime in with an opinion, and then another, an by mid-afternoon a couple of half racks were involved. That had to have been their finest enrichment, not to mention sharing at least one pocket-size bottle of whiskey!

Word spread that someone bought a new barbecue and that all should bring some wieners. This was set to the backdrop of the Seattle Rainiers baseball game being broadcast by Leo Lassen.

When I inherited the house, it was indeed, “Party Time!” One morning, while emptying the garbage, a neighbor approached me and said, “Your parties are getting out of hand! If you don’t keep it down, I’m going to tell your landlord!” That moment felt like no other. I was my landlord! I thanked her for not telling on me.

Springtime parties moved from the back yard to the front ,which was conducive to a lovely sunset backdrop. We carried my 6’x3’ coffee table out to the yard and sat cross-legged under it to partake of food and such. We attached another piece to enable more diners, so it was sometimes 11 feet long. With the many flight personnel in the 'hood, we never had to buy Champagne as it was always available to them — we never asked why. The barbecue was overflowing with chicken and steaks, and the table was covered with as many candles as we had room for.

The front door was open, and the speakers were set on the porch playing jazz and the latest pop music. Feasting at its best, we toasted to whatever came to mind. Those walking or driving by stopped to ask what the occasion was, to which we invited them to see for themselves. Few said no thank you as maybe there was a girlfriend in the car.

One evening the lady who was going to tattle on me and her husband walked by. I greeted them with two paper cups full of Champagne and insisted they join us. Their smiles were tentative but they did end up enjoying themselves, and later we partied with them regularly.

A Saturday was good for croquet in the back yard. Only six could play, but there were plenty of onlookers. A neighbor living across the alley from me yelled, “Hey, what are you doing?” My friend started to say something sarcastic when I stopped him. The gentleman said, “Come over here!” The rather large man opened his trunk and handed me a container of mixed nuts, several pints of vodka and a large bottle of gin. He was a liquor distributor, so this was a common procurement. “Now, that’s a party!” he said laughing.

He became a best friend and never missed a gathering. He had just lost his wife of many years, and sometimes at 10 p.m. or later he’d call and say, “Let’s go eat Chinese!” My roommates and I rarely said no thanks. He was a great man and is sorely missed.

Roommates came and went in those days, and the last few years I lived alone, but 45 years of single life was about to end. I found someone who is all my social life rolled up into one. Six months or longer after we married, I ran into a friend I used to see at Rossellini's 410. He asked where I’d been. I answered, “I found the right one!” to which he replied, “No, really, where have you been?” That was single life for you.

Now, 40 great years later, my wife Karen is finally retired. I really am married.