Revisiting the Park: A few to remember

Revisiting the Park: A few to  remember

Revisiting the Park: A few to remember

My dad’s parents’ farm on Little Finn Hill in Kirkland was very much like Riverton Heights in the late ’30s, as they were definitely country. When we visited mom’s parents in Madison Park, it felt like a big city to me.

Todd’s Shipyard workers made up the bulk of the working people in the Park. They wore equipment belts and hard hats to jobs via the Kirkland Ferry to help fight the war. Riverton Heights was made up of middle and elderly lower-income folks who wore bib overalls and other patched clothes. They did their part by keeping the American spirit alive during a rough go with the Great Depression.

Mom and I moved to Madison Park in the mid ’40s after the war, and it seemed somewhat the same 10 years later but so desolate. The summers were less active than in the years past. The kids in the neighborhood had been mostly transplants and only stayed a short time — it was silent with the lack of them now.

It was sad to see most of the stores had closed, and a feeling of uncertainty consumed us. There were only a few cars with car pool stickers and an occasional truck spanned the bare streets. Many of the rentals were now empty as folks had moved elsewhere to find work.

You can’t keep a good village down, though. Soon word was out, and the business district started thriving again. News of a lake and the beaches in close proximity was one thing, but the rent prices were unheard of. Office workers, college students and flight personnel started filtering in, and soon it was a lively district. The taverns became gathering spots for all. The Broadmoor (where the Bank of America is now), the Red Onion, which was “the” college hangout, and the Attic had replaced the Quality Café. The Attic was narrow and crowded, featuring a “Stein” club with over 200 patrons, some of whom skied together.

Madison Park was now a singles haven, and we began to join in the fun.

We of the male persuasion felt we should come up with some rules of etiquette in the field of dating. If one male found a female of his choice, there was always some contention as to who saw her first. It was handled by a quick meeting over a beer or sometimes a step out the back door, but always the disputes were settled out of earshot of the prospect. This was a fairly common occurrence followed by a handshake down the line. Eventually everyone became a tight group of friends ready for the ongoing single happenings.

Occasionally, someone moved to the next stage by quietly announcing the relationship was moving to the next step: marriage. It was startling to hear — we never knew how to act — as we had been having so much fun with the status quo.

We dressed to the nines for the weddings, and usually sat in the rear for the very reason that if we sat too close, we might catch the marriage syndrome.

The scheme of our pew-sport was to critique the performance, how long the ceremony was, the bridesmaids and then, at the reception, rate the music, food and drink, all the while lining up future dates.

One wedding we attended was in Eastgate at a huge circular church. The audience sat higher for better viewing. The music played while the minister and the bride and groom came from separate areas to the center — someone said we should have showed thumbs down as in the Roman gladiator games.

At the after-function, we rated the cake as outstanding, hitting high marks with its foamy frosting. Had to laugh as both males and females were seen in line for seconds. We gave this event an “A!”

“Well, who’s next?” “No way,” we answered in unison.

During one get-together later, a friend said something to me about being his best man. I wasn’t sure I heard right, but the next Saturday he called and said, “You ready? Tonight at 7 p.m.!” He was serious— Mercer Island, 7 p.m., and he said to dress casually. That was strange. My date and I arrived to the parking lot where there were only four cars.

Once inside, there was no music, the lights were dim and there were only four or five people on the bride’s side — same on the grooms. The minister spoke quietly, there was a signing of whatever, and they were out the door. A friend and I sipped from a flask and said little.

Come to find out it was a casual shot-gun wedding.

Most weddings were happy events, of course. Before another memorable wedding we were to attend, I visited a friend at the Edgewater to share a brew or two. She was cleaning her refrigerator, and while we talked, I pulled off a 3-inch suction cup stuck to the door that had been holding a shelf. Laughing, I stuck it on my forehead (I have lots of forehead.) It was time to head to the wedding so I removed the suction cup, and my friend roared.

It had been there for two to three hours. Left behind was a large circular hickey.

She did not think it would go away and laughed so hard, I had to join in.

My roommates chuckled while suggesting ice. No change. We laughed all the way to the wedding. How will I pull this off? I looked like part of a religious sect gone awry. You know how you think everyone was staring? Everyone was staring!

 The story was told, pictures were taken, my receding hairline made it all the more obvious and the final insult: The red circle showed up in all the photos.

Friends and I decided to shave our heads bald. We had planned to attend a wedding the next Saturday, so we drove to Bellevue, found the chapel, left the gift at the table and proceeded to sit. Soon the chapel was filled, even the aisles, with standing-room-only guests. We laughed and wondered when we would see people we knew.

The room filled with summer sunshine, and the music played, but we agreed, we knew no one. Then, here comes the bride. She was maybe 19 with straight long hair.

We were at the wrong wedding.

Slipping out of there not recognized, we made our way across I-90 and joined the R.O. group imagining we were at the reception. We explained that we either got the day or the chapel wrong.

My gift to the unknown bridal party was a nice set of glasses and a card with a cartoon of a girl, frizzy hair, and a huge comb with the caption: “Comb hair and keep him happy!”

I don’t think I got a thank you card.