Revisiting the Park: Memories galore

Madison Park has always had a reputation for being an all-inclusive business, housing and recreation district. The short distance to visit friends, the beach, tennis courts and the businesses on the Ave make for a highly walkable hamlet.

Entertainment in Madison Park in the early days was fairly diversified. The Broadmoor Tavern had a long shuffleboard — professional grade — for honing a competitive edge. Shuffleboard was a big tavern draw, especially the long board. The very skilled played at the Broadmoor, creating high stakes games, and owners Louie and John were very happy for the added business. Being part of a winning team meant being invited into the men’s restroom for a shot of whiskey. It was a great place for cheeseburgers and fries brought in from the Broadmoor Café next door.

Down the street, Dubson’s Pharmacy featured a large semicircle lunch counter serving hot meals and huge hot fudge sundaes. That fudge sauce will never be matched. At the end of Madison was Bert Lundgren’s Purple Poodle Tavern, which was weirdly quiet during the day but very lively around dusk. Music from the big Wurlitzer jukebox played, and soon people began to dance even though it wasn’t licensed for it.

Madison Park had been a sleeping giant that began to change in the ’50s when the cheap rents and great location opened the eyes of many singles. The Red Onion Tavern was the main draw for college kids. The well-known Quality Café, now the Attic Tavern, was half the size yet had six times as many customers, most of whom were of the 200-plus members of the Stein Club! 

It was truly a great time to be single, with places of interest opening up all over the Seattle area. I moved to Newport Hills with my friends Jack and Nadine in the early ’60s to see how other folks could possibly say their areas were more appealing. We found a three-bedroom house for $125 a month, plus utilities, which was a good start.  

Nearby, a popular airfield included a club on the property with members from near and far. There were a few small stores, but it was mostly a residential area surrounded by trees. It was a good place to live if you wanted to pursue flying.

The club included a large restaurant called Pantley’s where flying enthusiasts and residents enjoyed evenings of fine dining along with music and dancing. At Christmas, I met some pre-residents of Madison Park who owned a plane and lived in the area. It seemed we were all single, but it was hard to tell them from the involved or married. In MP we knew who was married and who was not. After the airfield closed, the businesses and the residential areas grew without our input.

The roommates suggested moving to Bellevue, where we found a two bedroom on Main Street.

There were some small restaurants and a Buick dealership, some fast-food outlets, and the shopping center was growing. For the nightlife, there were a few taverns and even a theater. Two brothers, Jim and Vic Conconen, opened the Gaslamp Tavern (134 105th Northeast) with the finest corned beef sandwiches ever; however, it took at least two schooners while waiting, but then the feast was devoured in record time.

Paul West, a friend from Garfield High School, played jazz and blues with his piano and a trio called the “BLT.” It was usually standing room only, and occasionally there were times we had to stand in the coat room! Other groups played there, also to overpacked houses. The Gaslamp turned into the Black Angus and served awesome martinis, large chunk blue cheese salads and rib-eye steaks. Pete’s Wines was the last business in that building and closed in 2016.

And speaking of martinis, Domani’s on Bellevue Way was THE place to go for lunch and/or dinner with its large-pour martinis, the best Caesar salads and fettuccini! Owned by Steve Cohen, the Domani Restaurant was a mainstay in the downtown Bellevue scene since its opening in the mid-1970s. We were beyond sad to see it close in 1999.

Portland was able to draw more acts with the extended hours and being open on Sundays, but Seattle’s lineups at the Gaslamp or Charlie Puzzo’s Playboy, The Penthouse (a renowned jazz nightclub) and Good-Time Charley’s could not be beat.

Kirkland 60 years ago was appealing, provided you found a rental on or near the water. Mike Thim and I grew up in Madison Park and found ourselves a cottage on the water: 227 Lake St., with a dock for our boats. Many moons later it was torn down to become condominiums just south of the Third Floor Restaurant. It was a good area to rent at $50 a month ($25 each).

Mike had a KG9 racing boat that ran the Sammamish Slough races, which was a big event in the early ’50s. I met Bill Muncey of racing fame while working part time at Stan Sayres, Inc. He had a boat called a Dragon Drag and Ski boat for sale, which I bought from him. It had a flat bottom with almost 100 horsepower on a 13-foot-6-inch hull — it was fast. 

Kirkland was lovingly called Kirkville due to the many farms just out of town. There were a couple of taverns on the quiet side. One served a tall schooner with a large green martini olive at the bottom. There was no way to get it without consuming the entire beer. We looked forward to the Flame restaurant opening as the groundbreaking began as it was to be our haunt for a decade or so. 

Living on the lake meant we found it easiest to meet our Seattle friends by boat who came over often. This was long before the 520 Bridge. Our landlord was great and didn’t mind our social events. Mike got the one bedroom, and I had the fold-out couch.

He also had a great Dane dog named Missy who slept alongside me. Sometimes we took off for Juanita Beach full throttle to glide up onto the long vacant beach, then walk to the Juanita Café for a homestyle meal of rib-eye steak and apple pie topped with soft ice cream.

It was such a fun way to spend that summer, but Madison Park called me back. I was able to move into my grandparents’ home in 1963 and have lived here ever since with my bride Karen (43 years in September). It is safe to say we have enjoyed many a summer and all the other seasons here in our village by the sea.