Revisiting the Park: Parties galore

Richard Carl Lehman

I reached the rank of “civilian” after serving two great years in the Army at Fort Ord, California and said goodbye to my buddies and Uncle Sam, signed my clearance papers, and hung on tight to my ’55 Olds as it screamed home at 55 mph. Some 19 hours later, I entered the Attic Tavern and asked for my own personal stein named “Bird Dog.” After all the hellos and adequate amounts of beer, I proceeded to get on with life — my true life, the life that was meant to be… back in Madison Park!

The Park had not changed much; there was the same blue-collar crowd, the hourly wage had remained a constant, but schooners were still 25 cents. Not being in any particular rush to seek noteworthy employment, I bartended at the Attic. I met a fine group of people from Flying Tigers Airlines based in Seattle. A large portion of them lived in Madison Park. I remember a gathering at the home of four Tiger flight attendants at the end of 43rd. What a great mix of captains, co-pilots and navigators, FAs, and lots of Madison Park regulars!

One good fellow I met, Alfonse, flew with the German air force in World War II and was now a navigator at Tiger. Another acquaintance, Capt. Charles Harper, flew in the British Royal Air Force. Alfonse began to sing in the kitchen about attacking England, “tonight we will have England, tomorrow, the world!” Meanwhile, Charles was in the front room spouting a song the Brits sang before engaging in air battle with the Germans, something to do with blowing bloody Germans out of the blue and England would be anew. We could not believe this bizarre occurrence. The two of them heard each other sing and realized that not only did they fly for the same airline they had been in numerous air battles at the same time on opposite sides years before. That was quite the evening, and we even felt compelled to have a party in their honor later.

The Aussies carried on the party atmosphere after the Flying Tigers base closed. They really fit the bill taking Madison Park revelers in a completely new direction. The Aussies came in droves with their green cards in hand, settling in and around the area. Some of them had such thick brogues, it was hard to comprehend; but after a few schooners, the enunciation was clear as a bell!

A different group of revelers were college students who lived in a huge house somewhere near the Seattle Tennis Club. The one requirement for entering their distinct social gatherings was to bring two six packs if bringing someone. They greeted us at the door and led us downstairs to kegs of beer, a band, dancing and even a bagpipe to which the crowd was cheering! The hours flew by and more people joined the celebration. About midnight, it seemed all of Madison Park attended this soirée as the taverns were closed by then. A huge problem developed: the kegs were dry, and the Aussies were out of brew!

Here is the best part! The band played an infamous tune with many verses called “Roll Your Leg Over, the Man in the Moon,” etc. Magically, through the sliding glass doors, came three or four wheelbarrows full of crushed ice and cold canned and bottled beer! The more verses we sang, the more we laughed and the more beer we consumed. Finding one’s car the next day became a standing joke, as it was certain that one’s vehicle was parked in front of the Onion, Attic or Bakery but somehow went missing.

Years and a lot more parties later, there came a time to bring to fruition a jamboree of such magnitude, that the occurrence would have to be mentioned in the society column. A prominent plantation owner was to pay our Northwest a visit. It was noted he would fly via seaplane to a lakeside mansion located very near the prominent Seattle Tennis Club. What an honor! Many times, the events at the tennis club had been touted in the papers, but this time it was our Colonel Grapevine’s opportunity to be mentioned. And so it began; Dennis Young, John Welch, Charles Manca, Roland Borrey, Bill Dupuis, Dave Wallace, and Richard Tait planned the illustrious event, and I designed the invitations. 

The actual column came from the following letter:

Miss Walli Zimmermann

Assistant Society Editor, Seattle Times

Fairview Ave. John St

Seattle, Washington

Dear Miss Zimmermann:

We would like to bring to your attention that we are celebrating the arrival in Seattle of Colonel Grapevine by having a lawn party in his honor. We would be very pleased to have your husband’s and your company on July 17, 1966. Our party will commence at three p.m. and will continue until sundown, with sailing for the group on Lake Washington after eight in the evening.

I believe that you will find Colonel Grapevine interesting, as his family has been a dominant social force in New Orleans since the time of the Louisiana Purchase. In recent years, he and his family have been a leading influence in the development of the Boeing Co. in the New Orleans area. He is now in Seattle to assist in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Boeing Co.

On our veranda, we will have a musical quartet playing light accompaniment. Dancing is invited. Interspersed across the grounds will be various individual instrumentalists.

We have invited 250 young people from the Lake Washington-Madison Park area who have similar social and educational interests to those of the Colonel.

It is hoped that you will be able to attend the soiree’.


Charles B. Manca, John Welch, David I. Wallace, David Morse, Dennis Young

The guys asked me to make a poster about four by 30 foot with “The Boll Weevil Stomp” printed on it. It was a perfect summer day: very warm, clear, and just the right amount of southern breeze. All was at the ready for the colonel’s arrival. We unpretentiously wore cutoffs, bathing suits and/or the ever-popular bikinis. The kegs were full and chilled perfectly. Someone with an in on a concession stand brought many huge bags of popcorn. Music pervaded the atmosphere entertaining no less than 400 people who covered the lawn up to the water’s edge.

Out of the east, a huge Grumman Goose seaplane buzzed overhead tipping its wings to say hello. We all cheered for Colonel Grapevine; he was on his way. In a self-righteous salute, we fired two cannons filled with tennis balls over the tennis club. The aircraft circled south and flew east to land in front of the mansion. The beautiful seaplane touched down on the water while we gave it one hell of a cheer! This was it! We were there! We had arrived on the society page. Our magnificent social affair surpassed any attempts the Seattle Tennis Club laid claim to.

The roar of the two prop driven engines inspired us. It was just yards offshore when the cabin lid opened topside, and Colonel Grapevine appeared between two drop dead beautiful buxom bikini clad ladies. We greeted them with two more cannon reports. This was a day to remember. Fun was had by all well into the night. At one point, a couple of policemen came to investigate a noise complaint. After close examination, they told us to have a nice day and to try to keep it down. One young lady mentioned they should come back as she and others like her might need protection. One of them did come back a short time later, minus the gun and paraphernalia. What a good Samaritan to support us in our Boll Weevil Stomp shenanigans and getting rid of the beer … all 14 kegs of it!

This was just one unparalleled experience the Madison Park privileged enjoyed. I am sure there are many other anecdotes out there just waiting to be told and relived. Party on!