My brother and sister and I arrived in Seattle on August 14, 1976. We were joining our mother, who had driven across the country and rented a house in Wedgwood.
Bus rides in Seattle cost $.20. Our bus was the #7 View Ridge/Blue Streak, not to be confused with the other #7s that went from downtown through the U District and on to other points north.
Rhododendrons were beautiful to look at but odorless, unlike the sweet-smelling peony, the state flower of my home, Indiana. Peonies always had ants crawling in them while rhodies made your hands sticky.
Indiana had four seasons: crunchy leaves, snow and icicles, tornado watches, and fireflies. This new place was green and mild all the time, its seasons barely perceptible.
At night, there was no traffic on the freeway. The city started closing down at 5 and was rolled up and put away by 10. There were a few fancy restaurants in town where we went for special occasions or with visitors: The Space Needle, Rossellini’s 410 or The Other Place, The Red Cabbage. Some people spoke of Canlis, but I thought it must be a myth.
I saw Guys and Dolls at Roger Forbes’ Palace Theater. I went to the Empty Space and Pioneer Square Theater. A Contemporary Theater was at the base of Queen Anne.
There were repertory movies at University Cinemas; I saw Hitchcock double bill after Hitchcock double bill eating chocolate almonds and drinking Dr. Pepper from the vending machine bottle.
Speaking of bottles, we bought off-brand soda at $.10 a bottle from Rising Sun Farms. You filled your own case with the proportion of cherry colas, lemon limes, cream sodas, grape sodas, orange sodas, root beers, ginger ales and colas that you liked.
Still, no seasons. Still, rain for Christmas.
You could drive to the mountains and drive to the ocean. The ocean was wild and beautiful. I learned first-hand about dangerous logs without seeing the signs that later made me laugh ruefully: Logs Can Kill.
Ma Bell’s on the Ave had big fat French fries that stayed hot all the way home, enormous spring rolls and strawberry shakes. Shiga’s next door sold jawbreakers that bloodied your tongue. Herfy’s burgers were everywhere, and espresso was nowhere, or maybe one where.
Pine needles killed grass in our backyard.
The blue station wagon died and was left lying in state in our carport. Every weekend we’d take the bus to Pike Place Market and come home with canvas bags full of produce and flowers. Sometimes we’d go to Nordstrom or the Bon Marché (with its luxurious women’s lounge, a haven for tired shoppers). Other times we’d just go to Lamont’s in University Village, back when you could buy underpants there. Ernst was where we got hardware, unless it was a small item we could get from the store in downtown Wedgwood where candy sticks were sold from giant jars.
We shopped at TradeWell (until the strike) and Thriftway. Pay ‘n’ Save was my summer destination, where I’d spend my allowance on bubble gum, notebooks, tanning oil and Bonne Bell Lip Smackers.
Mom went to the Wedgwood Broiler for cocktails. I checkout out 14 books at a time from the Northeast Branch library, where I complained abut the oddly low stairs until Mom pointed out that they were easier for older or disabled people to use. (I have the same conversation with my daughter these days.)
When Dad and Carol moved to town the next year, I could take the #25 from our house to theirs and back again.
I saw Capricorn One at Lake City Theater and Star Wars at the Cinema 150.
All up and down 35th Ave NE there were tiny trees planted inside square holes in the sidewalk. They looked spindly and pointless. (In 2006, a whole bunch of them fell over.)
My sister had a pony in Woodinville. We rode the bus into the country to visit him. After a year that got tiresome and she sold the pony back.
We went to school the first year at Latona / AE3, two worlds existing oddly side by side, one where we called our teachers by their first names and the other where we called the shared principal Mr. Moneymaker. I can’t remember the name of the office secretary I called myself in sick to 45 days that year. (Mom was concerned about my feelings about the move and considered it therapeutic for me to take charge of my own attendance. Possibly she also felt guilty.)
Five years later, I went back to my home town for the summer to stay with my best friend, Jessica, and her family. The air was hot and sticky except during truly scary thunderstorms. We swam at the Municipal Pool where we ate excessively salty popcorn and Creamsicles during adult swim. We ate stale Drumsticks and other ice cream treats and homemade granola. I photographed all the places I’d missed so badly and surprised the Forman family by showing up at their door (one of the most gratifying moments of my life was when my childhood friend Paul answered the door and couldn’t stop saying, “Pearl Klein! Pearl Klein?” for 10 minutes).
Jessica’s primary entertainment was playing Pac Man at the Pizza Keg and walking down the alley to make out with college students she met there. (I told her I didn’t like lying about how old I was, so she told them I was 15 and she, two years younger than me, was 18.)
I came home to Seattle for the first time, and I forgave my mother. The autumn rain was sweet and the green all winter long sustained me in the darkness.
Composition note: Members of my family are obsessed with certain details, so it was easy enough to confirm with my brother that we three kids arrived in Seattle on August 14, 1976 (by pure coincidence my future husband’s 12th birthday). I wrote this post about a month ahead of time, something I rarely do, and it was intriguing how many details came flooding back from dormant corners of my mind. I’m a highly nostalgic person (nostalgia literally means “home pain”) and for months I’ve been imagining the family’s 40th anniversary which would be at Bob Murray’s Dog House (which has been closed for 20+ years and besides I never went to until high school). But by this age I’ve forgotten more details than you’ll ever remember. And I know I’ve run a couple years together. Memory is not reporting.
Long-timers and Seattle natives, what do you remember about how the city used to be before some magical cutoff moment that demarcated the golden age? And for a non-sequitur, how about signing up for a 5-week course in brinigng personality and creativity to your business communications? Sign up here!