|8. NEW NEIGHBORHOOD (1959)
“Children, we’re moving” Mom stated, while standing in the doorway of our living room.
We barely looked up from the black and white television set that was set to the J. P. Patches Show, easily our favorite program. J. P. dressed in a traditional circus clown costume and with his sidekick Gertrude (who also doubled as Ketchikan the Animal Man) hosted an improvised children’s show that was light years better than his rivals: Captain Puget, Buffalo Bob, Brakeman Bill or Stan Borison.
“We’ve found a wonderful house at the top of Dravus,”she said when she finally got all our attention after switching the TV off. Dravus was one of Seattle’s steepest hills and the view from the top was majestic, looking east toward the Cascade Mountain Range or west towards the Olympics. “Can we go see it?” said my younger brother Rodger sitting on the floor next to me. “Sure!” said my dad coming into the room. “I just got the key from the realtor, let’s go.”
We piled into the family car, an old dark green Hillman Minx, stopping first at the Chevron station at the bottom of Dravus. “Two bucks regular” said my Dad to the gas station attendant who was opening our hood to top off the radiator and check the oil level. The engine seemed to struggle to get us up the last hill of Dravus and then we cut a sharp left into the alley between Dravus and Barrett Streets.
Halfway down the alley we pulled into the carport and were amazed at the immense size of our new home. Clad in white asbestos siding, it had three floors: a full basement with a workshop, storeroom and crawlspace, a main floor with two bedrooms a bathroom, formal dining room, a huge living room with a bank of picture windows looking towards the eastern horizon and kitchen with an adjoining breakfast area. The upstairs had a large bedroom in front that my father had already claimed for his studio, another smaller bedroom, closet and attic room.
The outside had an extensive rockery in front. The previous owners had removed some of the more valuable shrubs and now it looked like giant moles had taken up residence. The backyard was fenced off and level and the next-door neighbors had a basketball hoop over their garage door in the alley. Kids of all ages swarmed up and down the alley ducking in and out of their own yards. A boy on a bicycle was pulling a small wooden model of a hydroplane behind him.
We eagerly explored the house. There were hardwood floors throughout the main floor and in our stocking feet we could get a running start and slide all the way across the living room. A decorative ceramic tile fireplace dominated the living room but the real feature here was the view. You could make out the Smith Tower downtown, Seattle’s only true skyscraper and snowcapped Mount Rainier hovering over a mist-covered Elliott Bay. The view from my dad’s new studio was even better. He was above the telephone lines and had an unimpeded view of Queen Anne Hill across the valley and the Cascade Mountains in the distance.
I wanted to explore the alley a bit and promised the folks I wouldn’t go out of earshot. Mom made my big brother Bill go with me and we cautiously approached a group of kids our age shooting hoops at another basketball court further down the alley. “Hi, I’m Fredrick,” said one kid that looked to be my age. “Where do you go to school?” I asked as he threw me the ball. “Fatima” came the reply. Our Lady of Fatima was the Catholic school between the two hills that made up Magnolia and was attended by the more affluent students. I squared my stance and threw up a shot that glanced off the back rim. Fredrick caught it in mid-ricochet and swished it back through the net. “C’mon” he said. “I live right here”.
We walked into his backyard that had an enormous radio tower attached to the rear of the house. “My brother Bob is a ham radio operator,” said Fredrick as he tossed the basketball into the green army surplus tent he had set up on one side of the yard. On the other side of the yard he had rigged his playground slide to empty into a low wading pool. “Wanna see my tadpoles?”
“Bill! Brom!” Shouted my father from three houses over. “Coming!” we both yelled at the same time. “See ya later, we gotta go” I said to Fredrick as we headed for his gate. Dad was standing by the car. “Well” he said, “What do you think?”