Life and Times in Leschi
This is the first in an ongoing series based on my 44 years (so far) of life and times in and sometimes out of Leschi. Thanks to editor Diane Snell for soliciting additional writers to the already lively Leschi News. So, let’s jump right into it.
I first moved to Leschi in the spring of 1976, though but for a fluke it would have been three years earlier. After being pushed out of a Capitol Hill rental (where I learned auto mechanics in the backyard garage) by an avaricious landlord in 1973, I got together with my brother and three friends to look for another house. We found a great one on 30th Avenue South and had a verbal deal to rent it, but late in the game the landlord decided to move into it himself, so we were back on the streets searching.
For people like me with some ingenuity and no money, those were good times. (Leschi’s Bill Corr, when trying to raise money for the fledgling food co-op, called our Capitol Hill commune the one with “the least visible means of support.” Or maybe he meant “least-visible.”) Seattle was still in the (latest) Boeing recession. Rent and food were cheap, and co-ops of all sorts were springing up. The central part of the city was littered with vacant, foreclosed houses that had been bought with zero down during the boom times. Unfortunately, the Federal Housing Administration, which held the note on most of them, was keeping them off the market. We prowled through many of them, on east Capitol Hill and even down to Madrona Drive, hoping against hope, but all we found were Princess phones with lighted dials. In those days, all phones were owned by Ma Bell—until we came along, anyway. We amassed a good collection of them that lasted for years to come.
We had developed a nose for empty houses, FHA-owned or not. In the fall we hit the jackpot. On a side street in Madrona there was a sturdy old house with nice white columns holding up the front porch. Scrawled in lipstick on one of the posts were the words “Thelma the Bitch.” Inside, we found Thelma and her family cleaning up the wreckage left by disgruntled recently departed tenants. By comparison, we seemed like responsible renters, so Thelma made a deal with us for about $180/month.
After a couple of years, Thelma offered to sell me the house for $18,000. I consulted with my father, who was still thinking of the time in 1963, during another Boeing recession, when he got a job in California and we were unable to sell our Seattle house. (We rented it for two years to a black family, in all-white Lake Forest Park—a story with a Leschi connection, for another time.) He advised me not to buy. A couple of years later, after I had moved, Thelma tracked me down and offered the house again, this time for $60K.
Next month: Destination Leschi.
Submitted February 17, 2020, the 50th anniversary of TDA. For that story, see http://roger.lippnet.us/trial.htm.
Small Media Victory
Last month we wrote about the problems for the Madrona News and national news carried more stories about struggling newspapers and possible future consolidations. Seattle does not do well with only one paper; news is thin unless you are a sports fan. So, it was heartening to read about one small victory.
The Mountain Messenger
The New York Times carried a full-page story about the only paper in all of Sierra County, CA. This paper has been in existence for 160 plus years and actually carried some columns by Mark Twain in its early days. The editor was retiring and there was no replacement. At the last moment, a 71-year-old retiree stepped forward and bought the paper for a 4 figure sum. This is NOT a money maker; the paper loses money each year and there is a one and a half hour mountain drive to the printing company to pick up the finished paper. Then it is delivered by the editor to the various locations in the entire county. (We just deliver in Leschi and Madrona!) But the paper goes on and the citizens are delighted! One small victory in the media world! Meanwhile Trump’s budget cuts out funding for NPR by 2023.
Our plea for contributors last month brought forward a Leschi resident of some 40 years; we talked at length about our experiences here and I learned quite a bit about life in Leschi before we moved here in 1989. We welcome Roger Lippman with his monthly column!