Occasionally, I publish some of Mr. Montgomery’s musings edited only for grammatical errors. Since it was Mr. Montgomery’s birthday this week, here is another of his reflections of earlier times.
EARLY MEMORIES of a little boy (3 or 4 years old) The HOUSE on BRANDON STREET – Seattle
My first memory of being alive was when our family lived in Seattle, WA – address 4619 Brandon St. It was what was known as the Hillman District, just up from Rainier Avenue in South Seattle not too far from Seward Park.
The house was an old house probably built in the 1870’s or 1880, and probably was the farm house for our part of the block. There was a barn behind the house except that I found out that the property had once upon a time faced in the opposite direction. It had what looked to me like front entrances on both sides of the house.
My first memory of Brandon street was a gravel street, in front of our house, with no sidewalk. I guess this was out in the country in 1925/26. Sometime within a year or two I remember the installation of a sidewalk, and later Brandon street being paved, maybe 1928 or so.
I was born in Portland, Oregon, Jan 26, 1922 – I have no recollection of Oregon, or any other place until Seattle. The neighborhood was mixed people. Just the very white people, but heavily settled by people with Italian names. Directly behind us was the Patricelli family about 12 children aged from 3 or 4 up to a young man who operated a shoe repair store on Rainier Ave (mid 20’s). Next door to them was the Noon family (a Power Co lineman) (also with 10 or 12 kids and some were my age, but there was one girl who occasionally acted as baby sitter to me. To the west side of us was the White family, a middle aged couple in a very nice house, but to the east of us was a gully, briar patch, blackberries, etc, until we finally came to the very ancient house belonging to Mrs. Hammerbacker (that’s how I remember her name). She was an elderly lady who lived alone in this old house and a frequent visitor to our house, though. The rest of the street went on up the hill from us, eventually coming out near Seward Park. Across the street was mostly vacant lots with scrubby trees, weeds, and more briar patch. Off in the distance was Whitworth Grade School, a red brick building that must have been built about 1900.
Our local business district was Rainier Ave and Orcas street. A lot of the store names had Italian names on them. I can remember this grocery store my mother patronized, that was a typical store prior to the advent of the chain stores that came a little while later. There were 6 or 8 men clerks, wearing ankle length white aprons. The shelves were stocked to the very high ceiling, and the customer came up to the sales counter and had a clerk pick up the items the purchaser wanted. I can remember them needing to use a pole with a clamp on the end used to reach up into the upper shelves to lift down a can or something. I think the store had about a 18 ft ceiling ( I was very small).
I can remember peering into a glass showcase, where the lady clerk would reach in and hand out to me some little goody while my mother was shopping.
Sometime, I was taken down in this area to pose for pictures by a local portrait photographer. I don’t think I wanted my picture taken. From the pictures I remember, was this little boy in a sort of Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. I remember the camera being a big black box, where the photographer threw a black hood over his head and pointed the lens at me. I was provided with a ball and possibly other props to distract me long enough to get a set of photos taken.
Back on Brandon Street, I can remember some traffic on our street. Example: A horse drawn delivery wagon with the name FRYE PACKING CO emblazoned on it. Later they were motor vehicles that looked like the same wagon with a Mack truck engine mounted in front.
Then there was the traveling photographer. I remember seeing a fellow walking along our street, with an assistant, they were leading a Shetland Pony, and one was carrying a great big view camera on a tripod slung over his shoulder. The photographer talked my mother into letting him take pictures and somewhere there might still be in existence yet, evidence of me sitting on a Shetland pony in front of our house that summer day.
I have seen the house in recent years, and look upon it as a little old house. As a child, I remember it as a big house (for a 3 to 5 year old) with high ceilings, living room, kitchen, bath, 2 porches, and 3 bedrooms, plus a 2nd kitchen in back.
I find it hard to believe this could have all been in that one little house I saw in 1989.