Occasionally, I publish some of Mr. Montgomery’s musings edited only for grammatical errors. This is one.
POP’s Store – The Typewriter Shop at 821 Third Ave, Seattle (Years 1920-30-40)
My father was part owner of an office equipment store on Third Avenue in Seattle, Wales Sales & Service Company. They started out with 3 or 4 partners. Mr. Lacey, U.G. Moore, and…..) They incorporated, but by the time I started hanging around the place some of the original partners had left, and only my father “Mr. Montgomery”, and Mr. U.G. Moore. (for Ulysses Grant) were the only ones left. Moore was in charge of the bookkeeping and the office operations, and my father took care of sales and the repair shop.
This was a typical retail store along 3rd Ave, just up the street from the Seattle First National Bank. The Central Building was just across the street. It housed two Japanese Banks, among other things in this very large office building. I remember standing along Marion Street peering down into the banker’s cages and noting that their adding machines were abacus boards—typical of Japanese figuring systems in those days.
Next door to us on the corner was Stone the Tailor, who did custom tailoring for men, and on our right was a rather decrepit hotel – then mostly occupied by the Shorey Book Store. Shorey’s book store was sort of an institution in Seattle with about 3 floors full of books in this old hotel building. I can remember the owner and his son (John Todd Sr. & Jr.) standing out in front of their store in white shirts with rolled up sleeves, and neckties. Very casual formal.
Stone’s Tailor Shop was right on the corner with the steep Marion Street hill just across Third Avenue. There were several occasions when some parked car on Marion Street would slip its brakes and come hurtling down Marion Street, cross 3rd Ave, and crash into Stones display window – it happened more than once. It was only corrected when the city changed the parking from parallel on the hill to right angle parking on Marion Street about 1945 that corrected the problem.
I remember in later years being an errand boy – some of our customers were on the waterfront beyond first Avenue & Marion or Madison St. When it rained, I found a mostly dry route to come back up the hill, from our customers on the waterfront, to our store on 3rd Ave. My route: from Western Ave, go into the basement of the Colman Building, ride elevator to the First Ave floor, cross over to the Exchange building, ride the elevator in the Exchange bldg up to the 4th floor (2nd Ave entrance). Cross the street to a little bank building on 2nd Ave, and ride up to the alley level of that building, then go across the alley to the rear of our building, up the elevator to our store. The things kids will do.
In later years, when I was in High School, I was an extra mechanic taking outside service calls on typewriters and adding machines (about 1939/40). Parking even back then was impossible in downtown Seattle, so I rode the city busses to the various customer locations almost anywhere in the downtown business district, with tool kit and all. I remember making a call at the executive offices of one of the big lumber companies in the White-Henry-Stuart building where they had an Allen-Wales adding machine stuck. It was a fancy, executive type office, with wood paneling, and a very conservative look. I think it was the company treasurers department. This machine was something I was familiar with, but required removing the case, and taking the machine apart into 3 different assemblies. I covered this fancy looking desk with a plastic cover I carried, had the machine disassembled in three different parts on the desk and went to work – removing only 4 screws, and the machine came apart like magic with special release levers that required no tools. In the midst, I happened to look up from my work, to discover a number of the office employees standing behind me, watching me do the deed. I suppose watching a 16 year old kid dismantling their almost new electric adding machine may be a little dismaying in this locale. Anyway I finished the job, had them sign the receipt and took the bus back to the office.
One time, when our regular man (a specialist) was on vacation – out of town, I was sent up to Seattle City Light to see about making an automatic envelope inserting machine work. I am not sure I really fixed the problem – at least, when I left, the machine was busily stuffing envelopes.
This was a very large machine (about the size of a large office desk). It had hoppers in which the operator could load 3 or 4 different pieces of mail. A big hopper was loaded with window envelopes, and then when the machine was started, this Frankenstein machine fed the envelopes down a track toward the operator at front while stuffing the electric bill, and 2 or 3 pieces of advertising into the envelope as the envelope went by. The envelope was shuttled to the right, pushed through a sealer, dropped into the throat of a Pitney-Bowes postage machine, and finally tossed into a big canvas bag for the post office clerk to pick up.
I also remember being sent on service calls on coin counting machines. Most were located in banks and the major downtown stores cashier departments. The one I remember most vividly was a call to the Seattle First-National Bank, 2 blocks away from our store.
When I arrived at the bank I was sent down to the vault – a special vault located 2 basement levels below the street. This wasn’t a typical itty-bitty vault interior; it was a room about 20 or 25 feet square. The machine I was to repair was the victim of “dirty money”. Silver dust, fuzz from bags, and dirty hands, had loaded up the mechanism so that it finally just stuck and refused to do anything. It was a case of taking a wire brush, cleaning solvent, (including plain soap & water) and cleaning all the crud out of gears and wheels in this 400 lb machine.
When I leaned back, and looked around, I suddenly realized that this was also a “money warehouse”. Laying around, casually, were hundreds of bags of coins, bundles of money, and boxes, cartons, containers of various kinds with possibly 100,000 or more of value laying there of plain old US Money. What got me was the casual attitude of the people working in this vault area. This was their money warehouse, and these sacks, laying all over everywhere, was their merchandise, to be sorted, counted, packaged, and stored like merchandise in a grocery store.
They didn’t give out samples……