Vince Matsudaira friended me on Facebook this morning. Growing up, "Binko", his nickname, was my best friend. We stood together in the photo, his family house on 16th Avenue in the background. Further behind was Providence Hospital on the adjoining block. We were probably around eleven or twelve years old. I wore a plaid shirt and rolled jeans; Vincent, a plain blue shirt and khakis.
The picture evoked a string of memories. Spring and summers, one of us would ricochet a tennis ball off the steps leading to his house. It would fly into the street where the other would field it. This provided an inexpensive form of baseball. Other times, we stood across the street from each other tossing s a hardball, pretending we were Seattle Rainiers.
Sixteenth Avenue filled with Filipino and Japanese families who attended Maryknoll Church and later grade school at Immaculate Conception. Older, the girls would continue high school at Immaculate while the boys would continue on at O'Dea, Garfield, Franklin. A few would leave the area.
Kids filled the neighborhood playing touch football (curb to curb, telephone pole to telephone pole). The teams usually were comprised of three or four players. When we were younger, we'd divide up to play kick-the-can or capture the flag, designating telephone poles at either end of the street as fortresses to be protected.
Cherry Street, the east-west street at the north end of the block provided a steep slope. It didn't have today's traffic.. We constructed sleds made of two-by-fours held together with a bolt to form a cross-shape. Disassembled roller skates provided the wheels for the front and the rear and a rope attached to either end of the crossing arm, the steering mechanism. A plywood seat nailed to the wood frame served as the seat. Starting at the top of the hill, we'd careen down Cherry between 15th and 16th without a care in mind.
Winter months brought snow...much deeper than present day. It often got two to three feet deep. Like other kids, we had snowball fights, built snowmen and trudged to school in the cold. But weekends filled with fun. Instead of the roller skate, gravity-propelled sleds of spring and summer, we dragged our snow sleds, cardboard boxes or anything that would slide to the top of Cherry Street and slid down the hill.
A second picture showed Vincent and a flock of kids celebrating his birthday in his family's backyard. We gathered around as he was blowing out the candles on his cake. His mom an avid gardener had a small fishpond constructed in the shape of two connecting ovals. Where the ovals connected, she bridged them with a small artful log. She filled it with goldfish and waterlilies.
The pond served us well. We constructed small plywood hydroplanes, probably six or seven inches in length. We inserted a paddle held by rubber bands, which when wound tight, powered the boats across the water. We painted, numbered and named them after our favorite boats of those times...Slo-Mo-Shun IV, Hawaii Kai or Bardahl and raced them across the water.
If we weren't racing, we built plastic warships...replications of aircraft carriers, battleships...destroyers that fought in World War II. We'd load them with firecrackers and the battle would begin. Launching them out over the pond, they'd explode into a million fragments, sinking quickly to the bottom. Then we'd buy and build more.
During Seafair, the Navy brought a small fleet of ships into Elliott Bay and we'd tour. It was a short bus ride to downtown which gave us access to movie theaters like the Coliseum, Orpheum and Music Hall. There were also a two neighborhood theaters, the Venetian on 15th and Pike and the Madrona, on about 25th and Cherry. The Madrona played two cowboy movies on Saturdays including a cartoon and newsreel. The cost of admission was probably a dime. Not like today.
Bus routes 12 E. Cherry and 26th South also provided access to Mount Baker, our favorite beach. Mt. Baker was the top attraction. To get there, we'd transfer to the 27 Yesler or the 4 Mount Baker. If we rode the latter, we could run the length of a park with a creek full with dragonflies and water bugs, tennis courts and a few Japanese stone temples before we reached the beach. When the Matsudaira's purchased a new '57 Ford, Joe Matsudaira and Ed Beltran would drive a bunch of us down for a swim.
They were older.