Boat ferries memories to Kirkland

In-your-face news flourishes everywhere these days with the advent of satellite TV and radio news, the Internet and the ability to travel the world in a matter of hours.

Young people today are leagues ahead of those of us who grew up before the '50s.

Children of World War II were left in the dark regarding natural disasters, manmade fiascoes and world mayhem. Adults would speak of political activities in whispered hushes so as not to alarm or, if we were interested, tidbits announced on the radio might sink in.

But the only way to get a feel for worldly affairs was to watch the occasional newsreel shown during a double feature at a theater downtown. That held a youngster's attention, whereas a newspaper with probably more precise news would not.

The Weekly Reader was read by all in school, but it was just a six-page report on school activities that merely served to appease and busy anxious minds.

The 16mm classroom films we viewed in the assembly room next to the cafeteria at J.J. McGilvra were mainly about factory reports, like how to make cottage cheese. And the projector was called the "sleep machine."

Going to the theater not only provided us with worldly news but a movie proved to be a panacea as well. The actors were always heroes whose daredevil antics saved the day in battle, and we always left the theater proud to be Americans in spite of the subdued realities of war portrayed.

Drama in life was limited to the local experience. It was always fun to hang around the pilings that cradled the Kirkland ferry slip. From there we could see ships of war leaving Todd's Shipyard in Kirkland, bound for points unknown to play a part in the war.

The ferry was a big part of our young lives, whether it was the loud horn in the mornings or just watching the deck hands running around with ropes and chains.

The first time I had taken the ferry was before the war, when my parents and I lived in Riverton Heights. We had taken that route to see my dad's parents, who lived on 10 acres on Little Finn Hill.

(My mother's mother had not yet married my grandfather, Walter Larsen, of Madison Park.)

Once, when my parents and I took the ferry, the ticket taker asked them my age.

Dad answered, "Oh, he's 5."

I proudly disagreed, "No, I'm 6!"

Mom, Dad and the ticket man laughed as I joined the ranks of adulthood. I was reminded of that story many times while growing up.

One day, a group of us kids from the neighborhood, with parental permission, boarded the ferry one Saturday to see a carnival in downtown Kirkland. We young scrappers were on our own, with the whole ferry to explore.

Scrambling up to the passenger deck, we could see way up Madison Street, and in the other direction, the boatyard north of the ferry dock came into view.

The captain's bell bellowed while the deck hands untied the boat lines. Soon we were under way, but we weren't interested in viewing the spectacular scenery, for the noises from the engine room beckoned.

We found a hatch on the car deck, looked down and could hear but not see the engines. All of a sudden there came from behind us a guy in coveralls who asked, "You boys want to see the engines?"

This most gracious deckhand led us to the first landing, just above the huge engines. He explained in a loud booming voice the workings of the powerful crankshaft.

Back on deck we saw Kirkland looming closer. Kirkland was a country town with feed stores and hardware stores that sold to the farmers. Of course, we grabbed a handful of chicken feed because nothing beat spitting feed at one another.

In the distance, a big Ferris wheel turned round and round. We also saw a big tent with all kinds of people coming and going. We started to get really excited about our day of freedom.

The carnival turned out to be a real learning experience. We were so impressed by it that we all swore we would be part of carnival life when we grew up.

It was a day of cotton candy, hot dogs and lots of pop, which would later be in short supply due to the war.

It was an innocent day of pleasure and made for great show-and-tell back at good, old J. J. McGilvra.

Richard Carl Lehman can be reached via e-mail[[In-content Ad]]