28 Feb

Just wrote an article on Medium. It’s about nostalgia, and development, and the city, and the feelings caused by change. Please read and share, if you like.

Erasing place

25 Apr

“In a room five feet square.”

While working on remodeling my bungalow bathroom (more on that later) I was looking for some vintage art to put on the wall. I found this 1922 ad:


I loved it immediately and decided that would be on my wall. (I ordered it from this eBay seller.) But, note the caption:

“Five Foot ‘Standard’ Bathroom
Pembroke Bath with Shower, Marcosa Lavatory
and Expulso Closet in a room five feet square.”

Five feet square?! 25 square feet? That’s a pretty small room, but it is possible if the sink is small. I grew up in a house that had a very small bathroom, but it was closer to 5’x7′ — the sink and toilet could both fit on the same wall, which at least left room for a laundry hamper.

Looking at other Standard ads from the 1920s, I saw this theme repeated over and over, usually with gorgeous painted artwork to illustrate (click each image to see a full version):

The advertising emphasized the flexibility and freedom of having these small bathrooms as convenient extra bathrooms in one’s home to “assure ideally ample bathroom facilities” and allow “leisurely washing, and splashing, and fixing, and primping before the lavatory glass.”

This ad attempted to appeal to both women and the men in their homes who might be irritated at the time spent in the bath:

"Oh how she had longed for a bathroom all her own" -- the freedom of not sharing a bathroom, by installing one in a five foot square space.  "Ample bathroom facilities are not a luxury." Though the room is small, it has rose tiles and a checked linoleum floor, with elaborate light fixtures.

“Oh how she had longed for a bathroom all her own” — the freedom of not sharing a bathroom, by installing one in a five foot square space.
“Ample bathroom facilities are not a luxury.” Though the room is small, it has rose tiles and a checked linoleum floor, with elaborate light fixtures.

Oh how she had longed for a bathroom all her own — where she could take her own sweet time, knowing it would not be remarked upon — confident that others were not being inconvenienced.

How hard it is to use a bathroom on schedule!

The bathroom in this ad, though tiny, had a sense of feminine luxury, with rose-colored tilework, golden sconces with aqua shades, and a butterfly area rug.

Unspoken in the Five Foot Square ad campaign was something else — if you can install a full bathroom in such a small space, you can easily add bathrooms to homes that previously didn’t have indoor plumbing.

Standard ads, both in the 1920s and otherwise, tended to promote elaborate and expensive luxury bathroom designs, ones which were out of reach for many. Earlier ads often showed fairly large bathrooms with features such as bidets and sitz baths, and it was common for the ads to show household maids at work in the bathroom. Here are a couple of the earlier Standard ads:

The Five Feet Square ads combined an appeal to luxury (extra baths for the lady who has everything) with an appeal to those homeowners still in smaller, older houses: you too, they said, can have glamorous indoor plumbing. All you need is a spare closet or the end of a hallway!

Whether the campaign was successful or not, I don’t know. By the 1930s, Standard seems to have moved on to ads emphasizing color, Art Deco modernity, and the replacement of old, “unsightly” fixtures such as clawfoot tubs. If you want a bathroom in a room five feet square, though, American Standard (formerly Standard) still sells a tiny sink or two.

21 Mar


Long time no blog. I’m finally biting the bullet and using one of the standard WordPress themes for this site — I just don’t have time to customize a whole theme anymore. I’m planning to post some more about a few of the things I’ve been doing lately, including interesting history trivia, crafts, design, and more.

Here’s something interesting I found tonight in the R. Williamson and Co. Catalogue No. 15, Illustrating Electric and Combination Fixtures/Art Glass Domes (undated, but by internal evidence it is no earlier than late 1908. Catalogue 14 was from 1906 and Catalogue 17 was from 1911, so I think that this one is from 1908-1909).

In the days of the telegraph, the cost of the telegram was based on the number of letters in the text. For this reason, it was common for people to use a “code” to send their message so they could send as few letters as possible while still getting their message across.

R. Williamson and Co. had a code in their catalogue, spread over two pages to include many necessary phrases. For example: PAPA 2378 FIR CELERY LENTILS RICE SISTER HOME was a much shorter and cheaper way to say “Can you ship fixture 2378 at once on receipt of order? Three light bracket, wired as explained in catalogue, assembled ready to hang, regular length as in catalogue, in the rich gilt and satin finish. Send by American Express, C.O.D.”

Here’s the full code.

telegraph code 1

telegraph code 2

01 Sep

24 years ago this week: YEAH! Magazine #5, Bumbershoot Preview

This week I’ve got YEAH! Magazine issue #5 for you: the 1987 Bumbershoot Preview. We posted capsule previews for all of the local bands playing at that year’s Bumbershoot festival. If you were around here in the 80s, these names should bring back a lot of memories.

This was the last weekly issue. The weekly grind was a bit much for us so we switched to biweekly after this one.

(Click on the cover to download the whole issue as a PDF.)

25 Aug

24 years ago this week: YEAH! Magazine #4 is missing!

I went to scan YEAH! Magazine #4 today, and was disappointed to find that I don’t have a copy of #4. I thought I had a complete run of the ‘zine, but apparently not. I’d like to appeal to anyone who may have a copy of #4—I would like to copy it if you have one.

Since I don’t have this week’s issue for you, here’s a review of YEAH! #3 from the September 1987 issue of Blue Suede News instead.

Next week: The YEAH! Bumbershoot ’87 issue!

(Click on the image to see a larger copy.)

09 Aug

24 years ago this week: YEAH! Magazine

What were you reading 24 years ago this week? If you were in Seattle at the time, it might have been this:

Or this:

YEAH! Magazine was published off and on in 1987-88. I founded the magazine during the summer of 1987, after a long conversation with friends at the Hall of Fame club in Seattle’s U District. I had just gotten back from touring with Prudence Dredge as a vocalist, and a few of us were bemoaning the state of local music-oriented media.

The Rocket, where I had been writing for a couple of years, was good, but only came out monthly, and included a lot of national and international acts, not just local bands. That year, an issue of The Rocket had Bruce Springsteen ocn the cover, and some of the locals were not pleased. Springsteen didn’t need the press, they felt. Why not feature the local talent? The Rocket was great for what it was, but a lot of people felt the need for more. There was so much talent in the Seattle area, and so much going on.

So I figured there was room for a “local music supplement,” as it were. Something that would come out every week and list all the upcoming shows in the area, and write exclusively about local bands. Let The Rocket have Springsteen and U2—we’d write about the Squirrels and the Fastbacks.

One of the bands I was peripherally in at the time (Prudence Dredge) was on Green Monkey Records. Other bands I saw a lot at the time, such as the Young Fresh Fellows or the Fastbacks, were on Popllama. The Popllama/Green Monkey groups tended to have a common fan base, and most of the volunteers I was able to scrape up for YEAH! were friends or fans of those bands, so we tended to have an (unhealthy, probably) emphasis on that aspect of the Seattle scene. There was a lot happening elsewhere, and perhaps if I’d kept publishing longer I would have improved the ‘zine by covering the rest of the scene a bit more. But it was difficult to do when I was relying so strongly on friends/fans of the bands I knew well, and my own limited experience. Later that year Dawn Anderson’s Backlash started publishing, and it covered the Sub Pop groups and other stuff that YEAH! wasn’t doing a great job of covering.

We introduced YEAH! to local music fans by showing up at one of KJET’s Mural Amphitheater shows and distributing as many of them as we could. (I think we only had 250-500 copies of the first issue.) It was fairly well-received. The next week, we did it again, and people were actually waiting for us to show up. It seemed as if we were a success, but then again, the magazine was free.

I continued publishing YEAH! through the fall and early winter that year. We did manage to keep up the weekly schedule for a while, but it was grueling, and no one—including me—was getting paid. Ad sales were eventually enough to pay for printing, and nothing else. (The early issues were mostly printed for free or cheaply via several kind benefactors. The first issue was printed secretly overnight on a heavy-duty photocopier at someone’s workplace. A few more were printed by someone with access to an offset press, for a small fee. Later we went to an actual printer in Snohomish and printed on newsprint like a real newspaper. But the cost was high.) I couldn’t manage the weekly issues anymore, and had to print less frequently. I think my day job that fall was occasional temping or part-time work. I don’t remember for certain. I think I was barely surviving, and it was stressful.

Along with the logistical difficulties of publishing came the problems of publishing a ‘zine about your friends. I should have expected what happened, but I did not. Feelings got hurt, people started to fight, and eventually I decided I had had enough. I packed up my stuff and made plans to move to Minneapolis.

I moved to Minnesota in early 1988. Before I moved, I sold YEAH! to Holly Homan and Joe Davenport for $300. I still contributed occasionally after that, but I was no longer the editor.

I came back to Seattle six months later (long but not very interesting story), and soon ended up writing for Backlash.

Recently I was looking through my collection of YEAH! issues, and I thought it would be nice to get them scanned and online for people to enjoy and reminisce over. The first two issues are here, and I will try to get the rest of the issues from my tenure as editor posted soon. Perhaps I will post them on the anniversaries of their original publishing dates.

I am glad I published YEAH! I learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it. It did cause a lot of upheaval in my life—much more than I’ve gone into in this brief post. Much of that time was very difficult and stressful. But the net result was positive.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into Seattle in the late ’80s.

30 Sep

The newest fashions (in 1903)

From The Delineator, summer 1903:

The Delineator was published by Butterick, the sewing pattern company, and included fashion articles and pictures, along with short stories and other articles. In one 1903 issue, there is a mention of the recent passing of Ebenezer Butterick, who founded the Butterick company in 1863 — and invented the graded paper sewing pattern.

The Butterick company still exists, but it is now part of McCall Pattern Company (which I think has itself been acquired by some other firm). Butterick patterns, for some weird reason, always seem to have annoying and confusing directions, compared to other pattern companies. I don’t know why. I’m glad they still exist, though.

28 Dec

The search for the Gold-N-Sno cake

The cake naming contest ad featuring the cake eventually called "Gold-N-Sno."

Yesterday I picked up a book at the library: Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America’s First Lady of Food. I haven’t read too much of it yet, but I did see the ad, pictured here, from 1933, for the Betty Crocker Cake Naming Contest. The contest promised a $5,000 in cash prizes to winners who suggested a name for the cake pictured: “a light, fluffy, orange-flavored cake, three full 9-inch layers, with creamy orange filling and covered with luscious white icing and moist shredded cocoanut (sic). The layer cake itself also contains cocoanut.”

This caught my eye. I love coconut. I love orange cake. I must make this cake. Maybe for New Year’s. According to the book, the winning name for the cake was… Gold-N-Sno. Times must have been more innocent then, because to me, golden snow means the yellow snow you had better not eat. But the cake looks good, so I’ll make it anyway.

Sometimes it seems that every recipe ever written down has found its way onto the Web somewhere, so I figured I’d find the Gold-N-Sno cake — maybe spelled a little differently — with a quick Google search. How wrong I was.

I found a few vintage newspapers with Gold-N-Sno mentions — invariably in ads for bakeries who made this cake. The cake seems to have been relatively well-known. Here are a couple from Oswego, New York, in 1934 and 1939, and one from Sewickley, Pennsylvania in 1940 (please click to see the complete images):

But no recipes. (There is a site, newspaperarchive.com, which charges a hefty sum to look at their archived newspapers. The Gold-N-Sno cake is mentioned pretty frequently in newspapers there from the 1930s, but I cannot tell if the recipe is lurking there without paying them. Most of the examples there did also seem to be ads, though.)

I tried changing the spelling to “Gold-N-Snow”. I found a few more ads, from Cass City, Michigan, 1941 and 1942, and Oswego again in 1934 and 1940 (once again, please click to see the full images):

Still, no recipes. I still thought the recipe must probably be online somewhere, but someone must have changed the name. So I looked more closely at the ad pictured in Finding Betty Crocker. Underneath the picture of the cake, I saw that Betty Crocker ever-so-helpfully labeled every part of the cake, and listed all the ingredients. Thank you, Betty!

With arrows pointing to the various parts of the cake, I read “Cocoanut Icing,” “Oranges” (these are orange pieces arranged decoratively around the base of the cake), “Three Layer Orange Cake,” “Cocoanut in Cake,” and “Creamy Orange Filling.”

The ingredient list “for Cake, Filling and Icing” is: “Shortening, sugar, eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, orange juice, orange rind, cocoanut, corn starch, lemon juice.”

With all the ingredients, I ought to be able to find the recipe online somewhere, yes? And sure enough, it wasn’t long before I stumbled on the “Prize Orange Coconut Cake.” This recipe is all over the various web recipe collections. It seems to come from a single source, one with quite a few typos. It is unclear what that source may be. The ingredients match the list in the ad exactly, with the exception of corn syrup in the frosting, as does the construction of the cake. I think this is probably the once popular Gold-N-Sno. Here it is, with typos fixed and some editing to make it easier to read (I hope):

(Note: since I posted this, I have actually made the cake. See here for comments. I’ve edited a couple of things in this post, now that I’ve tried the cake.)

Prize Orange Coconut Cake (possibly the 1933 Gold-N-Sno cake)

Total quantities of ingredients you need to have on hand, if I’ve counted correctly (I rounded up a couple of times):

  • 3/4 c shortening
  • 4 3/4 c sugar
  • Rind of two oranges
  • 6 eggs (you’ll be using the yolks and the whites separately, so don’t throw any away)
  • 3 1/2 c cake flour
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Slightly over a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 c orange juice
  • 1 c water
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 4 T corn starch
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 tsp corn syrup


From the ingredients you’ve gathered for this recipe, take:

  • 3/4 c shortening (I used Crisco Butter Flavor)
  • 2 c sugar

Cream together, then add:

  • 1 1/2 tsp grated orange rind (preferably organic)
  • 2 egg yolks, well beaten

Blend together,then sift:

  • 3 1/4 c cake flour, sift once (I used Softasilk)
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Add sifted ingredients to first mixture with:

  • 1/2 c orange juice
  • 3/4 c water

Beat enough to make batter smooth. Blend in:

  • 1/2 c moist, shredded coconut
  • 4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks

Pour into three 9-inch cake pans, greased and floured.
Bake 30 minutes in moderate oven at 350 degrees F.
Cool completely on cooling rack before frosting.
Put the layers together with orange filling (see below) and cover with orange frosting (also below). Sprinkle with 3/4 cup moist shredded coconut.

Orange Filling:

  • 2 level T flour
  • 4 level T cornstarch
  • 4 egg yolks, well beaten
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix until smooth in double boiler.
Add, slowly, the following, stirring constantly:

  • 1/2 c orange juice
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 c water

Then add:

  • 2 T butter
  • grated rind of 1 orange

Cook over water, stirring occasionally until thick, about 20 minutes. Cool. Spread between layers of cake. (Ours thickened a little more quickly than 20 minutes.) The result is sort of an orange curd; very orangey and good.

Orange Frosting:

(This is a variant on the 7-Minute Frosting boiled frosting recipe that can be found in many sources. You should wait until the cake is ready to frost before you make this, as it must be used immediately after cooking.)
IMPORTANT: When we made this, it did not make enough frosting to cover the whole cake. I recommend doubling this recipe. However, I have not yet tried it with the doubled amount so I can’t be sure the proportions wouldn’t need to be tweaked. So I’m leaving the original amount here for now.

  • 1 tsp light corn syrup
  • 7/8 c sugar
  • 1/4 tsp grated orange rind
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 T orange juice

Put in double boiler.
Beat constantly with rotary beater while cooking over boiling water 6-7 minutes.
Remove from heat and add:

  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • sprinkling of salt

Beat thoroughly for about 2 minutes until it’s a spreadable consistency, and then spread on cake immediately.

So. Is this the Gold-N-Sno cake from 1933? Anyone know? I think I will try it soon and see if I like it. I’d like to know if it’s the same cake, and if it’s good at all.

(Added later: Yes. It’s good. I think it is the same cake, too.)

Incidentally, while researching this, I found Kitty Wells’ Orange Coconut Cake, which is somewhat similar and apparently quite tasty.

One other thing — I noticed that a couple of those vintage bakery ads mentioned “malted milk” cakes. If there is any cake that sounds as good to me as orange-coconut, it is chocolate malted milk. Good God, I love chocolate malt flavor. That vintage recipe, at least, is easier to track down, and the results are apparently excellent. I can see I might have to make two cakes for New Year’s Eve.

26 Nov

My childhood home is for sale

My childhood home, now for sale

My childhood home, now for sale

Me, Dave, and Kurt, on the front porch of the same house, February 1988

Me, Dave, and Kurt, on the front porch of the same house, February 1988

The house I grew up in, in Lake City, is for sale. My mom sold it a few years ago to a flipper who is asking what seems to me to be an outrageous amount of money for the place. He also tore out all the rose bushes.

It’s a nice little starter home, but it’s tiny. I mean tiny. Not “spacious.” And when they say “formal dining room” on the flyer, I laugh. You see that window next to the breakfast bar? That is the “dining room”, and it was tiny when we lived there, which was before they put the breakfast bar in.

The upstairs is remodeled now, which is an improvement. It was just a little attic cubbyhole room before. I wonder if they’ve done anything about the heat, though. The upstairs room had no heat to it when we lived there. I had a space heater.

06 Oct

70s kids, check this out

Photo by Waffle Whiffer.

While browsing Flickr this weekend, I stumbled on an amazing photostream with lots of great pop culture stuff, particularly packaging and advertising characters from the 1960s-1980s. If you grew up in that era as I did, you’ll see a lot of familiar stuff in Waffle Whiffer’s great photostream. Look and reminisce. The photo here is just one example of the fun stuff found there: a late 70s Kool-Aid package with the classic Kool-Aid design, before the envelopes got busy and over-designed. I didn’t even like Kool-Aid that much as a kid, and yet the envelope always made it look so good! Heyyyyyy Kool-Aid!

25 Sep

No more “friend of the family”

So, Washington Mutual is dead. (I suppose I am continuing a theme here.) I went looking on YouTube for one of the really, really old WaMu commercials I remember from childhood, the ones with the kindly banker saying “Washington Mutual. The friend of the family.” Unfortunately, that seems to be one of the few things YouTube doesn’t have.

But they do have this cringe-inducing commercial, in which we see both one of the reasons they failed, and some of the pain that this failure is about to put a lot of people through:

And then… then, there’s this one:

Um… yeah.

I wonder if WaMu was the last remaining local bank from my childhood. Seafirst, Rainier, Peoples Bank — all absorbed by larger entities. (There is another bank using the Peoples name now. Peoples Bank in the Seattle area is now U.S. Bank.) Of course, some of the old credit unions are still around. But all the local banks — gone.

17 Mar

John Wayne Gives A Driving Tour of Seattle

John Wayne Gives A Driving Tour of Seattle is an awesome clip from the early 70s movie McQ, in which Wayne starts at the Amazon Headquarters on Beacon Hill (which was PacMed back then), drives around Chinatown and SoDo, then up to South Lake Union.

The interesting thing about it is that the path he takes is relatively logical. In a lot of movie car chases you see random things filmed here and there, and once edited together to make a single sequence, they aren’t actually following any path a real person could follow. This one is sort of real. There are a couple of things here and there that wouldn’t work, but basically he does drive Beacon Hill –> Chinatown –> SoDo –> Chinatown –> I-5 north to the Mercer exit (backed up with some traffic, as usual) –> South Lake Union. He takes the real freeway exits that one would have taken at the time (one no longer exists, on Dearborn), but occasionally drives on the wrong side of the street. And somehow managed to get a car wash (perhaps at Elephant, on 4th Ave. S.) in the middle of the car chase. 😉

It is interesting to see what I-5 looked like before the Convention Center and Freeway Park lids.

09 Mar

Random YouTube vid: Pee-Wee Herman and the Alien Invasion

I just stumbled on Pee-Wee Herman and the Alien Invasion, a very short super-8 film shot by an 8 year old (back in the 80s, I assume). Pretty well done, considering. The claymation part works nicely. It’s not all that exciting, I guess, but it made me smile anyway.

You can compare it to Pee Wee’s Brain, which was an actual clip from Pee Wee’s Playhouse, also with claymation.

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