518 West Roy…anatomy of a song

 

compton-house-1906.jpg

 

 

listen to 518 West Roy, or download it for free, by clicking link below,

https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/track/518-west-roy

 

I lived in a mansion  518 West Roy

21 in the 20th Century

Our dining room table was big enough for everyone

Who had come to the fair from every other where

And was boarding with us

 

Elvis Presley was strolling the fairgrounds

My sister said she saw him just hanging around

When the fair closed down, we saw Elvis in the movie

And the fairground ruins was our new playground

 

We played in the fountain and the monorail was free

Once a year on the fairs anniversary

Dylan and the Band played in the Coliseum

I bought an $8 ticket just to see em

Bumbershoot hit the grounds one Labor Day

It was free at first,  now its $100 a day

Back in 1962, for the fair you had to pay to get in

Two bucks for adults and a dollar for kids

 

There is no mansion at 518 West Roy any more

Just three blocks of condominiums

With no yards between them

A line of buildings where there used to be mansions

And I lived there

In a 20th century vision of the 21st century

The present of the past is bereaved

But all you thought you ost will be retrieved

 

 

Over a 35 year period,  Yasuhiro Ozu directed 55 motion pictures.  For the most part, each film told the same essential story.  So when we watch his films today, we are seeing the cultural history of Japan as it evolved through the years 1927 – 1962.

1962 was a pivotal year for me.  I had just returned to Seattle from South Dakota after living with my father after my mother divorced him.  At age 11, I had already made out with girls in movie theatres, eaten hamburgers in bars where men drank beer, was nearly buried alive in quicksand, stood over the grave of Wild Bill Hickok on Boot Hill in Deadwood South Dakota, wrote a 60 page essay on the rise and fall of Adolph Hitler, and waited for Old Faithful to gush in Yellowstone Park.  Now I was back in the city where I was born, but instead of the housing projects in Holly Park and Renton Highlands, I was living in a mansion on Queen Anne Hill, which had been transformed by  the Worlds Fair into a vision of the future.

My father was a gunner on the USS Enterprise during the war in the Pacific with the Japanese.  My grandfather was the Rear Admiral on that ship.  My father, a loudmouthed boozed up troublemaker, married the Admirals daughter. The Admirals wife was a flapper in the Roaring 20s, and he had her comitted to an insane asylum, where she died sometime after the turn of the century.   When the Admiral remarried to an heiress to a frozen food business in Californias Bay Area, my mother was taken in and treated like one of the new family.  But her marriage to my father resulted in her being virtually disinherited, and our family was the typical post war Boeing working class one that began in poverty and ended in middle  class subsistence.  Meanwhile the Admiral married a third time, this time to his gold digging secretary, and raised a third family in the luxurious digs of Mercer Island.

I go into this to explain how we wound up in that mansion on Queen Anne Hill.  After my mother and father divorced, the Admiral bought it for my mother to run as a bed and breakfast during the fair.

This song takes that place and tries to suggest how the city changed over the course of five decades by  observing the changing ways in which those fairgrounds have been utilized.  it is not exactly Japan as seen through the lens of Ozu, but it is Seattle as I experienced in from 1962- 2012, less the years 1982-99, when I lived elsewhere. And its just a song, not a history, not even a movie, let alone 55 movies…but I hope something of interest comes through this changing picture of a city from the persective of a house that no longer exists, and hasnt for several decades.

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