Joe Greengard: Growing Up In Seattle

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Generously sponsored by Joe & Lila Greengard.

Our Early Homes

  • 260 Dorffel Dr, Madrona    1929-1930
  • 3635 E Howell St, Madrona    1930-1934
  • 1610 20th Ave E, Capitol Hill    1934-1937
  • 3804 E Howe St, Madison Park    1937-1942
  • 1562 E Garfield St, Capitol Hill    1943-1952

My mother’s side of the family were German-Jews and settled in Seattle in the 1890’s. Mom’s father, Nathan Degginger, who we called Papu, was in the liquor business with his partner and brother in-law Edward Friend. His father, Simon Degginger, joined the family in Seattle in 1895 and was a founding member of Temple de Hirsch. He came to New York from Germany in 1849. He had served for the North in the Civil War and had homesteaded in South Dakota.

My mom was born in Seattle in1895. Dad was born in St. Paul and went to work there for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Rail Road at a young age. He eventually worked his way west with the RR and ended up in Seattle as the Assistant Treasurer. Mom and Dad met here and were married in 1925.

260 Dorffel Dr - Madrona

My sister, Merle, was born in 1927 and I was born in 1929. At this time my parents lived in the Madrona neighborhood at 260 Dorffell Drive. It was a home with a reputation because one of the early Seattle Architects, Ellsworth Storey was his name, had built two homes there, we lived in the smaller back one. Although I was born there, we didn’t stay long.

Our family moved often as Merle and I were growing up. Dad believed in renting rather than owning. So as the family grew and the world changed, we often found ourselves in a new home in a new neighborhood and in a new school.  

In some ways the homes I grew up in and the neighborhoods they were in, reflect the Jewish History of Seattle. Successive waves of immigrants each had their own characteristics. My mother’s side reflected the assimilationist German-Jewish pioneers. Temple de Hirsch was founded “in keeping with the times and on thoroughly American lines.” (Family of Strangers 106.)​

We moved many times but we never lived in Seattle’s predominantly Jewish neighborhood near Yesler Way and Cherry Street. It had kosher butchers, bakeries, produce, leather, general stores and Orthodox synagogues close enough to walk to.

3635 E Howell St - Madrona

This was the home of my first memories. I was a one year old when we moved there and I was in kindergarten when we left. Now it is all rebuilt with a street closed (taken over by the Epiphany School buildings and playgrounds).

My mom’s brother and his wife, Uncle Leonard and Aunt Marie, lived a block and a half up Howell Street. Those were still the days when all generations and members of families lived together. Up until he was married in 1934 Uncle Leonard, along with Mom’s parents, Dolly and her husband, Nathan, Papu, all lived with us.

1610 20th Ave N Crescent Dr - Capitol Hill

We moved to the Crescent Drive neighborhood in the middle of my kindergarten year. Because there was no kindergarten at what was to be my new school, Stevens, I had to wait out the rest of that school year at home. Then I began school all over again at Stevens in the first grade.

Crescent Drive is where I made early friends –Bruce Stern, my earliest lifelong friend; Jimmy and Mary Ellen Greenfield. Mary Ellen became one of the most influential political women in the country. She was the Political Editor of the Washington Post for many years and best friend, confident and travel mate of Katherine Graham, The Editor/Publisher of the Post.

I went through grade 1 to 3 and we moved on to Madison Park. 

3804 E Howe St - Madison Park

Our home at 3804 E. Howe St. was a large 4300 square foot Madison Park home. When I received some 1937 research papers on it, it listed the rent as $45.00 a month. No wonder Dad had always preferred to rent.  

3804 was a large house and Dolly continued living with us until Aunt Marie died and then she moved to Uncle Leonard’s. Our yard was filled with fruit trees; two cherries, a plum, two apples and a grape vine over the garage. I used to climb the trees and eat the fruit or fill bags of it for Mom. 

I started 4th grade at McGilvra School, a block away. There were lots of new friends. Jimmy Ladd, my closest friend, lived  across 38th.

1562 E Garfield St - Capitol Hill

1562 E. Garfield was the first home Dad ever bought. It had been owned by Colonel Bickford and his wife. She had become crippled and they had a devoted attendant for her. The Colonel wanted the attendant to have a lifetime income from the mortgage. Dad bought the house and each month made the very reasonable mortgage payment to the attendant. It was a very fair and generous arrangement for everyone and Dad couldn’t turn it down.

It was a big beautiful house with two large Monkey Trees in front. The back yard went down a steep slope into the Arboretum. We had two narrow terraces at the top where we planted a victory Garden and grew carrots, radishes, tomatoes, squash and even rhubarb. Merle and I tended it with Mom’s supervision. Dad grew beautiful roses in front of the house and Amaryllis in the basement. 

The ‘corner grocer’ was only 2 blocks away and I’d often have to go to the store to get a 10 cent loaf of bread or  bottle of milk or whatever might be needed to finish preparing a meal.  

1562 “is where I lived during my high school and college years. I lived here from 14 until married at 23 years old.

A fun thing that stays in my mind is we’d get 2 or 3 cars in the street, all tune to the same music station roll down the car windows, and dance in the street.

Sources: Greengard, Joseph S., Growing Up in Seattle - Life in My Early Homes, 2019

If you'd like to make a tribute or contribute message in response to this exhibit, please visit the WSJHS tribute page.

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