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Volume 35
Issue 14
 
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Seattle Gay History - Road trip to Odlin Park, ca. 1958
Seattle Gay History - Road trip to Odlin Park, ca. 1958
Road trip to Odlin Park, ca. 1958 Gays need to get out of Dodge -- far from the madden crowd. But who is the madden crowd? Gays and all they represent or the status quo?

In the 1950s and 1960s, young men got together and rented large houses on Capitol Hill and Queen Anne Hill for shared affordable housing and companionship. One such group was the denizens of 'Kinnear Hilton,' a house next to Kinnear Park on Queen Anne Hill. 'Kinnear Hilton' was the scene of many parties and Sunday brunches after a night of revelry at the Gay bars or dancing at 'Madame Peabody's'. 'Kinnear Hilton' was also a departure place for Gay road trips or a Sunday afternoon at Gay Madison Beach when male swimsuits were tight.

Ray Lamb, resident of 'Kinnear Hilton' with his lover Glen, remembers: "One day we borrowed two cars, packed up everything in sight, along with Jack Mayo's enormous spice and herb collection, our house cat Kinnear, and the ten of us took off for Odlin Park (wouldn't you know it, Mr. Odlin's grandson was Gay--there's always one in every family!). When we got to Anacortes we missed the last ferry, so, we camped on the beach; catching the Klickitat ... the next morning. On the ferry, we joked and threw food up into the air for seagulls to catch in flight.

"We drove straight to Odlin Park and set up housekeeping, sharing the park with only a young couple. I suspect they didn't want to risk spending a night with ten faggots, but they were nice and showed us how to eat oysters by placing them on a hot surface. 'When the shell opens you butter, salt and pepper them and plop them into your mouth.'

"We brought everything for a picnic table setting: tablecloth, condiments, a vase for local flowers, stemmed wine glasses and plenty of Claret wine. To cook our shared food we used the parks fire pit and our small gas cook stove that we finally got going. Those who didn't have sleeping bags brought heavy blankets and Harold brought his typewriter "to drive everyone crazy."

It was a hot July day and the men were eager to put on their swimsuits and head for the beach. David remembers: "We could butch it up if necessary but swimming in that cold water wasn't going to happen. We beach combed and I made chaplets for everyone to wear in their hair. They called me, 'boy octinigenarian' because I was old for my age. Everyone turns into an artist on a beach. They covered me up with sand and endowed me with a gigantic penis and balls. Then, we buried Jack and molded him into a sphinx.

"Jack dominated the group. He was incredibly witty in an intellectual way, especially when he took over the role of a 6' 4' blasphemous Pope. Denny put a rhinestone necklace on Kinnear that charmed everyone. He was the sweetest kid. He was soft spoken, conventional, tended to be a little shy, but he had charisma; in fact, he was a mystical character, he could charm and get most anyone he wanted.

"At night, we sat around the campfire and joked, drank wine and told funny stories. Since we had the park to our campy selves, nothing and no one was spared, but all in a friendly manner."

Gays and other minorities have a special camaraderie and a remarkable sense of humor, ironic or not. They are masters of campy innuendos, double entendres, witty repartees and affectionate self mockery (to hell with hetero-imitative behavior). David observed that "Gays tend to be terribly funny, so, there's always tragedy where there is humor."

However, the people on super conservative Lopez Island were not amused. In witchhunt 1958, locals who didn't like outsiders had deep prejudices, especially the old timers. If you had not lived there for the last one hundred years, forget it. What to them was ostentatious, ungodly behavior was 'normal' vogueing in the city for us muses of poetry and the arts.

"We kept it down," David said, "but a little bit goes a long way in rural areas. It's likely they had never seen anything like us on Lopez before, a far cry from the annual 4th of July picnics at Odlin Park held each year by islanders.'

To most residents on Lopez, the city and its kooky and radical elements was an issue. City people saw country people as quaint but stuck in the key of C, still believing the world was flat. When it came to homosexuals, BAM!, thirty days in the town square with your head in a stockade. But there was no trouble and the denizens of 'Kinnear Hilton' had a great time and the locals had something to talk, giggle and deplore about. A local church prayed for their miserable souls and not a moment too soon before the devil got them. Thank you Jesus!

Be nice to everyone because you never know who you'll wind up with in old age. Fifty years later, four of the 'Kinnear' crowd are in the 'whatever happened to so and so file.' Glen and Ray are still together. David and Don (one of the 'Kinnear Hilton' members) are still best friends. Jack died in San Francisco in 2000. Sadly, Denny died in the 1980's under suspicious circumstances and Kinnear went wild with all the other feral tomcats in Kinnear Park. He had no use for human things and left his rhinestone necklace to the ages.

"The years go by at the turn of an eye and the flower fades too soon. While others bloom in another golden noon and then it fades away..." - Don Paulson, 2001

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