Pioneer Square - Oral Histories

Darlene Aanderud, Casino/Madame Peabody's

I worked at [a major hospital], on the psychiatric ward. Some of the police used to come up and talk about finding co-eds in cars. They just thought I was just nifty, nifty, nifty -- a really nice person. ... But it was very frightening at that time to be who you were -- you just didn't let people know. I was fearful that if I let anybody know at work, I would immediately lose my job. I was, what? 21, 22 years old, you know? Just starting out, making a living. So it was pretty scary to think about that happening. And these guys that I was talking about -- they were probably sheriff's deputies, and they were really nice.

So -- I remember, I was working at [the hospital], and one night we went out. We'd go to Madame Peabody's at night. First we'd go out together. A lot of us -- the guys and the gals went together to places, and we'd dance together and we acted like we were straight, and we weren't, you know. But then late at night, after everything closed, we'd go down to Madame Peabody's. And I remember being down there and inside we were dancing and having a good time. And I looked around and those same sheriff's deputies that I knew at work were inside Madame Peabody's. And I said to [my partner], "We've got to go!" I was just so frightened. You can't imagine.

It was probably silly, but at the time it was very scary. I said, "We've got to get out of here because I know all these guys. I know all these sheriff's deputies. Every one of them." So she said, "Okay," and so we started to go up -- you went up some steps and there was a light up at the top, when you got up out of Madame Peabody's. It was kind of down in a basement. And there was the sheriff's deputy's car, right outside, and the other guy that I knew was in there. I said, "Let's get out of here, quick!" So we left and I was so frightened --

[I was] holding a really responsible job. But it was about a month after that, that I resigned, and I remember why I did. I resigned because I was so afraid that those guys would see me, and that they would report me. I don't think they ever really saw me, and if they did they probably wouldn't have done anything. But it frightened me so much that I just said, "I'm going to resign." And I went to work in a doctor's office after that. But I knew, part of my doing that was the fear that I felt.

Darlene Aanderud, interview by NWLGHMP, tape recording, Lynnwood, WA, 16 August 2004.

Don Moreland, Pioneer Square

In socio-economic level, it was very different than it is today. We kid about it being Skid Row now. ... But in the days that we’re talking about -- we’re talking the 50s -- it was the bottom end, socio-economically. There weren’t any trendy shops down there and it was very marginal. It was only during, probably, the 60s that they did some sort of restoration. Before then it was a really pretty skuzzy area.

... It became a better place later, but in those days -- you know, were you physically safe in that area? That was the question, at least it was to me, and I didn’t feel that way in the other end of town. It was also a point of -- could you get in and out of a place without being identified? I felt if I was up on Pike or Pine Street, I could probably explain my presence there if it was ever questioned.

But you were always very aware, of going into one of these places and not being identified, which is something we don’t think about today.

Interviewer: And now places like Wild Rose and the restaurant on Broadway -- they’ve got outdoor seating in the summer.

Don: Not only that but windows. I mean, an open window would be very threatening in those days. You didn’t want the outside world to come into your world.

Don Moreland, interview by NWLGHMP, tape recording, Renton, WA, 2 February 2006.

Nicholas Heer (Skid Road/Pioneer Square)

Nicholas: It was hard to define the line, because all of First Avenue was sort of a sleazy avenue in those days. There were porn movies and other areas, for heterosexuals, too. But I think the important thing was not whether it was gay or not, but it was not "respectable." So, you didn't expect to see any of your so-called respectable friends there, and if they were there, they would be as embarrassed as you, probably.

Nicholas Heer, interview by NWLGHMP, tape recording, Seattle, WA, 7 August 2002.