Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Seattle PI Go Towards the Light!

To explain how I feel about the Seattle Post Intelligencer’s held in two hands, finger blackening, windblown and stacked on the back porch in piles image sliding into the digital realm I must go back to 1972. 

The Seattle economy was suffering from mood lighting. I was a new bride and a new business owner.  Heaven knows how it all came about.  I started my working life at the Frederick and Nelson my sisters website candy kitchen.  My Dad was employment and Credit Union manager at F&N and I expect he thought the white uniform and hair net would curb my post hippy life-style tendencies. Unfortunately it did not, simply leaving me with a fear of starched collars and an aversion to Frango mints.

Escaping chocolate purgatory I eventually drifted into flower arranging at F&N which lead to working at the Bon Marche Indoor plant department and shorly after that a daring leap into self employment.  My Former husband Michael, my friend Sandy and I found a storefront on Stewart and 7th downtown. It was formerly a cleaners, we got mail for an Ignaz Kalwaltski during our first year of business.  I liked to imagine Ignaz up to his neck in a bubbles in the oversized claw-foot tub we found in the bathroom -- since being in the cleaning biz I don’t think he washed his socks in there.  

Our shop was called Marvin Gardens. “Park Place Plants at Baltic Avenue Prices”, was our motto.  Before I discovered that I liked people and flowers far better than I liked plants, (there was something about all their thirsty little faces staring me down each day that I found disconcerting and ultimately insupportable), we worked hard and had fun.

 The first year of a business is hard and 70’s Seattle was not booming.  Lot’s of our friends collected food stamps and for a while we had a guy named Jim living behind our couch to save money.  People having trouble buying grilled cheese sandwiches think buying a ficus benjamina for the living room is an extravagance so we were faltering. 

Then-- a miracle.  An unlikely angel named Emmett Watson came to our rescue. 

Emmett Watsons' column in the PI was a must-read for folks in Seattle in 1972.  His Lesser Seattle quips and wry prose style captivated a populous ready to scoff at champagne tastes while reading his dour rants in the unemployment line.

Well, the wonderful Mr. Watson gave us a mention in his column and immediately more people began to show up. Gals from the Telephone company across the street wanted african violets for their desks.  Hanging baskets and potted succulents went out the door to birthday parties and sun-decks.  We had a brief golden moment in the sun. The shops demise, the marriage’s demise, and the saga of my drifting into 32 years of scraping fecal matter off floors, and sometimes parts of my own person at the Woodland Park Zoo are for another place and time. 

My life like the single money plant leaf I started long ago has grow into a large tree with many branches and now has the benefit of lots of sun and water. However I am grateful for the PI’s existence and Mr. Watsons kindness when my roots were fragile and the light was dim.

In memorial and thanks I take the last front page of the Seattle Post Intelligencer and wrap up my package of old Marvin Garden Business cards and place them lovingly in the box marked Over But Not Forgotten.  

Goodbye Emmett Watson, goodbye Print PI.  May the grow-lights of heaven light your way along the paths of write-ousness -- forever and ever, Amen.

© Robin Wendell 2009


  1. Good bye PI, Good Bye Emmett, Good bye Mike Mailway, Good bye to the real Jean Goden, Good bye to what made the daily newspaper, smearing ink on my hands, worth reading. Gone like youth, gone like hope, gone but not forgotten.

  2. Thanks Mike for your lit candle in the Print PI chapel niche!