Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Indian Dancers, and what they led me to

The anecdote starts with 16-year-old me on a stage at the Seattle Center in front of about 2,000 people. I was saying "Are the Indian dancers ready?" and getting a laugh. But I was serious.

I was MC of the second annual International Youth Friendship Festival, the brainchild of Ruth and Cliff Leisey of Seward Park, an affluent south Seattle neighborhood. My older sister was supposed to be up there, she had MCed the first festival, but she had won a scholarship to spend a year in Israel, and had mentioned that I had some stage experience, was reasonably articulate, and would not be nervous in front of a big audience. I had acted, sung and played in concert bands in front of big audiences since I was about 7. But I had never been a master of ceremonies.

The stage show part of the festival had started with the usual speeches, and it was my turn. I started to introduce the first act, but they were not ready. Nor was the second act. Third on the list was a troupe of Native American dancers, hence the laugh line which was not meant to be a laugh line.

I filled for maybe 3 minutes, and the first act was ready. I don't remember much about the program, except that one of the groups was about half a dozen singers and players of instruments who were very energetic, and had some catchy tunes and lyrics, some of which were written by one of the group members and a few were from the national organization they were part of: Up With People. I was impressed. I asked if they needed a trumpet player. They did. I joined the group. I was still in the group when I went to college that fall, and had been dating one of its members, a stunning redhead named Kitty Hepokowski.

We had performed at her church in the U district, after the event was over we got into an argument, she threw her keys at me, and I held onto them. The priest came in, and she told him I had her keys, he asked me to give them back so I did. And that was the end of my relationship with Kitty.

The next time I saw her, I was in a journalism class where we went to Olympia once or twice a week and were the actual state capitol reporters for newspapers which were either too far away or too poor (or both) to have someone on site. I was assigned the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin because the professor thought a city boy ought to learn how to report for a farm town paper. And because both the speaker of the house and the president pro-tem of the senate were from there. I did not have a car, so I bummed a ride with a classmate. Kitty was in the car too - she had become a volunteer for the handsome and charming Sen. Pete Francis, who proudly wore a vasectomy pin on his lapel.

I also was on the staff of the campus paper, and was assigned to cover U district affairs. One story was a continuing saga of some students, businessmen and neighbors who bought a house up around 52nd and University and turned it into a community center. One of the volunteers, Bob Schupe, I did not like at all, but he had done a lot of the plumbing and grunt work, and was named by the board to be the center's director. I went to do a formal interview (which was not all that formal, since we knew each other and I'd worked on the center quite a bit myself), and sitting on his lap when I arrived was Kitty. It turns out she had done a lot of volunteering, and was Sen. Pete's liaison to the project. She and Bob were engaged. She showed me the ring.

After about six months, I ran into her on the street, asked how Bob was, and she said he had dumped her. He was now engaged to another, slightly older, redhead named Colleen. The next time I saw Bob, he told me her name was Colleen Howard.

Yes, it was the same Colleen Howard I had gone to high school with, she was a year older than me, played the sax, and had helped me get into the UW concert band. I'd had a massive crush on her, but she always seemed to have a boyfriend. I was amazed she had hooked up with Bob, she was much more classy than that. I think they did actually get married.

I never saw Bob, Colleen or Kitty again.

But I did see the Leiseys.

They attended the oldest Protestant church in the city, on First Hill, and their pastor had suffered a near-fatal heart attack. When he gave his first sermon after recovering, they invited me to come with them. I remember the service well. The hymns were beautiful, but the congregation sang them without hearing the words. The church was very impressive, but the congregation was used to it, it had no impact on them. The sermon was not memorable, the pastor had not recovered his former zeal yet. I understand it took him a year.

A few years later I was in Seward Park, at the lakeside beach, swimming. When I went to the bath house to take a shower, there was no shower. The bath house had been converted into an art studio for kids, and Mrs. Leisey was the person who accomplished this. She was in there teaching kids how to spin pots and make ceramic coffee cups. She invited me to come home with her for lunch, and her husband Cliff gave me some home made cider. He told me that all I had to do to make my own was pour half a gallon of apple juice into a container, add a packet of yeast, and let it set in a cool place for 3 days.

And I think that was the last time I saw them.

I think that's enough for now.

Tags: nostalgia

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