Seattle Confidential – Odd Symmetry


(click to enlarge)

Silently set with a lustre so fitting for some of the dancing days we played within it’s walls, the Oddfellows Ballroom (and like the Eagles Auditorium with an encircling balcony) was wonderfully fit for staging light show dances – and our’s were.

As the poster below elaborately confesses, in 1976 the remnants of 1967 had a big dancing party (we might have called it an A’GOGO-BEIN, except that the connotations of “gogo” were too commercial) here, in this Oddfellows Temple on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the founding of the Helix, the first “alternative tabloid” hereabouts and the local member then of the nation-wide UPS, or Underground Press Syndicate.  The Helix was first imagined in the University District, in the upstairs office of the Free University of Seattle (FUS) in the fall of 1966.  It sprang of “necessity” from a conversation I had with Paul Sawyer, a Universalist Preacher then, and recently deceased – last year.  Paul said, “We need a newspaper – something like the Berkeley Barb.”

The weekly tabloid began publishing in the Spring of 1967.  With lots of help from Ron Edge – of this blog’s “Edge Clippings” and more – we hope to put up the entire Helix opera sometime this year.  (Ironically, we may have to take on advertising to pay for the added memory required to post it and other over-sized resources.  We hope not.  Jean especially is committed to a blog free of ads – except, of course, for our own.)

Click Twice to Enlarge. With the exception of Steve's Schafer's cartoon of captured eggs, which was drawn for this poster, all the art here by different Helix hands appeared originally in - HELIX.

One of my many little ways of negotiating survival during the 70’s was receiving two CETA grants through the Seattle Arts Commission.  One was for arranging benefits for local non-profits in the arts and the other for studying local history with a mind to making a film about it.  I used this hall for more than one of the big benefit shows, and it was in the AND/OR gallery on the ground floor of Oddfellows where I made my first presentation on work-in-progress on the Seattle  Film, which I was then calling “Seattle’s Second History.”  Recently, Jean’s youngest son Noel was helping feed the 99%, which was temporarily camped nearby on the Seattle Community College campus. Jean and I met him at the Oddfellows cafe and bar. (They ordinarily promote this space singularly with “Oddfellows” and with neither cafe nor bar. I makes it seem more club like.) The cafe is housed in the same big room that was once home to the principal avante garde-plus exhibit and performance space of the 1970s: the And/Or.   In the interests of – or curiosity for – the timeline of this hallowed space on 10th Ave., I asked three persons connected with the busy cafe if they knew anything of its past.  Alas, they were all clueless.  It seems my prime  looks forward from the past, while theirs does the same from the present.

It is often a mixed delight to come upon negatives – like the ones on top and below, both of the Oddfellows – I photographed long ago, for ordinarily I did not date them.  While I’m confident that from context – several contexts – I’d eventually be able to date this scene, it would require days for sorting and reflecting through thousands of plastic sheets of negatives.  For now I put it sometime in the 1970s.  Since I also developed the film It would have been so prudent to have simply marked the negative holders – seven strips deep and five 35mm negs wide – with the date and the place, although ordinarily I still remember the latter.


2 thoughts on “Seattle Confidential – Odd Symmetry”

  1. Wow!!!! Paul, I would love to have scans of these and other images in the series for the Century Ballroom archives. Our 15th Anniversary is two short months away, so how wonderful and timely for these to have been unearthed. I want to run and take some “now” versions right now!

  2. March 23 is fast approaching…still plenty of time to plan a 45th anniversary of the first Helix to roll off the presses!

    R.I.P. Helix <3

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