This most recent record of the old Helix was record last Oct. 29, and may be compared to one below it from 2008, and then another from the 1970s. At the bottom the door is open, but to the first Helix office, which was in the University District on Roosevelt Way and a half-block north of 45th Street..
Below: While I recall the faces and beards of the two on the left at the Helix front door on Harvard Ave., I no longer remember their names. But to the right are Pat Churchill and Tim Harvey. Both contributed to the paper. Tim handled the UPS and LNS selections and edits and also did some of the best reporting for the paper, as well as drama reviews. In our recorded remarks Bill White and I have referred to Tim’s writing often enough. Rereading Tim I wish that I could indicated somehow my admiration. He may still be in Maine but I’ve not found him as yet. I remember that both Pat and Tim often had a cup of coffee in one hand and sometimes a smoke in the other. As did I and almost everybody in the smoke-filled office. But at that time we were eternal.
Helix this week is austere, at least when compared to any of the 30 some previous offerings. And things will stay restrained for about two weeks more, for we have lost Bill White – temporarily. This week Ron Edge’s clever black-white lasso of the Moitoret Helix logo is left without color. Ron has restrained himself, for it is he that has been putting up those colored renderings every week – with about two years to go. (They should make a fine little Edge Animation. We can show it on YouTube.)
Now it occurs to me that this lack of color is prefigured by a slide I took many years ago of the front of the old and last Helix office on Harvard Ave. The place was plastered with bills. I’ll put it up. (For sake of disclosure, perhaps it was recorded with Tri-X and not color.) Someone – like Bill White – with a detailed understanding of Seattle’s Rock history will be able to date this by the bands playing.
[Now someone has: Mike Whybark. While Bill is on the train – thanks Mike. Here’s his comment, which can also be found far below. Mike refers to both front door shots of the abandoned Helix, this one and the other near the bottom of this contribution. We’ll put his truths in quotes, and this welcome interruption in brackets.
“Black and white posters shot includes a date: Freak Show at the Central 6-2-91, flyers in the clerestory of the storefront. I also note the mass of posters lower down is very weathered with no fresh flyers. I would guess that this then dates from the first year or so of the poster ban, around 1993. The color pic [near the bottom] looks to be around 1982. Three alternative market bands are featured: The Stranglers (UK based), Romeo Void (LA) and Echo and the Bunnymen. Romeo Void had the shortest half life of these bands so I say about 1981-1982.”]
Things will stay dormant for about two weeks more – until Bill gets settled in Peru. We say farewell Bill. But we wait to hear from you. (He has sent a few lines from Chicago and a few more while rolling through Washington D.C. via Amtrak. They were understandable complaints about the price of train food, the difficulties of sleeping in a coach, the state of North Dakota and the state of national politics. But soon comes relief, for Bill by now must be approaching dangling Florida. There on its western shore he will join a cruise ship filled with tourists. On my trip across the Atlantic long ago I quickly developed a fondness for tourists and the deck shuffleboard and swimming we shared high above the ocean. Bill’s journey with take him and his tourists through the Panama Canal, in the direction of the new world. Fifty seven years ago I too went through it in the opposite direction landing in the old world at Tilbury on the Thames.
Bill intends to send reports by land and sea and with pictures. Once he is comfortably at home in Lima we will figure out how to resume these weekly offerings with our partnered commentaries, by means of SKYPE and some recording program we have yet to install. And we hope that a few thousand miles, Skype and the cameras on our respective screens will help us get better at reading Helix.
The trip from Seattle to Lima, which takes a few hours by air, will last a little under three weeks for Bill – a luxury for a writer as prolific as he. We shall wait to read him. A century ago Bill could have easily booked steamer service to South America directly from Seattle. And there was a boat operating as early as the 1870s named for the City of Panama, on the isthmus that by then had the first transcontinental railroad in any hemisphere crossing it. For one crossing over from the the Old to the New, adding to the coastwise-steaming on two oceans, the rattling of less than a day by train, made this Western Migration something like tolerable. And there was less chance of catching Malaria on the little train than on a hired wagon though that steaming jungle.
Bill has moved more north-south than east-west. But he has gotten older. Pizarro, the tough Spaniard who founded Lima, called it the “City of Kings.” That was in 1535 – by now time enough the grow a layered culture. Bill will add to it with his singing and writing – even in English. Wallingford will not be the same without him, although the neighborhood is also changing. Tully’s, the bigger espresso shop on the northeast corner of 45th and Meridian folded. It figures. Tully’s was a place we used to go for meetings but with minimal consuming. At the same time the west wall of the place has been painted with a sampler of Wallingford’s destinations. It is mildly charming if one is feeling good but pathetic when not. Ron Edge snapped it from his driver’s window. Bill print this and hang it on a north wall in Lima.
Now a snapshot of Bill on his last day in Wallingford and the Northwest. I’m helping him pack some primitive essentials – although he later refused them. (Until inserting this, I had not noticed that the right pocket on my temperate winter coat is torn. I inherited it from my oldest brother Ted, now six years beyond. I’ll leave it alone.)
Returning – in conclusion for this week – to a more colorful Helix this time in Kodachrome. This slide is not dated, but Bill can probably figure it out from the names on the posters. Now what will happen to all the familiarity that is part of him? Losing White to South America is like burning a library with a smolder. Bill we await your reports – by Land and by Sea – and books both real and magical from the “land of crosses.”
John Ullman, one of the founders in 1966 of the Seattle Folklore Society, often introduces his correspondence with a quote from Charles Seeger. We use it here as a fitting caption to a picture of the then 19-year-old Reed College sophomore John playing his guitar a few years past with New Mexico’s Candy Cane Cliffs a backdrop. John, I know, is very fond of the Southwest but he has lived most of his post-doctorate (yet another in genetics) here in the Northwest – for the most part in Portland and Seattle.
There is a vibrant connection between the above photo of John Ullman and the Lightning Hopkins concert that he helped bring off with aplomb, as you will conclude from the interview. John’s guitar is the same kind of guitar – a Gibson J-50 – that Lightning Hopkins played at his concert here in 1967 and no doubt many others. John has reviewed the interview below and was somewhat surprised by the smoothness of its flow. We were not. He is well-spoken and so is is also well-constructed for more interviews, which down the line we hope to do on subjects like the Folklore Society, the University District folk clubs in the 1960s, the Piano Drop and Sky River Festivals (there he will share a stage with many) and the molecular geneticist’s take on sex, drugs and rock and roll. With his review John noted one regret. He wished that he had explained that the reason he and others drove to Portland for folk concerts was because of his alma mater. Reed College was producing them in the early 1960s – an inspiration to do the same here with Seattle’s own folk society. This will come up again in one or another interview with John.
A day later with the help of Phil and Vivian Williams, also founders of the Seattle Folklore Society and producers of its concerts including this one with Lighting Hopkins, these two snapshots of Hopkins were found. Portland player Mike Russo is at the piano. John explained that Russo, who began the concert with his own set, came up to play piano for Lightning near the end of the Texan’s set. Another photo showing the elated condition of the ethnically mixed, sold-out crowd will be found – hopefully – later and brought on as addendum.
To conclude, here’s a before and recent after or “now” (by Jean Sherrard) of the venue where Lightning played in 1967: Washington Hall.
Postscript: The above interview is in “fulfillment” for it was promised in one of our earlier weekly blog postings of HELIX. Thanks to Bill White for editing the John Ullman tape (digits rather), although it did not require much cutting. Soon I hope to interview John about something he has written about recently as a reporter; which is the fate of all those writers who once, like he, were published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
I conducted this interview with Jon Gallant in the late afternoon of June 7, 2012 with a tiny Olympus recorder yet run on digits and cushioned in a small box of rubber bands and set in a cat mattress propped on my lap. We used no other devices, no prompters and no baton. Jon and I sat side-by-side on a Wallingford sofa. Following the interview Genevieve McCoy snapped the accompanying photograph. (I don’t remember feeling as stunned as we seem.) The interview runs about 30 minutes. I suspect that once negotiated you will want more of Dr. Phage, and we give it to you. Below are five links to other essays written by the Doctor – or doctors, really, because Phage is also an Emeritus Prof of the U.W. Dept. of Genetics. Also down there is a printing of his contributions to the then still bi-weekly Helix for May 16, 1967. It is titled “A Few Modest Proposals.” Surely Jon’s inspiration for his proposals was, at least in part, Jonathon Swift’s own “A Modest Proposal” of 1729 for solving another of those Irish famines. The interview itself reveals the origins of Dr. Phage, his part in the founding and early programing of KRAB (listener-supported) RADIO, and his role in the 1968 Richard Green candidacy for Washington State Land Commissioner, and much else that is at once Swiftian and devouringly screwball.
A FEW MODEST PROPOSALS
By John Gallant / first published in Helix Vol.1 No. 4, May 16, 1967
A number of months ago, I offered the City of Seattle a few modest proposals, including the idea of establishing a professional garbage team. That proposal would have neatly solved two urgent problems in one blow, but I received no call from the mayor’s office, even though I stayed glued to the phone for minutes at a time awaiting the summons. I suppose that some jealous functionary prevented my brilliant suggestions from being relayed to the upper echelons. So, tonight I will give the city another chance. Here are a few modest proposals for a progressive, up-to-the-minute Seattle.
1. The R. H. Thompson Expressway, which has for years been only a gleam in the highway commission’s eye, has reached a terminal planning stage and may start under construction later this year. Let us remember, however, that long-range planning is the essence of progress, so Seattle’s long-range planners should bear in mind that the expressway is only a temporary stage. The next step in the foreseeable future is clearly the removal of expressways, as the proposed removal of San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway demonstrates. So Seattle’s planners should immediately embark on a study of the removal of the R.H. Thompson Expressway. Seattle would certainly move into the forefront of progressive city management if it were studying simultaneously the construction and the removal of the same expressway. Perhaps the master plan could coordinate the two activities, so that the demolition crew moved closely behind the construction crew, tearing down each section of the expressway as soon as it was built. That would be progress with a capital P.
2. The planners are already considering the location of the fifth Lake Washington Floating Bridge, or it is the fifteenth? In either case, this approach is lamentably backward. What they should be considering is the economics of covering up the lake entirely with floating concrete pontoons. Floating bridges are, after all, old hat as tourist attractions; but the world’s first floating parking lot would attract people from all over the country in droves, if only to find a parking space. Real estate developers could throw up instant suburban communities right on top of the lake, which six-inch gaps between pontoons to afford each and every home-owner a view of authentic Lake Washington water. Apartment houses would follow, with names like “The Pontoon Arms”, and, “Concrete Vista”. The hundreds of acres of Lake Washington, formerly squandered on sheer, undeveloped, profitless water, would at last yield up revenue. Free enterprise with a capital F.
3. The city government has been alert to the menace of simulated psychedelic experiences such as light shows, but the authorities must reckon with a host of other psychedelic substitutes. Polaroid sunglasses, for example. People wearing polaroid shades can see a twinkling deep indigo effect when bright sunlight is plane polarized by reflection from the surface of Lake Union. And sunlight passing through glass or plastic – motorcycle windshields are especially fine – produces marvelous spectral patterns along lines of stress, which are visible only through Polaroid shades. Shocking report, these private light shows can be enjoyed, without license from the police department, by anyone wearing Polaroids. Meanwhile, drug substitutes are cropping up like mushrooms; mushrooms, in particular, have been cropping up like mushrooms. And researchers working under filtered banana peels report that copies of HELIX, ground up very fine, produced remarkable effects when smoked. Underground laboratories, staffed by hippies with the proverbial high school dropout’s knowledge of chemistry, have been trying to modify the chemical structure of peanut butter so that it can be mainlined without its sticking to the veins.
4. Effective thought-control has been limited by a certain other-worldliness in city government. For example, city officials at first agreed to rent the Opera House to Timothy Leary because they had no idea who he was (he was using the assumed name of Timothy Leary.) Although Leary’s nefarious doings have been reported all over Time, Life, and Newsweek, the press of public affairs evidently keep the City Fathers from keeping up with recent developments, which go unreported in the funny papers. Accordingly, I propose that a special commission be established to keep abreast of the great outside world and filter information about it into the minds of the city council members. The commission could present the city council with concise reports. In very simple language, on such recent developments as the end of the Pleistocene Ice Age, the deposition of King Louis XVI of France, and the advent of talking moving pictures . . .
It seems that Tuesday – not Monday – will become the more likely day of the week these Helix Redux offerings will appear here. (But don’t necessarily count on it. We will still aim for “Wash Day” to hang these sheets.) Here’s another 12-pager. It includes many delights, and I took the opportunity of the attached audio to read one of them: an early Dump Truck Baby feature by John Cunnick in which he reflects on the meanings surrounding having ones own newspaper in its eighth week and still learning. Inside is also an adver for the OCS concert with The Grateful Dead at Eagle Auditorium, and in that line we will attach several snapshots from that bright blue Sunday afternoon picnic with power at the north end of the Golden Gardens parking lot. You will recognize the Dead faces, surely, but also some others I suspect in the rapt listeners. There are a few snaps of other musicians performing as well including one of Larry “Jug” Vanover who will be delighted to see his own slim self in 1967 with jug in hand – I expect.
I’ll not caption any of these Dead photos. There are nine of them and they come from the remnants of the Helix darkroom. I’ve not determined as yet who recorded them. At the bottom of this line-up are four or five shots of other players, include – at the very bottom – one of Larry Vanover with jug in hand.
This fourth issue is a maturing cache of our typical subjects, which did include, yes, war, drugs, sex and rock-and-roll. Many of its parts are not signed – a frustration now – but within it appears new names that would become stalwarts of HELIX production, names we will recognize and thank, no doubt, down this 2&1/2 year line of putting up every issue and in order. And I have found a few more negatives of that first Flower Potlatch Isness-In at Volunteer Park. Once scanned I’ll attach them below.
An audio commentary is attached directly below. The disciplined listener might want to illustrate the “sound track” by opening the pdf to the paper itself – first – giving HELIX time to materialize before punching the audio button. The audio runs about ten minutes and then prudently adjourns until next week.
Don Edge, once again, did the coloring of our symbolizing bug or representive logo – the masthead.
We continue to turn the screw – of Helix – reaching now the fourth issue, which is curiously numbered “3&1/2.” This will be explained in the audio link. At the bottom of it all are several snapshots scanned from Helix negatives that I wound up with after the paper folded. We will try to identify the photographer – later. Perhaps it was Gary Finholt. Gary? A few of these are also printed in the gnarly centerfold of Issue Three and One/half.