In the summer of 1953 sixteen-year-old Jon Jarvis, newly possessed of a driver’s license, enjoyed chugging around Wedgwood in a Model T Ford he had acquired. Lack of a driver’s license did not stop Jon’s thirteen-year-old brother Terry from driving the Model T as well. To their surprise the brothers soon spotted another Model T in the neighborhood, with another thirteen-year-old at the wheel: Bert Balch of View Ridge.
Bert’s father, Albert Balch, was the real estate developer who became known as the “father” of the View Ridge and Wedgwood neighborhoods. In that summer of 1953 house-building was going on throughout the two developments and the three boys used construction roads for their driving practice. Bert did get caught and ticketed for underage driving, however, one day when he ventured to Green Lake.
The three teens became totally consumed with their car hobby. Terry and Jon began buying old cars for $10 or less, driving them for a while, selling them and buying more, such as a 1921 Dodge and a 1916 Studebaker. Bert took over his family’s garage to work on old cars and Al Balch had to park his Lincoln outside. The Balch home was at the southeast corner of 50th Ave NE and NE 70th Street, where the three boys used to push their old cars down the steep hill to get the cars started.
Association with the Balch family led to work opportunities for Jon and Terry Jarvis. During their summers in college they helped with Balch’s building projects or worked in the main construction and real estate office. At Christmastime the boys cut trees in Redmond, brought the trees to Wedgwood and sold them from a vacant lot Balch owned on 35th Ave NE at NE 85th Street (present site of the Wedgwood QFC grocery store.) The lot was used only for parking and storage of Balch’s construction equipment up until 1959 when the first grocery store (Tradewell) was built on the site.
The boys’ interest in all things mechanical led to life-long occupations. Bert opened a lock-and-key business specializing in Balch houses. Terry and Jon’s car obsession grew into a business for them. In 1960 they opened Vintage Auto Parts, with the most complete stock of antique auto parts in the world.
We are thankful that over the years Jon Jarvis shared his wonderful memories and perspectives on his home neighborhood of Wedgwood.