During the years of World War Two from 1941 to 1945 all Seattleites had some concerns about the possibility of bombing, since Seattle is a coastal city. For this reason people took civil defense training and organized their neighborhoods to help one another in case of emergencies. After the war was over and people began to get established in jobs and homes, they applied their organizing skills to the development of neighborhood groups.
The identity of the Wedgwood neighborhood evolved gradually in the late 1940s and at first, there was more than one community club. Although they were still young, war veterans were highly respected and they were some of the leaders in the young community of Wedgwood in the 1940s and 1950s.
An immigrant’s story
In 1935 Siegfried Kahn immigrated to the USA and became Fred S. Kane. As a young man in the 1930s in Germany, Kane had been in the Republican Guard (like the National Guard in the USA) up until the time that the Nazi Party tried to recruit all military personnel into their agenda. Kane joined the resistance movement but was caught and put into a concentration camp – the Nazis imprisoned and killed even their own German citizens who would not “go along with the program.”
In the concentration camp Kane endured beatings as the Nazis tried to get him to tell the location of a secret printing press used by the Resistance. In 1933 the Resistance slipped Kane some money, which he used to bribe a guard to let him escape. Kane made his way to France, where he spent two months in a hospital, recovering from the injuries he had received in the German concentration camp.
After coming to the USA in 1935 at age twenty-two, Kane became a naturalized U.S. citizen and, in addition to his job at a refrigeration company in Seattle, Kane joined the National Guard. For that reason Kane was called into active duty when the USA entered World War Two in December 1941. Kane went to war in the South Pacific with the famed 41st Infantry Division of the Pacific Northwest, made up of National Guard units from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and North Dakota. For his war service Kane received an award called the Bronze Star for “meritorious action against the enemy” in flying supplies to the front lines.
Fred Kane becomes a Wedgwoodian and founder of the Eastwood Club
As a decorated war hero, married and a proud new homeowner in Wedgwood in 1946, Fred Kane began to make an impact upon his newly adopted neighborhood. Kane lived at 8008 39th Ave NE in the Eastwood plat. When Kane felt that the neighborhood ought to get organized, in March 1946 he founded the Eastwood Community Club.
There was already a Wedgwood Community Club for the west side of 35th Ave NE where Albert Balch had built the first Wedgwood development from NE 80th to 85th Streets, 30th to 35th Avenues NE. By 1945 that section of Wedgwood was finished, completely developed with streets, sidewalks, lawns and flowerbeds. But on the east side of 35th Ave NE, the roads were a sea of mud, there was constant construction noise from new houses going up, and there was no house-to-house mail delivery. The “eastsiders” felt that the Wedgwood Community Club was not responsive to their concerns, so they founded their own Eastwood Club.
For three years, 1946 to 1949, the Eastwood Community Club was very active in lobbying City Hall about their needs, and they got results. The group also began planning community activities for families with young post-war “Baby Boom” children. An Easter Egg Hunt and a Santa Wagon which toured the area with goodies for children at Christmastime were the first two events organized by the Eastwood Club.
In addition to community-building and social activities, the Eastwood group members led by Fred Kane were vocal in development issues in the neighborhood. They protested the building of the Oneida Gardens Apartments. They lobbied for removal of the deteriorating Navy-owned barracks housing (Shearwater) at the present site of Decatur Elementary School at NE 77th Street and 40th Ave NE, and on some other nearby streets. Fred Kane’s qualities as a “fighter” had enabled him to survive a Nazi concentration camp, make his way to the USA and claw his way up the ladder of success, and he was a person who never stopped fighting for what he thought was right.
The merger of the two community clubs
A member of the Eastwood Club was Doug Clyde of 3148 NE 82nd Street. Although he was a “westsider” in Wedgwood, Doug Clyde was also a peacemaker. He was one of the earliest activists in Wedgwood and when Eastwood got started, he wanted to help them out and unify neighborhood activities. Finally in 1949, when some of the development issues had died down, Mr. Clyde brokered a merging of the two community clubs.
By 1950 “Wedgwood” had caught on as the name of the neighborhood, as Al Balch, the developer, continued to use the name in more and more sections of housing. The name “Wedgwood District Community Club” was chosen to include approximately the same area as the present-day boundaries of Wedgwood, from NE 75th to 95th Streets. An article in the Seattle Daily Times of April 29, 1950, announced that the Eastwood Community Club had changed its name to the Wedgwood District Community Club and Robert Caldwell had been elected as president for the year 1950-51.
After the merger of the two community clubs, Fred Kane founded the Wedgwood Echo newspaper which was produced monthly on his home mimeograph. As he turned the crank of the machine, Kane must have thought of the secret press in Germany and how far he had come from those days.
“41st Infantry Division (United States),” Wikipedia on-line encyclopedia.
“Community Club Changes Its Name,” The Seattle Daily Times, April 29, 1950, page 3.
“Kane, Home from South Pacific, Has Date to Keep with Nazis.” The Seattle Daily Times, October 4, 1944, page 2.
“Once Upon a Time,” by Doug Clyde. The Wedgwood Echo, June 24, 1960, page 4 (see full column at the end of this article.)
“Club Honors Kester and Kane.” The Wedgwood Echo, January 1961, page 1.
Notes on the Eastwood plat:
The land area of the Eastwood plat is from 38th to 40th Avenues NE, NE 80th to 82nd Streets. The plat, filed in August 1941, was named and owned by Dr. O.F. Lamson and his wife Armene Lamson, and they did not live in Wedgwood. Plat filers are not required to give an explanation of the name they choose for the plat; we can speculate that the Lamsons were referring to their plat being “east of 35th Ave NE” or perhaps east of Balch’s Wedgwood. It appears that the Lamsons sold some lots in Eastwood to Albert Balch for development (such as some along 39th Ave NE) but other lots were sold to other individuals.
Balch was able to acquire whole blocks of land in the post-war period, so much so that the neighborhood eventually called itself Wedgwood because Balch had built so many houses. But in the case of the Eastwood plat, Balch’s houses are on some streets with some by other builders. Perhaps the Lamsons thought they would make more money by holding the Eastwood plat and selling lots individually, rather than by selling the whole thing to Balch. Perhaps they thought that by holding some of the property to sell later, lots would appreciate in value and would sell at higher prices because of the nice houses which had already been built in the plat.
One way to find out who built a house in Wedgwood in the 1940s and 1950s is to put in the address on the Side Sewer Card Map, found on Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development site. By doing this for Fred Kane’s address, 8008 39th Ave NE, we see that Balch’s real estate company, Crawford & Conover, is listed as the builder of the house.