Jared Smith, Aug. 15 2013
Many stories - but a few come to mind.
I grew up on north Capitol Hill and went to Seward Elementary school as the SR 520 Bridge and I-5 connector were under construction. In 1963 I was in 2nd grade when the SR 520 Bridge was dedicated and was part of a group of school kids who made the first crossing of the Roanoke Bridge. Our group picture was put on the front page of the newspaper with a story about the overcrossing opening. Looking back, we joke that our early years at Seward School dealing with constant SR 520 and I-5 construction noise is the reason we were stunted intellectually.
The next story involves water balloons and the police: A bunch of kids were walking home from Seward Elementary on a hot day and decided to have a water balloon fight with all the kids heading home. We filled the balloons at the old Chevron gas station that was at Roanoke and Harvard. We then proceeded to toss balloons at each other racing from Roanoke Park to Seattle Prep School across the SR 520 overpass. Some of the kids got the bright idea to drop balloons onto cars below on SR 520 from the Delmar Drive overcrossing. My friend Robby and I said that was stupid and kept our balloons to throw as we got to the other side. A motorist who was hit by a balloon square on his windshield got off SR 520 at Montlake and came looking for the culprits. He saw Robby and me holding a bunch of water balloons and caught us red handed. Just then, a police car rounded the corner and we were invited into the back of the car after the angry motorist waived the officers over. We told them that we had decided not to drop our balloons onto SR 520 because it was unsafe. Needless to say, the balloons still in our hands caused significant doubt and the officers did not believe us.
The only way they would let us go was to guide them to the houses of our guilty friends and turn them in. Needless to say, we were in an ethical dilemma but broke down under pressure. The prospect of being taking to the police station was overwhelming. We had to sit in the patrol car back seat as the officers confronted our buddies who were guilty. We were surrounded by other neighborhood kids who knew we had squealed on the culprits and were teasing us as they ran around the police car. Talk about peer pressure and tension as we sat in the back seat! We were then carted home to our parents who also had problems with our “story”. I think we never recovered from the experience but still believe we did the right thing.
Little did I know I would become a highway designer years later who worked on the SR 520 program and still is very concerned about highway safety. Safety first! Then there was the 1960’s and 1970’s jumping and diving off the Foster Island area “ramps to nowhere” in the summers and the nude bathing near Foster Island which created early forms of “ramp metering” as drivers gawked at the bathers as they drove by on the Arboretum eastbound on-ramp. But that is another story (and I was only a local observer)...