Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ode to the Early 80s: Wallingford's Tweedy & Pop

I was born here in Seattle and grew up in a little two-story craftsman in Wallingford, before it was a desirable area of the city to live. My earliest memories of the neighborhood were the mom-n-pop stores on our main street: the cobbler, the bike repair shop, Fuji’s Five & Dime, and the health food store that reeked of so many exotic dry herbs and potions that my younger brother and I held our noses every time we were forced to go in there with our mother. A shabby Radio Shack anchored one of the few intersections marked by a traffic light, and just a little further down the street sat a drugstore that no matter how many times it was repainted still looked dingy and tired.

Over the years, the run down drugstore became condos, the Radio Shack became an Irish pub, and the various other shops became restaurants, bars, high end dress shops, and chain coffee joints. The one relic that remains today is Tweedy & Pop’s Hardware Store. In the early 80s they had shiny red Radio Flyer wagons in the window, which in the wintertime would temporarily be replaced with wooden sleds for sale… not that Seattle got snow often enough to warrant the purchase of a sled. Most of the winter those sleds would hang there collecting dust, but on those rare occasions it would snow enough in Seattle to cover the ground with a healthy layer, the entire city would come to a halt and those sleds disappeared from the window of Tweedy & Pop’s before noon.

Without fail you’d see the lucky kids, whose parents had also understood how important it was to trudge to the store at first light for a sled, racing down the side of Kite Hill at Gasworks Park. The less fortunate kids, no less determined to capitalize on a snow day, improvised with garbage can lids, cardboard boxes, or whatever they could find. Some kids had old sleds from the last time it snowed three years before. My brother and I had an old wood sled with metal runners we’d drag down to the park; it wasn’t as shiny as the new Tweedy & Pop models, but it had a simple steering device and fit both of us kids (and sometimes a mom or dad) and we used it with pride, gloating in our seasoned preparedness for snow.

Today, Tweedy & Pop’s Hardware features plastic pink flamingos in the front window year round, struggling to stand among precariously balanced lawn mowers, long-handled shovels, and metal wire garden edging scattered on the floor of the display. It’s an explosion of hodge-podge items jumbled together, cluttered enough to make even a frat boy cringe, but I like it; whether it’s my tendency to root for the underdog or nostalgia for the good old days taking its hold on me once again, I look at this trainwreck of a window display with a certain affection and wonderment once reserved only for the windows at FAO Schwartz downtown.

Most of my childhood is preserved now only in grainy photos or has been reduced to items that can fit in the box in the back of my closet, but there’s something wistfully comforting to know this old hardware store, a link back to my days as a loudmouthed barefoot hellion, is still plugging along, providing its customers with odds and ends the way it has for years. I know that in my lifetime this shop will close, but until that day, I’ll keep rooting for it to hold out as long as it can.