Venturing into Remodeling in the 1940’s to the 1950’s in North King County, WA and Government Improvements

Keith’s, grandmother, Amarilla Urton died in 1942 and he got a little money from her estate. I wonder if that money was used to remodel our house in north King County. My parents were savers having gone through the depression and were experiencing the rationing of World War II, so I am sure they planned this carefully.

They purchased the house on 24th Avenue in 1942 with a FHA mortgage and moved there in order to start their family. It was not a big house and probably was one of the war houses?  Yes, he saved all the paperwork about the house even the for sale sign. Apparently the house was damp and needed these improvements for health reasons.

Keith, my dad, not only invented things, he also did carpentry, plumbing and house remodeling. He didn’t do this all by himself, he had help from my Uncle Boardie and my grandfather Robert Boardman who were plumbers by profession. They were his in-laws.

He also hired a H.K. Rowe to do some of the work like finish the interior of the house, electrical, insulation, sewer and the furnace.  Mr. Rowe was our neighbor. It looks like Ace Construction Co. was also employed to help in the remodeling.

This house remodeling was done in three phases:

Phase I:

  1. Raising the house and building a basement in April 1944 for which he had to get approval from the mortgage company.  I find this fascinating that they were brave enough to do this raising of our home.
  2. Move the utility room to the basement to enlarge the kitchen which will improve the usefulness of the house.
  3. Move the chimney to the south side of the house with consideration for future enlargement of the living room.
  4. Later the fixing up of the room below the living and dining room and making it a rec room with an extra bedroom.
Raising the house for a basement

Raising the house for a basement

Raising the house

Raising the house with help from the in-laws

The laundry got washed even with the mess.

The laundry got washed even with the mess.

What a mess!

The basement, what a mess! It would be very cool and a great place to play.

Phase II:

Adding on to the south end of the house increasing the size of the basement and upper floor which would expand the living and dining room area and move the kitchen eventualy result in a rec room and bedroom under the dining and new kitchen area. This work was done late 1940’s and early 1950’s.  Fixing up the interior was a big part of this project.

South End Extension

South End Extension

Our Addition - Mom peaking out of the window

Our Addition – Mom peaking out of the window

The old kitchen door gets closed up.

The old kitchen door gets closed up.

Munchkin among the lumber for the extension

Munchkin alert, one is playing among the lumber for the extension

Phase III:

Building a garage and elephant pit (for working on cars from below) on the north side of the house mid 1950’s.

Building the Garage

Building the Garage

In about 1947 the City of Seattle began the process of improving our streets with branches and lateral sewers which involved assessments to be paid by the homeowners. In 1947 a notice arrived about a trunk sewer system with 3 pages of description about where these improvements would take place.  It listed the streets on one page, in detail, and then the additions on another. This was a huge improvement based on Resolution #14168.



The public hearing would take place on September 9, 1947 at 2 pm in the City Council Chambers, Room 513 County-City Building.  Petitions and protests needed to be filed the day before and would go to the Streets and Sewers Committee for consideration at the open meeting on the 9th. If you wanted to know more you went to the City Engineer to see the details of the plan.  Total costs would amount to $60,000.00 which would be contributed from the Seattle Sewer Bonds 1946 Fund.

The blog Wedgwood in Seattle History has a nice post on How Wedgwood came into the city limits of Seattle, August 20, 2012 with some cool annexation maps of various neighborhoods acquired by Seattle.  Hayes Park was annexed by 1941.  However the city limits of Seattle were at 85th then later moved to 145th where they are now butting up the City of Shoreline which was incorporated about 1995.

In 1950 the property owners received notice for adding fire hydrants only – Resolution #14265 and the public hearing would be held on March 8, 1950 at 10 am.

The next phase of improvements was paving the streets adding sidewalks, with parking strips. I remember the big water hoses and the sprinklers to cure the cement, I highly recommend not riding your bike over the hoses it might prove to be painful.

Yes, I remember the rough roads, lots of rocks, puddles and mud.  I went everyone in my pedal push car resisting learning how to ride a bike till later.

Driving everywhere even on rough roads

Driving everywhere even on rough roads – before the improvements

I did not remember they widened the road…love the mailboxes in the street.

Road work begins

Road work begins

Paving improvements started in about 1955 with a public hearing before the Sewers and Street Committee on Tuesday, September 20th, 1955 at 2 pm. The total estimated cost would be $419,051.82 of which $31,900 would come from the City Street Fund and $950.00 from the City Water Fund.

Two meetings followed in 1957 amount paving improvements with hefty assessments of $565.65 cents which could be paid by the property owner in installments. Hayes Park and Wedgwood appear in the first listing and then Wedgwood disappears in the next listing for Additions, which I find a bit confusing.  I get the feeling they were re-evaluating the assessments so I don’t know for sure if the amount above of $565.65 was the final amount or only a portion?

Then in July of 1958 another announcement came for the same “by paving, together with sewers, water mains and hydrants, grading, drainage were necessary and constructing sidewalks.” Public hearing would be July 15, 1958 at the City Council Chambers. Not only did the City Treasure send a bill but the mortgage company also got involved.

If my memory serves the paving took place in the mid 1960’s for our area in North Seattle. I do have full copies of the City Notices if anyone is interested, just leave a comment.

Posted in Keith B. MacDonald, Seattle, Washington State | 5 Comments

1952 – Keith the Inventor gets a patent in 1956

Keith was an inventor and a tinkerer.  He was also very fond of aluminum and rivets. I know this because I used to help him “buck rivets” out on his creations. He liked to fire up the table saw in our basement and run aluminum sheets through it, usually at a very early time of day.  It was loud and would drive us all crazy. This love of metal came out of his repairing airplane bodies.

The Nash in the photo below was brown with beige tones, and really nice inside. He didn’t have it for very long.  You can see the trailer is very crude because he made it.

A Nash and his trailer

A Nash and his trailer

I don’t know if this is the trailer above or if he made another to use or he borrowed it?

Another version of his trailer

Another version of his trailer

Among his many creations were his boat, trailer(s), different versions of camping trailers, a sort of car and trailer combo, and his oar design. I will post about some of his other creations in future posts. Yes, he gave them all names.

He loved to fish and so he designed an oar to rest the fishing pole on. It was attached to the side of the boat so it could be moved around as you liked. I would go out with him and his brother, Gordon, in the boat and fish somewhere nearby. They would say very little, maybe one or two words and a grunt here and there, but it would mostly be in silence.  Now if you look closely you will see another car in the background…not sure what that one was?

Brother Gordon on the left and Keith with his big fish....

Brother Gordon on the left and Keith with his big fish….Look how confident he looks!

Keith's Oar Design

Keith’s Oar Design, apparently you needed to sit back to enjoy using the oar mechanism.

Boat Oar Display

Boat Oar Display

This oar design resulted in a patent being issued.

Keith with his oar samples off to the patent office.

Keith with his oar samples off to the patent office maybe?

Back then, in the 1950’s, business was conducted by telephone, if you wanted to be extravagant, or by letter. So this whole process to get a patent took from 1952 to 1956.

Keith paid Smith & Tuck $45.00 on March 29, 1952. Smith & Tuck were Attorneys and Counselors in Patent and Trade Mark Causes.  Maybe the photo above was his visit to their offices in Seattle at the 734 Central Building which I cannot find at this time on maps of downtown Seattle, of course, streets might be different now and the building is still there.

It took them to January 25, 1956 to finally secure a patent for Keith and it was #2,731,224 entitled FISHING POLE SUPPORT and POSITIONING DEVICE. The grant was for a period of seventeen years from 1956. It has since expired an is available to all to see.

1956 Smith & Tuck letter explaining the Patent issued

1956 Smith & Tuck letter explaining the Patent issued

Keith's patent page 1

Keith’s patent page 1

Keith's patent page 2

Keith’s patent page 2

Here is his patent referenced online: all seven pages of it.

What I can remember, of my first attempt to find it online, is people have been accessing it and liking the mechanism at the bottom of page 1.  I think he would be proud to see this.

If you have someone who has a patent and you don’t have all the official paperwork, just put the patent number into Google and you will get results or the title with the name of the person.  Good luck!

In 1956 the National Service Bureau in St. Louis inquired about his pole design. They wanted to know if it was for outright sale or on a royalty basis.

In May of 1956 Penn Fishing Tackle Mfg. turned him down. The Fisherman replied about advertising questions he must have asked in November of 1956. Associated Manufacturers Reps in Los Angeles replied in March of 1957 telling him the manufacture of his design would received a A-plus rating at a responsible plant and they would want 10% of the royalties and something about sale or assignment being completed? The manufacturer would pay engineering costs and Keith would pay a commission.  Apparently the two companies mentioned may still be around?

Somehow I think there was more going on but this was all I found in his papers. He was not too happy about the outcome. His board of designs of his fishing pole project are still hanging on the ceiling in the basement of the house. I am proud of my Dad, this was not an easy thing to do and he was not really an outgoing person.

Posted in Gordon McDonald, Keith B. MacDonald, King County, Seattle, Washington State | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

1951 to 1954: Aircraft Mechanic General to becoming a U.S. Air Force Inspector!

Keith about mid 1950's

Keith about mid 1950’s

The Korean War started on 25 June, 1950 and this meant three more years at the U.S. Naval Air Station for Keith. This halted the closure of the Naval Air Station at Sandpoint in 1950. Keith worked in the Overhaul and Assembly Department during this time as an Aircraft Mechanic General. The Korean War ended on 27 July, 1953 and the process to close the U.S. Naval Air Station began a new. This meant that Keith had to start looking for work.

In the last post I described his auto mechanic interests and his auto log which revealed to me the trips we had taken and when. He took us to California on a trip but he also did some job hunting while we were there. I was too little to understand and just thought it was all a big adventure.  I remember the Red Woods and that tree you can drive through. I do not know where we stopped at that interested him. Another time he drove us across Washington State and visited some air fields.

Lumberwagon Auto Log, by Keith.

Aug. 15, 1953 – pg. 41 Ale…..can’t read, Portland, Madreas, Oregon, Chimult, Diamond Lake, Crater Lake, Kalamath, Medford, Ore., Calif., Mt. Shasta, Red Bluff, CA, Alameda?, Park & San Jose, Hayward, CA, Hayward Motel $8, August 21. Hayward to Frisco, San Rafel, Lakeport, Uriah, Aug 26 Eureka, Arcata, CA, Trees of Mystery, Cresent City, OR, Oregon Cave Junction, Oregon Caves Aug. 27, Umpqua OR. Eugene, Toledo, WA, Rainier, WA Home Friday Aug _______. 

June 21, 1953 Lake Wenatchee St. Park, Lke Chelan, Entiat Gas, Spokane Greger fld – Fairchild, Greenacres Spokane Lake Rowan, Clarksfork.  (Was he looking for work?)

NOTE:  As far as I remember we did not visit any family in California which was unfortunate because a cousin Robert R. MacDonald a descendant of Duncan was living in Eugene and maybe northern California at the time of our trip.  Duncan was a brother to Mary McDonald Keith’s grandmother.  At present I know Robert’s daughter who is in her middle 90’s.  There were also Barclay cousins living in the San Francisco area.

During 1951 to 1953 he sent out letters seeking work.

August 1952 Job Hunt

August 1952 Job Hunt 85th Squadron Paine Field

There is a 4 page form letter send to him on November 8, 1952 titled:

Aircraft Inspector, Department of the Air Force, Western Air Procurement District, Boeing Airplane Company, Seattle, WA, GS 1872-8, BO-808, Quality Control Branch, Flight Area & Mod., Section. 1. Nature and Purpose of Work. 

This form letter goes into detail about the Job Duties 2.5 pages, Scope and Effect of Work, Supervision and Guidance Received, Mental Demands, and person work contacts. Notice the title of the job position – Aircraft Inspector. Things are getting very interesting.

On the 25th of November 1952 a letter arrived titled Headquarters of the 4704th Defense Wing, Central Civilian Personnel Office, McChord Air Force Base, WA.  Referring to this application to Paine Field. In the event you are interested in employment at this installation, it will be necessary that you file and receive eligible rating in order to be certified for employment.  They enclosed a form for Aircraft Mechanic, Ordnance to be sent to Board of U.S. Civil Service Examiners in Seattle: Forms 57, and 5001 ABC.

In 17, June of 1953 he received another form letter suggesting he update his application and return it to the Central Civilian Personnel Office, McChord Air Force Base, Washington.  He had 20 days to complete this task. This AFB is still in existence but it is now titled Lewis-McChord as of 2010.

On the 4th of August, 1953 he received a letter from Fairchild Air Force Base regretting to advise you that we currently have no vacancies for aircraft mechanic and do not anticipate any in the future. The Maintenance Depot was deactivated three months ago. This base was located 12 miles southwest of Spokane.

In 5 August, 1953 he received a form letter from the United States Air Force, Central Board of U.S. Civil Service Examiners, McChord Air Force Base, Washington titled Applicant Supply File Notice of Eligibility. On the form was  the location of Larson AFB, Washington.  This base was located five miles northwest of the central business district of Moses Lake, Grant Co., Washington.

Oh dear, just think I could have grown up there in the eastern part of the state. I am sort of partial to trees not desert. The Genealogy society did not survive in Grant County because I visited a museum there once and they had the remaining collection? Larsen closed in 1966 and became an airport.  Life would be so different.

Meanwhile the U.S. Naval Air Station was closing down.

In April of 1953 he had to fill out a Tool Box sheet, he writes in 1970 that it is a souvenir. He probably received another one closer to the end.

Tool Box Check list

Tool Box Check list

The U.S. Naval Air Station Closure:

The U.S. Naval Air Station issued a General Notice letter of Reduction in Force on 29 April of 1953. It stated that positions in your competitive level will be terminated at the close of business on 30 May 1953. Specific notice will be issued to you prior to the effective date of this action. The name of the station and the status is changed from Naval Air Station, Seattle to a Naval Air Reserve Station.  Keith writes at the top in 1970 that this was the first notice of closure.  Signed by Cecil B. Gill.

This following announcement was apparently attached to the above Notice.

April 2 1953, Reduction in Force

April 2 1953, Reduction in Force

Two form letters came on 1 October, 1953 from The Naval Air Station.  The first letter explained what applicants needed to do to find a new position.  The second form letter stated that Keith would be terminated on 27 November 1953.

The United States Civil Service Administration sent him a Notice of Rating with an Exact Title of Examination – Inspector, Aircraft, date of examination 1953. Your rating is GS-9 and GS-8…Eligible. This was signed October 27, 1953.

On November 25, 1953 he received an extension of his final date, instead of 27 November 1953. He would be terminated on 29 December 1953 because of the workload in your department.

Well it didn’t quite work out because on December 6, 1953 he received the Navy Department Notification of Personnel Action:

Nature of Action: Separation – Transfer (To: Dept. of the Air Force, San Bernardino Air Materiel Area), From Aircraft Mechanic, General U.S. Naval Air Station Seattle, to _____________. Competitive Status, Performance Satisfactory, Loyalty completed 2/4/18. All annual and sick leave to be transferred to the Department of the Air Force, San Bernardino Air Materiel Area, Los Angeles Civilian Personnel Branch, P.O. Box 3849 Terminal Annex, Los Angeles 54, CA. 

Another form followed from the Air Force

The Department of the Air Force, San Bernardino Air Materiel Area, Los Angeles Civilian Personnel Branch, Notice of Personnel Action, Date of Appointment: December 7, 1953:

From _____ To Metal Parts QC Inspector, Pos. No. BO-807, Quality Control Div. Plant II, Boeing Airplane Company, Seattle, WA, Headquarters: Oklahoma City Air Materiel Area, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Field. Signed by Margaret M. Conklin, Personnel Assistant, LA Civilian Personnel Branch.

So on December 7, 1953 Keith B. MacDonald became an U.S. Air Force Inspector at Boeing in Plant II.  HE DID IT!

He survived the closure of the U.S. Naval Air Station and started to work for the Air Force at Boeing and would continue in this capacity till retirement, with a little change in title through the years. Plant II would be in his home base.  He would work all the shifts day, swing and night.  He did take his birthday off regularly and 3 weeks in August for our family camping trip.

The following March of 1954 he received a promotion – Indefinite. This changed his title from Metal Parts Quality Control Inspector to Aircraft Quality Control Inspector and he got a raise.

In June of 1954 he enrolled in a course at Edison Technical School called Production Control which involved 72 hours of instruction.

On November 21, 1954 he would receive his 20 year service certificate for faithful Federal Service from the Department of the Air Force and signed by J.F. Zoechler a Brigadier General, USAF. Commander, Western Contract Management Region.

Keith shaking hands with the man on the left, receiving his 30 year certificate

Keith shaking hands with the man on the left, receiving his 30 year certificate

30 years of Federal Service

30 years of Federal Service

The man I knew was always a U.S. Air Force Inspector at Boeing.  It has been interesting to see how it all evolved for him.  He was still with airplanes and that was what he loved and now he was back with the Air Force which he loved as well.

Posted in Boeing Aircraft Company, California, Fort Lewis, Keith B. MacDonald, McChord Air Force Base, Naval Air Station at Sandpoint in Seattle, Paine Field, Washington State | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keith the auto and boat mechanic, or anything with an engine mechanic….

Keith was an airplane mechanic but that also extended to auto repair, actually anything that was an engine including outboard motors like Evinrude.

To repair the boat motors he would attach the boat motor to the top rim of a barrel, fill with water and test the motor, make repairs or do maintenance.

In April of 1949 he purchased the 1940 Chevy from his sister Miriam. This was a cool car with running boards on the sides. On occasion a member of the family would stop the Old Chevy at the intersection south of our house and me and the neighborhood kids would climb onto the running board.  We would hold onto the open window area and ride up the street for about half a block.  It was brief but fun.

Keith had to make modifications to the Chevy. It had a switch on the dashboard to turn it on and the choke was involved, it was a step-by-step process to turn it on. It was a manual meaning you used the clutch pedal. It sat high up so the headlights would shine into the interior of the newer cars and their mirror and they would get a little unhappy. Oh yes, he years later he painted it with a brush. He chose navy blue on the bottom with yellow on the upper area. It wasn’t fancy but it worked and prevented rust. He had his paint can collection in his basement workshop. This area had a table saw, drill press, a workbench, glass jars with screws and nails, his tools and more.

1940 Chevy a little bent

1940 Chevy a little bent – Only MAM knows what happened.

Keith liked to name his toys and he called this car the Lumberwagon.

The Chevey on the right

The Chevy is on the right

He would maintain a car log on the details of his cars lives such as when he would buy gas, make a repair, what parts he bought, and a description of the service he did to the automobile.

Camping with the Chevy.

Camping with the Chevy.

Here is an example of his devotion to his craft, the Lumberwagon auto log, which appears to be the only surviving auto log?

Auto Log Book

Auto Log Book

Preface to Auto Log Book

Preface to Auto Log Book

The page above reads:  Preface:  This log is dedicated to the Lumberwagon. This car was named by a studie champ salesman when Mam (sister Miriam) announced to him her choice, 1940. However, no car will ever take the place of “Priscilla.” In the following pages – the Log of the Lumberwagon begins…

On another page not shown: Chapter 1 See Miriam A. McDonald, Only Mam knows what happened?  (He was referring to the auto accident in the photo above.)

Maybe this was Priscilla, his car

Maybe this was Priscilla, his car – his first? Chanute Field 1936-37

In the photo below is a picture of a page from the log book, you can see how precise he was in keeping track of the maintenance of a car. I have a similar car log but not quite as detailed.  There were 64 pages in this 2.5 x 5 inch booklet.

A page from the Auto Log book

A page from the Auto Log book

Here is the page at the back of the book about his design for the Elephant Pit.  It was a structure he built so he could work on his cars from underneath.

The Elephant Pit Design

The Elephant Pit Design

He writes and draws plans for the Elephant Pit probably about 1957. At the east (back) end of the garage he had doors where he could open them out and drive a car over an area that he dug where he could work on the cars from underneath. It was cemented to hold the weight of the car with an alley way dug in the center and covered with boards to close it up when not in use.  For years he parked the Dutchman Camper Trailer (teardrop style) that he refurnished and I used as a play house on the platform. Who knows what it is filled with now?

Because he was a mechanic he would buy used cars and fix them up. So over the years he had several different cars. I remember a Nash about 1955 that was several colors with brown, beige and a slight dark red? The next car was the Dreamboat a 1957 Nash Embassador Country Club which was an automatic. It was dark blue on top, with a lighter blue on the body and white side panels.  He then bought a Ford Fairlane which was totally white. He made modifications to the foot pedal so those who were small could drive it. Any mirrors on the car would be modified with bigger mirrors because it would pull a trailer.

Keith by his Nash - the Dreamboat

Keith by his Nash – the Dreamboat

He purchased a 1956 Ford (from sister Vivian) with green and white to be used by me his daughter to drive to school. It was a manual shift and so I had to learn to drive it after learning in the Dreamboat (automatic) from my Dad. I would drive the side streets to school learning how to coordinate the shifting.  As you can see the Ford doesn’t look to good. I think this was taken when we sold it because the clutch had worn out and it was not worth it to repair.

The 56 Ford

The 56 Ford

He would write letters to me at college in the late sixty’s and some topics were about car stuff:

The stuff you buy for the Ford is 1 head lamp for a 1956 Ford 12 Volts system. Windshield de-icer spray (about 59 cents). Engine Start spray fluid $1.00. Starting fluid has ether in it. Spray it in the air cleaner on top of the carb.  Jan. 29, 1969. 

Posted in Keith B. MacDonald, King County, Miriam McDonald, Vivian McDonald McKanna, Washington State | Tagged , , | Leave a comment