Lifestyle

‘Mercer Island old and new’ — redux

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter A historical display at City Hall contains artifacts from the Lightfoot family. The Lightfoot Brothers’ enterprises flourished on the Island from 1914 until the 1980s. Part of the enterprise, called Island Plaza, sits in the location where The Mercer currently stands. -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter A historical display at City Hall contains artifacts from the Lightfoot family. The Lightfoot Brothers’ enterprises flourished on the Island from 1914 until the 1980s. Part of the enterprise, called Island Plaza, sits in the location where The Mercer currently stands.
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You can’t hold back progress, says Ed Lightfoot, as we visit his newly installed historical display at City Hall. It depicts the Lightfoot Brothers’ pioneer enterprises on Mercer Island from 1914 to 1980s, including “Hap” Lightfoot’s East Seattle grocery, post office, bakery, dance/movie hall and coal scale; and the brothers’ garage and gas station at the foot of the 24th Street hill, eventually eclipsed by the highway.

Incidentally, gas prices there in the 1920s were $0.13 to $0.15, adds Lightfoot.

No traces of the Lightfoot enterprises remain on their two-acres formerly called Island Plaza. Now rising at 7750 S.E. 27th is The Mercer, a four-story capstone of our developing “urban mixed-use town center.” In the 1930s, it was home to a modest cottage of George and Min Lightfoot and their Victory garden, the Cook House restaurant of the 1960s and assorted other Lightfoot enterprises before they sold the plaza mid-1980s to James Cassan, an Islander of 40 years.

The Lightfoot family members — Fred, the patriarch; sons George (Speed) and wife Min; Ewart (Hap) and his wife Elsie (Person); and their offsprings — were ultimate boosters for a bridge and greater Island development from 1920-80.

We wonder if they would share the design indigestion of some citizens over the changes.

We realize Mercer Island's state-mandated growth plan calls for 1,437 new housing units by 2022. We’re already 70 percent there with the Avellino Apartments (23), Newell Court (40), Island Square (210), The Mercer (235), Aljoya (120 units), 7800 Plaza (189), and 7700 Central (24); BRE Properties of San Francisco plans a five-story mixed use project at the old Safeway site including 162 apartments and retail space. Phase One of the growth plan also has gained office space and about 15-20 percent more retail space.

“We might as well accept the wheels of progress,” adds Lightfoot. “If you really want to recapture the old Mercer Island, you’d have to move to Washtucna or an island in the San Juans.”

Phil Flash, co-president of the Mercer Island Historical Society, says “for the rest of the story,” one may purchase a DVD about the Lightfoot era at Island Books for $7.50, to benefit the society. The organization also discusses update and reprint of Mercer Island’s history book, which is out of print. It next meets at 1 p.m., May 21, at the Community Center at Mercer View.

Fancy invitations have been mailed for the Sunnybeam School 50th anniversary and auction May 12. Proceeds will help maintain the historic building and preschool. Sunnybeam alumni are urged to reconnect by emailing sunnybeamschool@yahoo.com

Although the preschool had its roots in 1957, the school building began as Lakeview School in 1918, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Lakeview School was purchased by the South Mercer Community Club in 1945. School co-founders, the late-Eleanor Wolf and Marienne “Nuky” (Vinal) Fellows, began the non-profit Mercer Island Nursery School Association in 1957. The school was renamed Sunnybeam in 1972.

Today’s director Michelle Leggett says the school for 46 youngsters still carries on the traditions of playtime, crafts, nature appreciation, emphasizing social skills and fun. Fellows, 87, who retired in 1984 and now is in assisted living, holds fast to her most cherished Sunnybeam memories.

A dinner and auction for the school will begin at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, May 12, at the Mercer Island Beach Club. For reservations, contact 232-5776. Donated items also may be dropped at the school.

Save your vintage aprons and paper dress patterns folks. According to Harold and Sharry (Savage) Broman, experts on collectibles, these are among the hottest. The Bromans also evaluated antiques brought to the recent Treasure Trove Tea at Covenant Shores sponsored by the Senior Foundation. Organizer Leslie Scott says memorable items were a Meissen vase, a wedding gift in the 1960s; some vintage dresses and button-up shoes (with hook) from the turn of century; and a pair of figurines on prancing horses from the 18th century. Watch for a return performance of Mercer Island’s version of “antique road show” next year. Proceeds go to Island senior projects.

Whenever I see the simple sandwich board for “Baseball Lessons” stationed around the Island, I wonder what happened to recess and sandlot ball, where most of us Baby Boomers learned the game by osmosis.

Steve Goucher says he gets as many as 19 calls whenever he puts this little sign out. Mostly, parents want their Little League-age kids to make the teams.

He says he also coached Mariner Sean White in 1998 at MIHS and college players at San Diego State University. Goucher’s been doing this one-on-one on the Island for four years for “everyone from ages 8-50.” He also teams with Bill Nye the Science Guy to create and market the “Fangoa,” a rubber gizmo that fits on a “fungo” practice bat, which picks up grounders without having to bend over.

So much behind such a little sign.

Contact Nancy Hilliard at nancybobhilliard@msn.com.

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