Shelf Life Community Story Project
Amplifying community voices, learning from neighborhood stories, and interrupting narratives of erasure in Seattle's Central District.

Mr Gideon's Teeth

Photo by Inye Wokoma

Photo by Inye Wokoma

Phyllis Yasutake grew up in Madrona and raised her six children in the same house where she grew up (pictured here).

Phyllis Yasutake

It was nice. Everybody knew you. Everybody knew your family.  It was like an extended village, and it was very multicultural, I mean next door to us when we moved in, the family was Japanese, and the Jewish families lived all around us. Mr Brown and Mr Hightower, they owned the gas station car repair shop and across the street from them, another black family owned a car repair shop, and Mr Fabrey owned a shoe repair shop, and there was a white lady, and I can't remember her name, I wanna say Kay, but I'm not sure, she owned a small little diner in that same block between Union and Pike, and on Halloween she would leave the door unlocked and have bowls of candy sitting out on the counter and we were on our honor just to come in. She would be in the back hiding, and we were very honorable about it and wouldn't let anybody abuse it, because that she would do that was a big deal. 
And we had our own movie theaters. We had the Madrona movie theater. We could just walk up there and see whatever movie. You didn't go downtown. Only fast, unbehaved children went downtown. You went to your neighborhood movie theater. The Roy Cross movie theater, the sign is still on the side of the building, it's on 19th Avenue East, and it's the Polish Community Center now, but if you look on the side of the building it still says Roy Cross Theater on the brick, painted on the brick.
Dr Robert Joyner was on Madison. And his office is still there, and next door to him was Mr Gideon's drugstore and pharmacy. I mean he actually made the stuff up, and he had a big soda fountain shop where he made the best banana splits in the whole world. I got one free once. I was waiting for my auntie who worked for Dr Joyner, and I went down to the drugstore with just enough for a six cent soda, but I really, really wanted a banana split,  and when I walked in the door, Mr Gideon said to me - "I'll give you whatever you want if you just don't tell anybody what you saw." I looked around, and I didn't see anything unusual, you know, I wanted that banana split. I said , "Sure!" I hopped up on the stool, and I kept looking trying to figure out what it is I'm not supposed to tell, because I don't wanna tell, and what if he grills me about it, what if he asks me. I went on and he got the banana split and it was great, it had all the syrup, the maraschino cherry, everything, and he said, "If you tell anybody you saw me without my teeth..." And I was like, "I hadn't noticed!" I noticed he sounded funny, but I didn't know teeth came out! He could've gone the whole day and never said a word to me and I would have never noticed.