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

Turning 21 in Seattle

Photo by Jill Freidberg

Photo by Jill Freidberg

Leon Carter

I heard about Seattle when I was 17 years old. I didn't get here until I was 20. And I celebrated my 21st birthday, right here, in the Central Area, about 25th and Alder, about two blocks from where I live now, at a speakeasy. I was determined to get falling down drunk that night, and I did. 

I went to the Blue Post Tavern, which is where the Shell Station is on 18th and Madison now. That used to be the Blue Post Tavern. Oh the Black and Tan. I stopped at the Black and Tan several times that night. I did have dinner that night. I ate at Jimmy's cafe that night. You know who Jimmy is, Jimmy's Cafe on 19th, which is the Mexican restaurant. That used to be Jimmy Sumner's place. 

I also remember going that night... well, that was an adventurous night! My best friend, or friend that I would always come and see, his name was Leon Ward. He was a thug. A real thug. And his friend also was named Leon, so we had The Three Leons going for us. People liked to shoot at him, and that night, the first time I ever got shot at was standing alongside of him. We were at Mack's Island, and he and I were coming out of the club, he's holding me up, and POW POW POW. It was kinda funny at the time. To me it was funny. It's probably what stood out in my mind about my birthday, now that you brought that up, it was the first time I ever got shot at. So, it was a memorable night, and I guess it was the beauty of the city, but that night I met some people, and it just all seemed to fit. I went to the post the next morning, and changed my home of record from Chicago to Seattle. That was 51 years ago.