Children can’t wait to “spring” into action at the original Lincoln Park pool, where Morey worked as a lifeguard in the 1930s. The south end, where the diving board was located, was nine feet deep; the north end was shallower.
Streetcar named Desire
Conversations with Morey Skaret
Upon arriving in West Seattle from the Canadian prairie in 1923, ten-year-old Morey Skaret put his emerging athletic talents to work for the Jefferson Elementary School baseball team. And it was on the baseball diamond, in games against rival Fauntleroy Elementary, where Morey first noticed the “pretty little French girl,” Marjorie Dorais, who would someday wear his diamond.
“When I played ball for Jefferson Grade School—I played 1st base—and Marjorie Dorais went to Fauntleroy here,” Morey recalls, eighty-six years later, his eyes still bright with the memories. “We played Fauntleroy a couple of times during the ball season. And every time I came down to play here, I noticed this pretty little girl named Mar-jor-ie Dor-ais. She always went over and stood by 1st base, where she was kind of close to where I was. And I could see she kind of liked me, and I liked her, ’cause she was a very pretty little girl. And that’s how I got acquainted with Mar-jor-ie Dor-ais.”
This would be a lasting love. “We went to high school together,” Morey says. “And we graduated together. I had my locker in the west side of the building, and Marjorie had her locker toward the east side. And Marjorie would come running—other people have told me this, so I’m repeating it—hurrying through the hall. And they’d say, ‘Marjorie, Marjorie: what’s the hurry? Where ya goin’?’
“She says, ‘I got to see my boyfriend, Morey,’ she called me, ‘I gotta see him, and say hello to him.’ And everybody kidded her and laughed about it. And they still tell me about it when I go to the school reunions. They said they remember when Margie used to come running through the hall, and they’d say, ‘What are you running for?’
But Morey was the one who had to do the running—literally—to capture the girl of his dreams:
“To show how a youth thinks, at like age fifteen or so,” Morey begins—and you know this story is going to be good—“there was a guy named—let’s see, his dad had that hardware store right at Morgan Street. What was his name? I guess I forgot it—but he liked Margie. And I lived up by the water tanks, way up on 35th by High Point. And Margie lived right up here, about one block (Morey points over his shoulder), Concord Street.
“And there was a No. 2 streetcar, came right along there. And they had a waiting station with a roof on it, because quite a few people came there. And Margie would come down and get on the streetcar there. You had to put in a school token. School tokens were two for a nickel, two for a nickel—I got some school tokens in the back room there. Two for a nickel.
“You put the token in (Morey gestures with his hand), go and sit down. She’d go and sit down in her seat. Very few people lived out here then. By the time she got to Morgan Street—I forget his name. His dad owned the hardware store, right there at Morgan Street—and his son liked Margie. He knew what streetcar she’d come on. So he’d jump on the streetcar and go and sit right next to her.
“I had to take the bus down to 35th and Avalon and take the Number 3 Car. And by the time I got up to the Junction—oh, and then the Number 2; they used it for a school car then—so they’d swing the tracks and it’d take you right up to the school. I’d step on, thinkin’ I’d see Marjorie. But here’s this guy, the hardware store’s son—he’s sittin’ with my gal, you know. So I fixed him.
“I lived up there—it must be three miles, anyway, up to the top of Olympic Heights. I would jog all the way, those three miles, down here to this bus waiting-station on Concord Street. I remember the first time I got on the bus and here’s Margie, sitting, thinking she’s gonna see the guy that had the hardware store—”
“I can’t remember his name, either,” offers Elsie Freeland from her “listening post” on the sofa. Elsie and Morey have known each other for more than eight decades, and have rekindled their friendship in recent years.
“Anyway,” Morey continues, “the first time I did that, I thought ‘I gotta beat this guy’s time, he’s always sittin’ with Margie.’ I knew where Margie got on, so I would jog all the way from up there. All that distance. And I had a lunch. I had a lunch wrapped in newspaper. Momma didn’t have money for sacks, you just took newspaper, put a string around it and, ‘Here’s your lunch.’
“I came down here, got in that waiting station, and here comes little Margie. And she gets on the streetcar. I get on right behind her. And she sits down in the seat she always sits in. And I sit down right beside her where this guy, whatever his name is—how could I forget it? Anyway, the situation has reversed itself.
“We get up to Morgan Street, here he is. Good-lookin’ kid, about fifteen, like I was. And he hops on the Number 2, comes trottin’ down the aisle. Huh. Here I am, sittin’ with Margie. He was hurryin’ down there to get the seat. He saw me. He said, ‘Oh, how come you catch this streetcar?’ you know. He knew where I lived. So, I rode with Margie. That’s how I beat his time. . . .
“When I got sick I lost a lot of my memory,” Morey continues. And Elsie and my daughter, Marlene Dorais, the French daughter, they came here and stayed here for a whole month, and took care of me out there. I didn’t know who they were. I said, ‘What are you doin’ here?’ Boy that was something—and it was just a disease of the joints. But sometimes it gets up in your head, too. Boy, it sure got in my head. I forgot about everything. Now I’m getting some of it back.”
“I think you got it all back,” Elsie says with a chuckle. Morey does have a sharp memory, complemented by a quick wit, warm smile and tender heart.
“Oh, I don’t think so, Elsie,” Morey says. “I’m trying to get it back because—well, I have so many nice things to remember. . . . . Yeah: Eisentraut,” he declares. “I think that guy’s name was Eisentraut—no, it doesn’t matter. I’ll think of it, maybe—the guy who tried to beat me out of my first wife. Yeah—but I won; ha, ha, ha, ha. . . .
“Oh, yeah: I plotted and planned against poor—what was his name now? I think it ended with son. I think he was a Norwegian, who had the hardware store. It was his son who was gettin’ on there and sittin’ with Margie. But he had the hardware store at the Junction.”
Morey’s fancy footwork paid off, and he and Marjorie were later married. But there were still rules: “My first wife—she was the little French girl, her name was Marjorie Dorais (Doe-ree’). You had to pronounce it that way, too. If you said, ‘This is Margorie Dorie,’ she’d say, ‘Oh Morey, just a moment; please pronounce my name Mar-jor-ee Do-ree.’ She was full French, a wonderful woman. She was like Elsie, wanted to help others, and help you. She died very young—she was thirty-nine, I think.”
Morey looks out through the rain at a ferryboat that hovers and bobs just over the bow of his front porch. Despite an ever-shifting mosaic of outdoor activity, Morey’s womblike den is quiet, his great grandfather clock chiming out the peaceful hours. He is ready with another story—another chapter in a full and extraordinary life—and I am ready to listen.
Next week: Pollywog Patrol
In case you missed any in this series here are some links to previous installments: