Yes, I DID come to University Place in 1953!  

(Should I confess that I was one year old at the time?  Naw. Let ’em figure it out.)

My name is Pat Maddock and I’m told that I’m many things. So, I have many perspectives but as a UP native (If you can’t yet walk when you move here you can claim native status. Did you know that?) …as I was saying, as a UP native, I care about our little town. 

No matter where I’ve lived over the years and that includes about a half a dozen different countries (More on that another time)…I’ve always found that the better the members of a community communicate about what’s going on around them, the better they deal with it.  I suspect that we lack a bit of that, here in the U.P. area, these days.  The communication part, that is.  Maybe I can do something about that. We’ll see. 

We used to have a community newspaper. I was a Suburban Times delivery boy every Thursday morning at approximately oh-dark-thirty a-m when I lived on Glendale Drive back when dinosaurs roamed the earth or that’s what my kids would have you believe, anyway.  The paper kept us loosely connected. (Ken now does that on-line.)

Schools kept us loosely connected, at least parents would talk while they sat in the stands at ball games and such and us kids were absolutely connected through our schoolmates and their families. Churches kept us loosely connected where folks found things in common and they talked about the changes surrounding them. It was a sense of community we were building, whether or not we knew it and we built it through communications and shared experiences.

U.P. was a different place back then but was it a better place?  Maybe.  It certainly was a gathering of homeowners, many not far removed from the battlefields of WWII.  They were a special breed, those men and women who built this town.  They absolutely knew what being an American meant to them…without question.  The VA helped them buy their first homes and young University Place grew, exponentially! And it grew well.

It was a little town being formed informally, if you will, as a part of unincorporated Pierce County but with a growing mind of it’s own.  Good people shaped it, too.  Some were prominent, some land owners, influential players with names like Anderson and Brobeck and Bregaze (sp) and Yes, certainly Mr. Curtis.  While others were more focused on their neighborhoods, their growing kids, their friends…names like Pete Sterbich, Cliff McCullum, John Maddock, Bob Robertson, “Jake” Jacobsen, Dorothy Ponton,  The Cassmans, the Honorable Bertil Johnson, Don Lindberg, Grace Raymore, Art Knoll, Joyce Tongish, Sheriff Jack Berry, Mr. Mukai and Chief Les McGaw.  Men and women of varied backgrounds and incomes but to a large degree that didn’t seem to matter.  They were all raising families in a growing community and they cared about that community as they cared about their families.  So, really, not that much has changed. Has it?

We used to pedal our bikes through the scotch broom  “forests” to old Colgate Park and play ball, wrestle in the grass, discover girls, lose a tooth, make new friends, experience life in our little town and bit by bit broaden our horizons, all in a pretty safe environment.  Our parents really didn’t worry. Instead, they told us what time to be home. We would deliver our daily reports at the dinner table where we would be reminded to stay away from the home construction sites, watch out for all of the “speeding” traffic on Grandview, as little as there was back then,  and look out for our younger brothers and sisters. Life was pretty simple, when you have today’s perspective to contrast.

When the weather permitted we were outside as much as we could possibly be. Exploring, fantasizing and growing.  I saw my first cougar not far from 37th and Tahoma Place.  Got my first kiss in about the same place, come to think of it and donned my first baseball “uniform” just blocks from there. Of course, back in those days, you could tell which team was which simply by the color of our hats. In fact, that WAS the “uniform” we were given. We all grew up in white t-shirts and blue jeans and mostly high top black tennies.  Some had our Dad’s old “pillow” mitts and some had webbed softball gloves. I remember playing with Pete Hayes, Marv Hansen, (Who’s sister was a doll) Randy Burgermiester and Jack Day. We learned the real meaning of the word “team” from Coach Dillon and from each other as we scrambled for the softball in between the mud puddles of Spring. Year after year, we grew, threw further, hit harder and loved the game more and more.

Some time later, the United Pacific Cascade Insurance Company sponsored a real, uniformed, padded, helmetted tackle football team in UP.  Man! Was that ever something special and the competition was fierce.  Ed Hurd was the smallest on the team and the biggest guy, well, I can’t quite remember his name but my teeth are the way they are today in part because of him. We competed so much within our own squad that when it came time to play the likes of McChord or Fircrest or most anyone, we were formidable, to say the least.  But we caught the fever and most all of us went on to play at least high school football and, of course, most at Curtis, while a couple from that squad, myself and Mark Laviola, played for Coach Ed Fallon at Bellarmine. But we were all addicted from the first day we strapped on those gold colored helmets and enjoyed the shock of our first “crack of the pads”.

I grew up in a family that was an ever-present part of University Place, as I had five younger siblings, but we were also just a wee bit outsiders, too.  Our church was St. Charles and that most often meant eight years of the Franciscan nuns and old Father McCallion. He was one of a kind (we hoped!). Then it was on to Bellarmine for the boys, St Leos or Aquinas for the girls and occasionally down to St Martins in Olympia.   My family was mixed. Some went to Bellarmine, some to St Martins and one became a Senior Class President at  Curtis. So, while our “buds’ were a bit more connected to each other as they shared 12 years of school, they were totally accepting and we never felt out of place.

It really was a tremendous place to spend your formative years, old University Place, was.  But I watch my twin grandsons, Ethan and Evan experiencing much of the same here, today. They live up against the ever-explorable woods between Westhampton and Charles Wright. They attend a great school at Chambers. They wrestle for U.P.  They take guitar lessons here.  They play tackle football and hollywood  ball. I don’t know when they get any homework done and I’m not certain when their parents ever catch up but it’s a good, rich experience.  Some things are different now but many really are about the same.

I wouldn’t pretend to know what the population was back in the ’50’s but I’m told we’re well beyond 30,000 now and the new census will probably add to that. 

Probably our most notable native UP son would be Far Side creator Gary Larson. Now, that ought to tell you something about growing up in U.P. back then.  As I recall, Gary is just a couple years ahead of me.

I galavanted around the globe for a number of years living in the Mediterranean, central and western Europe, back and forth across the United States from North Carolina to Alaska but never, did I ever loose sight of someday coming home to University Place. 

We’ve been back for about 15 years now and I find myself up to my neck in this little city. Yep. Can’t call it a town any more. That is certainly an improvement, in itself and I, for one, believe that we all should have a say in the conduct and further development of this still young city.

Many of us remember it at a simpler time. Many of us can see advantages to what we enjoy today but we also recognize there are challanges to be dealt with, too.  And if we are to face those challenges, we’ll have to do so by communicating between one another. Perhaps this little tool can play some small role in that process.  We’ll see…