Seattle was a bit of a culinary and cultural backwater when I was growing up there in the middle of the last century.
There was plenty of fresh seafood at downtown restaurants like Von’s where I’d lunch on sole with my grandmother before we went grocery shopping at the Pike Place Market, many years before it became a place where tourists line up to see fish mongers fling salmon through the air with the greatest of ease.
Perhaps because of its large population of first and second generation Scandinavian, restaurants featuring Smörgåsbord were popular.
And I used to slurp up noodles at a “Chinese-American” food joint my parents favored.
But more sophisticated dining options were limited.
Things began to change in 1962 when the Seattle World’s Fair added a now iconic landmark to the city’s skyline: The Space Needle.
On the site of the Fair the old, run-down ice rink where I used to try in vain to keep my ankles from flexing inward by clutching the sideboard surrounding the ice, and where I saw toothless hockey players whack each other over the head with their stick weapons, was replaced with a first-rate performing arts center where I saw my first professionally-performed stage play.
You could now get liquor by the drink at a restaurant on Sundays, although you had to wait until noon to wet your whistle, after morning services at the city’s many churches had concluded.
Five years later, Seattle got its first top-echelon sports team, the Supersonics of the National Basketball Association, who arrived in town not long before I bid the city of my birth adieu.
For many years after my departure, the Emerald City seemed to be a decade or more behind the times compared to my new “hometown” region, the San Francisco Bay Area.
But that, as they say, “is history.” Today Seattle still has the same stunning natural beauty I remember from my time there, but the city has come a long way, baby.
So what’s Seattle like today?
This video, and accompanying story from The New York Times, takes you on a virtual tour.
No, in part because something dear to my heart is now past history in Seattle: The scent of freshly-cut Christmas trees wafting through every floor of the two downtown department stores, the Bon Marche and Frederick & Nelson.
“The Bon,” as we “locals” called it, is now a Macy’s, and Frederick & Nelson is now the flagship store of another chain which, like me, came into being in Seattle: Nordstrom. And today you’ll first a forest of odorless, faux firs in those stores this holiday season.
Maybe you can’t go home again after all, even for Christmas.