Northshore’s John Irby: Just a know-nothing local kid

Longtime Northshore resident John Irby refers to himself as a know-nothing country kid.

Longtime Northshore resident John Irby refers to himself as a know-nothing country kid.

For those of us who know John as a retired English teacher at Kenmore Junior High and as an author of a couple of novels-in-the-making, we find the adjective know-nothing, comical. Let’s delve into John’s memories of Bothell and Kenmore Country.

“Most of the famous landmarks and people have already been chronicled I’m sure, but there are some interesting tidbits here and there — like that old vineyard at Miner’s Corner in Bothell; the orphanage Boys Ranch just a mile out of town on the old Bothell-Everett Highway, as it used to be called; the bookmobiles that delivered paper imagination to a young country boy; the original Bothell Library that was cool even on a hot summer day and was so quiet you could hear the clock on the wall ticking. Then there was the peach orchard on top of the hill above Vitulli Farms and the trout farm near Skyview J.H.”

John’s personal history shows his family buying seven acres adjoining the Miner’s Corner vineyard for $500 around 1947. John was 6 years old and recalls, “Old Man Miner was still alive then and I chatted with him a few times when he caught me stealing grapes. He told me I could eat as much as I wanted, anytime I wanted. At least that’s how I remember it.”

But, it’s the neighbor’s turkeys that still haunt him.

“The people across the dirt road from Miner’s log cabin raised turkeys and they chased us five Irby brats when we walked up to the corner to catch our school bus each morning. We tried to walk ever so quietly, but turkeys must have ears as big as tennis racquets because they always knew we were coming. I’m still having nightmares about turkeys to this day. Might have one tonight!” says John.

The Irby family also lived in Kenmore, a couple miles up the old Cat’s Whiskers Road, below what is now known as Brier.

“If I remember correctly, the road was named after a live cougar that was kept in a cage behind the Cat’s Whiskers Restaurant, which was located where the Jack-in-the-Box restaurant is now,” says John.

He adds, “At that time there were trout as big as porpoises in that little wannabee creek that runs down along the road. I used to fish there all the time and ruined several pairs of perfectly good shoes doing it.”

John’s saddened by the big changes to Kenmore and Bothell since his youth. He recalls the Avon Theater in Bothell with the Saturday matinees for 25 cents and the Kenmore Drive-in where he took a date on a Friday evening.

Irby graduated from Bothell High in 1959. The class will celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer with a tour of the new school.

“Keep in mind, at that time, all the kids who lived in Kenmore, Bothell and Woodinville attended Bothell High. There were no other options,” says John.

“The place was jam-packed with lots of us know-nothing country kids — nice kids!,” he adds.

Yes, John turned out to be a nice kid, a savvy educator and an accomplished author, who will always cherish his Bothell-Kenmore country roots.

Suzanne G. Beyer is a Bothell resident.