Remembering ‘Bud’ Ericksen

When “Bud” Ericksen served as Bothell mayor from 1969-1973, the mayor and members of the City Council sat around a huge oak table supported by tree-stump legs and they conducted the city’s business from reasonably uncomfortable chairs.

When “Bud” Ericksen served as Bothell mayor from 1969-1973, the mayor and members of the City Council sat around a huge oak table supported by tree-stump legs and they conducted the city’s business from reasonably uncomfortable chairs.

Quite a far cry from today where the city’s elected officials look down from an elevated dais and conduct business as outlined in a protocol manual of seemingly hundreds of pages of “shall” and “shall nots.”

“Bud” was well-known and well-liked in Bothell. It was not an uncommon sight to spot him chatting with townsfolk at the corner of 101st and Main in front of a one-story brick building that in earlier days served as the Ericksen family’s mercantile store. This mayor was also accessible and highly visible. Today, you might catch a glimpse of the mayor slipping in or out of the post office virtually unrecognized unless you are one of those government watchers who catch city council meetings on cable TV.

“Bud” died last month four days after his 92nd birthday. “Old Bothell” turned out in great numbers to memorialize this Bothell native. Friends with names of Green, Walters, Keeney, Nims and Rettig had stories to tell. The remembrances might not mean much to the thousands who populate Bothell today, but they are indelible reminders of Bothell before suburban sprawl and urban growth management replaced “small-town America.”

They assembled April 23 at “the Bothell church.” When word spread about the service to honor Ericksen’s life, those in the know were aware that this meant the Bothell United Methodist Church next to Bothell High. “Bud” sang in the choir there and his mother, Maud, was the church organist for years and years.

Ron Green, a few months younger than “Bud,” now lives in the Brittany Park retirement settlement in Woodinville. He reminded us that he and “Bud” once played in what then were the woods on West Hill where the church stands today. He apologized in advance that his memories would take awhile, noting they first became friends in 1919 at the age of 3. He recalled school days, attending the University of Washington, running into each other during World War II when both served as officers in the Army air corps.

Ron noted their friendship never suffered years later when they competed in the automobile business, Green selling Fords, Ericksen holding the dealership for Plymouth, Dodge and DeSotos.

College fraternity brother Phil Smart — yes, that Phil Smart — recalled years at the University of Washington where “Bud” played for the Huskies and Phil was equipment manager for the track team. “Bud” advanced to the professional-football ranks, Smart got to wash socks and “unmentionables” for the hurdlers. Both parlayed their athletic experiences into car dealerships. Smart started in Edmonds with Chevrolets and over the years made his fortune selling higher priced, foreign cars. Like “Bud,” he was generous in giving time to his community.

Marian Nims Nicholas added a bit of levity, noting that she, too, was a member of the choir of the Bothell church. She recalled Ericksen’s boyish grin could be counted on right after he would tug hard on her choir robe when it was required they should try to stand for a hymn.

Roger Rettig, son of Kenmore postmaster Roy Rettig (who had a Bothell address, much to his embarrassment and chagrin) confessed to taking a joy ride in one of Ericksen’s new cars. As a teenager and at a time he probably didn’t have a driver’s license, Roger swept floors across the street (now State Route 522) at Green Ford. He and another brash pal decided to see if they could convince “Bud” they were really interested in buying a new car. “Bud” relented for a test drive and sent them off in new wheels. It wasn’t much later that Roger took a quick turn ahead of a Bothell police car, ran into a curb and damaged the tire rim to the tune of a $21 repair bill.

Not anxious to have this reported to his rather stern father, Roger pled near personal insolvency as he was earning maybe $7 a week from the job at Green Ford. “Bud” agreed to a lengthy payment plan. In more recent years as Ericksen’s neighbor, Roger paid the debt in full with a few ears of corn from his garden. That apparently brought the interest current.

Earl Keeney attended to add to stories about early day Bothell. His grandfather had started a lumber business in Bothell and the families enjoyed summer retreats to Camano Island. Another of Ericksen’s contemporaries, Bob Walters, represented the Charles R. Walters Co. family that built the town feed mill where the Northshore Adult Wellness Center operates today. He’s living in nearby Lake City and, as the first president of the Bothell Rotary Club, plans to attend the club’s 50th anniversary later this month.

Bob said it is hard to believe that the anniversary event will be held on a college campus “right where the Truly family once lived and held those annual spring cattle roundups.”

At Ericksen’s service I had the chance to meet up with Craig Smith, a Bothell High grad of 1963 who lived on Arrowhead Point in Kenmore at the time and cut his teeth journalistically at the Northshore Citizen when I was the owner-publisher. Craig grew up with “Bud” and Pat’s kids and treasured a wealth of small-town stories about the family. Now a sportswriter for the Seattle Times, Craig insisted that he write Ericksen’s obituary.

It was another old home week for Bothellites of earlier days, a sharing of fond memories during a spring day at the Bothell church.

John B. Hughes was owner-publisher of the Northshore Citizen from 1961 to 1988 and is active in local nonprofit organizations.