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An invitation to a brief hang-out in a different Olympia

Those who grew up in Westside Olympia during the 50s through the 70s had few restraints on the length and breadth of their society. The Null Set was a particular sort of offbeat joint for our band of underage youths to partake in an Olympia underground of poets, artists, musicians and the like. We would grab a packet of Drum tobacco and rolling papers at Ray’s grocery on Harrison, cross the street to The Null Set to listen to lyrical artists while we drank tea or coffee, knowing we’d need to be in class at Jefferson Junior High the next morning.

4th Ave in the 1960s: The Reef, a drugstore, a shoe store and more

Things have changed. Today, parents fret over their offspring’s activities and ride herd on their whereabouts. Our experience as youths was different, and maybe that was just how the times were imbued. We remember our parents’ love in the fact they allowed us to grow and learn by our own devices. This wasn’t neglecting us but respecting our modest freedom to explore. We knew they were there, if we needed their guidance. Their strictness. Their trust. We repaid this grant by developing open minds and critical thinking.

We listened to lyrical artists while we drank tea or coffee, knowing we’d need to be in class at Jefferson Junior High the next morning.

Downtown Oly in those days contained many places for food, music and socializing. Crane’s Café was on Capitol Way near today’s Olympia Federal Savings. The Brotherhood was a nice dive owned by Curly Francis who made us a burger or breakfast on the grill behind the bar. Of course, we were of age by then.  Patrons for an early morning wake-up attended the place at its six o’clock opening.

The Spar, of course, provided breakfast, lunch and dinner to a cross-section of working-class Olympia, pols, and some of the ruling class. The Highclimber Room in the back was its watering hole. There you could hear some good local jazz musicians like Jack Percival or Mike Moore, son of Ben Moore.

Fourth Avenue was alive then, called “The Funway” by my acquaintances. There was Ben Moore’s with its dark paneled, low-lit bar, Adams Bowling Alley (next to the Reef) where my cousin might buy us a quart of Oly by slicking his hair back to allow his receding hairline to give him the look of a forty-year-old, then the Fourth Ave Tavern and the Eastside Club. The Coral Room in the rear of the Reef was a good spot for a quick cocktail between sets when we were playing at the Fourth Ave Tav.

Owner Axel “Babe” Haumann manned the Eastside beer taps from 1942. Babe’s co-owner and wife, Agnes, also held court behind the bar. She had an eye for miscreants. We’d grab a booth or long table, drink beer, play pool and discuss where “Hours” (afterhours) would be held. There’d be politics, the war, or school matters sprinkled through the continuing conversations.

No one spent time looking into the screens of their devices. The devices and the malls had not yet arrived.

Mark (Drummer) Bean grew up in Olympia playing music and roaming the Westside. 

A book by Pat Holm, The Null Set Remembered: A Memoir of a Coffee House 1964-1967, is available at Orca Books.

The menu from Null Set, posted by Pat Holm on her Facebook page

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