Both organizations continue to be contributors to our community.
THERE ARE TWO good clues about the location of our “Then” photo, which dates from the mid-1920s. First, the address is scribbled on the wall, top center, with chalk or perhaps whitewash. It reads, “98 Main St.” The second clue is the rusticated block of granite that sits on the sidewalk, bottom left. It has been part of the footprint of the New England Hotel since 1890, when its frame hostelry was rebuilt with brick, concrete and stone following the incineration of 30-plus city blocks, including this one, during Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889.
In both photos, the men posing above the building’s sidewalk well are smiling. They are, first, Martin Johanson, holding the broom and, about 92 years later, Tim Harris, who has unfolded the first issue of Real Change, the newspaper he founded. Its website describes the paper as a “weekly progressive street newspaper written by a pro staff and sold by self-employed vendors, many of whom are homeless. The paper provides them with an alternative to panhandling.” When first printed as a monthly in 1994, it was published as the “Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project.” We strongly suspect many Pacific NW readers have patronized Real Change. We hope so.
Johanson, the man with the sweeper’s broom, was also a founder, and the Millionair Club that he opened on this corner in 1921 continues to find work — and much else — for the unemployed who seek its services. The club has long since moved north into Belltown, and so up and away from the basement of the New England Hotel.
If you use the club and/or support it with a donation or, perhaps, a bid at one of its auctions, you are a member. You can figure some of its early services from the signage held above the well, including free suppers on Sunday. The club’s basement served as a performance space for speakers, readers and performers. Nearby, at 112 Main St., the club ran a restaurant with a nutritious menu that was cheap and/or free to those with tickets gained from working. The club’s first quarters were fitted with beds.
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Real Change and the Millionair Club, two well-known and respected services, continue to be zestful contributors to our local culture.
Real Change’s weekly circulation is about 16,000. I know from experience, having edited a weekly tabloid a half-century ago, that what is printed on the cover can make a surprising difference in how many copies are sold on the street.