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Meet CHS commenter Bob Knudson (aka Calhoun)

Bob Knudson (aka Calhoun) at home in his CHS comment station.

Bob Knudson (aka Calhoun) at home in his CHS comment station.

Montlake's Calhoun before even Bob started commenting on CHS (Image: Seattle Municipal Archives)

Montlake’s Calhoun back before even Bob started commenting on CHS (Image: Seattle Municipal Archives)

To regular CHS readers, Calhoun is a familiar name. The frequent commenter will weigh in on just about any issue, though he may be most known for sparring with CHS’s loudest pro-density readers.

Sometimes he’s accused of being a luddite homeowner with a parking gripe (he is). Occasionally he’s accused of being the alter-ego of jseattle (he’s not). While comments provide a useful way for readers and writers to interact, it’s easy to forget about the real people behind the fake names. With that in mind, we asked Calhoun to do something we practically never do: reveal his true identity so we could get to know one CHS commenter a little deeper.

Bob Knudson is a 69-year-old retired pediatrician who’s lived in the same century-old house off Broadway since 1980. Knudson, a Nordic-blooded third generation Seattleite, grew up in the Montlake neighborhood (his CHS handle tell) and has spent most of his life in the city.

After graduating from the UW in 1967, Knudson stayed on for medical school. Having deferred his Vietnam draft to go to school, he was required to join the service after graduation. He was sent to Browning, Montana to work for the Indian Health Service. The Blackfeet Indian Reservation clinic was understaffed and Knudson undertrained, but the work exposed him to a broad range of medical disciplines. After two years, Knudson returned to Seattle to start a career in pediatrics.

Over the years, Knudson worked primarily as a pediatrician in King County health department clinics. He ran a private practice on Capitol Hill for several years in the 1980s and did a stint at a clinic at the Naval Station Puget Sound, which later became Magnuson Park.

When Knudson began working in the 1970s, it was practically unheard of for doctors, let alone pediatricians, to be out as gay — even in Seattle. For three decades, Knudson stayed in the closet to his coworkers and patients for fear of losing his job.

“Nobody ever told me it would be a problem, but it seemed like common sense that it would be,” he said. “I don’t think King County would’ve hired me.”

Even though Knudson has been out for years now, he still gets anxious when talking about working as a pediatrician and being gay in the same conversation.

“It’s sad that some people think all gay men are pedophiles, but they do,” he said. “It’s sad that I had to be discreet.”

In 1999, Knudson retired to enjoy the finer things in life: cooking, reading, and working in his garden. He takes daily walks through the neighborhood on various routes, partly for exercise and partly to report graffiti and illegal dumping. “It kills two birds with one stone,” he said.

Knudson also spends time volunteering with seniors. As a retiree himself, he said Capitol Hill continues to be a an excellent place to live, though he’s concerned about how rapidly increasing rents are pricing out seniors. Over the years, Knudson said the senior population on Capitol Hill appears to have declined significantly.

“There seemed to more seniors around, just walking around. You don’t see that much any more,” he said. “They’re part of diversity, too.”

You don’t have to have lived on Capitol Hill for four decades to recognize the neighborhood is experiencing an historical upswing. But the gilded age hasn’t extended to every one — Knudson said the most noticeable difference on Capitol Hill over the years has been the increasing number of people living on the streets.

Overall, Capitol Hill hasn’t changed that radically in Knudson’s eyes. He misses Andy’s Cafe and is looking forward to the opening of the Broadway Streetcar and light rail line. More than anything, Knudson is happy to be growing old in his home neighborhood.

“I live a quiet life, but it suits me,” he said. “I don’t ever get bored.”

Thanks to all of the CHS commenters long-time and first-time and in-between. Happy Holidays!

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20 thoughts on “Meet CHS commenter Bob Knudson (aka Calhoun)” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Nice to place a face with a name. You might be a Luddite, but I’ve been called a grayback (as in a VERY OLD GORILLA), but I take it as a compliment.

  2. A New Year is approaching, so it’s out with the old (“Calhoun”) and in with the new (my real name).

    I will continue to express my opinions on neighborhood issues that I care about….and no doubt there will be some disagreements….but I’m going to try and be more temperate in what I have to say.

    Many thanks to Bryan for writing this article, and also to Justin, who encouraged me to….as he said it….”step into the light.”

    • I don’t think you’ve ever been intemperate, as I recall. Call ’em as you see ’em; don’t think one can go wrong with that. It’s when the name calling begins; disagreements are possible without lowering it down to swinging in the mud.

      • Thank you. I definitely agree with you about the name-calling….it immediately puts up a brick wall between people and stops any meaningful dialogue. I don’t think I’ve been guilty of this, but if I have it will not happen again…except maybe towards the hardcore anarchists (lol)!

  3. Nice to meet you, doc, although I don’t know if I’d agree that much with you. I’m one of the pro-density sorts. If you’re not aware of it, there’s a fairly active board that talks about Seattle’s developments, and there’s a sub Capitol Hill group as well.

    http://www.skyscrapercity.com/forumdisplay.php?f=879

    It may or may not interest you, but you may want to peruse it, perhaps we can influence you, or you us, on varying views of density. Dialogue is always better than line in the sand screaming matches that sometimes occur.

    For the record, most on the board hate corrugated metal siding as well, and wish for higher quality constructuon, and design standards foe neighborhoods that were more reflective of the neighborhoods using better materials.

    • Thanks for the link….I’ll definitely check it out. And it sounds like we can agree that better quality construction materials and more effective design review are badly needed. As an example of what is possible, have you seen the apartment building nearing completion in the 600 block of 12th Ave E (on the west side)? It’s really beautiful, and is the kind of “density” I can really get behind.

      • I live a couple blocks away from that building and am a bit shocked that the time and money was spent on a new build with that much detail and that is a departure from what we’ve been seeing. Very appropriate for the area its in.

        The apartments on 12th and Republican are also a departure from the new norm. A good amount of attention to detail was placed in the design and execution.

  4. Nice to put a name to Calhoun. Funny when I opened up the blog today and saw the reveal of Calhoun I loudly said “Calhoun omg that’s him”. I have disagreed with you on many occasions but regardless today I feel different knowing your real identity and a little more abut you. Cheers Calhoun and Happy Holidays.

  5. As I rapidly approach retirement age it’s good to find impressive examples of older gay men who’ve made the jump and are active in the community, thanks Bob, for letting yourself be known.
    I, too, grew up on Capitol Hill, spending most of my life within a block of 15th, now, living between Holy Names and Aegis Living, I’ve been enjoying the welcome addition of seniors going on their daily walks past my house.
    I’ve enjoyed noticing the “regular characters” over the years I have heard more than one person mention “oh yea,to me you’re the guy with the funky hat” or another identifying comment, life does come full circle on the Hill!
    Happy Holidays to All!

  6. Calhoun! I’ve often wondered if I didn’t know you somehow, and indeed we did make some slight acquaintance during the mini-market alcohol wars those many years ago. I appreciate your stepping up with your real name; if more people did this we would have a more reasoned and productive online discussion. Thanks and best wishes.

    • Great to here from you, Kay! (I was also a customer of your framing business years ago). I miss your presence on Capitol Hill, but hope you are doing well in West Seattle. I and many others will always remember you as the prime mover in making Cal Anderson Park such a wonderful part of our neighborhood.

    • Hey Bob, glad that you have joined me and Kay as part of the “real names” crowd. I’ve always felt that discussion will be more temperate, and opinions valued more, if we all used our real names.

  7. I haven’t always agreed with his position, but I have always appreciated calhoun’s thoughtful comments on CHS. Although I’m one of the newer kids on the block (been here a little over 5 years), I love hearing about the history of the Hill from people who have been here for decades. Thanks for letting us get to know you, Bob! Happy holidays!

  8. This neighborhood needs more people like Bob, long-term residents who are legitimately concerned about the health of the neighborhood. Also, it gives me pause to see that someone over twice my age doesn’t even display a sliver of the kind of cynicism that seems to have me in its grip. Hopefully I’ll become more like that as I approach retirement. Anyway, I appreciate the insight on one of our more notable commenters.