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!