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Living in Seattle


Hilde Bial-Neurath

The Bial-Neurath Family

To relate what life in Seattle was like for her, we relied on Peter's recollections of his mother.

Well, of course, I have early memories as a child in North Carolina but hardly remember my parents. I mean they were there, but I have no memory of that. But as I grew older here in Seattle what stands out to me in my memory of my mother is how friendly and outgoing she was. She loved people and she loved conversation. Now here is an anecdote. We lived in Laurelhurst and ate at home. I don’t remember lunches and I hardly remember breakfast but we always had dinner. Well, we would sit down for dinner and here is my mother who loved conversation, and my father who was very uncommunicative and typically was silent. And he said nothing. And I also tended to be on the silent side, I wasn’t aware of this at the time, it’s only in looking back. So he and I, we would just sit there and eat and not say a word. And I think my poor mother, you know, starved for conversation would have loved to hear about the day, what were the events, what did you do, where did you go, what were your thoughts, never, there was just munch, munch and when we were done we cleared the table and that was the end of it.


Hilde with Peter Hans with Peter

Towards the end of the 1950s, Hilde began her own professional career. She was among the first women in Seattle to become a real estate agent. She first worked for Wolfe Real Estate, moved on to John L. Scott, and then was hired away by the founder of Windermere, where she worked for over twenty years.

I also recall as I grew older of course she had less and less to do, so sometime in the 1950s, she signed up with a realtor, the Wolf Real Estate Agency right there at the foot of Laurelhurst, she went into real estate. My recollection is she was one of the early women to go into residential real estate. She loved matching people up with homes, that they found what they really wanted, she just so thoroughly enjoyed finding homes for people, matching them up. Something she never grew tired of. And she was very good at it. Real estate was her hobby. It was both her income and her hobby. She made a good income, a very good income. Again this was all an extension of her tremendous sociability. She was extremely social.

Hans was a gifted pianist but he was not the only able musician in the family. In Edith London’s portrait of Hilde Neurath, a cello figures prominently. Hilde was an accomplished cello player who for years played in the University of Washington Orchestra. Peter fondly remembers when he, as a boy lying in bed, would listen to his mother and her friends playing chamber music.

And you know my parents were both musical, and both brothers of my fathers were extremely musical. One was a professor of music, Herbert, and Otto, too, played the cello I believe. And when I was maybe 10 or something like that, they got me started much against my will on piano lessons. I hated it. Every day I had to practice for half an hour or something like this and I hated it. And I was grumping and complaining and finally after 4 or 5 years they finally gave up. And my mother said you will always regret this. And I never regretted it once. The only time I remember my father playing was at Christmas, Christmas Eve, when we would have people over at the house. And it would be Christmas Carols he would play. And that’s the only time I remember him playing. I think I was still in College, when I asked him: “Dad, how come you don’t play the piano anymore?” And what I remember him telling me was that if he couldn’t be as good as he was, if he couldn’t be perfect, he wasn’t going to do it. And since he didn’t practice anymore, he wasn’t as good as he used to be and he wasn’t willing to sit down and practice anymore. But he always kept the piano and he always kept it tuned.

Hans and Hilde divorced in 1960 when Peter departed for College.

This is a profound regret that I have. In fact I didn’t even think about this until the past couple of years. When I graduated from High School in 1960 I had wanted to go away to College. I didn’t want to go the University of Washington. I was accepted to Pomona College down in California and I went there for four years while my mother stayed here and my father divorced my mother. The biggest regret of my life is that I was not aware enough to say I am not going away to College. I am going to stay here and I am going to the University of Washington where I can be near my mother, you know, should she need me or when she needs me and I have profound regretted that I didn’t, profoundly.


Hilde Bial-Neurath

The Bial-Neurath Family