Seattle’s Underground Barter Culture

As a homeless teen in 1978, I stumbled upon a functioning barter system in Seattle, Washington that I have yet to see rivaled, and I think it is time we did this type of thing again. Perhaps people just need a model to follow. I am not sure how this system evolved, some of it may have been guerilla barter, an *employee thing,* but a lot of it was institutionalized amongst the participants, with full knowledge and cooperation of ownership.

The Blue Moon is a Tavern opened in April 1934, four months after the repeal of Prohibition, and has been visited by many counterculture icons over the years.

A lot of the businesses involved were cooperatives. It was probably the non-cooperative venues that had the employee guerilla bartering. But I know barter was reliably in place all over Seattle by 1978, and died out in approximately 1985. Some key players in the Seattle alternative/underground culture were involved in this experiment, as were some of Seattle’s most historic and beloved venues, including the Blue Moon, the Fabulous Rainbow, the Neptune Theater, Cellophane Square, Cause Célèbre, Left Bank Books, and more. Many of these Seattle institutions continue to do business, thus proving the barter system did not bankrupt them at all.

Morningtown Pizza and Subs was located in a converted garage at 4110 Roosevelt Way NE.

I came upon the Seattle barter network through the portal of Morningtown Pizza, an anarchist/hippie cooperative run out of an old garage on Roosevelt Way NE, north of the drawbridge over Lake Union. Morningtown served vegetarian pizza with whole wheat crusts, but they abhorred dogma, thus, intense meat subs were also offered. Morningtown snickered, with irreverent cynicism, at strict vegetarian restaurants like the Sunlight Café. Rogue characters, lack of respect for God, American colonialism, authority, and corporations, were trademarks of a lot of the barter contingency.

One of the major revolutionary components of this social experiment was that of *no boss”. Most of these collectives did not play into the concept that work had to be horrifically oppressive, that you have to dress like an idiot of submission to work effectively, or that bosses were necessary. Usually punk and alternative music blared at a lot of these collectives, people dressed and looked like fucking freaks, and the workers had attitude problems, *most* of them, and were proud of it! The freedom to *not* have to dress and act like a businessman, or wage slave worker, was highly valued in this cooperative culture. Collective process and individual responsibility was stressed as the alternative to authority and bosses on shifts. If you stole from Morningtown, you stole from the collective, so there was an honest edge… read more >

Morningtown Pizza & Subs 1969 Vintage Men’s T-Shirt

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