News

Love of fun was in Byron Betts' blood

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

Federal Way lost a recreation visionary when the man who built one of the most recognizable Federal Way landmarks, Enchanted Village, died last week at home in Redondo.

Byron Lee Betts was born Aug. 2, 1926 and raised in Redondo, where he and his siblings took after their father, Weston, and opened landmark recreational sites in Redondo and Federal Way. Betts died Oct. 7 at the age of 77.

Weston Betts converted his Redondo dance hall into a skating rink in the 1930s, when the Spanish Castle opened on Pacific Highway South (known then as Highway 99) and lured away some of his teenage patrons.

That skating rink, with its slick marble floor, drew kids from as far away as north Seattle and Enumclaw, according to Historical Society of Federal Way records. It was there Betts and his siblings were inducted into a life of recreation.

“It was just kind of bred into him,” lifelong family friend Dolly Sutherland said. Sutherland’s husband and Betts met in the second and third grades in Federal Way public schools and remained friends all their lives.

Though the rink burned to the ground in a devastating fire in 1951, skating remained in the family. Betts’ sister, Evelyn, married Pat Pattison and, together, they opened Pattison’s West skating rink in Federal Way in 1979. Evelyn died last December.

In 1976, on the 25th anniversary of the fire, Betts announced plans to develop a children’s amusement park in Federal Way. He planned to call it Enchanted Village. His wife, May, who was an artist, would design it.

“He had a big dream. He was going to get property in Federal Way,” Sutherland said.

Betts said then that there was a lack of entertainment for youngsters between the ages of 2 and junior high, and he wanted to address that need in the community.

“There are dozens of these types of parks across the United States, but none in the Northwest,” he was quoted in the July 4, 1976 issue of the Federal Way News, archived by the Historical Society. “I maintain that people here are no different than the rest of the country in wanting a place to take the kids.”

Though the amusement park is the most recognizable of Betts’ endeavors — he sited the park along Interstate 5 so children would see it and badger their parents to drop in, according to Historical Society records — Betts and his father also built the first dry-storage marina in Redondo in 1959. It cost $200,000 and featured space for about 250 boats.

In 1962, his family built the Bayshore Apartments on the site of the old Redondo Skating Arena. He also owned the Lollipop Park in Bellevue and a carousel at Pt. Defiance Park in Tacoma.

Betts is survived by May, his wife of 56 years; his children, Christy Peterson (Darrell), Cathy Betts (Danie Hyland) and Weston J. Betts II (Thelma); 13 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

He is also survived by a sister, Barbara Englund.

Sutherland said Betts loved boating and spending time with his family.

He had “tons of friends,” Sutherland said. “He was a very gentle, sweet man.”

A memorial service was held Monday at Brooklake Community Church. In lieu of flowers, family members said donations made to Franciscan Hospice in Byron’s name would be appreciated.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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