Dean Kahn

What do you do if you live on Yellow Brick Road or Penny Lane? Don’t worry, be happy

Yellow Brick Road neighbors Ray Denson, left, and Jon Rockwood stand near the intersection of Kelly and Yellow Brick roads north of Bellingham, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016.
Yellow Brick Road neighbors Ray Denson, left, and Jon Rockwood stand near the intersection of Kelly and Yellow Brick roads north of Bellingham, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

It’s easy for Jon Rockwood to find his home after a day at work selling real estate. He just follows the Yellow Brick Road.

Rockwood lives on the quiet private road north of Bellingham. The area’s developer proposed the name in the early 1980s, with lasting consequences, from giggles to thefts, for residents of the asphalt-and-gravel road with the “Wizard of Oz” connection.

They say, ‘Come on, really?’ I’ve heard all the jokes.

Jon Rockwood, resident of Yellow Brick Road

Rockwood has lived on Yellow Brick Road since 1993, so he is well-versed in the looks, questions, and chuckles when people see or hear his address.

“They say, ‘Come on, really?’ ” he said. “I’ve heard all the jokes ... and, no, my wife isn’t Dorothy and my dog isn’t Toto.”

The list of named private roads in Whatcom County totals 860, with most of the names standard fare. That’s what makes roads with unusual names – including Yellow Brick Road, Jimi Hendrix Way, and Fat Dog Lane – such eye-catchers.

For a private road in unincorporated Whatcom County to be named, it must serve five or more residences, or be at least 1,000 feet long and serve three or more residences. Having a name makes it easier for police, firefighters, and medics to find a residence in an emergency.

With safety in mind, proposed names are checked by 911 administrators to make sure they’re not duplicative or confusing, and are easy to spell and pronounce over the phone, said Joe Giannetto, an engineering technician with the county Public Works Department. Private road names can be proposed by developers or homeowners, or chosen from a pre-approved list.

Popular with thieves

Besides being popular with movie fans and pop culture mavens, Yellow Brick Road also has been a favorite of small-time criminals. Yellow Brick resident Ray Denson said he made about six wooden signs with the road’s name over the years. Each was stolen.

So about 10 years ago, neighbors anchored a heavy-duty steel pole in concrete deep in the ground, and topped it with the road’s name on metal.

“You’re not wiggling that,” Denson said. “Even the Jolly Green Giant can’t get that out.”

Music is a popular theme for private roads with interesting names. If you’re up for a holiday stroll, at least in name, head for Primrose Lane, east of Bellis Fair Mall. If you prefer to ponder the past, you can walk down Memory Lane, north of Custer.

They comment about it and usually remember the Beatles’ song.

Penny Olson, resident of Penny Lane

In September 1997, Mark Weinberg chose the 27th anniversary of the death of the famous Seattle rock guitarist to erect a sign for Jimi Hendrix Way, in the Toad Lake area. Fittingly, Weinberg wore a tie-dye shirt in The Bellingham Herald photo showing him putting up the sign.

Weinberg, who also owns property on Jerry Garcia Way, west of Toad Lake, could not be reached for comment.

East of Laurel, Drummer Boy Lane got its name from an early homeowner who was a drummer.

Southeast of Laurel you will find Penny Lane, the name of a popular Beatles song. The name was chosen from three proposed by Rick Olson and his father-in-law.Rick’s wife said the name can spark discussion.

“They comment about it and usually remember The Beatles’ song,” said Penny Olson.

Across the country, the name “Fat Dog” often is associated with food-and-drink establishments, from a restaurant and bar in the Los Angeles area to an oyster company in New Hampshire and an oatmeal stout made by a Pennsylvania brewery.

Food also contributed to the name of Fat Dog Lane, north of Bellingham. Kelly Brown said she and her husband were the first property owners there, so they and their two children suggested names for the road.

Brown said her daughter proposed “Fat Dog Lane” because they had pet dogs who were on the heavy side. The name stuck, even though Brown’s current dogs don’t fit the description.

“We could relate to it, because of our animals,” Brown said. “Everybody loves it.”

Dean Kahn: 360-715-2291

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