Monday, September 21, 2009

Beautiful Lake Coeur d'Alene

Here's a photo Dad took from the point of Tubbs Hill in the early 60's. Didn't it look like a sleepy, laid back lake? Not many houses and hills were covered with trees, not dotted with the homes of affluent transients like today. And sailboats were quiet and graceful as they navigated the blue waters, now wake strewn from countless ski boats and jet skis on any given summer day.
Is Coeur d'Alene one of the seven most beautiful lakes in the world? Supposedly attributed to National Geographic, some years ago I wrote them and was informed that they had never ranked "beautiful lakes". Dad used the line promoting the area in the 50's and 60's but I'd guess he never tracked down the validity of the declaration. Some things are best left alone.
The claim was actually early tourism hype first pushed by the railroads and steamboat lines that served the thousands upon thousands they served in the early years of the 1900's. There was big money in transporting tourists to and around lake Coeur d'Alene. If you think Lake Coeur d'Alene is beautiful now, imagine how people viewed it then, with its crystal clear waters, mountains densely covered with stands of timber and abundant fish and wildlife.
The Red Collar Line and White Star Navigation Company were rivals for these passengers and boasted beautiful steamboats that could carry hundreds of passengers. The sidewheeler Idaho could board up to a thousand. Hauling equipment, supplies, settlers and loggers most days, Sundays found trainloads of people coming from Spokane and the Palouse to spend the day on the steamers as they cruised the lake, sometimes to visit the Old Mission (prior to being moved to it's present elevated location). Round trip tickets were $1.25 to St. Maries and $1.75 to St, Joe, a one time bustling and roughneck city that doesn't even exist today.
Red Collar owned the main dock where the Electric Line brought trainloads of people right up to the boats. The shenanigans between Red Collar and White Star seem humorous now but dangerous and cutthroat back in the day. Stories of "stealing" passengers were common as were dock scuffles, boats being driven into shallow water on the St. Joe, races between boats filled with cheering passengers across the lake and even one boat "accidentally" (on purpose?) ramming and sinking a rival boat. The Red Collar Line won the war and during it's heydays between 1908 and 1913 they had near 50 boats of various sizes plying the waters.
Next time you're in Hudson's, take pause to really look at the old photos on the wall. And if you want to know more about this amazing history of our area, seek out Steamboats in the Timber by Ruby El Hult. Written in 1952, I found this one of the most interesting books I've ever read.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Let's Go Boating

For a guy who's lived in CdA all his life, I haven't really been on the lake that much. We never had a boat so I'll always jump at an opportunity to go along with friends who do.

I look maybe 3 years old in this photo so we'll say 1958. Dad's holding onto a boat that I think belonged to a Canadian friend, Norm Hendricks. One of the ladies is Norm's wife, Mary Templin's in the middle and I have no clue after that. (Note to self, put names on the backs of photos for future reference)

We're standing on the Templin's Motor Inn dock, pretty much where the west entry of the Resort Boardwalk is now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Memoirs of a Seahawk Fan

The above photo was taken on Dec. 26, 1999. The last regular season game in the Kingdome. These were our seats for 16 years. The first year the seats cost $8 a game. Now $8 hardly buys you a beer at a game. Standing behind us are 3 of our Seahawk "family". The guy in the vest was the sideline cameraman. He was from Spokane and always passed out Tootsie Pops to us before the game. We got on the big screen regularly. In the middle is Bennie, what a wonderful lady. We know where her seats at Quest are and always make sure to seek her out if we go to a game. Bennie split the pair of season tickets with Chester, on the right.

I miss the Kingdome, its destruction was the first signal for my fading dedication. They are still my team but I don't bleed blue anymore. Posted below is a review of my life with the Seahawks, originally written a few days before the Seahawks played the Steelers in Super Bowl XL.


It has been XXXVIII years since MY team was in the Super Bowl. When I was a kid, I was a Packer fan. And how could I not love Idaho boy Jerry Kramer throwing the block to let Bart Star sneak in for the TD in the Ice Bowl against the Cowboys? I was 11 at the time. After Lombardi left I went for years without a real favorite team.

Then the Seahawks came along and I’ve bled blue ever since. I’ve suffered through a lot of losses, a lot of disappointments and a lot of mediocre seasons. Not that there hasn’t been a number of memorable moments over the years.

Oct. 21, 1979. It was my first visit to the Kingdome. The Oilers, featuring Earl Campbell, were in town. I’d come to watch him as much as the Hawks. I should have known a fickle love/hate relationship with the NFL in Seattle lie ahead of me. Earl hardly played and our ‘Hi Mom” banner never made it on TV. The Jim Zorn led Seahawks won 34-14.

Nov. 8, 1981. Pittsburgh’s Terrible Towels waved in the Kingdome but the Seahawks and fans were up to the call. We sat 300 level, dead square between the goal posts. Late in the 4th quarter, I watched the Hawks hold Pittsburgh on a 4th and goal then march the ball back to our endzone. I had a bird’s eye view on a Seahawk 4th and goal. Touchdown Seahawks! Seahawks win, 24-21.

New Years Eve day, 1983. This was as close as got for decades. The Hawks go 9-7 and beat Denver at home in the Wild Card. This day we sat in our living room and watched as Idaho Alum “Super” Sam Merriman fell on a fumble in a rain soaked 4th quarter to beat the Dolphins 27-20 in Miami. The Hawks went on to lose to the would-be Super Bowl Champion Raiders the next week.

Oct. 6, 1986. It’s a month before my son, Aaron, turns six and we take him to see his favorite player and first sports hero, Steve Largent, make a catch in an NFL record-breaking 128th consecutive game. We win 33-7. On the way out, Aaron stumbles on the steps and a seat-arm on the aisle leaves a third eyeball dead center on his forehead. We watch the highlights in the ER of Swedish Hospital. He still has the souvenir, er, scar.

Nov. 16, 1986. Cincinnati wins 34-7 giving the Hawks 4 straight losses and a 2-7 record. We refuse to not have fun at the game. After the second Bengal TD, we put sacks on our heads, each with a letter spelling out K-N-O-X. We’re in the newspaper the next morning. At least we got our money’s worth and laughed all the way home.

Nov. 30, 1987. Monday Night Football. The Raiders. Bo Jackson. Bozworth. A 37-14 butt-kicking. Bo runs over the Boz right in front of us. A couple long faced fans, Aaron and I, make the Tuesday newspaper. We have to chain up on Snoqualmie and it takes 12 hours for our charter bus to make it home.

December 23, 1989. Steve Largent’s last game. Many former Seahawks are on hand to honor him. Pre-game ceremonies are moving and there’s hardly a dry eye in the house. By halftime we were really crying as the Redskins are cleaning up on their way to a 29-0 victory. It was an emotional halftime, the Blue Angel was retiring. We didn’t stay for the second half.

Through the 80’s and 90’s, we were as good a mediocre team as you’d ever want. We had highs of home victories over archenemies Denver and Oakland/LA. We saw Steve Largent flat-can a Denver defensive back after an interception (the same player that put him out earlier in the season). We had the Wave. We wore Raider-Buster shirts. We retired the number 12 (bite me, Aggies!). We loudly proved the NFL’s new ‘noise rule’ would never work by repeatedly pegging the decibel meter on national television. We cheered names like Efren, Doornink, Krieg, John L, Easley, Brown, Yarno, Nash, Tuiasosopo, Cortez, Warner, Skansi and Paul Johns. We jeered names like Elway (Elllllll-waaaaaaaaay!) and cussed those of Flores, Behring and Erickson. We went home hoarse and happy; we went home spent and sullen. We were Seahawk fans.

December 26, 1999. The last regular season game in the Kingdome, we beat Kansas City 23-14. Two weeks later, the Hawks lose the Wild Card at home to Miami, but this was the official farewell game. The sidelines were packed with a who’s who of Seahawk history, pre-game and halftime shows are moving. Post game, every player was introduced and the top 10 all-time Kingdome highlights are shown on the big screen. Laser lights and pyrotechnics make this wake a spectacular party.

We had sat in the same seats for 16 years, aisle 110, row 1, seats 1-4. Nearby season ticket holders watched our children grow, we became friends with sideline cameramen and security people. Once our reluctant daughter Tia was recruited to pull camera cable and stood just out of the endzone for a Seahawk touchdown, forever locking her into Seahawk Blue. These people were our family.

Our seats were at one of the few entries to the playing field and longtime security lady, Mary, looked at me as we packed to leave and asked “You guys want to go on the field?” Sue, the kids and I walked among our team, Aaron finally getting his photo taken with Largent. I miss those seats and I miss those friends.

Then came the UW years. Husky Stadium is in one of the greatest settings in sports. But it is an awful stadium. Seats are uncomfortable and far removed from the field, the aisles are woefully inadequate. The football wasn’t much better.

The new stadium brought new excitement but also higher prices. After 20 years, we finally gave up our season tickets. We’ve since gone to some games, but (typically me or typically Seahawks), of the three regular season losses Seattle has had at Quest Field, I’ve been to two of them.

This is the first year since 1979 that I haven’t attended at least one game. Now they’re XL bound. Perhaps the albatross hanging around one’s neck isn’t the Seahawks on me but me on the Seahawks. Go figure.


Well, the Seahawks lost the Big One. Yes, some calls went against them but they just didn’t play well enough to win. So much for me getting rich selling my years of collectibles on eBay. I’ll just pack it all away for another year/decade/millennium.


The story continues...

October 22, 2006

Mostly because my wife wanted to go, we attended the game against the Minnesota Vikings. Along for the trip were my daughter and her friend, I should have known going with three women wasn’t going to be like the Boy’s Trips of the old days.

The good news is Gordie is still bartending at the Athenian in Pike Place Market and they still serve Snowcap in frosty mugs, Mee Sum pastry still has the best sidewalk potstickers and you can still buy cheddar cheese rolls from the Russian bakery. And it was a sunny weekend.

Sunday morning rolled around. Parking five (city) blocks away was an affordable $30 (compared to the $50 near the stadium). Football mornings are always fun in the Pioneer Square area and breakfast at The Central was good, including the numerous Viking fans in attendance.

Almost half of the Seahawks total game yardage came in the first quarter, and damn near half that was in one play. Turned out it was one of the few highlights of the actual game. Seahawk highlights anyway, the Vikings had plenty.

Now I have been to three of the four regular season losses in Quest Field. Maybe I should just stay away from now on.

November 27, 2006

Nope, Sue got tickets for the Monday Night Game against the Packers and after going to over 120 games in over 25 years, I have to say this was in my Top Ten. Of course, spending the pre-game at Pyramid Brewing, walking into a snow storm for the game (we had our boots, gloves and CHS Viking stadium blanket and kept toasty), seeing a great game and then closing the Elysian Brewery after the game, it had to be a fun time.

October 14, 2007

My son, Aaron, and I make a one day trip over and back to see the Sunday night game against the Saints. Early in the game it’s so loud I almost wish I had earplugs. Then the Saints start looking great while the Hawks start looking bad. With Seattle down 28-10, we leave with six minutes left in the game. Yet another loss I attend.

December 9, 2007

Another Seattle trip and now I just look at it as a beer weekend. Saturday we visit Pyramid Brewing, Pike Place Brewing, The Athenian and The Taproom. Gordie’s still at The Athenian but tells me he’s retiring and moving to Arizona. I guess everything changes in time. The Seahawks win, big. But even with a 42-21 shellacking of the Cardinals, well, it’s still just the lowly Cardinals. Lucky we’re in the worst division in the NFC.

January 12, 2008
In what will go down in history as a great Green Bay Packer win, in epic Lambeau Field weather, the Seahawks see their season come to a close.

2008 Season
The Hawks stink and Holmgren can't be run out of town fast enough for my liking. We go to one game but I don't even remember who we played or if we won. I do remember Saturday night at the Taproom.

2009 Season
This year's season ticket is in my living room. Free parking, better beer, no drive home and, if the game sucks, a nice place for a nap.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mr. Coeur d'Alene

This is a photo of my dad, Kyle M. Walker, from summer 1953. I don't know who the photographer was but written on the back is the date, his name and "the busiest man in CdA". The photo was taken in front of what was at the time the Chamber of Commerce building. It was just a little log cabin located roughly where big granite Centennial Trail monument is between the Sherman/NW Blvd bend and the Independence Point parking lot. I remember little of it, only that it was small.

Near the end of the 1950's the Chamber office was moved to an annex on the east end of The Desert Hotel, now the site of Bonsai at 1st & Sherman. Not long after Dad retired from his 23 years as Manager of the Chamber in 1971, the Desert Burnt down, taking with it the Chamber, the Athletic Round Table and the Diamond Cup Trophy. A total and sad loss.

Dad moved to the Inland Empire in 1947 from Kingsport, TN. where he was the outdoor editor for the Kingsport Times and a reporter for the American Field, the semi-weekly publication and bible for field dogs and field dog trials. Dad traveled across the US and into the plains of Canada with this job, and discovering Coeur d'Alene, he fell in love with it.

After working as a writer/photographer for a magazine called Scenic Idaho he was hired as the Chamber Manager in 1948. Most industry in the CdA area was still lumber mills and various associated businesses. But tourism, which was a huge part of what put CdA on the map even around the turn of the century, was a major player.

Dad worked the promotion of local tourism with a passion. When he wasn't promoting CdA as his job, he, as a freelance writer/photographer, had CdA and surrounding areas featured in countless magazines and trade publications across North America. He was an original member of the State of Idaho Board of Commerce and Tourism and scrounged for funding to promote the area almost every year at the Calgary Stampede as well as travel expos in places like Los Angeles (yeah, I took a bad rap for him bringing the Californians) and Chicago.

Ever the promoter, we even had 2 cars that had "follow the photographer to scenic Coeur d'Alene" painted (by Ted Anderson) down the sides and trunk. Damn I hated to ride in those.

He got the movie bug, bought a 16mm Bolex and made The Coeur d'Alene Country which was released in 1962. He got his friend, country music star and Disney narrator, Rex Allen to narrate the movie and it was distributed widely, including a German translation as it grew popular in Europe. He also, as a one man movie production company, made North Idaho Scenic Land which featured the 11 northern counties and at his retirement banquet premiered Four Seasons in the Coeur d'Alene Country.

During his years with the Chamber he helped get the Public Golf Course off the ground, was instrumental in bringing the Boy and Girl Scout World Jamborees to Farragut State Park and was involved with everything from parades and the Diamond Cup to the Scottish Tattoo and Forest Festival Days.

He was known as Mr. Coeur d'Alene and considering the times and what media was available in the 50's & 60's, probably did more to promote Coeur d'Alene than any other single person before or since.

Dad passed in 1989 and I miss him and his never ending stories, songs, poems and sayings for almost every occasion. He's mostly forgotten now, as are so many of the wonderful people of that era. I was lucky enough to meet and know an amazing number of special individuals through Dad. He is my Hero; for moving here, for marrying my Mother and for raising me in the most wonderful little city on Earth.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sherman Avenue

Ah yes, Sherman Avenue. It was our version of American Graffiti. I met my wife "tootin' the gut". Things have certainly changed over the years, the late 80's saw the "revitalization" of downtown with widening of sidewalks and Sherman going from 4 lanes to 2. This photo taken looking west at 4th & Sherman I'd guess is late 60's or very early 70's, the Oldsmobile on the left looks like a 68.

Looking down the south (left) side of the street we see Hart Drug, a beauty salon, Coast to Coast Hardware and Woolworths, now Java, San Francisco Sourdough, Pita Pit and Sherman Square Park. Beyond that I can't tell/don't remember (I should find an old Polk's city directory). Some of the businesses farther down on the next block were Western Auto, Bank of Idaho, JC Penney and the Gold Cup, now the Resort Plaza takes up the entire block.

On the north side of the street is the Kamera Korner which over my memories was also Ruth's Children's Wear, the Penny Candy store and now the Beacon (I may one day expand on the California Carpetbagger who booted from the building the candy store, an attorney and Ace Travel after 34 years). What is now Brix was at the time Mariposa if I recall correctly. Prior to remodeling this was where JC Penny was. I remember getting clothed off the husky rack in the upper "balcony". You can't make out much from the photo but on down the street was IXL Toggery, Merrill's Cafe, the Sportsman's, Clark's Jewelry (the clock's still there), Lighthouse Sporting Goods and what is now Wells Fargo was the Hagadone building (1967-1971) with Everson's Jewelry and Floyd's Camera on the street level and upstairs were the Hagadone offices, Dr. Toyama optomitrist and Ace Travel. On the next block were Gridley's Clothing, Shamrock Bar, Hudson's and The Wilma among other things.

I've got more photos, stay tuned and please leave comments on your memories of Sherman and what I missed between 2nd & 4th streets.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Parking Ticket

Seeing the letter in The CdA Press today about downtown parking made me pull this one out. Back in the 50's & 60's when Dad was the manager of the Chamber of Commerce, he somehow got the City to pass out these "parking tickets" to cars obviously belonging to tourists. This was when downtown still had parking meters. Rather than a ticket, they got this postcard on their windshield. Probably weren't going to get many tourists to pay a parking fine anyway.
The complaint in the Press today was a "downtown business owner" complaining that the current parking laws penalize customers and employees and are just another means of the City taxing people. Cry me a river, bub. Parking tickets are not a new concept and have been an American fact of life for almost a century and for well over 50 years here in CdA.
I was a downtown CdA business owner for 25 years and saw first hand how parking worked. The number one problem with parking on streets in downtown are the huge number of people who own or work in stores and businesses located there. I've never understood how these folks expect customers when they take up parking in front of their own business all day long. I'd bet there still isn't a block downtown that doesn't have some owner/employee checking the clock and going out to move their car every two hours. I saw it on a daily basis for years. People sitting around waiting for customers in between the times they go out to erase the chalk mark on their tire or rolling forward enough to put it on the pavement. I watched as one guy first rolled his wife's car then did the same thing with his car parked right behind hers. This went on for a couple years, until they (mayhap for lack of customers) moved out.
As a business owner I bought every employee a monthly pass in the city parking lot. Two blocks is too far? Only in America will people pay $29.95 a month to be in an athletic club yet are still so lazy they'll park in a handicap space or in the "no parking" zone on a curb so they don't have to walk.
Downtown businesses are their own worst enemy. While crying how parking is keeping customers from their door, maybe Mr. Downtown Business Owner should take a look in the mirror. And it's not just parking. Check downtown in the winter to see how few businesses actually make an effort (or have enough pride) to keep their sidewalk cleared of snow and make a cut in the berm so people don't have to climb over it.
I used to be disgusted with many of my fellow downtown neighbors, now I'm just amused that attitudes haven't changed one bit.