Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Can you imagine how much that stuff would be worth on eBay now?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Playland Pier

Last Friday marked the 34th anniversary of Playland Pier burning down. I wrote about the history of Playland Pier in this blog at FYI North Idaho but had more memories of what a great place it was as a kid.

If you had a dollar, you had a whole day ahead of you. Ten cent ice cream cones, most arcade games were a penny, nickel or dime and for two cents you could get a souvenir postcard postcards from one of two machines, one with movie and singing stars, the other with mostly custom cars like those of George Barris. Like so much stuff we all had when we were kids, I curse myself for not keeping all those cards, like James Dean. Sheesh.

My all time favorite arcade game was an early version of foosball. It was a freestanding metal and glass case that cost a penny a ball to play, and believe me, I put a LOT of pennies into that machine. The playing surface was a lumpy soccer field covered with players fixed in place. Because it was enclosed the ball would eventually roll in front of a soccer player. On the front were two handles, each activating one team (you could even play by yourself). When the handles were flipped it would move a goalie back and forth and make all the players "kick". The harder you flipped that handle the harder the kicks. The back panel was painted like a full stadium and the front and sides were glass. For old glass it was damn tough. When we played we always tried to kick that little steel ball as hard as possible and although it may have been the loudest game in the arcade, that glass never even cracked.

The bumper cars were great except by the time I was old (and tall) enough to drive them, they were usually broke down or not in operation. I left dejected more often than I actually got to drive them.

Everybody's favorite was the swings. Like a sort of suspended merry-go-round, each swing seat swung out with centrifugal force and actually put you out over the lake. We always wondered how fun it would be to have one break shooting a rider out into the waters.

The merry-go-round still exists and about ten years ago there was even talk about bringing it back to Coeur d'Alene. I can't remember all the details but it was (probably still is) owned by a guy who collects, maintains and operated old carousels around the country. And his mother actually worked at Playland Pier once upon a time. Last I heard it was back east somewhere and it still has paintings that represent Coeur d'Alene and the lake.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Empire Builder stops at Stryker, Montana

Uncle Ray was 20 years older than my Dad. He worked for the railroad and moved west from Virginia in the 30's. In the late 40's he was the Station Master at Naples, Idaho. Up until the mid 60's he was SM in Stryker, Montana, along the route of Great Northern Railroad's Empire Builder between Whitefish and Eureka.

When I was young we'd go visit, riding that train from Sandpoint. On rare occasion I'd even get to sit up in the Vista-Dome car, which felt like it was going to roll going around every corner. Such beautiful country. Too bad you go through it in the dark. AMTRAK still runs that same schedule.

Passengers looked wide eyed wondering where it the heck they were when the train stopped to let us off. Stryker consisted of about six houses at a junction. Uncle Ray and Aunt Mary lived in a small log cabin between the main road and the so-called station. They had a guest log cabin that we'd stay in. First place I ever used a chamber pot. Ray was a hunter and bear rugs were plenty.

The little station was fascinating for me as a little kid and loved the place. I got to sit at the main desk with the front window and make Uncle Ray or Aunt Mary translate the Morse Code from the telegraph. They also had a teletype machine and would relay messages to trains.

They'd tie the paper with a string then tie it to ends of a Y shaped pole sticking up the height of the train's window. A Conductor would reach out and snag the message as the train went past. I used to try and see the guy but it went by with such commotion all I ever saw was one second it was there and the next it wasn't. Standing on the platform maybe 15 feet from where the trains went by full speed was pretty impressive for a little kid.

Years ago we were in California seeing my brother, Ron. One day we went to the California State Railway Museum. One of the best museums I've ever been to. One of the displays is a mail car from the Empire Builder that you can walk through. Fun reading all the drop boxes, each and every little place on the line. Including Stryker, Montana.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Hole Story

Wednesday before Thanksgiving I found a message from the City Water Department on my recorder. Said 68,000 gallons had passed through our system in the last 2 weeks. We had work to do that started with a hole to dig.

Thankfully my son dug 80% of the hole and I had neighbors that also pitched in. Travis next door helped on Sunday by capping off the sprinkler pipe and providing some good advice. Monday morning we found the hole full of water and about the time a City Water guy came to tuen the water off Bob across the street brought over a small sump pump to clear the hole. Herb on the other side loaned me a breaking bar as we had broke my old one the day before trying to pull out a bush. Seriously, we broke a steel breaking bar.
The job was made much easier with the help of the great guys at the CdA Water Department. They were so wonderful I wrote the mayor the following letter.

Dear Sandi,

I was recently informed by the City Water Department that I had a leaky valve that needed replacement, and I must commend Jim Markley's crew for the excellent service I experienced during this predicament.

Rob Stark called me last Wednesday and was very helpful in explaining the entire situation and the job I had ahead. We dug yesterday and this morning I called to shut our water off. Josh Mayne arrived right on time and answered all my questions and made helpful suggestions.

As we excavated, I kept having questions and turned into Rob's #1 caller today. Rob dropped by to check the job and, seeing we were at the critical part, jumped in the hole, pulled out the part, drove me down the street to Consolidated Plumbing then followed up with the install. Rob didn't like the PVC job the sprinkler guys had used, so he zipped to the shop and returned with a short piece of pipe that was much improved. Rob put this back together, tested everything and we got the thumbs up to start the refill. Rob and Josh retuned later and replaced the top vault on the water meter as the old one was cracked.

My son, Aaron, and I can shovel dirt. The whole pipe thing was my worry. We had everything exposed and Rob just whipped the plumb job out in less time than I would have spent pondering how I was going to do it.

Like I have discovered so many times before with so many different people of the City of Coeur d'Alene, the Water Department has proven they are not only on the top of their game (I would never have discovered this leak) but have the skills to expertly and efficiently perform their job and with a "can do" attitude to boot. Kudos to them for this excellent customer service.

Not bad for what could have been a much bigger problem.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The 12 Ales of Christmas

I'm all excited for the 13th Annual 12 Ales of Christmas is at Capone's CdA this Saturday night. My (actually Sue's) favorite cousins from Montana are coming over and this is looking like a grand time.

I was at Capone's tonight and the tap count for the list of winter warmers is up to nine. A new entry this year is Dick's Brewing seasonal. I had a taste and found it less malty than many darker winter brews, but it had a nice floral spice to it.

My wonderful daughter, Tia, has bought my 12 Ales ticket for the last 4 years. And to prove how good a gifter she is to me, I've also over the years gotten a DVD 2-pack with Raising Arizona and Fargo (yippee, the Coen Brothers!) and my own version of the Christmas Story leg lamp.

A tip to 12 Ales newbies: drink accordingly. Your ticket gets you at least 12 fills of a 4 ounce glass, sampling at least a dozen high powered brews. You'll be drinking 3-4+ pints not counting the pints of the ones that you really like. Make sure you can still appreciate #12 as much as #1.

For the 2nd year, a taxi ride in CdA proper is included. Take it or call your Mom. You won't be driving home from this.

See ya there!