Monday, March 20, 2023

Huckleberries: Remember Fred Murphy, tugboat captain

| May 21, 2021 1:00 AM

Legendary Fred Murphy wasn’t seeking applause when he built docks, drove pilings, rescued boaters, doused fires, advised actors, or assisted with hydroplane races and Fourth of July fireworks.

The Lake Coeur d’Alene tugboat captain was simply doing what came natural to him, helping others.

But recognition did come.

After Murphy’s untimely death on Lake Coeur d’Alene in January 1986, Duane Hagadone named the old Templin’s restaurant after him during construction of The Coeur d’Alene Resort.

Murphy operated his marine works from his home on prestigious Casco Bay, where his closest neighbors were Hagadone and rival newspaper owner Bill Cowles of The Spokesman-Review.

The community esteemed Murphy, too.

In 1988, Coeur d’Alene boosters rebranded their annual Memorial Day Weekend parade in his honor. The Fred Murphy Pioneer Days Parade kicked off the tourism season and took advantage of the availability of high school marching bands.

“Many cities liked to show off their floats that time of year, more than on the busy Fourth of July when their towns had parades, too,” said Sandy Emerson, a former chamber manager who came of age working on Murphy’s tugboats. “The Murphy family had their tugboats on trailers in the parade. It was fun.”

Emerson’s father, Tom, immortalized his best friend in a biography, “Fred Murphy: A Legend of Coeur d’Alene Lake” (available at the Museum of North Idaho).

The Fred Murphy parade ran through the 2004 Memorial Day Weekend. And then was canceled without warning prior to the 2005 event.

The activity lost a key organizer when parade director Stephen Gregory moved to Arizona.

Shirlee Wandrocke, who served with her husband, Dick, as grand marshals of the 2004 parade, told a Spokesman-Review reporter why the Fred Murphy parade was special.

“It was just a lovely addition to a small town,” she said. "As towns get bigger, it’s too hard for them to do parades so often. It was a joy to belong to a small town.”

Today, the parade is a fading memory for local old-timers. And, alas, Fred Murphy may be, too.

Getting by

Naomi Boutz, owner of the Vine & Olive Eatery and Vicino Pizza, doesn’t consider herself unique in her struggle to keep her businesses afloat. All her restaurant colleagues are in the same boat. “I’m hopeful we’ll be able to fill the open positions and resume normal hours,” Naomi told Huckleberries. Most job applicants don’t return phone calls when she tries to set up interviews, even those who are unemployed. And about 25 percent of those scheduled for interviews fail to show up. So Naomi washes dishes and serves tables, which cuts into her time to run the businesses. Nothing, she said, typifies the state of local restaurants more than the scheduled closure this week of one of its best, Fleur de Sel in Post Falls. Says Naomi: “It’ll take time to recover from this labor shortage and the sleepless nights.”


• Poet’s Corner: For hours on end/I searched my cranium/to find a rhyme/for his geranium – The Bard of Sherman Avenue (“Ode to Mr. Hagadone’s Favorite Flower”).

• Mike Young of Hayden must have had an itch to scratch in a hard-to-reach spot when he stumped Huckleberries with an old word which is new to most: “Acnestis.” Remember that word next time you have an itch between your shoulder blades.

• After a year of downtown riots, Portlanders must realize their town is no longer whimsically odd. A sticker posted to a drop box for the Rose City Food Park in northeast Portland Saturday shows at least one Portlander has moved on. It read: “Keep Poland Weird."

• Dave Wagner of Coeur d’Alene recalls the Mount St. Helens eruption fondly. The blast brought the 1979-80 school year to an abrupt end. “Yup,” he says, “I didn’t have to worry about unfinished homework, no finals.” And he adds this silver lining to that dark ash cloud. “If it wasn’t for good ol’ Mount St. Helens, this eighth-grader would have probably spent his summer in summer school trying to move on to the ninth grade.”

Oopsy: Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Last week, Huckleberries should have said the Avondale Dental Clinic was “adjacent” to Avondale Golf Course, not the Hayden Lake Country Club, which is “nearby.” Coeur d’Alene reader Peter Anderson emails: “I’m guessing they named the clinic Avondale Dental Center for a reason.”

Parting Shot

You know historic Wallace is always on the hunt to transform the ordinary into fun. And that’s why community leaders embraced a novel idea to increase COVID vaccination rates. You get a 16-ounce Wallace Craft Beer Pub Crawl glass free, simply by talking to a counselor at the Wallace Inn from 2 to 6 p.m. today. And you get a second glass — again, free — for getting inoculated. Gee, all Mrs. O and I got for our two Moderna shots in January and February were “Vaccinated for COVID-19” stickers. That, and freedom to begin living somewhat normal lives again.

• • • 

D.F. “Dave” Oliveria can be contacted at

Recent Headlines