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Memory Lane leads here

by ELLI GOLDMAN HILBERT
Staff Writer | February 13, 2022 1:09 AM

POST FALLS — A lot was happening in the city of Coeur d’Alene on Nov. 7, 1964, but for Vancouver, Wash., resident Chuck Smith, it was the beginning of 57 beautiful years of marriage to his wife, Linda Rae.

At 18, Linda couldn’t legally marry without parental permission in Washington, but Idaho allowed it, Chuck said during a phone interview with The Press.

“She had informed her mother that someday she’d like to marry me,” Chuck said. “But her mother rejected the idea right away and wanted her to marry someone else.”

Linda and her mother argued over it for a few months, and then Linda surprised Chuck with a carefully hatched plan.

“She told me about Idaho, that you could drive over to Coeur d’Alene and pick up a marriage license, then drive to Post Falls to get married,” Chuck said. “She had it all planned out and it caught me by surprise.”

“We laughed about it over the years, that she was a conniver. It was almost a kidnapping,” Chuck said with a chuckle. “Coeur d’Alene was a marriage mecca back then.”

The couple was rather old-fashioned, he said. Making the trip in separate cars, they brought two good friends, Wayne Eads and Larry Alexander, who served as witnesses.

The wedding ceremony was conducted by the late Justice of the Peace Gretchen Rollins in the living room of her home in Post Falls.

The happy couple dined at Cedars Floating Restaurant following the wedding and then enjoyed their first night together at the Flamingo Motel on Sherman Avenue in Coeur d’Alene.

It was a day to remember.

The Nov. 7, 1964, edition of The Press touted several projects nearing completion at Farragut State Park. Water and sanitation were almost complete throughout the park, and the Girl Scout Amphitheater was ready for sod to be installed.

The University of Idaho football team continued “domination over” Washington State. A harvest festival took place that night at Hayden Lake School, offering a turkey dinner costing adults $1 and kids 50 cents.

Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret were starring in Viva Las Vegas at the Wilma, the local movie theater. Snow tires were advertised for $9.88 at Montgomery Ward Auto Service Center on Lakeside Avenue, and a two-bedroom apartment was available for rent at $50 per month.

But for Chuck, the day was all about his new bride.

“I’m the one who took that beautiful 18-year-old girl and married her,” he said.

The Smiths returned to Vancouver, where they had to “face her mother's wrath,” Chuck said. “She took quite a while to warm up, but eventually she did.”

The Smiths welcomed three daughters, Michelle, Lisa and Laura, between 1970 and 1979. The family enjoyed an active life, punctuated by family dinners, friends, hosting numerous exchange students, road trips and summer vacations of camping and fishing.

Following Linda’s passing last Nov. 21, Chuck and his daughter Michelle, who lives in Queensland, Australia, hit the road — or rather, the lane. Memory Lane.

•••

Chuck and Michelle sought help from the Post Falls Historical Society. Ted Fredekind, Cindy Mead and Joe Butler were instrumental in tracking down what had become of Rollins, the justice of the peace, Chuck said.

Rollins passed away in 1979, and the “tiny house” the Smiths had been married in was no longer there. Between Fredekind, Mead and Butler, they “pinned down where the Rollins house had been,” at 211 E. Second Ave. in Post Falls, Chuck said.

Chuck and his daughter stayed at the Flamingo Motel last November and revisited Cedars Floating Restaurant.

“The Flamingo was exactly how I remembered it,” Chuck said. “The rooms were unique, just like they were in 1964.”

Cedars had changed some during the past 57 years. Lucky enough to have Laura as their server, she was familiar with the restaurant's history. Chuck learned that mere weeks after the Smiths celebrated their marriage, the building had been condemned and the restaurant closed for a year as an extensive remodel was done.

“It was a different experience back then,” Chuck said. “But I had the same good prime rib dinner.”

Now back home in Vancouver, Chuck said the trip “was something I had to do; it is part of my grieving process. I wanted to see (Post Falls) again.”

“It’s hard to explain how special it was visiting Post Falls — the place where Mom and Dad started their grand adventure together,” Michelle said. “It was especially precious getting to share this walk down memory lane together with Dad.”

Visiting Post Falls triggered many memories, bringing both laughter and tears, Michelle said.

“I could see Mom smiling, in my mind’s eye,” Michelle said. “I’m certain that she was watching, happy that we made the trip together.”

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Courtesy of Chuck Smith

Chuck and Linda Smith, while on a road trip across Australia, in 2003. Married for 57 years, the couple had traveled to Post Falls in 1964 to be married by late Justice of the Peace, Gretchen Rollins. Following Linda's passing, Chuck was compelled to come back to Post Falls to re-visit the places he'd been with his beloved wife, on their wedding day.

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Courtesy of Chuck Smith

Newlyweds Chuck and Linda Smith, enjoying their wedding cake at Cedars Floating Restaurant on Nov. 7, 1964.

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Courtesy of Chuck Smith

Chuck and Linda Smith on one of their many adventures during a road trip in 2008.

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Courtesy of Chuck Smith

Michelle Henderson and her father, Chuck Smith