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Huckleberries

| November 6, 2022 4:00 AM

For 12 terms and 50 years, Ron Edinger, Coeur d’Alene’s “Everyman,” was elected and re-elected to the City Council, and once to the mayor’s post, usually as the leading vote-getter.

He was a council fixture, except for two years.

In fall 1977, then councilman Don Johnston upended Ron’s bid for re-election as mayor by easily beating the incumbent and a third candidate, Bill Turner. Don won 47.3 percent of the vote, while Ron and Turner split the remaining 52.6 percent, almost evenly.

I contacted Ron’s widow, Nancy, to ask what happened to her husband in that race 45 years ago.

“It was the firemen’s strike,” Nancy said by phone. “There may have been other extenuating circumstances. But I really believe the firemen’s strike set things off.”

In spring 1977, acting on the advice of the city attorney, Ron and his council fired 17 union firemen who went on strike during a contract dispute. Only weeks before the election, the city rejected a court order to reinstate the firemen pending a settlement of the lawsuit filed over the firings. Instead, the city appealed that order to the Idaho Supreme Court, launching a lengthy, legal process.

The main headline in the Oct. 19, 1977, Press captured the tension between the two sides: “City escalates battle against fired firemen.”

Such was the animosity, caused by the firings and court maneuvers, Nancy Edinger said, that a police friend recommended that Ron arm himself.

“We were being harassed,” Nancy said.

Curiously, Ron was known as a friend of police and firefighters before and after that tumultuous year.

“Ron listened to the advice of the city attorney and that hit him in the face,” Nancy said.

The specter of the firefighters’ strike haunted Don Johnston’s term as mayor and ultimately was resolved by Don’s successor, Jim Fromm.

Don, now 94, and long retired from local politics, told me: “Ron was a victim of the times.”

As he enjoyed victory in his race for mayor on Nov. 8, 1977, Don Johnston said the city owed Ron “a debt of gratitude for being tough enough to take the heat.”

On the night of his only loss in a city race, Ron said he planned to keep his hand in community affairs: “This is my city. My family lives here. My children will grow up here. I’ll be here, and I’ll be involved.”

Two years later, Ron was the leading vote-getter in a nine-way race for three council seats.

“I’m happy to see that people wanted me back,” he said that merry night. “I will work just as hard for those who supported me as those who voted against me.”

And he did.

Scaredy cats

From our safe distance in time, it’s easy to pooh-pooh the terror caused by rumors in the 1970s that Rathdrum was home to a blood-thirsty human chain of devil worshipers (Huckleberries, Oct. 27). But those who were here back then remember (from Old School Coeur d’Alene Facebook page):

· Suzie Griffitts Ratelle of Hayden: “I never stepped foot in Rathdrum until I was an adult.”

· Craig D. Bruce of Coeur d’Alene: “Helter-skelter was still fresh in everyone's minds.”

· Michael Louis Kelly, former resident: “We went out to Rathdrum and drove around at night (with shotguns onboard) trying to find a human chain. The idea was that if we captured some of them, we would make the front page of the CDA press.”

· Cheryl Paine Snyder of Hayden: “When I moved back to this area in 2008, my husband found a house in Rathdrum he really liked, but both me and my real estate agent said, ‘Rathdrum? No way. That's where the devil worshippers are!’"

· Dan Wright of Hayden: “We need to start these stories again and publish them in Western Washington and California.”

A valiant try

Forty years ago, a five-star foursome of Idaho investors thought they’d saved Bunker Hill and its 2,100 jobs by buying the Kellogg mine. On Nov. 1, 1982, J.R. Simplot, Harry Magnuson, Jack Kendrick, and Duane Hagadone announced the purchase from Gulf Resources of Houston. Hagadone and a different group of investors had been thwarted in an attempt to buy the mine the previous winter. “We did not buy the facility to close it down,” Hagadone announced to ringing applause from 200 gathered at the old North Shore Convention Center. But there was a caveat. The partners didn’t plan to open Bunker Hill until zinc and lead prices improved. But the metals market only got worse. In 1987, Simplot pulled out of the deal and other partners followed. But the quartet deserved an A for effort.

Huckleberries

· Poet’s Corner: This month turkeys/are selected:/some get stuffed and/some elected – The Bard of Sherman Avenue (“November Ritual”).

· Poet’s Corner II (with apologies to The Bard of Sherman Avenue): CBZ, my friend/Corkill, Broschet, Zimmerman/please save NIC – D.F. Oliveria (“Election 2022 Haiku”).

· The late Scott Reed’s Democratic pedigree is beyond dispute. His widow, Mary Lou, once was a powerful Democratic legislator. His son, Bruce, has served as advisor to Democratic presidents and vice presidents. But there is a secret buried in the annals of the Coeur d’Alene Press (Nov. 3, 1962). When Scott ran unsuccessfully for county prosecutor in 1962, he did so as a – Republican.

· In November 1977, as the city prepared to move into a new City Hall, the most popular of seven ideas for the 70-year-old one at 5th & Sherman was – tear it down and put up a parking lot. But common sense and public opposition prevailed. And the historic old building is still with us.

· Memory Lane: In the years before its closure in 1971, CdA’s IHM Academy was a sports power. In the 1960s, the football team, under Coach Gene Boyle, went undefeated for four years. The basketball team won back-to-back state titles. Fifty-five years ago (Nov. 4, 1967), the Panthers of The Little Catholic School That Could completed another undefeated football season by destroying Desales of Walla Walla 53-6. No wonder that some called the Boyle years “Camelot.”

Parting Shot

Until recently, for most of her 68 years, former resident Ronda Smithson pronounced “Yosemite” National Park as “Yo-sa-might,” instead of the correct “You-sem-i-tee.” And feels silly now that she’d been wrong for so long. But don’t judge. We all suffer pronunciation flaws. I thought “peonies” were “pay-own-ays” until confronted two years ago by a peony-growing friend. Then, there’s “almonds.” Or, as I say, “am-ends.” For the first 27 years of life (until I came to my senses), I lived in northern California, where “am-ends” reign, instead of the southern California equivalent, “al-monds.” My nephew and a cousin, who both grow California almonds, explain la difference: On the tree, the nut we call almond is pronounced “al-mond.” But on the ground, it’s “am-end” because orchardists shake the “L” out of ‘em.

D.F. “Dave” Oliveria can be contacted at dfo@cdapress.com.

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