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Huckleberries

| April 2, 2023 1:05 AM

The banner headline in the Press 60 years ago sounded like something former editor Mike Patrick might concoct for his annual April Fool’s Day joke: “Tubbs Hill Resort Planned.”

On the first of April, Mike broke from the daily newspaper grind to spin wild stories under the pseudonym, “April Fuhl.”

Last year, for example, April Fuhl launched angry phone calls to City Hall and The Press with a report that a “120-story skyscraper — housing headquarters for the Communist Party, Antifa and Black Lives Matter — was purported to be going up where the Third Street boat launch is now.”

Let’s return to that Tubbs Hill resort report — and to April 1, 1963.

Indeed, three local men, operating as the KAW corporation, had asked the city to rezone their 34 acres at the crown of Tubbs Hill, from residential to commercial, to allow them to build a resort, convention center, apartments, homes and commercial space.

A spokesman said: “The KAW corporation wishes to develop Tubbs Hill in Coeur d’Alene into a resort community making full use of the natural advantages of the site which is surrounded by water on three sides, in the hub of pleasure craft traffic, and yet is … adjacent to the existing city center.”

In his superb local history, “The Treasure Called Tubbs Hill,” the late Scott Reed said the proposal would have been “unstoppable” if KAW had applied for residential development only.

But the community was awakening to the tourist potential of Tubbs Hill and what would become McEuen Park. In a 1959 vote, the town had rejected a plan, supported by downtown merchants, to build a shopping center on what is now the western part of McEuen Park.

In 1963, downtown interests also supported the Tubbs Hill rezoning, along with Mayor McKinnon. In that fall’s city election, the town responded to the Tubbs Hill threat by voting McKinnon out of office.

The attempt to develop the top of Tubbs Hill would linger for another decade and eventually include, believe it or not, a German company. In the end, conservationists pieced together public funding and bought the contested area, saving another piece of Tubbs Hill forever.

Today, few, if anyone, could imagine Tubbs Hill dotted with homes and businesses, except, perhaps, once-a-year reporter April Fuhl.

Rolling the die

In most cases, we choose our public art in Coeur d’Alene. And, if it doesn’t feature a hammer, sickle, clenched fist, or rainbow reference, most are OK with the choices. Once, however, Mother Nature selected a piece — a giant dice (or “die” for the purists) — and floated it to Independence Point. Mrs. O, our beagle, Huckleberry, and I were walking along the flooded waterfront in mid-March 2017 when we saw firemen investigating the object. They left after deciding that the rusty, metal container, with dots on the sides, was no danger to the public. Later, we would learn that Spokane sign maker Chris Gridley had added vinyl round stickers after the die had floated to his mother-in-law’s beach near Driftwood Point on Lake Coeur d’Alene in 2008. Nine years later, flood water pushed it miles away to the lake's north shore. And, after a short sojourn in the weeds by Coeur d'Alene Skate Park, it now graces the eastern entrance to City Park, a mystery solved, an art piece embraced.

Not so sugary

All of us remember the toilet paper scare of early COVID, right? We were isolated. The world was falling apart. And we couldn’t buy enough Charmin to soothe our nerves — and pamper our back sides. The same thing happened with distilled water. And, more recently, eggs. Previous generations hoarded sparse items, too. On April Fools' Day 1977, local supermarkets ran out of saccharine and other sweetener products. Seems the Food and Drug Administration was planning to ban the artificial sweetener because it had caused cancer in some rats. And customers had cleaned out the saccharine from store shelves, including Ron McIntire’s Thrift Store in Hayden. Another store reported five weeks-worth of saccharine, other sweeteners, and diet soda products were wiped out in four hours. One local doctor claimed the “hullabaloo” over saccharine was started by lobbyists to drive up the price of sugar. In North Idaho, you never run out of conspiracy theories, then or now.

Homecoming

You may know that Air Force Capt. Fred McMurray was on the last POW flight to land at Travis AFB, Calif., 50 years ago (April 1, 1973). But did you know that a Red Cross care package had encouraged him during his imprisonment in Vietnam’s infamous “Hotel Hilton”? AND that his daughter, Lisa McLeod, would later direct the Idaho Panhandle’s Red Cross chapter? In March 2003, Fred was pictured in The Press with his daughter promoting Red Cross packages for soldiers overseas. Fred brought home the playing cards and paperback books he received in his care package. He told a reporter what the packet had meant to him: “It was really exciting, like a Christmas gift, because we were not expecting anything at all.”

Huckleberries

Poet’s Corner: In warm April sun/while birds sweetly sing,/there — on that tulip —/the first slug of spring — The Bard of Sherman Avenue (“Spring Is Now Official”).

Limericking: I find myself feeling all blistery,/As we relive sad Idaho history./We turned on the spigots/To flush out the bigots/But the reasons they're back are no mystery — The Humble Spud (“MYSTERY”).

Oopsy: Got John Finney mixed up with Fred Finney last week while recalling the March 1988 sinking of the Seeweewana off City Beach. John Finney bought the vessel and repurposed it, not nephew Fred. But Fred piloted it, too, says his sister, Sally.

Name Dropping: The 32nd Bill Eisenwinter HOTSHOT Tournament, set for Mother’s Day 2023, is named after the former director of the Sting Soccer Club who was killed in a 2003 car crash en route to a tournament in Pocatello. He coached soccer at both local high schools and founded both men’s and women’s programs at North Idaho College.

Banned in Cd'A — For good reason, alcohol was banned at City Park and Independence Point by the City Council, in a 4-1 vote, on March 29, 1977. During the 1976 Bicentennial Fourth of July celebration, a huge crowd was so unruly that Police Chief Robert Nuttleman pulled his cops from City Park by 8 p.m. Councilman Ray Stone led the fight to ban the booze.

Parting Shot

John Pointer was a engineering genius who preferred wildlife to people and described his 155 acres of forest, wetlands, and waterfront at Cougar Bay as “an uncut diamond.” He was as brilliant as he was ornery. But 20 years ago, he made the Bureau of Land Management and the county an offer they couldn’t refuse — all his land for $5,000 per month or until he died. Then 84 and partially paralyzed, John lived 25 months longer and collected $125,000 from the BLM and county. The property John had purchased in 1944 had once attracted an offer of $2 million. He died Memorial Day 2005 and is buried on a hillside above his beloved bay under a tombstone that reads, according to the Spokesman-Review: “Dead people and live animals welcome.”

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D.F. (Dave) Oliveria can be contacted at dfo@cdapress.com.

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Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Dave Oliveria and his beagle, Huckleberry, investigate mysterious die.

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Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Ron McIntire of Ron's Thrift shrugs at empty saccharine shelves.

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Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Former POW Capt. Fred McMurray greets wife, Judy, and three children upon release.

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Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Coach Bill Eisenwinter is shown with Kyle Kohli, 10, at a soccer camp April 1, 1998.