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Huckleberries

| April 9, 2023 1:05 AM

Ben Fairfield had a bird’s-eye view of the pigeon when the Coeur d’Alene Press came calling.

In March 1993, Borah teacher Greg Tefft had caught Ben talking during a lesson and moved the fifth grader’s seat next to his desk — and Oscar’s cage.

Oscar, or Oscaretta, as some students preferred to call the pigeon, had attracted media attention.

The bird was found, injured, on the playground in November 1992 and nursed back to health over the Thanksgiving break by student Shaylia McHenry-Linn and her mother, Maria Davis.

The kindly Mr. Tefft felt the bird was too weak to be freed afterward. So he delayed Oscar’s departure until winter was over, and then postponed it again.

Mr. Tefft told a reporter: “We’ve gotten fairly attached.”

By spring, Oscar was running the place, flying loose during class periods — the subject of essays, fiction, poems, art, pigeon studies. Oscar was cast as a witch, a secret agent and other personas. The bird hopped from desk to desk during math tests, recalls Shaylia McHenry-Linn, now of Post Falls.

“Mr. Tefft did an awesome job incorporating that bird into everything we did in class,” remembers Ben, of Coeur d’Alene, now vice president for region development for RE/MAX.

On weekends, students took turns hosting Oscar.

Ben, Shaylia and their classmates became experts on pigeons.

A retired officer explained to them how the military used pigeons. Students knew that some pigeons had become extinct, like passenger pigeons. That homing pigeons were guided back to their lofts by the earth’s magnetic field. And that pigeons are known to fly more than 90 mph.

Beth Paragamian, an education specialist with the Idaho Fish and Game Department, had a personal reason for lecturing the class about pigeons: Her daughter, Karin, was a student.

Like other rock stars, Oscar could become temperamental. Oscar occasionally pecked toes, which landed the pigeon back in lockup. Rules are rules, as talkative Ben knew well.

Eventually, Oscar was set free. And Ben became a motivational speaker, among other top-notch abilities.

Ben admits: “I always had the gift of gab.”

Driving 'The Biebs'

Eileen Bieber is so loved at Coeur d’Alene High that present and past students chanted her name at a surprise assembly March 24, honoring her 50 years as an instructor. Meanwhile, her husband, Larry, is in the Idaho Athletic Hall of Fame after coaching Vik girls softball teams to five state championships.

But 35 years ago (April 5, 1988), “The Biebs” made ends meet on teachers’ salaries by operating the only private driver school in the region: North Idaho School of Traffic Safety. They taught classes in a spare room at their home, to students from ages 14 to 80-plus. They had close calls.

Once, with Eileen riding shotgun, a student panicked and veered toward a concrete truck in the next lane. Eileen grabbed the wheel and averted disaster. “Those are the kinds of things that make you age,” Eileen told the Press. “I’ve actually gotten out of the car so scared my knees were shaking.”

The Biebers prospered, unscathed, as teachers, coaches and driving instructors, none of which is for the faint-hearted.

Legendary

Most of you know Harley Hudson’s story, how he built Hudson’s Hamburgers dynasty, a 10-cent burger at a time. But tasty burgers weren’t his only pursuit.

Seventy years ago (April 4, 1953), he and son, Bert, along with Roy Dahl, opened the Coeur d’Alene Drive-in, north of Appleway, with a double feature — “Lure of the Wilderness” starring Jean Peters, Jeffrey Hunter and Walter Brennan, and “Meet Danny Wilson,” with Frank Sinatra and Shelley Williams.

Ten years later (April 8, 1963), though 82 and ailing, the Hudson patriarch had razed his holdings at 210-216 Sherman Ave. and was ready to construct a modern J.C. Penney store when he died unexpectedly.

In 1907, Harley Hudson opened his burger place, the Missouri Kitchen, two years after moving from Platte, S.D., to Beauty Bay. And the rest is his-story.

Huckleberries

Poet’s Corner: Most pigeons breed with such good cheer/they sometimes raise five broods a year,/but since the chicks don’t thirst for knowledge/very few enroll in college — The Bard of Sherman Avenue (“And It’s a Lucky Thing for the Parents”).

Limericking: Some folks are real worried 'bout books//Trying to turn nice librarians into crooks./Since they say they like freedom/They just don't have to read 'em/Because censorship ain't a good look — The Humble Spud (“BOOKS”).

Oopsy: Huckleberries inadvertently dropped the second “N” in Cougar Bay benefactor John Pointner’s name last Sunday.

Did You Know? Post Falls was listed in a 1968 edition of Playboy as (drum roll, please) — the top speed trap in the USA. This, according to Sheriff Rocky Watson, who lamented 10 years later (April 7, 1978) that a town has a hard time shaking a bad reputation.

Still Missing: Debbie Swanson, then 31 and a special education teacher at Sorensen, has been missing for 37 years. She was last seen hiking Tubbs Hill on March 29, 1986. She was one of two women who vanished without a trace that spring. The other was Sally Stone, then 21, a stripper at State Line. The two cases grow colder as each spring arrives.

Name Dropping: By water or land, J.C. White ruled transportation in Coeur d’Alene’s early days. He operated the Red Collar Line on the lake and promoted the first paved road between Lake City and Spokane (Highway 10). J.C. White, 88, died 70 years ago (April 5, 1953). But he left behind a treasure. His grand home at 805 Sherman Ave. was moved to the base of Tubbs Hill, where it will house the Museum of North Idaho.

Parting shot

And the answer is – beer and wine distributorship. The question? What job did Doug Parker do, 50 years ago, after he moved wife Shirley, son Jimmy, 7, and daughter Julie, 5, here from Michigan?

Doug and his Parker Distributing van, which served Coeur d’Alene and Mullan, were shown in this paper’s business section on April 5, 1973. Doug bought the business from Howard Kiefer.

The grass didn’t grow under Doug’s feet. Seven months later, he and Wayne Knudtsen opened Knudtsen-Parker Toyota at 2900 Government Way. And from there, Doug built his respected Parker Toyota brand.

One more thing. The Parkers bought property and began building a home at Avondale before Doug found work. They were that eager to live here. After traveling the nation for a Michigan equipment company, Doug decided that North Idaho was “the best place to raise a family.” And the Parkers made the place ever better.

Go thou and do likewise.

• • •

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

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Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Larry and Eileen Bieber promoting their driving school.

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Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Steve Hudson, right, tends counter in spring 1993 after Best of the West names Hudson’s Hamburgers a top burger place.

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Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Harley Hudson and a friend (lower left) watch as a crane lifts the 20-ton, Coeur d’Alene Drive-in screen into place.

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Photo courtesy of Museum of North Idaho

J.C. White

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Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Doug Parker with his Parker Distributing Co. van.