Saturday, February 24, 2024
38.0°F

Huckleberries

| February 26, 2023 1:06 AM

Richard Butler of the Aryan Nations began 1998 with plans to march his goose-steppers through downtown Coeur d’Alene. He ended up raising $35,000 for human rights.

The old fox got outfoxed by his die-hard nemesis: The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.

Twenty-five years ago, Butler applied for a permit to stage a “100 Man Flag Parade” on Sherman Avenue in late April to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday. The request sent newly minted, 27-year-old mayor Steve Judy into a tizzy, angered anti-fascists from coast to coast and prompted the task force to strategize.

Judy, like almost everyone in town, strongly opposed an Aryan Nations parade. And he had the authority, under city law, to grant or deny parade permits.

In early February, he told The Coeur d’Alene Press: “I’m sending a very strong message that we don’t want them here. They’re not welcome, and they don’t represent our community.”

Later, a play, “Coeur d’Alene,” by Lisa Jayne, would focus on the mayor’s handling of the parade request.

But the task force knew something that Judy and outraged Coeur d’Alene residents didn’t: Butler and his neo-Nazis had a First Amendment right to stage a peaceful march. That right had been tested in the courts, most famously in 1978, when Nazis prevailed in their determination to march in Skokie, Ill.

Task force members opted to turn “lemons into lemonade,” rather than confront Butler’s neo-Nazis on Sherman Avenue, with hundreds of frothing protesters. They decided to use Butler’s parade against him by gathering pledges for every minute the Aryans marched toward City Park.

The task force gave the Aryans three options, according to spokesman Tony Stewart: “They can cancel the parade. They can march really fast or really slow. If they do the third choice, we’ll make lots of money.”

On July 18, rather than in April, Butler and about 90 disciples, held their procession and were greeted by more than 1,000 chanting counter-demonstrators. The noise drowned out the racist rantings of Butler, then 80, who used a microphone from the back of a Jeep in a vain attempt to be heard.

Meanwhile, task force members had caravanned to Gonzaga University to attend a human-rights celebration, attended by more than 1,000.

Butler and company raised $35,000 for human rights by marching 27 minutes. Whenever task force members handed out money from the "Lemons to Lemonade" fundraiser for the next year, they upset Butler by thanking him for his help. At one point, the old racist claimed he had a right to 50% of the take.

Butler’s Aryans marched in downtown four times — in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2004. The numbers of participants dwindled after the “Lemons to Lemonade” march, running between 20 and 40.

On Oct. 28, 2000, a month after he was bankrupted by a $6.3 million civil rights lawsuit, Butler shouted into a bullhorn during a rain-drenched march: “They’ve won the battle, but they have not won the war.” He was followed by two street sweepers, symbolizing that the city wanted to sweep him out of town.

He made his final march in downtown Coeur d’Alene with 40 followers July 17, 2004, stopping four times in an hour, heckled each step of the way. He would die within two months later, grieved by few.

Fleshy fare

In spring 2003, Mans Montgomery opened a bikini bar in downtown Coeur d’Alene (216 Coeur d’Alene Ave.): The Torch Lounge. But not without a fight.

In February of that year, councilwoman Dixie Reid dressed down Montgomery: “We’re not prudes,” she said. “But there are society mores that need to be met. The people have told us clearly — morality is high, and they would like to keep it that way.”

Montgomery threatened to sue. And two months later, he opened his “gentleman’s club.” And, tongue firmly cheeked, The Bard of Sherman Avenue greeted it with a poem: “They’re dance artists and not strippers/Though they may unzip their zippers,/So please ignore each unclothed part/Cause what you’re looking at is art.”

The Torch’s relationship with the city, especially the cops, remained iffy. Later, The Torch would become the Rendezvous. And the fleshy fare bumped and grinded on.

In the end, it wasn’t moral outrage that killed The Torch/Rendezvous. It was country music. A new owner thought a western venue with live music would fill a niche in Cd'A and sent the G-strings packing.

Brrr!

Most of us know the unofficial motto of the U.S. Postal Service: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

But a frozen lake does. Thirty years ago, USPS employee Philip Waring was bummed because he couldn’t deliver mail by boat to the western shore of frozen Lake Coeur d’Alene. Assigned the route the previous October, Waring delivered the mail three times weekly in his 16-foot Fiberform. But by late February 1993, his boat was frozen in its slip, and he’d missed his appointed rounds 12 times.

So why am I telling you all this? You shouldn't fret about winter until you see ice skaters on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Let liberty ring

The Liberty Bell at the heart of Coeur d’Alene’s spectacular Veteran's Plaza is getting the respect it deserves. But 60 years ago, vandals were stealing flags from a smaller vet's monument at Third and Front and then vandalized the bell. Red Halpern, the old Parks and Rec director, said at the time: “It takes a pretty small person to damage something that pays tribute to people who have given their lives in defense of and for the country.” The bell was built with love by various veterans groups in conjunction with the Parks & Rec department.

Huckleberries

Poet’s Corner: To be a Nazi must be boring/without a Hitler and a Goering;/when it is fun you want to have/you goose-step right down Sherman Ave. — The Bard of Sherman Avenue. (“Aryan Parade”).

Huckleberries hears ... that the black eye given to this community by the Three Blind Mice in control of North Idaho College may go national. The New York Times is asking questions. Stay tuned.

• Musician Michael Koep is off to a good start lining up acts and finances for this summer’s concert series at local parks. But he has a ways to go. Some sponsors have moved. Money is tight for others. Michael needs leads to chase as he tries to keep the legacy of Chris Guggemos alive. If you can help or know someone who can, contact him at https://koepconcerts.com.

Little Buttercup: Dunno when the Coeur d’Alene Press quit giving a dollar to the first kid who brought in a buttercup in a new year. But the practice lasted at least 60 years. And Mariah Rosdahl, age 5 in February 1988, might have been one of the last youngsters to cash in.

Did You Know … that, in February 1963, booster Ted Anderson fashioned a medallion for the chamber to celebrate our territorial centennial (1863-1963). On one side, the design featured an outline of the state, a star for Lake City, and the Cataldo Mission. Originally, Idaho territory was 25% larger than Texas. And it would expand again if two-thirds of Oregon has its way.

Parting shot

Realtor Tom Torgerson, 56, knew he’d catch guff when he bought a spanking new C8 Corvette. But he embraced his decision rather than shy away from it. Hence, his vanity plate: “MYDLYF.” When someone gives Tom grief about being a middle-aged guy driving a 'vette, he points to the plate and says, “Next question.” Ah, can I have a ride?

• • •

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

photo

AP file photo

In 1998, white supremacists Sieg Heiled and raised $35,000 for human rights.

photo

Courtesy photo

In 1993, Skip Murphy, aboard the Hornet, breaks ice threatening Coeur d’Alene Boardwalk on frozen lake.

photo

Courtesy photo

Parks & Rec employee Bob Ligeza with the vandalized Liberty Bell in 1983.

photo

Courtesy photo

Mariah Rosdahl Rosenblum dances at her wedding with her father, Nils, years after finding a buttercup worth $1.

photo

Courtesy photo

The bronze medallion designed for Idaho's 1963 territorial centennial.