Saturday, September 30, 2023

HUCKLEBERRIES: Awakened to the dangers of white supremacy

| September 10, 2023 1:00 AM

I missed the commotion that day. And it has bugged me since.

I was in Kalispell, Mont., when my sister hung up her phone and said: “They’ve bombed your town.”

On Monday, Sept. 29, 1986, I was preparing to return home after a mini-vacation when three bombs exploded in Coeur d’Alene — at the old federal building, Jax Restaurant and Gibbs Mercantile. An unexploded fourth bomb was found on the roof of the military recruitment office.

Two weeks earlier (Sept. 15, 1986), I was the first reporter on the scene after would-be assassins bombed the St. Pius X rectory home of human-rights activist Bill Wassmuth.

Aryan Nations involvement was suspected — correctly — in all the bombings.

Four suspects — David Ross Dorr and his wife, Deborah, and Edward Wade Hawley and his wife, Olive — were caught within weeks. All were part of The Order II, a violent offshoot of Richard Butler’s Aryan Nations. And all pleaded guilty to the Sept. 29 bombings or some role in them two years later.

Glen Walker, the county prosecutor at the time, called Wednesday, Sept. 7, 1988, the biggest day in local law enforcement history. Not only did Kootenai County sidestep an expensive, labor-intensive trial that was to begin in days, but three of the four members of the fledgling racist group would receive stiff sentences of 12 years (Edward Hawley and Deborah Dorr) and 20 years (ringleader David Dorr).

The bombings were intended to intimidate residents and distract law enforcement while The Order II robbed banks and the National Guard Armory. Instead, the blasts awakened Coeur d’Alene and state officials to the dangers of white supremacy.

In a show of support, only days after the second bombings, 700 people, including Idaho Gov. John Evans, rallied at North Idaho College to denounce racism and violence. The explosions transformed human rights issues into a bipartisan cause, aligning local Republicans and Democrats, businesses and activists, and law enforcement with the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.

Coeur d’Alene would become a model community in the battle against bigotry. In January 1987, the prestigious Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States bestowed its first Community Award on Coeur d’Alene in a grand ceremony at New York City Hall.

I was among the world’s media that covered the award presentation.

I may have missed the 1986 fireworks. But I would cover the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations for the next 30 years. Ultimately, the task force helped bankrupt the Aryan Nations. But the seeds of hatred that fueled the movement remain here.

Flushed with success

The right mix of spices AND a catchy name are key to success in chili cook-off contests. On Sept. 4, 1993, Myra Franks was pictured in The Press after she won the International Chili Society State Championship at State Line with her signature “Toilet Bowl Chili.” Myra concocted the name to give judges something to remember. Myra had spent 11 years perfecting Toilet Bowl Chili. That work paid off 30 years ago when she became the first Idaho resident to win the state championship and a trip to Reno to compete internationally. All the previous Idaho winners had been from elsewhere. Cook-off rules allowed out-of-staters to enter the contest in any state and represent those states if they won. Myra earned $500, a trophy and an Idaho flag for her Toilet Bowl Chili. Her husband, Claude, claimed $200 and a trophy for his second-place finish. They were flush with success.

Candid camera

Katie Sumner Kelso would have shed her curlers during Coeur d’Alene High cheerleading practice back in ’68, if she’d known a Press photographer was lurking nearby. But there she was on Page 1 on Aug. 24, 1968, balancing on a knee in a friend’s yard, sporting fat curlers, held in place by a bonnet. “I accessorized with the hairnet over the top to keep the hair curlers from falling on the ground,” she told Huckleberries last week. “Best times!” The photo shows varsity cheerleader Sally Parsons teaching routines to Katie and two other JV cheerleaders, Cheryl Siroshton and Wendy Fullwiler, as the first game of the football season approached. Katie doesn’t recall anything about the newspaper picture. But she remembers the painstaking care required of a teenage girl of the '60s to maintain a perfect ‘do.


Stephen Shepperd of Coeur d’Alene replied to the item last week about Post Falls high athletes Joe “The Toe” Tofflemire and Rollin Putzier: “I officiated events for the Kellogg Boosters Track Meet for years. One year, Rollin and Joe’s senior year, I oversaw the shotput event. They competed against the best in Region 1, and there was no beating them — too big, too strong, too gifted. They were also incredibly funny kids. They joked with each other the whole time. I enjoyed getting to know them that day and look back sadly at both their passings. Way too young, for sure.”


Poet’s Corner: On downtown streets two hours are free/but do not ever try for three,/for carefully your tires we’re marking/and you don’t mess with Diamond Parking — The Bard of Sherman Avenue (“CDA’s Free Parking”).

Did You Know — that the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Post Falls businesses backed the tribe’s push in September 1998 to buy Greyhound Park for gambling purposes? And that Howard Hughes, the Post Falls chamber president, was ticked that Gov. Phil Batt unilaterally vetoed the idea? Said manager Pat Leffel of the Riverbend Commerce Park after the fact: “The tribe’s good for business.”

Overheard (by Bonnie Douglas of Coeur d’Alene in a store checkout line): First Customer: “Where are you from?” Second Customer: “I’m from California, but I have Idaho values.”

Merle & Marie? Singer Marie Osmond was one of the first celebs to visit the old North Shore Motor Inn after Duane Hagadone bought it. She and brother Merle traveled to Coeur d’Alene on Sept. 2, 1983, to meet with 70 potential investors in Osmond Entertainment Corporation. Dunno where Donnie was. But Marie still filled seats at a concert in Spokane later that night.

Has It Been — 40 years (Sept. 7, 1983) since the City Council, under Mayor Jim Fromm, axed the Community Center? On a 4-2 vote, with Ron Edinger and Ed Jones opposing, the council voted to close the community center (old Coeur d'Alene High) at Seventh and Montana for financial and safety reasons. An attempt to pass a bond to save the center later failed. But now we have the Kroc Center.

On This Day — In 1968, workers from Murphy Brothers of Spokane were demolishing the Blackwell Bridge over the Spokane River. Erected in 1928, the hazardous bridge had been replaced by a $1.93 million U.S. 95 span that opened July 21, 1968. Cherie Thompson Bates recalls watching the wood boards of the old bridge “hop up and down” as her school bus crossed them.

Parting shot

Ruth Pratt is known for her sweet voice that fronts local big bands and Tuxedo Junction, which played at City Park two weeks ago, courtesy of Michael Koep Concerts. But 20 years ago, she was just a newbie fundraiser for a new Coeur d'Alene Library. After arriving here in 2002 from Bellingham, Wash., she became such a top-notch volunteer for the library that the Library Foundation hired her to raise $6 million for a new building. Ruth said at the time: "A great city deserves a great library." Anyone who has visited our great library knows that Ruth and co. were successful. And there’s a moral to this story. Newcomers who want to help further improve this special place are always welcome — no matter where they’re from.

• • •

Dave Oliveria can be contacted at D.F. Oliveria’s Facebook page provides more old stories and photos about the Coeur d’Alene area.


Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Myra and Claude Franks with their chili cook-off prizes.


Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Sally Parsons,foreground, teaches routines to JV cheerleaders Wendy Fullwiler, seated, Cheryl Siroshton, standing, and Katie Sumner Kelso.


Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Joe Tofflemire, left, and Rollin Putzier.


Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Merle and Marie Osmond talk to a potential investor.


Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Coeur d’Alene’s Darrell Stremler and Bobbi Day at community center.


Photo courtesy of The Coeur d'Alene Press archives

Workers dismantle Blackwell Bridge.


Photo courtesy of Dave Oliveria

Ruth Pratt sings with Max Mendez and Tuxedo Junction.

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