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The Slice

Archive for August 2011

Possibly the lamest toy of the 1960s

But I'm sure many boys who played with Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots went on to lead productive lives.

This would be another contender for the title.

The definitive account of why “electric football” was insane can be found in Bill Bryson's “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.”

But the truth is, this list could go on and on.

Don’t remember Dick

But he played in the majors AND in Spokane, so here's his card. Do any parents name boys Richard these days?

Which best describes you?

When you ask someone about his or her summer vacation, you are…

A) Not really listening to the answer. B) Sincerely hoping to hear that the person had a happy, restorative time away from work. C) Ready to compete by jumping in and explaining why YOUR vacation was so utterly superior in every way. D) Just making small talk. E) Not really sure how you will handle it if the individual gets miffed and says “Didn't you follow my tweets?” F) Good for about two minutes of listening but after that you sort of drift off and start wondering whatever happened to that one woman who used to be on Q6. G) Hoping against hope that the person will not describe some dumb yahoo pursuit and suggest that “Ya gotta love it” when you know perfectly well that, no, you don't gotta. H) Other. 

No, you are not the only one who…

…has seen that promo picture of Leon Russell we've been running in the Today section and immediately thought he looked like a character from a '60s movie based on Old Testament stories.

Expo ‘74 and preseason NFL football

The game was not played at Riverfront Park, of course.

But on this date in 1974, Spokane hosted a preseason NFL game. The Denver Broncos beat the New England Patriots (who had changed their name from Boston Patriots just a few years before). According to what I've read, the score of that Saturday night contest was 27-21.

Season’s greetings (summer version)

Widespread mocking of those family letters some people insert in Christmas cards certainly didn't make them go away.

For that, I suppose we can all be thankful.

But did you know that there are now extended-family summer-in-review letters? Oh, yes. Not all families have someone eager to appoint himself or herself to this task. But some do. And as with almost all writing projects, the reviews can be mixed.

I was reminded of this less than an hour ago in a South Hill grocery store. A guy talking on a cell phone was weighing in on the merits of a recently emailed family summer letter written by someone else.

I didn't hear it all. But I feel safe in saying he gave it two thumbs down.

Maybe he was talking to a sibling or cousin who also felt slighted by the seasonal roundup in question. 

“There was hardly anything about things that happened at our house,” he said as we made our way up a beverage aisle. “And we did a lot of stuff.”

 I guess the memory of those good times will have to be reward enough. Some things, after all, just don't get reported.

One sure sign of aging

Is not being able to remember the name of your first college dorm. (Yes, I realize not everyone went to college.)

Eventually I came up with it: Adams Hall. I suspect 25 percent of all who went to (or, in my case, started) school in New England spent time living in an Adams Hall.

I remember that the Dorm Council elections featured a full slate of candidates from the Party Party. At the head of that ticket was a guy named Bass. The upperclassmen in my four-room suite enjoyed tacking on “hole” when referring to him.

Anyway, I brought this up because last night I thought of either a fortune-cookie game or a “determine your porn star moniker” exercise that somehow involved dorm names. But now I've forgotten how it was supposed to work. 

Abner, come look at this

I'm sure there are plenty of Spokane neighborhoods still monitored by someone looking out the window along the lines of Gladys Kravitz in “Bewitched.”

But a lot of people are pretty busy these days. So on some streets, it's now up to cats to keep an eye on things. That works OK if at least a few members of the household understand feline-speak.


“What did she say?”

“She said Tattoo Man across the street is out in his front yard sans shirt again.”

Rack ‘em up

One thing some visitors to Spokane notice at this time of year is the seemingly high percentage of cars adorned with racks designed to carry bikes, boats and what have you.

This isn't the only place a person would see that, of course. But it's worth noting that Spokane isn't some self-impressed ski resort/rock-climbing mecca. It's a real city. Our chief industries are not hot-tubbing and woo-hooing.

And yet, a fair number of people here still find time to enjoy outdoor recreation. That's got to be a good thing, right?

Sure. Let's count the ways.

1. Activity and exercise make people feel good, physically and mentally.

2. Being outside helps you get enough Vitamin D.

3. People riding bikes leads to wildly entertaining letters to the editor from the “Get off my lawn!” crowd.

Anyone know anything about fruit trees?

After years of producing fruit, the apple tree in our backyard didn't crank out any apples last year.

I thought the tree had just gotten old and tired.

But this year the apples are back. Why?

I'd like to think it has something to do with a resurgent honeybee population near us. But I don't really have any idea.

Cart before the horse****

There's a new wrinkle in my ongoing struggle to be allowed to take my groceries to my vehicle without assistance and small talk.

The baggers have launched an altogether baffling lobbying campaign.

They have started saying, “I can bring the cart back.”

I'm not quite sure how to put this. But big whoop.

I'm usually pretty capable of bringing the cart back or placing it in one of the parking lot corrals. And if, heaven forbid, the cart were to be left unattended in some random spot in the lot, the shocking truth of the matter is that I don't really care. I am not an adjunct employee of Roseway or Super Albert's or whatever the store happens to be.

I just want to be on my way, free to pursue various man-about-town activities or perhaps go home and take a nap.  

But still these often appealing young people beseech me with their earnest expressions: “I can take these bags out for you. Then I can bring the cart back.”

Oh, well, in that case…if it means you could bring the cart back. Uh, no thanks.

Now I understand that the baggers want to be liberated from the stultifying confines of the store. They want to take their sweet time and engage in plenty of mental meandering as they wend their circuitous way back to the checkout aisles.

I get it. Really, I do.

But I have my own modest dreams. And none of them involves being treated like an invalid who can't transport his own grocery bags and put them in the trunk himself.

Of course, if I do allow one of the kids to walk me to my car and pactice his or her people skills on me, then they can take the cart back.

“See You in September”

Two different singing groups had hits with that song shortly after the Earth's crust cooled. One was The Tempos. The Happenings (pictured below) was the other group.

I thought you might enjoy how these groovy guys are dressed. Some threads, huh? And let's not overlook those hip hair styles.

So if lads who looked like that told a girl “See you in September,” would the young lady in question have been right to interpret that as a threat?   

The limits of free speech

In my family, one thing that is not permitted is criticism of the late John Denver. I occasionally forget this but can count on being promptly reminded.

And that's OK. He wasn't cool. That's for sure. But I wonder how many of us who were trained by peers to disdain him can say we never felt something when hearing one of his songs. 

According to my list, he appeared at Expo '74 on Aug. 26.

Agree or disagree

You're not really living life to the fullest if you don't routinely find yourself taking part in activities organized by individuals who require you to first sign a detailed “Release and waiver of liability and assumption of risk agreement.”

My favorite local Mexican restaurant

A couple of months ago, a reader asked me for a recommendation about local Mexican restaurants.

I wasn't much help. The place I visited most often had just closed, as had another eatery I might have mentioned.

My response to the reader's query, as I recall, might have alluded to a couple of places I frequented when I lived in El Paso and Tucson long ago. Not exactly useful information. 

But now I have an answer. It's El Ranchito in Davenport.

Last week, during a family outing in the car, it became necessary to search for a restroom. I pulled up next to El Ranchito just as a guy who worked there was approaching the front door on foot.

He said that the place wasn't open yet. But I went ahead and explained the situation. He smiled and made a “come on inside” gesture.

This was much appreciated. So, on our way back through Davenport several hours later, I stopped at El Ranchito again. I went in and ordered several to-go cheese enchilada dinners.

Mostly I did this to reiterate our thanks for the earlier kindness. But it turned out that the food was really good.

I'll be back.

Feel free to tout your own favorite Mexican place (even if you've never experienced a bathroom rescue there).

Inland Northwest trivia on display

Where in our area would you go to see a wheelchair used by FDR? 

Just wondering

Back when it was common for men to put various oils and goo in their hair to hold it in a rigid, unnatural shape, was America covered in collateral-damage grease stains?

Maybe not. I guess your head doesn't actually come in contact with that many surfaces.

But have you ever longed to “summerproof” your hair? (I'm not sure firing up a lighter that close to your face would be such a great idea after molding your head-loaf with that stuff. And do those two young ladies in the ad seem rather easily beguiled?)

Or have you ever worried about the dreaded “dry hair”? Or thought that perhaps your phone was actually a WWII walkie talkie?

Or realized that, according to noted relationships expert Charlie Wild, putting “cream-oil” in your hair was the secret to romantic success?

Or ever considered using a Vaseline product in your hair?

Or believed that your summer choices came down to staying inside or slathering your hair with shellac?

Back-to-school fashion tips

From “The Brady Bunch.”

Useful in a reverse barometer sort of way.

Do not attempt to adjust your picture

I'm on vacation. Be back Aug. 29.

Meantime, there are 600 gently used blog posts you could scan and dismiss with a harrumph, if you are so inclined.

Summer explained in vintage beer ads

Drink a cooler full of this stuff and you'll acquire sex appeal.

Or at least you will seem more interesting than fishing.

Well, maybe not always.

Memories of Elvis Presley’s 1957 concert

Here's a sampling of Slice readers' recollections.

Vicky Anderson was 10 when she attended the Elvis concert at what is now called Joe Albi Stadium in August of 1957. Among other things, she remembers her mother and aunt fighting over the binoculars.

Connie Horton, Bob Hoagland, Jack Summers, Bob Dronenberg and others recall teenage girls scooping up handfuls of dirt from the track that the entertainer had walked on or ridden over in the convertible that transported him. “It was something to behold,” said Dronenberg, who was about to go into the Army.

Because her father was involved in facilities management, Terry (Winton) Omans got to be in the small brick building adjacent to the stadium where Elvis and others were holed up before the show. “I was a freckled, awkward little 10-year-old girl lost in all the commotion, trying to stutter out a request for an autograph before I died of fright. Elvis Presley, who was limbering up, waiting to perform on a plywood stage in the middle of a football field, bleachers full of screaming girls, stopped and actually asked my name.”

And he signed a photo of himself, which Omans still has.

“I was 13 years old in 1957 and dying to go see Elvis,” wrote Caroline Brady Baker. “None of my girlfriends were able to go so my mother, who was 58 years old, went with me. When the limousine drove Elvis up to the platform in the middle of the stadium, he jumped out and ran up the few steps to the stage. Being slightly out of breath, all he could say as he grabbed the microphone was 'ahhh.' Well, that was all it took to turn that whole stadium of teenagers (and at least one mother) into a screaming frenzy.”

“As a matter of fact, I did see Elvis, but not performing at the stadium,” wrote Farol Stroyan. (Yes, Farol with an F.) “I worked at St. Luke's Hospital on Summit Boulevard after school from 4:30 to 9 p.m. I was 17 years old. All the nurses were so excited because Elvis was coming to the hospital to see a young boy who had had his legs cut off in a farming accident.”

That unfortunate lad was on her ward.

“The nurses were spreading rose petals on the floor and I told them that was stupid. So I went on a break. The elevator was so slow, I decided to take the stairs to the cafeteria in the basement. I was running down the stairs, turned a corner and bumped right into Elvis. Boy, was I surprised, and so was he. I just kept going, so it was a very quick encounter. He was only about five years older than I was.”

In the summer of 1957, Gail Peterson Miller was working as a messenger for a downtown Spokane bank. She and a co-worker named Sally decided they had to have the visiting singer's autograph.

“We gathered up some official looking documents, put on our 'Messenger' badges and marched over to the Ridpath Hotel where he was staying.

“We walked up to the front desk and announced that we had some documents to deliver to Elvis Presley, Security being what it was back then, the clerk on duty gave us the room number. As I recall it was on the 11th or 12th floor, and up we went.

“We knocked on the door and a big burly fellow answered the door. We giggled and said we wanted to meet Elvis and get his autograph. Much to our surprise, Elvis came to the door and not only did he give us his autograph, he kissed us both on the cheek.”

Dorothy Germain shared the following.

“I saw Elvis in 1957 at Memorial Stadium along with my fellow 13-year-old friends Lynn, Marlys, Joanne and Georgia. Our transportation was provided by a very nice 16-year-old young man named Bobby.

“After the concert, we begged Bobby to take us to the Great Northern train depot at midnight, hoping to see Elvis again. We got lucky and spotted him ready to board the train, where each of us got his autograph. (He said “Thank you, hon.”)

“I am certain that we have all saved that autograph. Maybe, we will discuss that at our 1962 Rogers High School class reunion next year!”

Kay Krom remembers the occasion this way.

“We had been married almost a year and had just finished harvest. Time to celebrate! We went to Spokane, stayed overnight in a funny little motel on East Sprague, went to Nat Park, had our picture taken in one of those photo booths, and had tickets to see Elvis.

“It wasn't fancy. Just a big box of a stage with lots of wired microphones and drums in the middle of the field. Some kind of vehicle drove up and he popped out. He was really cute. The girls started screaming and they never stopped. We 'think' he was good, although we never really heard him sing.”

At the concert, Doug Richardson was actually more impressed with Presley's backup singers than with the star. He laughs about that now.

But Susan Slagle McConnell Walker, who was 11 and had come down to Spokane with a contingent from Republic, confirmed that all the screaming made it difficult to appreciate the music. “I never understood why these girls didn't want to hear him sing.” (Years later, she saw him perform at the Coliseum and “Got my fix.”)

“Yes, I was there,” wrote Phyllis Odell. “I was 20 and he was KING. I remember when the lights went out and shortly the announcer said 'Elvis has left the stadium' and it was over.”

But clearly the memories endure.             

A Chick by any other name

“Indians” has been the name of the minor league baseball team here for so long I suppose those who might have a problem with that have either thrown up their hands and moved on or satisfied themselves that the team certainly means no disrespect.

Because I don't hear a lot of complaining about it.

But then I guess you can get used to things.

I once lived in a city where the AA minor league baseball team was called the Chicks, after the Chickasaw tribe. That has changed. The team is now AAA and called the Redbirds or something like that.

You can decide for yourself which is more fun to say.  


Say, wasn’t this in a “Seinfeld” episode?

Oh, wait. No. That was “Ass Man.” Never mind.

More to the point?

Wondering about what we missed out on

I enjoy riding my bike along this one stretch of the lower South Hill where trolley tracks remain embedded in the street. It's fun to imagine what all I missed by coming along decades too late to catch a ride. Here's my partial list.

1. No stylishly leaning out of the trolley, waving and shouting “I'm home, darling!” 2. No talking with fellow passengers about what food item could be referred to as “the Spokane treat.” 3. No smiling as some angry old guy standing on his lawn shakes his fist at the passing trolley because of all that infernal clang-clang-clanging.

“I think I’ll keep this handy…”

“…in case some guy tries to coop me up in the kitchen after the war.”

“Citizen’s ar-rest! Citizen’s ar-rest!”

According to my schedule, Jim Nabors performed at Expo '74 on Aug. 19.

“Hang on to something”

The sun hadn't even come up when I saw a couple of honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned hot rods prowling downtown this morning.

Was actually pretty close to one of them. Should have yelled, “Hey, nobody beats John Milner, man.”

But I doubt the driver would have heard me. And if he had, it seems unlikely he would have caught the reference.

A Spokane tradition: Lunch with Perry

Seeing as how KAYU has been showing “Perry Mason” at noon since shortly after the Lewis & Clark expedition, you have to wonder.

How many television viewers in the Spokane area have seen all 600,000 episodes at least once?

Here’s one of the more famous examples

Of the fact that the “Comics Code” approval didn't prevent a few unfortunate gaffes.

“At the lake” in 1954

Though perhaps that body of water is a bit large to be a lake.

If you can identify this at a glance

Maybe you are not as young as you like to think.

Just how thick should a milkshake be?

A) You should be able it suck it through a straw without straining. B) You should be able to suck it through a straw, but it should require a little effort. C) It should be so thick that even the Suction Goat at Riverfront Park couldn't drink it with a straw. D) Forget the straw. You'll need a chisel. E) Borderline runny. F) You should black out from your futile attempt to inhale it. G) It should invite at least one Jethro Tull reference. H) It should be a neck exercise more violent than hardcore bridging. I) Other.

2011 social calendar: Retirement parties

I was trying to remember the last time I got drunk. It must have been almost 30 years ago. But I make no guarantees about the rest of this year.

Yes, of course, I'll call you if I need a ride.

Have you seen this commercial?

It's for Sears Optical. It features a woman calling her cat to come inside. And she thinks this is her pet feline.

Are you a true Inland Northwesterner?

If you have never been accidentally hit in the head by a canoe paddle?

Coming in Thursday’s print Slice column

If you have total recall of recent Slice questions and know every line in this movie, you might be able to make the connection.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that

Something about the way that guy is sitting makes me think he won't be bothering her. Hope at least the fish were biting.

Quick quiz

Where along this northern tier train route would you encounter people discombobulated by wintertime snow?

Grand Boulevard, 5:30 a.m.

You know that thing some women do when they want to apply a touch of perfume but don't want to overdo it?

Sure. They'll squeeze off a couple of spritzes out in front of them and then lean into or walk through the fragrance while it's still suspended in the air.

Well, that's sort of what I've been doing on my way to work the last couple of days. Only it hasn't been by design. And I'm not referring to cologne.

I keep riding my bike through invisible clouds of incident-aftermath skunk scent. I'm not sure if any of it sticks to me. But the stuff certainly is powerful.

Reminds me of a certain cartoon character.   

“Summer Love”

There were kids in my grade school who drew the Beatles better than this.

End quote for Tuesday

A plumber, a nice guy named Chris, was over taking care of a problem at our house.

The issue was no big deal. Didn't take him long to address. But before he left, the conversation turned to some of the more stout challenges he has encountered.

You don't want to know.

But Chris did say something that made us smile.

“I was squeamish for the first 10 years,” he said.

What became of all those toy soldiers?

Are most of them in landfills now? Must number in the millions.

Sort of a sad end after all those years of service.

Making a federal case of it

The news about the imminent closing/relocation of the downtown post office bums me out.

And it's not just because of my assumption that the little P.O. box I have there will wind up someplace less convenient.

No, my disappointment stems partly from the fact that I actively enjoy my weekday visits to a symbol of federal jurisdiction.

I like being in the post office and thinking, “If I'm ever charged with some weapons violations insanity along the lines of Randy Weaver, I fully expect the United States to come after me with the full might of the law.”

Local governments can do good things. But over the years they've also come up with such gems as “state's rights” as an excuse to discriminate and school boards discouraging the teaching of evolution. It's a long list actually.

OK, I know there are plenty of people around here who think the federal government is evil. And I would acknowledge that several agencies have lost their way a few times after 9/11. But most knee-jerk Fed-haters are fools or worse, in my opinion.

I have a protected right to say that, of course. We all do. And like the other big freedoms, that's a national reality. It wasn't established by some city council, county commission or noxious weeds board.


Ever serve in a similar paramilitary unit?

You know, crossing guards.

I was proud to wear the colors in sixth grade. The few, the proud. We were drunk with power.

“Hey, kid. Wait for my signal! Don't make me report you.”

But unlike the school where this photo was taken, our unit was males-only. It would be years before girls were deemed ready for front-line positions. And then, of course, the whole thing got turned over to adults.  

Sure, she’s smiling now

But just wait until she needs to reach something at the back.

Stepping in some feedback on a column

A reader took issue with the recent suggestion that Spokane's parks might become dog latrines if the city had a significantly larger human population.

She thinks the opposite is true. Her argument hinges on the assertion that, if Spokane had a much bigger population, peer pressure to pick up after one's pets would be far greater.

Right now, certain people think nothing of treating parks as toilets for their dogs, she said. But if Spokane were a bigger city, that selfish behavior simply would not be tolerated.

Why? Because if 10 times as many people let dogs do their business in parks (and didn't pick up after them) our civic greenspace would soon be unusable. There would be, she suggested, a civic uproar.

Anyone acting irresponsibly in this regard could pretty much count on being loudly called on it by any and all onlookers.

Be nice if that were the case now.      

Which three are not Elvis movies?

A) “Harum Scarum.” B) “Live a Little, Love a Little.” C) “Spinout.” D) “Grabbin' Some.” E) “Easy Come, Easy Go.” F) “Girls! Girls! Girls!” G) “Fun in Butte.” H) “It Happened at the World's Fair.” I) “Kissin' Cousins.” J) “Viva Las Vegas.” K) “Follow That Dream.” L) “Roustabout.” M) “Speedway.” N) “Kid Galahad.” O) “Tickle Me.” P) “You Must Be Kidding.” Q) “Clambake.”  

Which 3 aren’t Elvis movie characters?

A) Dr. John Carpenter. B) Steve Grayson. C) Clint Reno. D) Cole Vestal. E) Deke Rivers. F) Pacer Burton. G) Tulsa McLean. H) Chad Gates. I) Vince Camden. J) Lucky Jackson. K) Rusty Wells. L) Johnny Tyronne. M) Lonnie Beale. N) Scott Hayward. O) Toby Kwimper. P) Cajer Neely.

Sisyphus in Spokane

Encountered a nice older guy not far from home this afternoon. He's a man who has his work cut out for him.

There in his side yard was the shell of a black 1919 Ford Model T. He had rolled it out of his garage just recently. He intends to restore it.

He said the ancient car, what's left of it anyway, had spent part of its life in a field in Montana.

Sure, it's a pretty simple machine. But the extent to which this is currently a “Before” picture cannot be overstated.

He said his late father used to have a Model T and that he wished he were still around to help with the restoration.

Yeah. It's always good to have a loved one assisting who can say, “I don't think it is supposed to go like that.”

I wish him well and will be checking on his progress. 

Hey, I gotcher casserole right here

Here's a photo from The Spokesman-Review's Casserole Design Lab, circa 1890. Salt and butter were thought to be the way to a man's heart. And, of course, that turned out to be correct.  

SR photo 

Something that doesn’t happen every day

My fast-acting colleague, Gary Crooks, assisted in corralling a couple of runaway ponies this morning on the South Hill. They had crossed some busy streets and the story could have had an unhappy conclusion. But it all ended up OK.

Who says Spokane has lost its Western flavor?

Here's The Spokesman-Review editorial board about to have a meeting.      

Has your summer had moments like this?

If not, what do you intend to do about it? A) “Nothing. My real life is OK.” B) “Those days are in the past for me.” C) “I guess I need to find someone to smooch on a beach before Labor Day.” D) “Is that CPR?” E) Other.

Fun for a girl and a boy

Everyone loves a Slinky. At least they did for a little while.

Wonder how many are flossing right now

The corn bins looked pretty depleted at the store today.

If civilization could survive ‘Baywatch’…

Feel free to complete that sentence.

Did you ever see a Seattle Pilots game?

I've talked to a number of people over the years who attended a Pilots game or two at Sicks Stadium. And more than a few said the one thing even less major league than that team was the ballpark itself.

Sometimes the mail brings good news

Occasionally I'm asked if I have any all-time favorite Slice items.

Sure, I do. Plenty. Here's one from almost 20 years ago.

A Spokane mother told about how she had fallen into a predictable pattern when communicating with a friend in another city. It seemed she only wrote to her friend when there was the arrival of a new baby to report.

She thought about that one day when she was about to go out and mail a letter to that friend. (A letter, by the way, that did not fit the usual pattern.) So after the Spokane woman had sealed the envelope, she decided to write on the outside of it, “This is not a birth announcement.”

Apparently, someone else noticed this impromptu postscript.

Because not long after that, when the Spokane woman's daughter was away at summer camp, a letter arrived at the family's home. It was from the little girl at camp.

Written on the outside of the envelope was “This is not a birth announcement.”

Spokane’s best-looking drivers drive…

Welcome to what just might be the most stupefyingly shallow survey ever. But hey, you live here long enough and you start to form opinions about everything.

So here, counting down to No. 1, are my picks for the Top 5 makes of cars driven by this city's best-looking motorists. (Yes, I disqualified the makers of my household's four-wheeled vehicles.)

I'm not talking about particular models or production years. Just the overall brands.

As always, you should feel free to disagree. But I'll assume you never take your eyes off the road.

Let's do it.

5.) Chevrolet. Just seems like there is a high percentage of attractive men and women behind the wheel.

4.) Subaru. Lots of fetching-in-a-sensible-way drivers.

3.) Toyota. So I guess this means there are a lot of nice-looking people here.

2.) Dodge. Maybe I keep noticing the same people over and over. But notice them, I do.

1). Mini Cooper. OK, it could be that I'm mostly noticing the cars. And perhaps it has something to do with there not being all that many of these on the road. But I'm telling you, Spokane's Mini Cooper drivers seem to glow.

Nice hat

“A pleasure to each other.”

I'm surprised they would say that in 1956.

Long ago and far away

One summer when I was junior high-age, part of that season's entertainment involved hearing my friend Dave Taylor recount the running battle of wits between his year-older brother, Steve, and their father.

It all started when Steve began accessing his parents' well-stocked liquor cabinet. (This is not unheard of in the annals of misguided teen antics.)

Mr. Taylor eventually noticed. So he started drawing lines on bottles with a magic marker or something.

Undaunted, Steve simply added water to each bottle after pouring off a little of the hard stuff.

But apparently Mr.Taylor knew how Canadian Club was supposed to taste. So he grounded Steve and meted out some vigorous corporal punishment, as I recall.

Steve responded by using some strong cleanser to wipe away the lines marked on the bottles. Then, after yet another unauthorized appropriation of spirits, he would redraw the lines. A little lower.

(I seem to recall that this was similar to what Mr. Taylor himself did. Though I think the father might have tweaked his technique by drawing the lines partly on the label. Or dating them. Or something. It was a long time ago, and the Taylors'  was not the only household that generated stories of this nature.)

In any event, as Dave told it, Mr. Taylor once again caught on. There ensued another grounding and additional hands-on suggestions about how Steve might improve himself.

Mr. Taylor eventually got a locking liquor cabinet. But of course, Steve found the key.

Sometimes, when I hear certain adults sigh and issue “Kids today” laments, I wonder if they had particularly sheltered childhoods.

I have no idea what became of my friend's brother. But I sure hope he became a parent.

I love the idea of one of his kids trying to put one over on him.

“Nice try, Sparky,” I can imagine him saying. “But I invented that one.”  

Confession of a former Doomsday snob

Before moving to Spokane in the late '80s, I spent decades scoffing at others' self-assessed Cold War risk rankings.

Having spent a fair share of my childhood reading comic books and trading baseball cards just a few miles away from row after row of B-52s lined up wing-tip to wing-tip at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, I figured I didn't need a hotline to the Kremlin to know where I stood should international tensions get ouf of hand.

And years later, I took a perverse pride in having grown up on the front lines, so to speak. So perhaps you can imagine how frustrating it was to discover that practically everybody thought their hometown was high on the Soviets' first-strike target list.

I know it was insane to get miffed and say things like “Are you kidding? You would have survived for months where you grew up. I would have been vaporized on Day One.”

Once or twice I paraphrased a line from “Dr. Strangelove”…”You wouldn't even have gotten your hair mussed.” 

It was a crazy kind of bragging, I realize. But what can I tell you? This was a competition I figured I had already won. Then I discovered that nobody else understood the rules.

As a young adult, I had a friend who had grown up in Indiana. She made the mistake of telling me that her family had lived with the certain knowledge that they would be among the first to get it in a nuclear slugfest because her hometown, South Bend, was the location of Notre Dame University.

That still makes me sigh. (I suggested that, unlike Purdue and Michigan State, Soviet launch command probably didn't feel threatened by the Fighting Irish.)

Anyway, then I moved to Spokane. And I realized that people who were kids here in the 1960s grew up near USAF bombers AND missiles. To those Cold War survivors, I tip my cap.

Next time I watch a “Twilight Zone” rerun with a nuclear war theme, I will hoist a frosty mug and offer a toast.

I freely admit that you, too, would have been Day One targets. And I'll bet none of you thought it was because of proximity to Gonzaga. 

Just sayin’

A lot of people who claim that their cat is a Maine Coon are either high or living in a candy-colored dream world.

But here's one. 

States of confusion

So it turns out Idaho and Iowa are actually different states.

A North Idaho friend, Lauren Hopkins, was back East visiting friends.

One of them asked: “So what's there to do in Des Moines?”

She held up a silver necklace featuring a little piece in the shape of Idaho. “Do you recognize this state?” she asked.

Maybe she should have sung a tune from this famous set-in-Idaho show.

Q and A with a Slice reader

“Just wondering,” wrote Robin Bayley of Chattaroy. “What percentage of Slice readers get a little tired of all the marmot stories/conversations, etc.?”

The answer is 27 percent of readers and 49 percent of marmots.

I think Wink lost its battle with Squirt

Though perhaps it's really more correct to say no one truly won that competition.

I once met Wink Martindale, but that's unrelated to this. 

Newspaper front pages in comic books

Wouldn't it be fun to take a look at a bunch of newspaper headlines as depicted in Silver Age comic books?

I thought I had come upon an original idea for online inquiry here. But it turns out others had beat me to it. Well, at least that made finding pictures pretty easy.

Do not make wagers based on this

With the Barclays Premier League season about to start, I'm sure you're wondering how I think it will shake out in English football's top division this season. So here are my picks.

1. Chelsea. 2. Man U. 3. Man City. 4 Tottenham. 5. Arsenal. 6. Liverpool. 7. Sunderland. 8. Newcastle. 9. Aston Villa. 10. Everton. 11. West Brom. 12. Bolton. 13. Blackburn. 14. Stoke City. 15. Fulham. 16. Norwich City. 17. Wolves. 18. QPR. 19. Wigan Athletic. 20. Swansea City.

And be sure to have plenty of HP sauce on hand for weekend-morning breakfasts with channel 401. It's available in a number of Spokane stores.

Skinny dipping

“First and last time was many, many years ago,” wrote longtime Slice contributor Barbara Keene.

She thought the kids were asleep upstairs in their cabin. Though as this story has been told over and over through the years, that now seems in doubt.

“My husband and I decided to sneak down to the lake for a late dip.”

It was dark out. They undressed. They swam.

Then it was time to get out.

“When I was having a hard time seeing how to get out of the water, my ever-helpful husband turned on a big flashlight just as I finally was able to get myself up onto the dock.”

And there she was. All lit up, without a stitch on.

In the immortal words of Jerry Lewis, “Hey, lady!” 

College sports, coaches’ salaries, etc.

If you don't count a couple of angry letters to the editor written as a teenager in Vermont, I started my journalism career at an Arizona newspaper called the Daily Sun. Despite the name, it came out in the afternoon. At least it did then.

There was a veteran reporter on the staff who did a lot of good stuff. But the thing that made him a legend in certain circles was submitting his own work to the Pulitzer committee and subsequently referring to himself as “nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.”

A few years later, I was working as a news reporter at The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. Despite the name, it came out in the morning.

In 1981 I sat between two guys, Clark Hallas and Bob Lowe, who actually did win a Pulitzer for their work exposing various misdeeds connected to University of Arizona athletics.

I wrote the story about their award. And I still have a commemorative glass with that front page emblazoned on it. (I refer to it as my “Pulitzer” story, but no one in 30 years has ever thought that was funny.)

Anyway, I don't think the paper sold many of those glasses. You see, the reporting Lowe and Hallas did was not popular in the community. Car dealers pulled their advertising from the paper. News sources refused to speak to us. Et cetera.

I remember it changed the way I viewed Tucson a bit. Sure there was a vibrant progressive element in the city. But there were also a lot of college-sports booster/lunkheads.

In my experience, these people can be found everywhere big-time college sports is played. They like to think they have their priorities straight and that they should not be lumped in with knuckledragging sports zealots in places like Alabama and Oklahoma. But if someone criticizes their beloved “program,” well, there's hell to pay.

So I smiled when I saw the story about the coaches being the best-paid employees of the state of Washington.

The Northwest is great in a lot of ways. But when it comes to taking college sports way too seriously, we have our head up our ass. Just like the rest of the country.  

For certain people…

…it would be impossible to consider buying an RV without thinking about 1985's “Lost in America.”

Signing off until Thursday morning

If you do not recognize this, there's a good chance this isn't the blog for you.

The key to enjoying the great outdoors

Looks like six-packs for everyone. Won't be long before confessions, revelations, recriminations and tears all around.

“Oh, Bob. How could you!”

“I'm sorry. The passion was fire-brewed.”

Newspapering in a previous century

If you enjoyed watching reporters and copy editors get into fights, newsrooms at evening papers were the place to be once upon a time.

At morning newspapers, many of the reporters have already gone home by the time the copy desk actually takes a look at stories turned in earlier in the day. But at evening papers, just about everyone was in the newsroom as the deadlines approached.

Long ago, I worked on the copy desk at a p.m. paper that has since folded.

One day, a reporter covering a high-profile murder trial turned in a story in which he quoted a witness saying something like “He told me he was going to kill that mother.”

That last word was not being used in the parental sense. And the judge or defense counsel probably threw a flag on the play.

But the reporter wanted to capture the flavor of how it was actually uttered in court. So he opted for a phonetic version of the quote. And when the story, having sailed through the useless city desk, arrived at the copy desk, that passage read “He told me he was going to kill that mutah.”

Immediately one of my copy desk colleagues suggested that it ought to be “mutha.” But the reporter stood his ground, stupidly insisting that it remain “mutah.”

For a moment, it appeared that they were going to come to blows. But as I recall, it was the managing editor who ruled in favor of “mutha.”

He could have saved his breath. When it came out of the composing room, it showed up as “mutah.” And that's how it appeared in the first edition.

For quite some time after that, certain staffers at the El Paso Herald-Post took delight in finding occasions to feign umbrage and call one another a “mutah.”   

This is not a bowling trophy

It is, in fact, the Spokane Trophy. It is awarded to vessels of the U.S. Navy for being ship shape and whatnot. 


Insert Global Warming comment here

People used to parallel-park cars like the one below.

Actresses Born in Spokane Department

Academy Award-nominated Susan Peters (born Suzanne Carnahan).

Identify the typo in today’s print Slice

Be the first and I'll send you a coveted reporter's notebook.

The 16th best thing about Spokane area

Even on days when it is going to be fairly hot by mid-afternoon, the early mornings are pretty close to perfect.

As you know, in many parts of the country, humidity can make hot days a challenge regardless of the hour. But here, well, 6 o'clock on a summer morning in Spokane is nothing short of life-affirming.

Of course, this idea that it cools off here is not news to people who enjoy camping. That sound you heard in the distance last night just might have been chattering teeth. 

Meet Sue, the stewardess-nurse

“Are you feeling all right, sir?”

“I'm not sure. A little woozy. I might need to see the stewardess-nurse before we get to Spokane. Could you send her? You know, the cute one.”

Name game

The whole issue of whether a married woman takes her husband's last name has been discussed ad nauseum.

I would not presume to suggest how you should frame this matter in your own mind. I'm sure you are quite delighted with your opinion on the subject.

But here's something to consider. Assuming they don't sign up on name-outing high school reunion sites, women who change their last names might be harder for that creepy guy from 10th grade to find online.

Of course, maybe he turned out to be a gentleman and a scholar who is happily married himself.

Anything's possible, I suppose


Looks like he’s trying to suck her brain

Guys. You just can't trust them.

And what kind of tree is that on the far left?

Do you keep tabs on work email 24/7?

I can certainly see the advantages of doing that. For one thing, you can respond to urgent messages right away.

But, of course, not all work-related email is of an uplifting nature. And some people don't wish to pollute their off hours by calling up job-related complaints, grousing and general soul-sucking workplace bad vibes.

Still, you have to admit that those who check work email during off hours and over the weekend do protect themselves in one regard. Their approach would seem to lessen the likelihood that Monday mornings would be a horror show of email anger and general discontent.

Though, I suppose, if your workplace email is all sunshine and lollipops, you wouldn't really understand.

One-question “Apes” quiz

In the original “Planet of the Apes,” we learn where Taylor grew up. Can you name that American city?

Backcountry etiquette 101

Let's suppose you are hiking or camping far from the high-traffic trails and popular campgrounds.

And you come across some beer nestled in a chilly stream, possibly tethered to some vegetation next to the water.

Does the rule of “Finder's keepers” apply?

No, probably not. Chances are someone didn't want to lug that lager around and put it there to chill. Imagine how disappointing it would be to come back and find the much-anticipated bottles or cans gone.

However, there are exceptions.

You may assume that whoever placed the beer there won't be coming back for it if…

1. It's a six-pack of Falstaff. 2. The rusted cans are made of steel and lack pull-tab openers. 3. You can still read the “Freshness date” and it says “1991.”

Then the question becomes “Is this safe to drink?”

My advice would be to call Rich Landers, if there's cell service. He's married to a doctor. 

“This is our concern, Dude”

I have been fortunate enough to be invited to a birthday party that has as its theme the 1998 cult favorite, “The Big Lebowski.”

Should I elect to go in costume, here are some of the choices: The Dude, Walter, Donny, The Big Lebowski, Brandt, Nihilist No. 3, Jesus Quintana, Liam, The Stranger, Jackie Treehorn, Malibu Police Chief, Arthur Digby Sellers, Larry Sellers, Da Fino, the funeral director and the cab driver who likes The Eagles.

Assuming you have at least some idea of what we're talking about here, which would you pick?

A fair number of sports-section readers

Saw today's story on golfer Annie Brophy and thought, “Hey, I know her. Well, sort of. Her dad gave me a colonoscopy.”

Summer in another century


Right in the eye

One of my pals over in Idaho, Carol Nelson, shared this.

A friend on a camping trip was putting in her contacts when a little girl in the group said, “My dad puts stickers in his eyes, too.”

Missed a spot

It has come to my attention that some Spokane area moms and dads are falling down on the job when it comes to one key aspect of parenting.

I'm referring, of course, to a gross and widespread failure to properly scrutinize the job a son or daughter did of washing the family truckster. This is something parents of previous generations had down pat. But I'm hearing troubling reports that today's mothers and fathers have gone soft. 

So let's review the basics.

After issuing long and borderline snappish instructions — punctuated with “Are you listening to me?” — here's what you need to do when the kid declares the job finished.

1. Before you even start looking at the vehicle, adopt a scrunched up, dyspeptic expression.

2. Early on during your walk-around inspection ask, “Did you use the soap I gave you?”

3. Ask, “Did you use water?”

4. Say, “You understood, didn't you, that I wanted you to wash the whole exterior?”

5. Take your glasses off and rub your eyes as if in the throes of a mighty headache.

6. Sigh and mutter.

7. Say, “Did you imagine that I would regard the job you've done here with favor?”

8. Take your ballcap off and scratch the top of your head.

9. Say, “So I take it you are in a hurry to go meet your friends or something?”

10. Launch the big talk about applying oneself and how seemingly small things can determine whether you experience success in life.

Woo-hoo weekend alert

I really, really hope I'm wrong.

But I have a feeling there is going to be a bad accident in our area involving watercraft and beer this weekend. 

Here’s how to determine if you are old

You know that sinking feeling you get when you realize you have left home without your phone (because you hooked it up for recharging at bedtime the previous night and forgot to retrieve it in the morning)?

Sure. Well that means you are old.

A young person might forget to put on shoes or pants before heading out the door in the morning. But forget his or her phone? Ahahahahahahaha. Yeah, right.

I’ll admit a lot of trend-spotting is BS

But every once in a while you think maybe you're getting a glimpse of something.

On the way in to see “Page One” at the Magic Lantern this afternoon, I asked the young guy taking money how this look at The New York Times was doing in terms of ticket sales.

John was his name. Or Jon, maybe. Seemed like a nice guy. He said it was doing OK.

But then, because he wanted to be accurate, he qualified that. “OK” shouldn't be interpreted to mean a packed house night after night. Or anything close. He said the movie started out with two strikes against it: 1. It's a documentary. 2. This is Spokane.

But the way he said “This is Spokane” is what caught my attention. He was not being whiny or petulant. His tone was quite matter-of-fact.

It's not the first time lately I've picked that up from people in their 20s. It's a kind of an acceptance that should not be confused with cultural surrender.

Less “Get me out of here” and more “Let's make our own scene.”

Yes, Spokane isn't San Francisco or Seattle or whatever. But there is life to be lived here, and not everyone is the same.

Sure, maybe there aren't a lot of people here wanting to see a documentary about the media. But John didn't seem angry at Spokane because that's the reality.

That seems like progress.

Acquiring our credentials to be snobs

Almost anyone who has lived in the Southwest and then moved to a different region will be tempted to assume the role of Mexican Food Snob.

If you have resided in the Los Angeles area, you might feel entitled to be a Traffic Snob.

If you spent time in Texas, you might be a High School Football Snob. If you lived in the Southeast, being a Humidity Snob might come naturally to you. If you spent more than half an hour in Seattle, Coffee Snob might be an image you feel comfortable projecting.

If you grew up in parts of the Northeast or the Upper Midwest, you might spend the rest of your life being a Winter Snob. If Colorado was your home for a time, Skiing Snob might be a role you're happy to play.

And so on.

But what about us? About what does living in the Inland Northwest qualify someone to claim expertise and discernment if he or she moves to another part of the country?

The most prominent person in Canada

Just might be Don Cherry, who appears on the CBC's “Hockey Night in Canada.” He has had iconic status up north for decades.

A defenseman, he played for the minor league Spokane Comets in the 1962-63 season.

His stats for that year: 68 games played, 9 goals, 13 assists, 68 penalty minutes.

Here’s another one I’m sure I watched…

…because it was partly filmed in our area 20 years ago. (Scenes of Palouse fields.)

But I cannot remember anything about it. How about you?

When little kids run away from home now

Do they send a text message? Fire off an angry email?

Or do disgruntled youths still take pencil in hand to list their grievances on a sheet of paper? 

I wish we had these little guys here

There are those in the Spokane area who practically sneer when they say “Back East,” as if it's all a forsaken urban wasteland.

It's not, of course. And the folks back there have something I wish we had here — fireflies. It kills me that kids here miss out on that delightful phenomenon of summer.

Boy, if I had it do over again, I'd never ever put one in a jar.

Hot August Night


It's a good bet that a quite a few Slice readers figured out that the cryptic musical allusion in Monday's print column referred to the title of the live Neil Diamond album “Hot August Night” (those three words also being the opening lyric of his song “Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show”). But only a handful were also willing to leave me a phone message in which they sang that short but timely phrase.

All deserve praise for courage. (Applause, applause.) But you can help decide who gets the coveted reporter's notebook by telling me which of the following song stylings you like best.

The spellings of the entrants' names are just guesses at this stage.




Why we don’t see seersucker suits here

1. This isn't the South. 2. It's 2011. 3. People like to be hot here. 4. Not casual enough or not dressy enough. 5. “I knew Atticus Finch. Atticus Finch was a friend of mine. And you, sir, are no Atticus Finch.”

Here's Atticus, in a seersucker suit, with Tom Robinson in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Hot dogs: Pros and cons

Pro: Quite possibly the most fun-to-eat food there is.

Con: Lingering suspicions about just what's in them besides high-protein snouts and cartilage.

Pro: A summer without hot dogs would be like a season without mystery meat.

Con: See above.

Pro: It's fun and tasty to load the bun and dog with a colorful heap of condiments and toppings.

Con: You just washed that blouse.

Pro: Sometimes, when the stars are aligned, they taste so good you almost want to laugh.

Con: “Daddy, where do hot dogs come from?”

Pro: Stunningly easy to cook.

Con: You've already had three and it's still the first inning.

Pro: They tend to be a hit with kids.

International relations and traffic rules

Coeur d'Alene's Debbie Miller has noticed a driving behavior seemingly popular with those behind the wheel of vehicles sporting license plates from a certain Canadian province. And this prompts her to pose a question.

“Is rolling through stop signs to make a right-hand turn considered an Alberta Stop?”

Sad stories that should not be forgotten

Many here recall the B-52 crash in the summer of 1994.

But the 1950s saw much more devastating (in terms of the loss of life) Air Force crashes at both Fairchild AFB and now defunct Larson AFB in Moses Lake.

Which ones do you remember?

Not to be hideously morbid or anything

But is it possible to visit Grand Coulee Dam without imagining what it would be like to fall into the water behind the mammoth structure and get sucked into the power-generating station?

That would be bad. Going through one of those colossal turbines would have to smart.

I'm sure the intakes have screens. But still.

Slice answer (No. 1 enemy of garden)

“My No. 1 garden nemesis is the mole (or vole, I don't know which),” wrote Angela Roth. “All I know is this pesky little sucker has dug holes all over my flower beds, eaten any bulbs that I planted and made my yard look like hell.

“If that wasn't bad enough, my dogs (schnauzers, bred to be ratters) have been chasing the mole. So my flower beds are a total disaster now as my dogs have tromped down the plants, broken off leaves, stems and flowers, dug deeper holes trying to get the mole, etc. I could live with the damages if they actually came out of it with a dead mole in their mouths. But months have gone by and I think they are no closer to catching the dang thing than when we started in the spring.

“So with that in mind, do any of your readers have any tried and true methods to get rid of the mole without killing my dogs in the process?” 

Slice answer (being asked for advice)

“I most like it when people ask me for hints about walking or bicycling across the U.S., coast-to-coast,” wrote Glen Hanket, who lives in Pullman. “Unfortunately, it does not happen very often.”

Hanket walked across America with his wife shortly after they were married in the 1990s.

“For a theme, we picked up roadside litter along the way, bagging 4 tons worth. Newspapers loved our story — especially the part about finding discarded underwear in every state except Kansas.”

A book about that adventure is called, fittingly enough, “Underwear by the Roadside.”

“However, I was asked for 'marital' advice once, by a stranger. She suspected her husband of infidelity, and found women's underwear in his car. He claimed that he had found it by the side of the road. On a Google search, she discovered my story, and contacted me to ask if I thought he was telling the truth.”     

If you never owned a convertible…

…you missed out on:

A) Experiencing summer in style. B) Countless headaches. C)  Women talking about what the wind is doing to their hair. D) Soaking up the sounds and scents of the season in a feeling-alive way that is difficult to describe. E) Bird business. F) Other.

“Alcohol might have been involved”

Do you have a standard reaction when you read or hear that? I do. Two words. First one is “No.” 

Corgi owners are a pretty easy audience

At least that has been my experience.

And I have been using the same material on them for years.

Today, riding my bike home from work, I encountered a couple walking east on 40th Avenue with a pair of corgis.

I didn't have to think hard to know what to say: “Well, they're heading in the right direction if they're off to see the queen.”

Always gets a laugh. Today was no different.

But I couldn't help noticing that the dogs didn't think it was all that funny.

Here's Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth.

The perfect gift for the EWU grad/GU fan

This shirt actually refers to a private high school in our nation's capital. Go Gonzaga Eags!

Multiple choice

If you find yourself thinking “Didn't I just do this?” when going about the annual task of replacing the old proof-of-insurance paperwork that you keep in your cars' glove compartments, it probably means…

A) You are leading a full, rich life. B) You are getting old and the years are going by at a fast-forward speed. C) You DID just do it (your insurance company sent duplicates by mistake). D) You have somehow plunged into a rift in the space-time continuum. E) Other. 

What’s your favorite movie featuring…

…at least one swimming pool scene.

If Silverwood ran ads like this one…

…and Superman was unavailable, who could they get as a celebrity spokesperson?

Just wondering

How do you react when you are watching TV and that ASPCA commercial comes on featuring Sarah McLachlan and her haunting song, “Angel”?

And those scenes of caged cats and dogs.

If you are unmoved, I would, to paraphrase a classic scene in “Tootsie”, beg you to get some therapy.

“You are pulled from the wreckage

“Of your silent reverie

“You're in the arms of the angel

“May you find some comfort here.”

New faces, reporting to you live

Several readers have asked how my self-imposed boycott of local TV news is going.

It's going fine. Now the only people I have to deal with who assume I share their insane view of what constitutes a nice day are those I encounter in person.

A few of my correspondents report that turnover at Spokane's TV news operations has been remarkable lately. I wouldn't know. But I hope the people who moved on are doing OK.   

How many times have you dropped it?

If this happens in a carpeted area, it's no big deal. But if your watch TV in a room that has wood floors, you eventually come to appreciate that these remote controls are pretty rugged.

Adventures of the masked fact-checker

Spokane's Cooper Elementary School is named after novelist James Fenimore Cooper.

But the writer's name is misspelled on the school's website.

Let it bleed

In 1966, in certain corners of our great land, a fair number of young American males felt they absolutely had to have madras shirts in their summertime sartorial lineup.

Most prized were the garments said to run or “bleed” in certain soaking circumstances. Can't remember how exactly you were supposed to wash those. 

People Who Lived Here as Kids Dept.

But not for very long.

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About this blog

Features writer Paul Turner is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review in the Features department. He writes "The Slice" column, which appears six times a week and produces general features stories for the Today section.

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