Any boob with a camera can snap a picture of a courthouse or a clock tower. It takes a keen, professional eye to spot the architectural significance of a rusty corrugated metal hangar like “Buds Tires.”
Fortunately for humanity, George Goetzman has just such an eye.
The Coeur d’Alene photographer has trained that eye on some of the area’s funkier landmarks that he displays in his custom line of note cards.
The folks at the Hallmark Company probably don’t have cause for alarm.
Goetzman, 48, sells the cards at only a few select locations for $2 each. He views his enterprise as more of a hobby, a change of pace from taking portraits and photographing weddings.
Anyone with a soft spot for the seedy and the sublime will applaud the photographer’s efforts to immortalize places that may not make a Chamber of Commerce brochure.
For example, next time you drop a line to a lover, why not pour your heart out on a card that displays the tacky splendor of Sam’s Pit?
What a conversation piece. Sam’s, the infamous roadhouse at E528 Second, was closed by Spokane police because of drug activity. It was also endorsed by County Commissioner Steve Hasson as a fine place to munch late night cornbread.
How about Dick’s drive-in? Few locals would disagree that Dick’s, E10 Third, is as fine a Spokane landmark as the Davenport Hotel.
One of Goetzman’s cards is a loving tribute to the towering Dick’s “Hamburgers Buy The Bagfull” marquee.
“Back in the 1950s, franchises began to spread everywhere,” laments Goetzman, a wiry, thoughtful man with a salt and pepper beard.
“Things became standardized. Today, every town has so much that looks the same as any other town.”
His cards are a reaction to the cloned fast-food joints and boxy multiplex theaters that have sprouted across the country like noxious weeds.
“When you see a place like Dolly’s,” he adds, “you can’t help but feel good.”
Goetzman is talking about Dolly’s Corner Cafe, N1825 Washington, a wonderful 1920s era diner with pink and green trim.
Who knows how long such a place will survive before some developer with dollar signs for eyeballs turns it into the next McBurger or Quickie Mart.
So many of our beloved icons are already gone: I’m told the Rocket drive-in in Post Falls, with its way-cool neon rocket ship sign, was torn down to make room for a - gasp - Chinese restaurant.
Spokane old-timers remember with great fondness the giant green ONB letters that glowed from atop the Old National Bank building in downtown Spokane.
Do I need remind anyone that Spokane’s last drive-in theater bit the biscuit last year.
“My friends in Coeur d’Alene go out and hunt for elk,” adds Goetzman. “I go out and hunt for these interesting places to photograph.”
Among his cards are photographs of the Spragpole, a rustic cafe and mining museum in Murray, Idaho, and the Oasis, a bordello-turnedmuseum in beautiful downtown Wallace.
Goetzman was driving through Western Washington not long ago when the dirt-encrusted ambiance of the above-mentioned Buds Tires loomed before him like an open sore.
Buds is a place littered with random piles of oversized used tires, scarred machinery and the patches of sunburned weeds. Those with conventional tastes wouldn’t give a second look to such a blemish on the landscape.
Goetzman, however, jammed his foot on the brake. He steadied his camera like a sniper. Before you could say, “cheese,” he had bagged another scenic addition to his note cards.
“I try to document those little bits of America that are fading away,” says Goetzman. “I don’t make much money at it, but it gets me out. I like that.”
MEMO: Goetzman’s cards can be found at Boo Radleys and Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane and at Booksellers and Partners in Coeur d’Alene.