Hong Newman slowly slid toward the store’s floor until her splayed legs formed a straight line along the carpet.
“I came here empty-handed,” she said, as if she were standing in her kitchen. “I worked nights. I was offered a job as a bouncer.”
Hong, 50, wanted to make it on her own - and she did, using the same determination that has kept her strong and limber for karate.
“I never took welfare,” she said, rising with a gymnast’s ease. “I always worked hard.”
She never finished second grade. Hong grew up in Hue, South Vietnam, where families sent boys to school and raised girls for marriage.
Hong tried marriage. Her first two husbands died, each within two years of the wedding. The next two marriages ended in divorce, but got her to the United States in 1969 and around the world.
Somewhere along the line, she realized marriage was no safeguard. So she decided to take care of herself. She taught Oriental cooking, sewed and sold batik garments she had seen in her world travels, supplied martial arts equipment. She had learned karate as a child.
She learned enough in night school to operate a business, then opened a store. With money she earned from her store and night jobs as a cocktail waitress, Hong bought property in Coeur d’Alene.
Now, Oriental Gift and Food on Sherman Avenue stocks everything from souvenir plates of Priest Lake, ornate room dividers and glass fruit, to dried roasted seaweed and books like “The Code of the Samurai” and “The Deadly Routine.”
Hong has built up a loyal clientele. The T-shirts with Elvis hanging in her front window don’t thrill her upscale neighbors. But Hong doesn’t care. People buy them.
“I have ambition,” she said, flexing her arm to show matching strength. “People say I have to slow down. I can’t afford to get tired. I have work to do.”
There’s no reason people stuck at home can’t see the world. All they have to do is open a book - if they can get one. That’s where you come in. The Coeur d’Alene Public Library needs volunteers to choose and deliver books to homebound people.
What a great gift. Go to the training at 1 p.m. today or call 769-2315 and ask for Pat Laam.
Long trip home
I asked how you arrived in Coeur d’Alene and Wayne and Bobbi Manis told me. They passed through Coeur d’Alene in 1965 on their way to Pennsylvania and pined away for the town for the next 18 years. When the FBI had an opening here in 1983, Wayne pounced. Can you blame him?
Raise the roof
Running a non-profit preschool is no easy trick. But the parents at Kids Castle make it each year by working together. They run the school and help out in the classroom, making Kids Castle one of the only cooperative preschools in the state not part of a college or university.
The school is throwing its annual charity concert barn dance at the Lake City Senior Center Saturday . Kick up your heels to the music of Nick Schilling & Friends (yes, he’s one of the dads) and Rare Mountain Aire. Tickets are $8. Bring the kids. Call 667-8206.
No matter what it looks like outside now, in another month you’ll wish you’d started sooner with the toe touches, wind sprints and weights. Coeur d’Alene’s Spring Dash - one of my favorite events - is right around the corner. And so is softball season.
Maybe sweating and straining isn’t your idea of a good time. So what is your favorite springtime happening? Share it with Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene 83814; FAX to 765-7149; or call 765-7128 and we’ll talk about it.