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You weren’t there? Well, let me tell you …

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

And you know what that means?

That means anyone who is, oh, 30-some years of age or younger will once again hear old timers like me regurgitating our volcanic reminiscences, and say …

“Oh, gawd. Not again.”

Yes, there is now a huge army of Northwest residents who are too young to know Mount St. Helens from a Tridentine convent.

And they are fed up to the gills with hearing us yak and yak about the dark and roiling skies and all the pale ash that sent the entire region into a dusty freaking tizzy.

And to you whippersnappers, I say …

Tough darts!

It is part of life’s natural order for the elders to bore the pants off the young.

Ah, I remember how the eyes of my own children would glaze over upon hearing my annual dissertation on where I was when news broke that JFK had been assassinated.

Did that stop me?

(Franklin Elementary School. The classroom across from the office.)

Of course not.

I’ll bet that as the decades passed after Lincoln was shot, America’s post-Civil War boomers began saying:

“Enough with the John Wilkes Booth, already. We get it. Sic semper tyrannis. Yada yada yada!”

So what I’d like to do now is use a few modern examples that will hopefully educate the young and ignorant on how big of a deal Mount St. Helens was.

•Example 1 – Remember how shocked we all were when KREM-TV got rid of Nadine Woodward?

Well, Mount St. Helens was more like Randy Shaw getting tossed off KREM – for delivering the evening news naked!

•Example 2 – Remember how stunned we all were to hear that Michael Jackson had expired?

Mount St. Helens was like hearing that the tour bus carrying the entire Jackson 5 had exploded after being hit by an asteroid.

•Example 3 – You know how our local television weathercasters go completely ape No. 2 the first time it snows every year?

Hmm. Come to think of it that’s a very apt analogy for just how bonkers we all became after Mount St. Helens blew its stack.

So you can see why we can’t leave this volcano thing alone.

We Mount St. Helens alumni will keep telling and retelling our moldy old ash stories until we’re long gone and turning to ash ourselves.

Speaking of which, did you ever hear the one about how I tried to turn the ashfall into a windfall?

I cut my friend Bob in on my plan. My pitch went something like …

“We’ll sell souvenir ash to the ashless masses and we’ll be rich, rich, RICH!!!”

This being an age long before eBay, my idea was to market St. Helens ash via national magazine ads.

And so we got to work. Okay, so mainly Bob got to work.

As the self-proclaimed CEO, I put myself in charge of marketing and assigned Bob to our one-man collection department.

I’ll never forget the afternoon I walked down to the Coeur d’Alene tennis courts. I found my business partner scraping an ash-coated court with a large window squeegee. He had this bright red bandanna tied over his face that made me think of Jesse James.

I called Bob the “Ash Bandit” and then doubled over in a giggling fit.

Alas, we soon discovered the harsh realities of capitalism:

A. National magazine ads were way too expensive for our meager budget. B. Even if we had money, a horde of other ash hawkers had beaten us to the punch.

So we didn’t even try.

Our ash-filled garbage bags wound up in my woodshed until I finally paid a ratty guy with a pickup to haul them all away.

I ask you: How do you let go of memories like that?

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at

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