May 5, 2011 in City, Idaho

Clark: Queue up organ, refueling tankers for Depot Day

By The Spokesman-Review
 

(Today’s column is the first of yet another two-part* road trip adventure.)

(*Presuming the home equity loan I applied for goes through in time to pay for the fuel, that is.)

Aw, I don’t want to be a whiner.

But gas was dirt cheap when I accepted Rick Shaffer’s invitation to drive my ’67 Vista Cruiser station wagon to Wallace this weekend. He asked me to take part in the historic mining town’s annual Depot Day celebration.

And by dirt cheap I mean like, oh, three bucks a gallon.

Who knew the price of petroleum would climb higher than Charlie Sheen atop Old Crack Candy Mountain?

But I won’t let a little thing like insolvency keep me from missing out on Depot Day.

This great event commemorates the 1986 moving of the gorgeous Northern Pacific Railroad depot. The depot was moved 200 feet due to freeway construction over Wallace instead of through Wallace. Depot Day features a classic car show and other civic merriment, as well.

Rick should know. He’s the self-proclaimed “prime minister” of Wallace and runs the Wallace Inn where we will be bunking.

We?

Yes, once again I have coerced my buddy and bandmate, Joe Brasch, into playing Thelma to my Louise.

( Maybe I should have said Starsky to my Hutch.)

Last year, you might recall, we journeyed north to Republic.

Joe drove the Vista Guzzler in the Prospectors Days parade while I played the newsprint pontiff, waving at the crowd and yelling, “I absolve you” and “Bless you!”

Later we uncased our guitars and played a few tunes at a grassy gathering.

This time we head 81 miles east into the scenic Silver Valley.

On Friday (6 to 9 p.m.), we will perform at the Red Light Garage, which is owned and operated by Jamie Baker, an old high school friend, and his wife, Barbara.

I consider myself to be a serious representative of the Lilac City wherever I go. That’s why you can count on me to sing some of my original hometown-oriented tunes, such as “The Gypsy Curse,” “The Ballad of Otto Zehm” and “The Spokane Song.”

Not all of my music is Spok-centric, however.

We also do the “Duane B. Hagadone Blues,” always a North Idaho crowd pleaser.

I’m donating the proceeds and tips from my warbling to the Second Harvest Food Bank on behalf of the ninth annual Spokane Street Music Week.

( Mark your calendars, buskers. This year’s event takes place June 13-17, during the noon hours in downtown Spokane.)

On Saturday, Joe and I plan to mingle among the Wallacites, plus do whatever the Depot Day despots demand. I’ll regale you with what happens in my Sunday column.

What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, according to Joe.

After agreeing to join me, he told this hair-raising story about his last gig in Wallace. He says he nearly died while motoring up Fourth of July Pass. It had something to do with his car being damaged by the trailer he was pulling and yada yada …

Quite frankly, I wasn’t listening too closely until Joe threw in the following detail:

He was driving his family’s Vista Cruiser.

( Pause for dramatic organ music.)

I’ve always thought of Wallace as one of the area’s greatest little towns.

Once upon a time it was a brash and bawdy burg, with city-sanctioned bordellos and saloons galore.

Wallace was home to hard-rock miners, speculators, lumberjacks, merchants and silver barons.

Heck, even Wyatt Earp once rambled through Wallace.

Those days are long gone, of course.

The Wallace of today is a true tourist destination with antique shops, great sturdy old buildings and plenty of good food.

There is still a brothel, but it’s only a museum.

Wallace has softened but not at the expense of its integrity.

“It’s a town of tradition and character and it never forgot its history,” said Dave Bond, another one of my Ferris High School pals, who has long called the Silver Valley home.

Dave loves Wallace as much as anyone I know. So I called him Wednesday to ask the following question:

What makes Wallace Wallace?

“One of the endearing characteristics of Wallace is its self-deprecating sense of humor,” he said, after a bit of jawboning.

“We don’t even patch our bullet holes.”

Bingo!

That’s the same sort of humor that led some townies to declare a spot in the middle of downtown Wallace as the “Center of the Universe.”

The Center of the Universe?

Come on. Who wouldn’t want to go there?

( Will Doug, Joe and Vista Guzzler perish on the pass? Or will they make it all the way to Depot Day? And why are so many of Doug’s ancient high school chums hiding out in Wallace? That does seem quite odd, when you think about it. Stay tuned Sunday for the conclusion of our road trip adventure.)

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


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