Clark: Like freeway, I’m sky high over Wallace

(Last in a two-part road trip adventure.)

WALLACE – You always remember where you were when you first hear news of a mind-blowing nature.

The JFK assassination, say. I was sitting in my seventh-grade classroom.

Or last week’s announcement that we’d turned Osama bin Laden into fish food. I was in my den trying to watch “60 Minutes.”

Likewise, I’ll never forget Saturday’s bombshell.

I was with Joe Brasch, my amigo and bandmate. We were standing outside the “Red Room” of the Oasis Bordello Museum.

Then Linda Hornbuckle, our affable tour guide, delivered the following.

Until the doors closed in 1988, the Oasis women of negotiable virtue turned 20 to 40 tricks a night.

Oh, the whore-manity!

Who knew our journey to this famed North Idaho hamlet would be so, um, informative?

If you recall from Thursday’s column, I accepted an invitation to drive my ’67 Vista Cruiser to Wallace’s annual celebration of the day they moved the historic Northern Pacific Railroad depot 200 feet.

Townies call this party Depot Day, although “In Yer Face Day” works, too.

That’s because the depot was moved after local leaders like the late Harry Magnuson beat back the federal government’s attempt to build the freeway smack-dab though Wallace.

Which would have ripped the heart right out of this beautiful burg.

After a protracted legal battle, however, the freeway was built over Wallace. The ol’ depot was moved in 1986 to get out of the way.

Call it a double victory since the feds had to foot the bill for every inch of depot relocation, said Rick Shaffer.

Shaffer is the guy who invited me. He runs the Wallace Inn and calls himself the town’s “prime minister.”

Don’t scoff. Shaffer showed me the framed paperwork to prove it.

In 2005, Mayor Ronald Garitone actually declared Shaffer as Wallace prime minister and official greeter.

I’m sold. Shaffer’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Tall and lean, he wears a perpetual smile on his mug, and there’s nothing forced about his love for Wallace – it’s a natural expression.

What a great trip.

Brasch and I rumbled into Wallace on Friday afternoon. That night we played some music at Jamie and Barbara Bakers’ great Red Light Garage, raising more than $300 for Second Harvest food bank.

The Vista Guzzler, I’m happy to report, made the trip without incident.

I am unhappy to report that we noticed the telltale smell of burned petroleum while lugging and laboring up Fourth of July Pass.

Guess I’d better get that checked.

On Saturday, Shaffer took us on a casual tour through town, pointing out the now-closed bordellos and other places of interest.

Depot Day was a bustling scene with dozens and dozens of fine classic cars parked all over town. And one Vista Cruiser.

At Sixth and Cedar, Shaffer pointed at some upper-floor windows on two buildings.

Back in the old days, he said, men with machine guns would be stationed up there to protect the armored cars that rolled in and out with regularity.

There was plenty to protect.

Wallace, after all, is the municipal hub of the Silver Valley, the planet’s largest silver-producing mine district.

This place ranks pretty damned high for color and character, too.

“When I came here in ’92 there were 13 bars and 13 churches,” said Shaffer.

“So you knew where everybody was on Saturday night and Sunday morning.”

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

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