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Jim Kershner’s This day in history

Sun., Oct. 23, 2011

From our archives, 100 years ago

Madame Lillian Nordica, one of the most famous operatic sopranos in the world, knew exactly how to charm the Spokane establishment.

First, she said she loved Spokane. She even declared herself to be “an old Spokanite” (even though she was from Maine). Then, walking downtown accompanied by reporters, she got into an argument with a radical Wobbly street-corner orator from Germany. She told him to “go back to your own country.”

“We are a progressive people here,” she told the man.

When the orator handed her an IWW songbook titled “Fanning the Flames of Discontent,” she asked him, “why not try to spread the flames of happiness?”

She also showed herself to be a breezy comedienne, at least in her own mind. When she got off the train at the Great Northern station, she saw a porter sweeping the platform. She grabbed the broom and said, “You do not know how to keep house – let me sweep it” and proceeded to kick up some dust.

She was in Spokane for a recital at the Auditorium theater. She would die in Java three years later, after a shipwreck.

Also on this date

(From the Associated Press)

1983: Two hundred forty-one U.S. service members were killed in a suicide truck-bombing at Beirut International Airport in Lebanon.

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