September 24, 2013 in Features

The Slice: Lilac City an anchor in old west

By The Spokesman-Review
 

You just never know when you might stumble onto a Spokane reference.

A colleague of mine was reading “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” Daniel James Brown’s much-praised account of a University of Washington eight-oar crew that changed competitive rowing in this country.

So my friend is reading along and discovers that the young man described on the book jacket as “the emotional heart of the story,” Joe Rantz, was born in Spokane and lived here as a child.

Here’s how Brown describes the Lilac City that Rantz’s parents moved to from Pennsylvania in 1906.

“In many ways Spokane was not then far removed from the rough-and-tumble lumber town it had been in the nineteenth century. Located where the cold, clear Spokane River tumbled in a white froth over a series of low falls, the town was surrounded by ponderosa pine forest and open range country. The summers were crackling hot, the air dry and perfumed with the vanilla scent of ponderosa bark. In the autumn towering brown dust storms sometimes blew in from the rolling wheat country to the west. The winters were bitter cold, the springs stingy and slow in coming. And on Saturday nights all year round, cowboys and lumberjacks crowded the downtown bars and honky-tonks, swilled whiskey, and tumbled, brawling, out into the city’s streets.”

The author then allows that, partly because of the railroad, a “more genteel” population was changing the face of the “thriving” city.

The Rantz family moved into a house at 1023 E. Nora Ave., and that’s where Joe was born in March 1914.

I don’t know about you. But I take pride in living in a city with “rough-and-tumble” in its DNA.

Warm-up question: If the mission statement on your employee ID badge has faded to invisibility, does that mean you are now existentially adrift at work or do you suppose you might be able to muddle through?

Today’s Slice question: How many people in the Spokane area were born where they were in large part because of the United States Air Force?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email pault@spokesman.com. The doodles you make during a meeting could be alarming to those seated next to you.

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