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Then and Now: Riverside and Howard once patrolled by father, then son

Charles Francis Cole and his son Denzil Howard Cole came to Spokane in 1905. Both became Spokane police officers and spent significant time patrolling and directing traffic on the corner of Riverside and Howard.

While a photograph of the first street car in Spokane is dated 1888, “traffic” came to include a combination of automobiles, streetcars and horses.

With streetcar rail lines rapidly expanding to promote property sales, and runaway horses on the rise, the lack of local traffic laws led to an 1892 ordinance citing a maximum horse speed limit of 6 miles per hour. No automobile-related traffic laws were written at the time, however, and the roads became even more dangerous as car traffic rose. Charles, born in 1872, and later Denzil, born in 1895, spent their careers on the police force directing the chaotic traffic.

Known to his friends as Doc, Charles spent nine years patrolling Riverside and Howard before becoming a school safety patrol officer. He was such a dedicated police officer that when he suffered a heart attack in 1929 and then a stroke and was forced to retire, he continued to work to get better and in 1931 staged a comeback, petitioning for reinstatement.

His dedication was passed down to Denzil, who spent 13 years on that same corner and 25 years on the force.

Denzil was a beat cop known to the neighborhood as “the friendly cop on the corner who often parked (people’s) cars and assisted them into doctors’ offices.” He patrolled the No. 2 beat on Riverside and drove the first one-way radio patrol car in Spokane. In 1935, he helped bring back night sticks to the police force.

Charles died in 1942 and Denzil died in 1993, at the age of 97.

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