Next Saturday Steven Gregory hopes you will help kick off the summer with a parade honoring a legend of Lake Coeur d’Alene. As chairman of the Fred Murphy Days parade, Gregory sees the theme, “A Fiesta of Dreams,” as an upbeat outlook on the summer.
The first major parade of summer has horses, llamas, floats, motorcycles, Coeur d’Alene and Lake City marching bands, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Shriners and much more, says Gregory. Beginning at 15th Street and Sherman Avenue, the parade travels through downtown, ending at Sherman Avenue and Government Way.
Official marshals for this year’s parade are Dick and Shirlee Wandrocke. Gregory says they are “great philanthropists and do so much for the community without asking for recognition.”
Fred Murphy was a philanthropist in his own right, doing much for the community on the lake. Harold Rhoades, another well-known resident of Coeur d’Alene during the early development of the lake community, referred to Murphy as “Mr. Lake Coeur d’Alene,” in Tom Emerson’s book, “Fred Murphy; A Legend of Lake Coeur d’Alene.”
Emerson’s research reported Murphy helping his fellow man often and frequently without pay. He aided migrants during the Depression by buying firewood for his steamships and delivering free food to them along his route. He was recognized by the Boy Scouts of America for work on the Scouts’ Camp Easton on the lake.
Murphy lived an interesting and varied life in North Idaho. Many know he was a boat pilot on Lake Coeur d’Alene, but, as his close friend Tom Emerson documented, he did much more than run boats.
Here are some interesting facts reported in Emerson’s book about the man with a parade still held in his honor, 18 years after his death.
• Murphy’s father was a steamboat captain on the Great Lakes and a harbor master in the Philippines before moving to Coeur d’Alene.
• Fred began steamboating with his father at age 9.
• By age 12 he could tear apart and reassemble a car engine.
• As a teenager, he built a snow sled from a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to ride on frozen Lake Coeur d’Alene.
• He was paid $25 to perform for crowds in front of the city beach by walking on tug lines between boats.
• As a kid, he built a full-size glider, crashing it on the first flight. He quit school in the eighth grade then was hired to operate a tugboat for the Coeur d’Alene Mill at 14.
• His first car was a 1914 Baby Saxon Racer.
• During the great flood of ‘33, he was credited with saving numerous human lives and two pigs.
• He eloped in 1934 at age 25 with 18-year-old Virginia Mason. The couple moved to a float house in Casco Bay.
• Fred and Virginia became caretakers of Dr. Smith’s log home in Casco Bay (now Duane Hagadone’s summer home – Fred arranged the sale to Hagadone to prevent a large commercial development in the area — to the delight of local residents).
• Virginia ice-skated across the lake to PTA meetings in Coeur d’Alene.
• Fred’s first tugboat was only 19 feet long – the smallest on the lake.
• Fred “spilled” the world champion log roller in a competiton.
• He watched the sternwheeler Flyer burn and sink on the lake, then salvaged the propeller 42 years later.
• He was a consultant for a Paul Newman movie, worked with Andy Griffith on a television show and built a lake monster for a convention.
• He saved his daughter from drowning in the lake, was a private pilot and crashed a seaplane on Lake Pend Oreille, and organized a sheriff’s posse to chase burglars of Lake Coeur d’Alene cabins.
• He took town residents to Turner Bay regularly for barn dances.
Fred Murphy died from drowning on January 12, 1986, on his and Virginia’s 52nd wedding anniversary, when his snow machine crashed through the ice in Casco Bay.
If asked how he was doing, Emerson said Murphy would often respond, “If I was doing any better, there would have to be two of me.”
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