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Sunday, April 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Before he was Dirty Harry, he was Spokane’s Clinton Jr.

Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank have more than just an Oscar-winning movie in common.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank have more than just an Oscar-winning movie in common. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

As I was saying …

My plan this week was to walk up the steps to 623 E. 19th Ave., knock on the door and say, “Did you know Clint Eastwood lived in your house?”

I hope you’ll forgive me for changing my plans. Not knowing the plowing schedule for East 19th, I was afraid if I ventured onto that street, I might find myself bogged down there until March when the search-and-rescue people would find my frozen …

What? What’s that?

I hear the faint but unmistakable sounds of readers screaming, “Get to the point about Clint Eastwood living in the Rockwood-Hutton neighborhood, already!”

So, if I may continue, I phoned 623 E. 19th Ave. instead of showing up in person.

“Hello,” answered the current resident, Robin Guevara.

“Did you know Clint Eastwood lived in your house?” I asked, dispensing with the small talk.

There was a pause.

“Well, I think somebody mentioned it once,” Guevara said. “But I really don’t know much about it.”

She can be forgiven (as opposed to “Unforgiven”), because hardly anybody knows much about Eastwood’s Spokane sojourn. It wasn’t exactly a formative experience in Eastwood’s life. It was more like a brief detour on the dusty Eastwood trail.

Or to put it another way: Even Eastwood barely remembers it. But at least he’s aware of his modest Spokane roots, citing them himself in a 2000 TV Guide interview.

“I was born in the Depression,” Eastwood told the magazine. “It was a tough era. People didn’t have any money. We traveled from San Francisco to Sacramento to Spokane and down to Pacific Palisades.”

When I first read that interview, I dived directly into the back volumes of the Spokane City Directory. There, in the 1932 volume, I found his parents, Clinton Eastwood and wife Ruth, living at 623 E. 19th Ave.

Little Clinton Jr., born in 1930, would have been a mere toddler.

Author Richard Schickel explains it all in his book, “Clint Eastwood: A Biography.” Clint’s dad was out of work. His brother-in-law, Melvin Runner, gave him a job in his Spokane refrigeration business. The job lasted little more than a year – apparently not a fun-filled year.

Schickel quotes Eastwood’s mom as saying, “Working for one’s wife’s brother is not the most wonderful thing in the world.”

By the time the 1933 Spokane City Directory was compiled, the Eastwoods were gone. They’d moved back to California. Little Clint never came back, except on the big screen with a .44-caliber Magnum in his mitts.

I bring this up as Exhibit A in the surprisingly fruitful field of study you might call, “You’ll Never Guess Who Used to Live Here for Five Minutes.”

As Exhibit B, we have Darren McGavin, who played the lamp-obsessed father (“The Old Man”) in “A Christmas Story.” He lived here as an infant in 1922, at 2938 N. Cook St. By some accounts, he was born here.

Then there’s Hilary Swank, who won an Oscar playing opposite Eastwood in “Million Dollar Baby.” She lived in Spokane for a few years as a kid, making “Million Dollar Baby” an all-Spokane movie in a way – a very, very small way.

Clint also won a Best Director Oscar for that movie, and he is getting more Oscar buzz for his new movie, “Gran Torino.” I’m pleased to report that Robin Guevara, who has lived in the old Eastwood house for 20 years, is a Clint fan.

“Oh, yes,” Guevara said. “He has a lot to offer.”

So maybe we can talk her into putting up a plaque at 623 E. 19th Ave., saying, “Clint Eastwood Slept Here.”

Or at least, “Little Clint Jr. Had Nap Time Here.”

Jim Kershner’s column will appear Saturdays in this space. He can be reached at (509) 459-5493 or by e-mail at jimk@spokesman.com.

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