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Doug Clark: Defending one’s doggone Dogtown rights

File this one under the heading:

Some People Really Do Get Their Shorts in a Twist Over the Silliest Things.

In this case it’s Jim Hedley with the twisted undies.

The 75-year-old landlord is hotter than a Tabasco factory over the business name that tenant Mike Ferguson affixed to the broad, beige building that Hedley owns at Market and Olympic, deep in the heart of Hillyard.

“Dogtown Auction Company,” reads the signage.

Hedley, for the record, is not bothered by the backward “N” that was accidentally installed in the word auction.

What Hedley loathes is the public display of Dogtown.

True, there was a time when the D-word was a mean insult.

My friend Tony Bamonte, a historian, confirmed that Dogtown was meant to defame those humble, canine-owning residents who lived east of the tracks in this rail-based community in northeast Spokane.

But this stuff happened long, long ago.

Tell it to Hedley. In his mind the insult is as fresh as ever.

During a Wednesday phone call, he outlined two basic choices that he’s giving Ferguson:

Eighty-six Dogtown, or get evicted.

“I want him to get rid of that name,” he added. “It drags everything down.”

Believing the rental contract gives him such authority, Hedley had his attorney send Ferguson a formal ultimatum early last month.

“To cure the default, you are required to remove all signage that you have installed without our clients’ consent within thirty (30) days from the date of this notice and, thereafter, obtain our clients’ consent prior to installing any additional signage upon the premises.”

Lawyers. Don’t you just love ’em?

A veteran in the antiques and collectibles trade, Ferguson is unfazed and “ready to spend money” to defend his Dogtown rights.

In other words, this chaos in a crockpot could get quite interesting.

“Nobody in his right mind would want the name Dogtown,” scoffed Hedley.

“It’s so damned derogatory; it’s terrible.”

Language, however, can mean different things to different folks.

Ferguson, for example, claims to love Hillyard just as much as Hedley does.

To the tenant, Dogtown has a hip, irreverent vibe.

This point of pride is evidenced on the black T-shirts that sell like flapjacks at the auction company for a mere 5 bucks each.

“Do Not Arrest This Person,” declares large, white script on the shirtfront.

The back features a stogie-chomping bulldog along with “Dogtown Auction Company” followed by “Hillyard Tough.”

Sorry, Jim. I couldn’t help myself.

I bought one.

While I think Hedley’s barking up the wrong fireplug, I enjoyed talking with such a frank, straight-shooting guy.

I almost split a gut, in fact, when Hedley greeted me with a boisterous, “What the hell do you want?” just after I identified myself.

But all this fuss over the word Dogtown is a complete overreaction.

Even Mr. Hillyard – aka Paul Hamilton – thinks so.

Hamilton, an Allstate insurance agent, has been heavily involved with the makeover that turned ragged Hillyard into a cool historic district and shop-laden neighborhood that is fun to visit.

Why, some of my most cherished treasures were purchased in Hillyard. Namely, my Expo ’74 coffeepot that serves 40 except it’s way too mint to defile with use.

There’s no doubting where Hamilton’s loyalties lie. He’s a Rogers High grad, Class of ’75, a former wrestling champ, and volunteer with the local community center and Greater Hillyard Business Association.

“I was born in Dogtown,” he told me, adding that his nickname in high school was “Hamildog.”

Don’t misunderstand. He knows some people will never be OK with Dogtown. Even his own mother hates it, he added.

That said, Hamilton supports an “owner of a business being able to name his business whatever he wants.”

Translation: You may rule the roost in Hillyard, Hedley, but it’s still America, too.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.