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This column reflects the opinion of the writer. Learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column.

Paul Turner: May 4 is a day of beginnings and marked the opening of Expo ’74

It doesn’t have to be declared a holiday.

The local calendar is already a bit busy at this time of year.

But Friday could still be a special day in Spokane. Even if it is not anointed with official status.

Mark it down. Maybe you could claim it for your own.

You see, May 4 is the day Expo ’74 started. And it has long seemed to me that it would be the perfect date for launching something new and exciting in Spokane.

Or starting your own self-improvement regimen. That’s always exciting, right?

Want to lose 10 pounds or start going to bed earlier? You could do worse than to begin reinventing yourself on May 4.

Of course, people who actually know a thing or two about behavior modification might tell you that’s not how lasting change happens. That is why New Year’s resolutions almost always fail.

You don’t just say, “Starting tomorrow, I am going to stop smoking.”

It’s better to have a well thought out plan and specific strategies for success.

But May 4th magic might be just right for modest endeavors. More on that in a moment.

OK, I know what you’re thinking.

“Expo? Good grief, man. Give it a rest. You’re living in the past.”

Perhaps. I’ve heard that before.

But I’ve long been fascinated with Expo ’74, even though I was on the other side of the country at the time of the fair.

Expo had bold ambition, optimism and Nixon.

That’s right. As you know, Richard Nixon was here in Spokane on May 4 to officially open the world’s fair. And the fact he would be forced to resign from office three months later makes the idea of him standing by the river and sleepwalking through a speech about the environment seem almost surreal.

Or at least weird.

And wouldn’t you like to see strait-laced Spokane celebrate weirdness? At least a little?

Portland doesn’t have exclusive rights to it, you know.

So really, what would be the best way to observe May 4 here?

As Johnny Mathis noted a time or two, it’s not for me to say.

But I will, once again, be striving for personal perfection. Maybe it will happen this time.


I was visiting with my colleague Dan Pelle the other morning and we agreed that someone else’s hate mail makes for far more entertaining reading than notes of praise.

Think about it. When perusing a magazine, which do you enjoy more: Letters to the editor full of applause for the publication’s excellence or pointed questions about the staff’s sanity?

With that in mind, I thought I would share snippets of a couple of my recent emails.

My column poking fun at the concept of 1960s grade-school classroom monitors – I called them snitches – elicited a number of appreciative notes from readers nodding in recognition. But the email that really got my attention had a different perspective altogether. It started this way.

“Mr. Turner,

“I was much saddened by your article today. Children need to be taught law and order. Children need to know there are consequences to their actions.”

It went on. I wrote the gentleman back and said his was a unique takeaway on that particular column. He replied with an indictment of contemporary society. But he was civil throughout.

And the column about some Spokane bike riders being jerks generated a fair amount of feedback. But I’m guessing it was my casting aspersions on the National Rifle Association – same column – that prompted one reader to offer this advice.

“Mr. Turner,

“It would be nice if you kept your personal bias to yourself!!”

The thing is, that’s not really what columnists do.

Sign of aging

It’s getting harder and harder to have a decent conversation about Secretariat.

It’s not that the records-shattering 1973 Triple Crown winner has been forgotten. He hasn’t. It’s just that some of us who do remember the Wonder Horse now work in offices largely staffed by men and women too young to have watched him win those races in thrilling fashion.

Oh, I know. There’s always YouTube. But believe me, it’s not the same.

Knowing you were part of a nation of viewers on their hands and knees in front of their TVs, pounding on the floor as Secretariat flicked on the afterburners, well, it was something. You had to be there.

The Kentucky Derby is Saturday. Maybe this year’s winner will break Big Red’s record. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

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