Monday, December 28, 2009

28 December in Idaho History

1903    First Coeur d'Alene & Spokane Railway electric line train arrives in Coeur d'Alene

D.C. Corbin and associates created the Coeur d'Alene Railway and Navigation Company in 1886 with the backing of the Northern Pacific Railway.  Corbin's plans included two lines, the first was a branch line from the NP main line at Hauser Junction through Post Falls and on to Coeur d'Alene where it would connect with the steamboats.  This was the first railway in Coeur d'Alene.

In 1902 the Coeur d'Alene & Spokane Railway Company was started by lumberman F.A. Blackwell and banker Wiliam Dollar and planned an electric interurban railay btween the two growing towns.  On December 28, 1903 the first electric line train arrived in Coeur d'Alene and was greeted by hundreds of people.
The "electric line" was a pivitol key in the development of Coeur d'Alene as a tourist destination.  The line became very popular, especially in summer months as tourists combined the rail trip with a steamboat excursion on the lake.  In July of 1907, over 100,000 passengers made the trip from Spokane.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Playland Pier Follow-up part 2, the Carousel

You can find a photo of the old carousel at the bottom of this page.  Note the paintings around the top, yes, that's Cataldo Mission.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Playland Pier follow-up

Following up on last week's anniversary of Playland Pier burning, here's another photo from the mid 50's.  This page was scaned from one of the old North Idaho Fun Guides (forerunners of the Guide to North Idaho) and also features an ad for the nearby Templin's Grill.

Of note here is that Playland Pier would allow free use of the changing rooms along the waterfront boardwalk for tourists.  All they had to do was present a key from one of the local hotels,  You could even rent a towel for ten cents and a bathing suit for a quarter. By the early 60's the changing rooms were gone along with the small concession at beach level. 

City beach wasn't very safe by today's standards but a lot of fun at the time.  It wasn't unusual to have boom logs float into the swim area and while rusty spikes and huge splintered logs presented a hazard, it didn't stop kids from creating makeshift boats, docks and diving platforms out of them.

It was a great place and still is.

December 22 in Idaho History

December 22, 1864:  The second Legislature of Idaho Territory creates Kootenai County from the north end of Nez Perce County.

What is now Kootenai County was one considered part of Oregon Country (1803-1848), Oregon territory (1848-1853), Washington Territory (1853-1863), Idaho Territory (1863-1890) and finally Idaho when we became a state in 1890.

The original boundaries of Kootenai County were above the 48th Parallel, bordering present day Washington on the west, Montana on the wast and Canada on the north.  Of note is the present Kootenai County was not included, now located south of the 48th Parallel.

The original county seat was Senaquoteen, a small trading post located on the south shore of the Clark Fork River and later changed to Pend Oreille opposite the present town of Laclede. At the time Seaquoteen was the only settlement in Idaho territory north of Lewiston.  All that remains is an old graveyard.

Stay tuned for more history, trivia and legends about North Idaho.

Friday, December 18, 2009

This Day in History, Dec 18, 1975 Playland Pier Burns

On the night of December 18, 1975, the vacated Playland Pier (known as the Barbary Coast for the previous few years before it went out of business) accidently on purpose burnt down.  It was the end of an era and forever changed the face of Coeur d'Alene's waterfront and City Beach.

In 1941 the Coeur d'Alene Lakeside Development Company introduced plans to build an amusement park on the east end of City Beach.  Over 20,000 cubic yards of fill had been hauled in and in the summer of 1942 Playland Pier was open for business.

Playland Pier offered a number of rides and attractions including (over it's tenure) a Merry-go-round, Ferris Wheel, bumper cars, miniature train, small roller coaster called the Hey-Day, revolving swing ride, Loop-o-plane and a penny arcade. Between Coeur d'Alene's history as a tourist and vacation destination and with the opening of Farragut Naval Training Station, Playland Pier became a hugely popular place.

The rides, while by today's standards are now considered pretty tame, were grat thrill rides of their day.  The Merry-go-round (which still exists and was once, and may still, be considered for a return to CdA) was always popular with kids of all ages.  Bumper cars didn't often run in later years but caused a line when they did.  And what may have been the most popular was the Swing (far right in the abve photo) which, when operation, swung the riders out over the waters of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

In the arcade were a couple Mutoscopes (hand cranked "motion" picture viewers) featuring things like a fan dancer and a snake eating a chicken, .02 cent vending machines where you could get post cards of movie stars and custom cars, skee ball machines and shooting games where, when hit, the bear would stand, growl and turn around.  My favorite was a penny-a-ball soccer game with steel balls (which, try as we may, never broke the glass case).

There was also a snack bar, souvenir stand and carnival games like balloon darts.  Below the pier and facing the lake were changing rooms that could be rented although those were removed in the late 50's.

By the mid-60's Playland Pier started to run down and in the early 70's was known more for a place the deliquent kids hung out.  Most days only a couple rides were running and many amusements had been hauled away or were broken.  Ownership had changed as did the name to Barbary Coast.  Little was done in the way of upkeep and the owners slowly started to cherry-pick what they wanted and took it away.

In 1973 the City of Coeur d'Alene was beginning a park improvement plan.  The land never belonged to the concessionaires and when they finaly pulled the plug the land, and remaining buildings, returned to The City of Coeur d'Alene.  The timing was perfect.

The City slowly started to dismantle Playland Pier and after everything of value (copper pipes, etc.) was removed the buildings were left for the wrecking ball.  On December 17 a small fire broke out in a building but went out.  The next night the whole place went up in flames.  The fire department sort of eyed it as a practice burn when they arrived, what was there to "save"?  In the end, the City was saved thousands of dollars just cleaning up after the fire rather than have it torn apart and hauled away.

America's Bi-centennial was 1976 and what is now known as Independence Point was dedicated.  The spot is now as popular as it ever was and is a prime location to soak up the sun, watch fireworks and view the swim portion on Ironman CdA.

But the memories live on.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gravity Hill

Growth has changed North Idaho in many ways.  One of them is the loss of places where young lovers could park and make out.  So many of those secret little spots are now improved roads, businesses and housing.  But there were also spots you could go just to impress your girlfriend, too.  One of those was Gravity Hill. 

Gravity Hill?  There are examples across the country but one local spot was up a dirt road in the hills south of Post Falls.  It was a place where you could stop your car, put it in neutral and have your car roll uphill.

Of course it was an optical illusion, but a darn good one.  The road looked like you were going downhill but your car was rolling the wrong way.  And taking a girl there for the first time left her with an amazed and (usually) delighted impression that you were a clever and in-the-know sort of guy and she sat just a little closer to you on that bench seat.  Yes kids, cars used to have bench seats!

I haven't been back to Gravity Hill in well over 30 years and doubt I could even find it anymore.  Even so, there's a good chance that has changed and the illusion of rolling uphill is long gone.  But it's another good memory of growing up in North Idaho.

If you remember or know of any Gravity Hill's out there anywhere, let me know.  There's a little guy that I'd love to take to one.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 15 in Idaho History, Shoshone County

December 15, 1861:  Shoshone County created.

Shoshone County was officialy established on February 4, 1864 with its county seat in Pierce, Idaho. Today, Pierce, Idaho is located in neighboring country, Clearwater County.  In 1885, the county seat was moved to Murray at the height of the gold rush there.  It was later moved to Osborn (now spelled Osburn) in 1890.  In 1893, it was moved to its current location of Wallace, Idaho.  Shoshone County was named after the Shoshoni Indian tribe.

The land area of Shoshone County is 2,640 square miles, approximately 640 square miles larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island.  The population of this large county is small; the 2000 census indicated only 13,771 people lived there with an average of five people for every square mile.  The tallest mountain in the area, Stevens Peak, is located south of Mullan and is approximately 7,000 feet in height.

The photo above points to the known center of the universe at 6th & Bank Streets in Wallace.  OK, actually it's just a manhole cover.  But for all we know....

Friday, December 11, 2009

North Idaho Urban Legends, Underground Rivers

Is there really an underground river between Lake Coeur d'Alene and Hayden Lake?  Or is it between Hayden and Pend O'reille?  Or is it just a really great old story?  Decades ago the story was heard a lot.  Perhaps science has quelled the mystery, bummer.

If you were a kid growing up in the 50's or 60's you knew the tale.  Or at least one version of it.  Yes, it was lore and legend of how the body of a man who drown in Lake Coeur d'Alene was discovered in Hayden Lake.  Or drown in Hayden and found in Pend O'reille?  Or any combination of these. Sometimes Priest Lake was even thrown into a version.

Now it s true that these lakes are connected in a way.  It's called the Rathdrum Aquifer.  Doubtful a body could move from one lake to another, but, the water itself is a different story.  There has to be H2O molecules that have seeped from Hayden into the aquifer.  Perhaps that same molecule is picked up by a City of Coeur d'Alene water pump.  And that same little molecule comes out a hose to wash a car.  Then that water flows down the gutter and into the storm drain where it eventualy ends up in Lake Coeur d'Alene or the Spokane River.

It could happen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas, the Season for Good Deeds

'Tis the season, the season for a lot of things.  Besides gifts and parties and food and family and friends we also need to remember that chunk of community who won't have such a Merry Christmas.

There are a lot of ways to help those less fortunate, and not all of them cost money.  Of course there are a number of worthy causes you can contribute to by donating not only money but toys, food, clothing, blankets, basic necessities and even just some time.  You can also pass along information that could not only bring a smile or a full stomach but perhaps even save a life.

The list is a long one and includes (just to name a few) Toy For Tots, Christmas For All, food banks, churches and other civic organizations collecting money and goods for people in need.  St. Vincent de Paul has a warming center located at 117 E. Walnut.  Fresh Start has a warming center located at 1524 East Sherman Ave.  Maybe a family will get some donated gifts but no tree to put them under.  Cedar Mountain Farm in Athol is providing FREE Christmas tree's to anyone who needs one (call  683-0572).

And you can always donate time.  Find something that is near and dear to your heart and play a part.  We're all in it together.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

12 Ales of Christmas

The 13th Annual 12 Ales of Christmas is at Capone's CdA this Saturday night. If you enjoy quality beer, don't miss event. Your ticket ($40) gets you a commemerative shirt, plenty of great food, prizes, at least 12 winter specials from noted craft brewers AND a taxi ride home.

If you go, here's a few tips on the eve.
Get your tickets @ Capone's.

These brews are winter warmers for the most part. Darker and deeper malts by nature, some are lighter and occasionaly spiced. These brews are not Bud Light, robust taste and a high ABV is the ticket.

Drink accordingly. Your ticket gets you at least 12 fills of a 4 ounce glass. You'll be drinking 3-4+ pints. Drink water, nibble at all the grub and make sure you can still appreciate #12 as much as #1.

Party like it's Christmas. Dress festive and come with your festive face on.

You'll get a ticket. Listen for your number to win stuff!

A taxi ride in CdA proper is included. Take it or call your Mom, you will not be driving home from this.

See ya there!

Ho Ho Ho!

Tis the season to get your festive on, an there are plenty of ways to do it in North Idaho.

Last Friday, Downtown Coeur d'Alene kicked the season off with a parade and fireworks. The Coeur d'Alene Resort continues their largest "on he water" holiday light show and nightly boat trips to the North Pole.

Sandpoint also had their lighting ceremony last week and the Christmas spirit continues through the end of the year.

Wallace has their Yuletide Celebration this Friday and Saturday. Hayden, St. Maries and Rathdrum will kick off the season on Saturday with parades and lighting. Harrison's Winter Fest is Dec. 12. And there is a Holiday Party at Priest Lake State Park on the 20th.

Now that leaves you no excuse why you can't get into the yuletide attitude.