In the fall of 1940, Earl Somers and his wife Byrd moved to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with the idea of operating an amusement park near the Coeur d’Alene City Beach and Park. For years, Earl and Byrd had operated a traveling amusement company based in Pasco, Washington. They were in their mid-forties and were looking for a permanent location. Tired of traveling from city to city and dealing with the problems of setting up, taking down and traveling, Earl was convinced Coeur d’Alene was the perfect place for their amusement business. He began to meet with city officials about the possibility of leasing land near the city park. It took over a year to convince the city fathers this was a good thing for Coeur d’Alene, soon, the iconic Playland Pier would be entertaining families from around the region.
What would urge a young couple to move to a far and distant land? A land where the customs are not only strange but in some instances completely different. A land where they did not speak the language. A land with hostility to those of a different color, and a special hostility at that time to those who were arriving from Asia. A land, in many instances, of harsh climates. But, it was a land where there was hope. Like many other Japanese immigrants, it was their hope that after a few years of hard work, they would be able to accumulate enough so that they could return to Japan with enough means so that they could find a comfortable living. That was certainly the hope of the Shiosaki Family, although they remained in America, and their grandchildren live in Spokane to this day.
On a special authors profile episode of the King’s Guide, Chuck King visits with John H. Richards and James E. Brickell, authors of new biographies on their great- and great-great-grandfathers, Patsy Clark and E.J. Brickell. For years, Spokane residents ate at Patsy Clark’s restaurant in Browne’s Addition, but how many people knew Patsy was a mining pioneer – and not a woman? And it was once said of E.J. Brickell, the “Lion in the Shadows,” that by his “vim and energy, he brought the city of Spokane to life.” But somehow, with the passing of time, we have forgotten about Spokane’s first millionaire, a man who once owned most of what we know today as Riverfront Park.
The story of when Hillyard became incorporated as a city is a fascinating and hilarious one. The main line of the Great Northern Railway, owned and operated by the so-called “Empire Builder” James Jerome Hill, reached Spokane on June 1, 1892. East of the City of Spokane, a large flat plain, originally called Horse Plains by early fur traders, was selected to be a major freight, roundhouse and repair facility for the railway. The railway named this spot the “East Spokane Station,” and early suggestions to name the station after Mr. Hill were dismissed by the Empire Builder as out of the question. Mr. Hill was very proud of his name. Originally christened simply “James Hill”, at age thirteen in 1851, he adopted the middle name of “Jerome” after Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother in admiration of the French conqueror and his family. “The Great Man” did not want his name associated with a lowly railway station.
The sun was bright on June 27, 1887 when George Roley Dodson stepped off the Northern Pacific train onto the dock at the Milwaukee and St. Paul depot in Spokane Falls, Washington Territory. The ride from Decatur, Illinois had taken him across the Rocky Mountains and into a world that he would describe as being filled with “unrivaled scenic beauty.” He spent the first day getting used to the gritty taste left in his mouth from the dusty streets of this pioneer outpost. Nonetheless, he was completely enthralled with all of the activity he saw. From the powerful falls in the river to comparing real estate prices and wages to his hometown Decatur, the twenty-six-year-old jeweler liked what he saw.
On a special Centennial Veterans Day episode of the King’s Guide, Chuck King takes a look at Spokane’s Lincoln statue, dedicated on November 11, 1930. Episode 12 of the King’s Guide features rare footage from the Swanson Family of the very moment the statue of Lincoln was unveiled in front of a crowd 40,000 strong.
On episode 11 of the King’s Guide, Chuck King welcomes West Valley school teacher, Ty Brown, whose family has operated Wandermere Golf Course for five generations. With never-seen-before family video and photographs, Ty shares the history of Wandermere, including the attractions of the tobaggan hill, ski jump, and more.
On the newest episode of The King’s Guide, Chuck King pays his respects to the Elks Rest at Greenwood Memorial Terrace in Spokane, WA. Popularly known as the “Thousand Steps,” this cemetery once featured a life-size statue of an elk that stood guard over the resting place of Elks Club members. In the 1980s, the elk statue disappeared, but now, with Chuck’s help the elk will soon return home.
My grandfather was Swedish born architect Gustav Albin Pehrson, who designed an impressive array of buildings in the western United States, including Spokane’s Paulsen Center, Roosevelt Apartments, Eldridge Building, Missoula’s Florence Hotel, as well as the town of Richland, Washington as it was built up in 1943 for the Hanford Project. According to newspaper clippings and family archives, other notable Pehrson projects include the Chronicle Building, Western Union Life Building, Schade Brewery, and many residences including the Hebert House, Priess House, Kirk Thompson House, Victor Dessert House and Louie Davenport’s summer home “Flowerfield” along the Little Spokane River (now the campus of St. George’s School). But did he also design the famous Davenport Hotel, credited to Kirtland Cutter? My family set to find out.
On the newest episode of The King’s Guide, Chuck King celebrates the life of Alvin “Buy Gum” Wilson, a street peddler who inspired the city of Spokane for two decades in the early 1900s. Earlier this summer, with the help of Inland Monument, Fairmount Memorial Association, and Nostalgia Magazine, Chuck King gathered with Jeff Sims and other history lovers to commemorate a new headstone for Buy Gum Wilson at Riverside Memorial Park.