Thursday, April 28, 2011

Downtown Cd'A Flashback 1989 - Part 1

Get Out North Idaho has a full appreciation of our city's fine present and future, but sometimes it can be a gas to look back at times gone by and remember things the way they were way back when. Local history is a geeky hobby, but I can't help picking up random crap when I find it, so I was stoked a while back to find a copy of the 1989 Polk's Coeur d'Alene City Directory for $1 at St. Vinnie's Thrift Store. I was 18 in 1989, so the book was chock full of names that brought back fond memories of shopping and loitering on Sherman Ave during that era.

Remember the fun midnight madness sales that downtown merchants used to make happen on warm summer nights? The pre-Art on the Green/Mega-Street Fair-era sidewalk sales which only the actual shops participated in? I do really enjoy what downtown Cd'A has to offer in the current tense (art galleries, art galleries, pricey ladies clothing boutiques, art galleries and art galleries), but it seems to me there was just a more interesting variety of shopping and dining options back then (where did all the bookstores go?). A handful of places from back then are still in existence, but a fond RIP to the rest of these long-forgotten names.

Let's take a stroll down the Sherman Ave. of 22 years ago one block at a time, starting today between 2nd and 3rd streets. (If you can recall any further details about any of these businesses, please free to share them in comments...)

201 Vacant 
(Currently a grassy patch with a boat on it)
Sitting here was the sad, decomposing composing corpse of that grand old lady, the Wilma Theater, which mean old Hagadone bought and allowed to collapse into disrepair, then razed. Sad. I often imagine what an asset the Wilma would be to the downtown area today if someone had managed to restore it to its former glory instead of letting it rot away. I also wonder why on earth the old man has allowed this prime spot of real estate to sit empty for so many years. He should sell the land to Trader Joe's or something.

202c Cd'A Chamber of Commerce
(currently ROW Adventures)
Before the Fancy Nancy new building across from Independence Point with the heart art and the rocky walls and vaulted ceilings, even before the strip-mall office up on 3rd street, the Cd'A Chamber existed in this little itty bitty hole in the wall. I vaguely remember a wee rack of maps and pamphlets, but nothing to get particularly excited about. How times have changed, for the better.

204 Heat Wave - clothing retail
204 (basement) Fore n' Aft Lounge(street level currently Candy O'Briens Boutique)
You know those really nice bathrooms underneath the Cd'A Resort Plaza Shops? The ones where millionaire wives and homeless junkies mingle and closeted gay politicians sometimes probably go to do their toe-tapping routine? Somewhat incredibly, that particular space used to occupy a bar, the Fore n' Aft Lounge. I was a bit too young to have hung out down there, but I did get this email last year with some good info on the place :
I would be interested in information about the old Fore n' Aft Lounge. Are any of the old employees or regulars still around? I worked there when Mike Caldero and Tiny Wilson were the owners. That was in the 80's and it was literally a "blast". Jackie, Cindy, Susanna, Colleen and myself, Carole, were bartenders. There many more, those are just the ones that come to mind right now. Chris & Cheryl Ruffner were "regulars" and Cheryl also worked at Henry's. My name then was Carole Meyer...but that has changed (only to protect the innocent!!).
As far as the Heat Wave clothing store, memories are extraordinarily fuzzy on that one, but I do recall seeing window displays full of bikini and sarong clad white mannequins on my way to waste hours of time at the Bookseller next door (more on that in a bit).

205 Coeur d'Alene Barber
(currently One More Thing! Boutique)
I was born with naturally very curly hair and by the time I was four years old, I had a full-blown red Richard Simmons afro growing Chia-like from the top of my head (no, you are not getting a picture). My mother, naturally, thought it was completely adorable (it was). But my dad grumbled and groaned about it every time the old ladies at the grocery store would lean down in my face and say "Oh, my! What a cute little girl! Where did she get that hair?"

So finally, my father decided to take matters into his own hands and take me down to this fusty old barbershop to have my ginger curls shaved down to the nub. My mother was furious at him when she saw what he did, and I remember being quite traumatized as well - who was this bald little boy looking back at me in the mirror? Wah! I wanted my beautiful long hair back! (It never did grow back curly, either). Fortunately, my father was smart enough to distract me from my tears by exposing me to another major life first - a visit to Hudson's Hamburgers next door (more on that in a bit).

206 Bookseller
(currently under construction as Splash Lounge)
Ah, the Bookseller. One of those great places my mother always avoided because it was one of those "hippie stores", whatever that meant. Here was a place I spend many, many hours as a geeky kid, reading reading reading, and occasionally buying something with my $10 per week allowance. At first, it was the Mad Magazine paperbacks and the blank Mad Libs books. Then it was the endless oeuvre of science fiction author Ray Bradbury (still a favorite). Later, as I got more and more into music, it was the selection of Rock reference books and biographies.

In fact, there was a big, coffee table book of album covers put out by Rolling Stone magazine that ended up being so pawed, creased, and worn out from me coming in all the time and looking through it, they called my mom one time and told her she had to buy it because it was damaged goods (I still have it, along with dozens of other books found there back in the day).

The Bookseller moved across the street and down a block or so when the CDA Plaza shops came in, and continued a long, healthy run until chains such as Hastings and Borders came in and helped serve the indie bookstore scene a rapid death. RIP Janis Mayer - you were always patient, knowlegable and lovely.

207 Hudsons Hamburgers
(currently Hudson's Hamburgers)
(photo from Chewtime) What can possibly be said that hasn't already been said about this hundred-and-something year-old Cd'A institution? For reference, here is our review of Hudson's from 2009, a YouTube mini-documentary on the place, and 32 Yelp! user reviews. I'll have two singles with cheese, onion no pickle and heavy on the spicy ketchup and spicy mustard. Also, it must be one of the last places on the planet to find a tall glass of cold buttermilk.

207 1/2 Paper Toad - cards and gifts
(currently Del Sol Sunglasses Boutique)
There was something about the '80s that made people want to buy lots and lots of fancy stationery, artsy or bizarre greeting cards, scratch-n-sniff stickers, and other useless, trinkety crap. Actually, I remember thinking this store was pretty neat and it was always the first place my California cousins wanted to go whenever they came through town. It was kind of like the 50% off card shop without all the kitschy decor and 50 times cooler. I believe the owners name was Christy and from what I can recall, she was fabulous.

209 Eagles Hall and Cocktail Lounge
(currently Eagles Hall and Cocktail Lounge)
The Eagles remodel that happened in the last few years is real snazzy and all, but I think many would agree that this place lost a lot of its charm in the process. The haze of cigarette smoke is long gone, as are the broke-down naugahyde chairs, campy 60's aura and bee-hived old ladies enjoying their 17th Harvey Wallbanger of the day while a guy in a powder-blue leisure suit and mutton chops plays loungey versions of oldie hits on the piano in the corner. OK, maybe that never exactly happened, but that was always my fantasy, so let me have my moment.

211 Wikiup Art Galllery
211 1/2 Sonshine Book Store
(Currently Summer's Glass)
I only remember the Wikiup Gallery for the silly name, but I seem to recall they sold a lot of crap made out of pine needles. The Sonshine Bookstore  was a Christian Bookstore (regardless, they are going to hell for that unforgivable pun in their name), where I had to go buy a cheap bible and other random accessories for the Lutheran confirmation class my mother made me take when I was 10.

To this day, I'm convinced she sent me to those classes just for the free childcare, and none of it stuck anyway since I am now a confirmed heathen. This place will also run into trouble at the pearly gates for foisting Amy Grant albums onto the general public even before she sold out and went pop.

212 Vacant
Not 100 percent sure, but I believe this was the address for the old JC Penney store, which was probably shuttered and dark in 1989, at the time the directory was published. The space would turn into Tito Macaroni's/Resort Plaza Shops in 1991 (Spokesman-Review Archives) and Penney's was long gone to the Silver Lake Mall. Considering the slow death of that mall and the subsequent flourishing of the downtown area, perhaps they would have been smarter just to stay put.

213 Evergreen Floral(Currently Cafe Bella Rosa)
This was the flower shop that Janet Wood from TV's "Three's Company" worked at part-time during the late 70s. OK, not really. In reality, I have no lingering memories of this place at all.

215 Spooner's Restaurant(Currently the Leather Works gift shop)
My old friend Mike worked here. Paul Cooper's little ice cream shop was a flourishing tourist stop for quite a few years during the late 80's and 90's. I don't recall their food selection being enormous, just some basic sandwiches, perhaps a burger and fries , but pretty darn good. It was a tiny place with a row of wee tables along one wall and a row of ice cream cases on the other side, but they had a few tables outside and it became prime real estate for boy/girl watching during the summer.

217 Fashionette
(Currently Gallery Northwest)
I only vaguely remember this place - it must have gone ashes to ashes and dust to dust not long after 1989 Polk directory came out, but my research reveals (link goes to an ancient D.F. Oliveria column) that this women's clothing boutique had been around for many decades and that in 1989, Nancy Flagan ran the show here.

220 Marie O'Briens Fashions
(Now part of Resort Plaza Shops)
Who could forget the original Coeur d'Alene Queen of Glamour Marie O'Brien, who kept many a local lady looking fierce and fashionable from the corner of 3rd and Sherman for decades. This is the place where you went for some kind of hot off-the-rack sensation to wear to the annual Art Auction at the CDA Resort Convention Center or whatever. Marie herself was quite a vision driving around town in her pink Cadillac with her giant sunglasses and perfect makeup and hair. Her daughter, Candy, still runs a boutique in the plaza shops, and the lipstick didn't fall too far from the tree on that one - Candy has just as much charm, glam and class as her mum.  

223 Harvey's Men's & Ladies Store
(now Painter's Chair Gallery)
My old friend Mike worked here too. So many hours spent here as a child, bored to tears while my grandmother shopped for god-awful ugly sweaters and polyester pants. Later, this is where I would go if I needed something formal-ish to wear to weddings, bah mitzvah's, Quinceañeras, nude beaches, Lutheran confirmations, keggers in the woods, or Carole Bayer Sager concerts.

Clair Norton Jones opened Harvey's in 1955 and in its time it flourished, with handful of locations in the Spokane metro area. I guess one could say this place was the indie equivalent of a Macy's-type situation, but a bit fussier and more fuddy-duddy. I do recall a Harvey's clerk named Bill, who was one of the first openly flamboyant characters I'd ever encountered as a child, and it seems like he worked there until the bitter end when Harvey's finally disappeared for good an one point in the late 90's.

224 Johnannes and Co. Jewellers
(Currently part of Resort Plaza Shops)
Did her Sandiness own this place back in 1989? Not sure, but she does now - in it's new location at 4th and Sherman, behind the Sports Cellar. Honestly, I never visited then, and I haven't visited since. I'm a poor person and I buy my bling at K-Marché.

1 comment: said...

A wikiup is an American Indian hut made with brush. The Wikiup Gallery actually sold some very good Native American art. Around 1989 I bought several cornhusk bags there made by the Nez Perce years ago that are even more valuable today. By the way I'm a pine needle basket maker and around that time I was selling my baskets for hundreds of dollars in Santa Fe. Whenever I passed through Coeur d'Alene, I would invest some of that money in cornhusk bags. Anyone in Coeur d'Alene selling them today?