Monday, July 25, 2011

The Awakening of Coeur d'Alene - 1981 Vs. 2011

The Facebook group "Old School Coeur d'Alene" can be massively entertaining for folks like me who are fond of yammering on about a time long ago when our town was less prone to artsy-fartsy foofaraw, touristy rattleclap, and those pesky trees and flowers making everyone's allergies flare up. Call me old, and I'll smack you with a Hall & Oates record.

The "THEN" images posted below were swiped from that group's page and landed there Saturday courtesy of Dave Bellamy, who writes, "My dad was on the plannng commission and this still and these pictures were gathered as part of a proposal looking at putting up a cover over the downtown area of CDA. It never panned out but the planning did lead to the downtown we have now." The image on the left is the cover of the proposal pamphlet - love that totally hideous graphic design.

I was nine years old in 1981, and I spent a lot of time riding my bike downtown to waste time looking at records and comic books or hanging the arcade that was next to the Donut Shop on 2nd between Sherman and Lakeside. These pictures sent me into a fiercely aging but highly enjoyable time warp, as they will for anyone who is old enough to have been around at the time. The nostalgia is a ton of fun, but I still rather think that overall our downtown is better than ever here in 2011. What do you think?


THEN


NOW


Looking east on Sherman Ave from 2nd Street. The JC Penny's block is now the CDA Resort shopping plaza and the new Splash nightclub seems to be located exactly in the same spot where I watched my  mother pick out  bras and shoes before I'd run of to ride the city's only elevator up and down all three stories just for kicks.

The much-beloved, long-kaput Wilma Theater is front and left, now a patch of grass which sits emptier than empty and occasionally showcases expensive boats for one of Hagadone's marine outfits. Notice in all these old pics the complete lack of trees and greenery in 1981 - it's so much more lush now compared to the barren storefronts of back then.



THEN

NOW


The Iron Horse is still the Iron Horse, but they've significantly improved their facade - the fake train motif was seeming retro and way fugly even in 1981, if I recall. At this point, presciption dolls were the hot thing on 4th and Sherman, since two buildings which sat on that corner held pharmacies, but tastes have apparently changed and now booze served by the Moose Lounge (formerly Wilson's Pharmacy) and coffee served by Java (formerly Hart's Drug) are the mood-altering substances of choice.

Additionally, Mariposa was a woman's fashion store now occupied by Icon night club, which leads me to wonder if any of the fashion styles peddled there thirty years ago, possibly modeled by the lovely gals trying to cross the street on the left of the photo, have managed to cycle back into vogue for the place's modern clientele (mot likely, yes).




THEN


NOW

In 1989, the Duane purchased this entire block and turned it into "the Shops", a distinctly not-for-bargain-hunters shopping plaza, that is literally attached to his ever-expanding Resort situation. In 1981, the land held, among many other things, JC Penney, Fischer's Western Wear, Marie O'Briens Clothing Store, and the legendary Fore-n-Aft cocktail lounge, which everyone remembers for their faaaabulous ice cream drinks and alluringly dank and smoky, cave-like atmosphere.

I do vaguely remember that odd little covered bench on the corner that was just kind of plopped there for no apparent reason (looks kind of like a bus stop, but there was nothing even slightly resembling CityLink back then). I guess it was just a nice little place to plop down, relax and enjoy a gorgeous view of Lake Coeur d'Alene, a view which is no longer visible now that the concrete grey north wall of the Resort parking garage is the only thing one can get an eye full of from that particular vista.



THEN


NOW

The place on the lower left is exactly the same, except for a paint job or five. In fact, I think it was a real estate office or something then and it's a real estate office or something now. Long gone is the crumbly little yellow building that held (I think) a print shop, replaced by a wildly imposing bloc of windowless, brick condos. The quaint Chevron gas station at 7th and Sherman has been gone since around the time the gas "inflation" crisis meant that you paid slightly over $1.25 a gallon. Somehow, they managed to fit the Red Rose Hotel on that tiny corner after the gas station was razed, which still exists as the comfortable and severely under-rated Resort City Inn.




THEN



NOW

Looking west from 6th/5th on Sherman, many of the buildings now are structurally the same as then (although any changes we could see are blocked by trees in the "now" shot), but of course all of the names have changed, the sole exception being the trusty old Camera Corral, which will likely outlive us all.

A few names are visible by zooming into the 1981 image that bring back some warm fuzzy fond memories: Total Eclipse record shop (located in the "5th Avenue Mall"), the Craft and Hobby Store, the Bookseller (corner of 5th and Sherman), the Diamond Shop, Commercial Printing, and Burts Music (the latter two have survived to the present in new locations).


THEN

NOW

Click and enlarge this one to see what Hudson Hamburgers looked like back when it was a mere 70 years young. "Middle Age Crazy", the lead attraction at the Wilma Theater, was an impossibly obscure romantic comedy starring a late-career Ann Margaret and Bruce Dern with the tagline "There'll be a hot time in the hot tub tonight!" and a not-quite-classic Jerry Lee Lewis theme song. Murder mystery "Eyewitness", with Sigourney Weaver and John Hurt, rates a bit better, but not by much. Still, I'm sure there were worse ways to waste a Saturday afternoon than spending a whole dollar for a double feature, and another dollar on a large, buttery bucket of popcorn.


THEN



NOW

Corner of Front Street and 4th Street, Facing North. Okay, Bank of America - you look exactly like you did 30 years ago, which for many people is a rare and wonderful blessing, but it really is time for an exterior face lift. I seem to recall that Ace Hardware was maybe a more fun place to shop back then, carrying not just hammers and nails but also toys, gadgets, rubber flip-flops, and hot electronics such as portable 8-track tape players for you to take with you to your favorite hidden Tubbs Hill beach.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love the article-took me back to 1981 (in a good way).

Lil ol' me... said...

I grew up in CDA. Those pix of the old JCPenneys really bring back memories. CDA wasn't a bad place back then. It was a fantastic place to be back then. I realize it's fashionable to knock the old ways and extoll the attributes of modern-day improvements, but ya know, back then, it didn't need any improvements. One of the reasons I left CDA is that hardly any of the old CDA was left anymore, and I was a stranger in what used to be my hometown.

diane said...

Great memories - my then husband, me and another couple who were our partners, created, & built the 5th Avenue Mall at 509 Sherman. Ours was the Total Eclipse Records & tapes - plus head shop & miscellaneous stuff. We were pretty much run out of business when we tried to fight the moral majority & the state of Idaho regarding the sale of head shop items. Had to quickly move stuff to Spokane & sell it for next to nothing. Our whole cause was about the laws they wanted to enforce regarding any item "they" regarded as drug paraphenelia - could be a wall safe or a small spoon received then at mc'donalds with coffee - ridiculous.....Anyway it sure did change the way we felt about Coeur d'Alene as well as shattering our dreams of being successful business people. We moved away