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From the real to fake, Spokane has its own bits of history to remember this Presidents’ Day

February 17, 2019

Happy Presidents’ Day Eve.

Perhaps it’s not customary to take note of this date on the calendar, the day before a made-up Monday holiday. But if it were, one thing we might do would be to consider the impact of various presidents on the Inland Northwest.

OK, I’ll go first.

Thomas Jefferson: He sent Lewis and Clark out here to take a little look-see.

Benjamin Harrison: He was in office when Washington became a state in 1889. Idaho too, the next year.

Abraham Lincoln: Had profound influence on just what sort of nation Washington would one day join.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: Almost countless reasons.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: The interstate highway system.

Theodore Roosevelt: Had a keen interest in the West.

Richard Nixon: He came to Spokane to open Expo ’74, not long before resigning from office.

George Washington: You might recall that our state is named after him.

OK, I’m sure you have your own nominations. But what about fictitious presidents? I’ll offer three.

Andrew Sheppard (played by Michael Douglas in 1995’s “The American President”): No particular link to our region. But there’s this moment near the end of the movie where he’s talking about gun control during a news conference. “We’re going to get the guns,” he says, confidently.

That always makes me wonder how certain Inland Northwest residents would react.

Also in that film, Annette Bening plays the widowed president’s girlfriend. She once, in another movie – 1991’s “Bugsy” – portrayed a character who was intimate pals with a murderous mobster. In real life that woman, Virginia Hill, lived in Spokane for a time.

Merkin Muffley (played by Peter Sellers in 1964’s “Dr. Strangelove”): Though I believe the theory has been debunked multiple times, there are people around here who still insist those B-52s were filmed taking off from Fairchild AFB.

Just as an aside, have you ever noticed in that same movie you can substitute “vaccination” for “fluoridation” in Gen. Jack Ripper’s conspiracy theory and it sounds about the same?

Jed Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen in “The West Wing” – 1999-2006): Had to wrangle with a Republican Speaker of the House to avoid shutting down the government. In the show, that speaker was from Spokane.

All right, your turn.

Talking to your grandkids

about snow days

Here are five things you might want to say to your grandchildren about the prospect of school-closing weather.

“Honey, back in my day we didn’t have snow days. We had the Donner Party.”

“You know what they say about prayer: There are no atheists in the second grade when flakes start falling the night before a school day.”

“You’ll know there’s no school if you open the front door and hear Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. If you hear ‘Peter and the Wolf’ by Prokofiev, it means you have to go.”

“You know that old episode of ‘The Simpsons’ about the adventures of Mr. Plow? That was based on me.”

“You live in the north, Sweetie. Snow days aren’t like real life.”

Watch your language

I’ve tried more than once to stop swearing. But I have now pretty much given up on succeeding.

Why? It’s because I use computers. They make me say bad words.

When I first started to work for newspapers, I used a typewriter. Yes, that was a long time ago. Gerald Ford was president.

But shortly after that I began writing on computers. My language has gone downhill ever since.

Now I pretty much divide my time between writing and taking repeated steps to save whatever I’m working on. You know, so even if the current document version inexplicably disappears, I’ll have a backup copy.

Last week, even those multiple safeguards failed me. I lost an entire piece and had to start over. I attempted to rewrite it from memory, a maddeningly imperfect process.

Anyway, I bring this up because I want you to know why this column might seem even more disjointed than usual. It’s because I’m stopping every few words to email myself an in-progress version.

What’s your computer horror story?

End note

My favorite stories from the Lewis and Clark journals have to do with the Corps of Discovery’s encounters with astoundingly ferocious grizzly bears as the explorers made their way west.

I’ve always wondered if certain modern bears brag to other bruins about being directly descended from the huge grizzlies that greeted Lewis and Clark.

Probably not. Bears aren’t like people.

But if they were, I’ll bet there would be a lot of eye-rolling and thinking “Oh, here we go again” when the bears who claim to be related to those robust 1800s animals piped up once more with their Lewis and Clark stories.

Columnist Paul Turner can be reached by email at srpaulturner@gmail.com.