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Paul Turner: Spokane’s new boosterism is tradition

October 3, 2018

Spokane didn’t just discover self-esteem, you know.

We’ve had boosterism in our blood for more than 100 years.

Sometimes when civic cheerleaders beat the drum about how the Lilac City can be an attractive alternative to metropolitan areas where housing costs are high and traffic daunting, I recall vintage promotional materials I’ve seen.

My favorite might be an illustrated wallet-sized tribute to Spokane called “Going Ahead in A Hurry.”

The only year mentioned is 1905. So I assume it’s from that era.

Here are some of the claims appearing under the heading “Spokane: Best Built City.”

“Ten miles of paved streets.”

That might have been the one way to keep potholes to a minimum.

“Cleanest streets in America.”

You have to wonder what methodology was used in arriving at that conclusion.

Then there are these claims under “Spokane: The Healthy City.”

“Winters like Tennessee – summers like Maine.”

Uh, OK. That’s a bit of a stretch. But it does point to the fact that our local bias against snowy winters is a long-standing attitude.

“More sunshine than any other western city.”

We do get a lot of sunshine. But something tells me that boast is not the result of a rigorous study comparing us to Denver, Albuquerque, New Mexico, or Salt Lake City in a blue-skies quantified way.

There’s no doubt we get more sunshine than Seattle, so maybe that’s all that matters.

“No sunstrokes – no tornadoes.”

Not quite sure why the publisher of the souvenir pamphlet linked those two.

The first claim is – what’s a nice way to put it – well, ludicrous. That’s like saying Spokane has no headaches. Or frostbite.

But it’s true we are a long way from Tornado Alley.

“Death rate for 1905, only 8.5 per thousand.”

Not really sure what that means. Without a few more details, such as the average age of our population, that’s not a particularly meaningful statistic.

Does that include death by marmot maulings? Death by old age? Death by huckleberries overdose?

I wasn’t around back then. But I’m skeptical about the notion that people in Ohio or Oklahoma might set their sights on Spokane because they heard our city had a purportedly small percentage of residents kicking off.

“By Godfrey, Hazel! Spokane is where we ought to be. They have a low death rate!”

The report goes on.

“Two days of zero weather in four years.”

I assume that means two days of temperatures of 0 degrees or colder. But it sounds like Spokane had a couple of days when there was absolutely no weather, period. Which is unusual, to say the least.

“What’s it like out today?”

“It’s not.”

Then there’s the category called “Spokane: What She Has.”

“Thirty-six daily passenger trains.”

That floored me, I don’t mind telling you. Thirty-six! And some of them probably arrive at civilized times. I’m ready to move there.

Oh, wait. I’m already here. But it’s too late.

Other claims included …

“Seventy-four miles of street railways.”

Clang, clang, clang went the trolley.

“Two hundred and ten factories, employing 4100 hands.”

I know that’s how we like to be described here at the newspaper.

“How many hands do you have down there?”

“Not as many as we used to.”

“Ten public parks with an area of 350 acres.”

Good idea then. Good idea now.

“Fifteen lumber plants.”

This is the Northwest, after all.

“Bank deposits of $19,500,000.”

And who knows how much more stuffed in mattresses.

Don’t try this at home

Here are a few of the lessons I learned from crashing my bike while making a video of riding around in the S-R newsroom before anyone else arrived Tuesday morning.

1. If something seems wacky or zany, it might actually just be stupid.

2. Two hands on the handlebars, please.

3. There is a reason bicycles are not supposed to be ridden indoors.

4. Can you feel humiliated even if no one saw you crash? Yes. Yes, you can.

5. Even when you think you are going slow, you probably ought to be going slower.

6. There are tight turns and then there are really tight turns.

7. If you reshoot your video after your mishap there is a good chance your bike will sound like a squeaky rattletrap because one wheel is now rubbing against something.

8. Always make sure you have co-workers, such as the S-R’s Erik Solberg, who know how to quickly make minor bike repairs.

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