Archive for August, 2013

Mark Baier and his partner David Birge deserve a medal for what they are doing to the old historic building at the corner of Sprague and Vista. I would actually call it important to the Valley as it preserves a small piece of the past, while at the same time promising enjoyment in the present and future. For a while there, I would have bet that corner would have gone the way of the old Ethan Allen building and others throughout the neighborhood that got flattened into car lots.
The building sat vacant for months, stripped of its equipment, for sale and unwanted. Because of the state the building was in after years of neglect, and other issues, nobody wanted to touch it even for the land-only price of $160,000. Demolition of a 10,000 square foot old building just to get the land apparently did not pencil out. Gus Johnson has a pretty good head on his shoulders and I know he looked at it.
I also know a guy named Jesse who looked at it seriously with the idea of bringing it back to life as a night club which it had been for decades. He said mold and asbestos issues made remodeling a losing proposition. I myself thought about the possibilities and even had someone who was thinking about buying the building if Elaine and I wanted to go back in as the Rock Inn, the night club and restaurant we had run years before in that beloved location. Unlike Jesse, I knew the night club business and so I did not need to look at the building.
That building’s demise was set in stone decades before when it was doubled in size, adding what was back then called a dance hall to the established restaurant and bar. It might have been a good move back in the 50’s or early 60’s when the cops told drunk drivers to pour out their drinks on the side of the road and drive straight home and back when there were likely few if any hopping nightspots that size in the Valley. Our landlord, Jack Riley, used to tell me about the good old days when his aunt, Rose Townsend, ran the place. “Craig,” he said a dozen times as we sat and had a few drinks at the bar, “this place is a goldmine.”
That is what I and a very long line of risky business owners thought when we signed his lease. The goldmine soon revealed itself as the money pit. What I took away from my four years is that the building was too big and the business you had to run there was too big as well. It should never have been anything more than just the restaurant and bar. That is how it should have remained and how it is now returning. And I say kudos to them and congratulations to the Valley.
The land itself was historic long before the building was built. The rock pyramid in front is a commemorative marker to the Mullen trail. It was a special place on the old trail where the Walla Walla wagon road intersected and many travelers ended the day’s journey and camped for the night. Slowly the Dishman business area grew around it and the storybook stone building was built to house a zoo with rodeo grounds in the back.
Continuing the location’s destiny as a public gathering spot, the stone buildings were eventually remodeled into the restaurant and bar. It was a place worth keeping and preserving way back in the 40’s and even more so 70 years later. It is one of those odd looking places that you have know idea what you are getting into as you enter and once you are in you are still not sure. You just know that the whoever dreamed up the design and built it out of native stone and virgin logs was a creative and talented and skilled craftsman.
Longer than anywhere else that I am aware of in the area, Valley folks have been eating and drinking and enjoying a few moments of their allotted time in this warm and impressive and unique dining room. Now Mark and David have rescued this castaway from cremation.They own the two adjoining parcels west of the old Plantation building and they originally planned to demolish it.
Luckily, they realized that it was too unique and beloved and historic to reduce to a pile of rubble. Mark said he does not want to even advertise for a tenant until he restores it according to his vision as close as possible to it’s original glory.

Tragic fatalities jar the community, always coming out of nowhere and never making any sense. From the families and friends and coworkers that are at ground zero of the sudden loss out to those who never knew anyone involved, the level of the jar goes from emotional devastation to passing feelings of sadness and thoughts of condolences as we mentally put ourselves in the shoes of the suffering.
Because of the internet and the smart phones most people carry, the news that will move everyone that hears it begins going out immediately. A Facebook page called Spokane News posts all noteworthy incidences as they roll across the police scanner and follows up with the official report as soon as it is released. The page has 36,700 followers and I am one of them. But on Wednesday, August 7th, one of the most jarring days I can remember in the Valley, I was at the scene faster than the speed of Facebook as my path passed by the location of the first of the day’s two tragic fatalities within a few short minutes of the accident.
Heading downtown on the freeway to get to an 8:15 dentist appointment, I could see the traffic up ahead coming to a crawl and so I opted out on the off-ramp that wraps around into Fancher at Sprague. I was going to go all the way into town on Sprague but after waiting through one signal light and calculating that I was about three signals back in the long line of like-minded commuters, I whipped out of the turning lane and went across Sprague and flipped a U-ey by Home Depot. It dawned on me that Third had a lot less lights and so I went back across Sprague on Fancher which shortly turns right into Third.
As I rounded the corner, I could see something had happened just ahead. A man on the north side of the road was beginning to motion for cars to slow down, I noticed he looked very concerned and shaken. The mini-van in front of me quickly parked and blocked the lane, I could tell they were getting involved. As I went around, I was grateful they had blocked the lane and I would have hoped that I would have done the same if I had been the one in front.
Beyond diverting traffic, it appeared there was not much else to do but wait for the emergency vehicles to arrive. As I went around the blocking mini van, I saw a young man lying all alone on his side on the shoulder of the road. He was facing the other way and if he had been lying in a park he would have looked as though he were taking a peaceful nap. But the car with the smashed windshield just beyond him and his stillness told me that he had abruptly come to his final rest.
I drove by at about 8:02. There were no emergency respondents or even sirens in the distance, but the incident was about to be posted on Facebook via Spokane News. When I drove back by on the far side of the freeway 90 minutes later, the area was swarming. Though I had passed by twice, I could not piece together what had happened but as soon as I got home and fired up Facebook I learned exactly what was going on from Spokane News latest update and the comments that had begun streaming in at 9:37 AM.
Mathew Miller, a young and well-loved Valley man, was getting on the freeway right there where Fancher turns into Third and two lanes peel off to the left onto I-90. Apparently he was in the right freeway entrance lane, when the car in the left entrance lane decided, as I had earlier, to get off and avoid the traffic jam. Trouble was that he did not see Matt , who had the right-of-way and they collided. Matt stopped next to the freeway, the other driver stopped on the far side of Third. Matt crossed Third to talk to the driver and then was headed back to his vehicle while talking on the phone when he stepped in the path of another car. He was only 30 years old and had just celebrated his anniversary the night before with his wife Brandy with a dinner at Anthony’s by the Falls.
Spokane News began reporting Wednesday’s second heartbreaking fatality minutes before it even occurred at Trent and Vista. Shortly after 5 pm Spokane News posted a scanner report that someone in a black Jetta hit a car in the Fred Meyer parking lot at Sullivan and Sprague. The man then staggered into the store and when he came back out he got in his car and then hit another car as he sped out of the parking lot.
Minutes later Spokane News posted the report of an accident at Trent and Vista. The man who could not negotiate a parking lot full of slow-moving and parked cars, had somehow made his way to the other side of the Valley. He was on a course of his own making as he drove recklessly and impaired. Brittany Babinski, a beautiful 21-year-old girl that everyone who knew loved, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The car in front of her had time to swerve out of the path of the black Jetta coming head on and full speed into the wrong lane, leaving Brittany no time to react.
As with Mathew Miller, I did not know Brittany and so my feelings were those of sadness and feeling sorry for the families and friends who were suffering from the worst kind of loss. It turned out that the loss of Brittany hit much closer to home as both of my daughters went to West Valley with her. In the old days they probably would have lost touch after graduation but these days friends can stay in touch through Facebook, which they all had.
My daughters were truly heartbroken when they heard the news of Brittany’s accident. Though they seldom saw each other in the flesh, they saw bits and pieces of each others lives posted on Facebook. Sadly, I only knew of her and Matt in death, via the same social network. What an interesting phenomenon, Facebook. What a terribly sad day for the Valley.