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Phil Batt’s Poem
by Ron Roizen
News came today that former governor of Idaho Phil Batt has died, at age 96.
I don’t know much about him, and I know even less about poetry.
But I know and admire his poem inscribed at the base of the Sunshine Mine disaster’s memorial statue. I think it’s a fine poem and a notable gift.
How many politicians, after all, sit down to write a poem when something as devastating as the Sunshine Mine disaster strikes?
Batt, moreover, wasn’t a poet, and not even an English major in college. According to his Wikipedia article, Batt studied chemical engineering at the University of Idaho.
His memorial poem proposed a compelling fiction–namely, that all of us Idahoans share in the toil and tragedies of any of us. Just because it’s a fiction doesn’t make it untrue. And his poem could be said to have elevated that truth into an ideal for his beloved state.
It’s a wonder that he ever sat down and composed it. And then had the presence and strength to share it with others. That it was selected to grace the base of the memorial is yet another fine wonder.
Thank you, Phil, for writing your moving poem and for leaving it with us in so apt a place.
THE ROSSI MURDER on YouTube
Callahan book–raison d’être
by Ron Roizen
I published The Rossi Murder in 2021. My book told the story of Herman J. Rossi’s June, 1916 murder of his young his wife’s lover and Rossi’s subsequent acquittal, months later, at his October, 1916 trial. These events took place more than a hundred years ago in Wallace, Idaho, where I’ve lived since 1997. My book’s particular focus was on how something called “the unwritten law” was interwoven with the Rossi story. A pioneer miner named James F. Callahan made a very brief appearance in the book. In mid-July, 1916, while he was incarcerated in the Shoshone County jail, Herman and his wife, Mabel, sold their upscale Wallace home at 221 Cedar Street to Mr. Callahan. The sales price, depending on the source, was either $15,000 or $20,000—not inconsiderable sums in 1916. All I wrote of the buyer, Mr. Callahan, in this connection was simply that he was “a pioneer mining man in the Coeur d’Alene Mining District.” That was about all I knew of him at the time.
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My old friend (and very-long-ago girlfriend) LeeAnna (Norris) Friedman died in San Francisco on October 2, 2022 after a brief medical emergency.
She resumed contact with me–after decades of no contact–with a 2017 email, little more than two year’s after my wife, Maggie, died. I’ve saved nearly all of the roughly five years of our subsequent exchange. And of late I’ve been rummaging through those emails, like an old man exploring the attic of a recently deceased family member.
LeeAnna was a classics-and-literature maven–and, among other things, had a prodigious working vocabulary. Her literary references more than a few times sent me to the Web or Wikipedia, trying to figure out what exactly she had in mind.
Once, for instance, she wrote (shortly after her husband Marvin‘s passing in February 2021): ‘I am doing quite well…I may be like Fitzgerald who thought he was fine and then one day, unpredictably, “Cracked like an old plate.” Right now too busy to brood but there are of course, moments.’ Her reference–I looked it up–was to a short story F. Scott Fitzgerald published as a three-part series in Esquire in 1936. “The Crack Up” recalled his account of the (let’s call it) subjective phenomenology of depression and mental collapse. I read it–it’s a great piece. Only LeeAnna could have plucked so apt a strawberry.
There weren’t a great many references to her childhood and parents in her emails. Yet, what managed to come through here and there was that her mother could be crusty and abrupt. One reference noted that her mother’s Thanksgiving turkey stuffing was also invariably spiced with a little inadvertent cigarette ash. Then there was this email, from February 24, 2021:
Had a funny Ferlinghetti flashback this morning. When I was about 15 my mother threw me out on the street, and my friend’s family happily took me in. I had been staying up all night in cafes or sleeping on the beach because I did not know where my father was. Turns out, I was being guarded by alternating group of guys from school but found that out only later–too long a story–so friend Judy was reading Ferlinghetti at the time, decided we must paint her room black to be beatniks, we found an old light fixture with cowboys on it to add, and the obligatory Chianti bottle with candle- some silly bedspreads, and I remember us reading “Johnny Nolan had a patch on his ass, all the kids laughed at him” and just loving it so much. Right up there with e.e. Cummings. So I happened to have a long talk with her last night, as we often do, and that probably triggered this. Her father was a cop and hilarious, thought we were hilarious, mom a doll too, we had many good times. He also tried to protect me which I didn’t know until later but that’s not relevant to this moment, except it helps explain my intolerance for bullshit.
Once again, I had to look it up. So here is Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem titled “Johnny Nolan has a patch on his ass,” from his collection titled A Coney Island of the Mind:
Johnny Nolan has a patch on his ass
Kids chase him
thru screendoor summers
Thru the back streets
of all my memories
Somewhere a man laments
upon a violin
A doorstep baby cries
and cries again
Which helps the afternoon arise again
to a moment of remembered hysteria
Johnny Nolan has a patch on his ass
Kids chase him
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July 1950–Wallace native, Robert R. Granville, arrests Julius Rosenberg
Only a handful of individuals associated–whether by birth or in some other way–with Wallace, Idaho were ultimately graced with obituaries in The New York Times.
An NYT obituary is arguably the Oscar, the Grammy, or even the Nobel Prize of death notices in the nation’s press.
Longtime Hecla president James F. McCarthy got one on March 7, 1940. Noted mining man and philanthropist Harry L. Day got one on November 19, 1942. Not surprisingly, movie star Lana Turner (born Julia Jean Turner in Wallace on February 8, 1921) got one in July 1, 1995.
Perhaps the least familiar name on this distinguished list was that of Robert R. Granville. Granville’s ticket to the honor was the lead role he took as an FBI agent in the July, 1950 arrest of spy Julius Rosenberg. Granville’s obit appeared in the NYT on April 24, 2005, Section 1, Page 46 of the national print edition It was authored by Stuart Lavietes and it was titled, “Robert Granville, Agent Who Arrested the Rosenbergs, Dies at 89.”
Here, on behalf of its place in the City of Wallace’s history, is the text of that obituary:
“Robert R. Granville, an F.B.I. agent in New York who headed the team that arrested Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, died on April 12 at a hospital in Tampa, Fla. He was 89 and lived in Crystal River.
“He had had a stroke two weeks earlier, said his son, Col. Robert R. Granville Jr., M.D.
“Mr. Granville began his career at the F.B.I. in 1940 and was promoted to field supervisor of Soviet espionage in the New York office in 1946. On July 17, 1950, he and fellow agents arrested Julius Rosenberg in his apartment at 10 Monroe Street on the Lower East Side. Rosenberg was charged with providing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, information he was accused of obtaining from his brother-in-law, David Greenglass, a former machinist at the atomic weapons center in Los Alamos, N.M.
“Three weeks later, on Aug. 11, Mr. Granville and other agents arrested Rosenberg’s wife, Ethel, as she left the United States Court House at Foley Square after testifying before a grand jury.Continue reading
May 1921—Key Wobbly convicted in Wallace
by Ron Roizen
A “Red Scare” commenced in the United States in 1917. Behind it lay a number of factors—perhaps chiefly: (1) the patriotic fervor occasioned by the U.S.’s entry into World War I; (2) fears of Bolshevism’s spread in the wake of the Russian Revolution; and (3) anxieties springing from homegrown labor-related strikes, violence, and anarchism. In North Idaho, another factor may be added. The Mining Wars of the 1890s were still fresh in the public memory and an anti-union backlash they’d spawned still lingered in some quarters. According to Idaho historian, Robert C. Sims, Idaho’s lumber company executives, mine owners, and other business interests also exploited the rise of anti-Red sentiment by funneling that fervor into legislation aimed at thwarting labor-related activism more generally.Continue reading
Everything is a Clue
by Ron Roizen
It seems the more drab and routine my old-age life becomes, the richer and richer becomes my dreamlife. Last night was no exception.
I’d been recruited into a semi-academic and semi-governmental team tasked with exploring the implications a deep and subtle premise: namely, that everything is a clue.
To what? That, then, is the secondary research problem. “To what?” indeed.
At first I felt a little ill at ease and unqualified.
The group seemed to me to be magnified in its majestic standing by the depth and significance of its erudite and yet shadowy mission.
I kept to myself as some of the group’s past business was being reviewed. At one point, however, I was moved to suggest a modest idea.
A certain woman’s contention (unfortunately, I don’t now remember what it was) had broad and significant clue value, I suggested.
I was immediately challenged.
But I countered that what the group was missing was this: The group was interpreting her assertion as purely historical; yet, I argued, it could also be regarded as a futuristic contention, a profound prediction.
There was a silence in the group.
Then one member spoke directly to me, in a quiet voice.
“You’re a true genius,” he said.
I immediately dismissed and shrugged off his comment. “Not really,” I said, “it’s just a thought.”
This morning I was reminded of two historical precursors to this dream study group.
The first was George C. Scott’s 1971 film, “They Might Be Giants.” Scott is a mental patient who believes he’s Sherlock Holmes. As Holmes, assisted by co-star Joanne Woodward, he sees clues all around him to the evil Moriarity’s current doings. Ordinary things are transformed into telling clues. It’s all delusion and yet his assemblage of clues ultimately leads to a kind of successful conclusion. So, at least, is how I remember the film.
The other was Robert Redford’s “Three Days of the Condor.” In this 1975 film, directed by Sidney Pollack, Redford’s character belongs to a top secret CIA study group that omnivorously reads fiction and nonfiction books from around the world searching for hidden clues and political plots. Redford accidentally discovers a plot within the CIA itself, by a rogue group of agency officers. His discovery leads to the destruction of his group by hired hitmen. Redford, however, was out to lunch when the massacre happened. And the rest of the movie—with co-star Faye Dunaway—is the story of his effort to piece together the reasons behind the brutal hit. It’s one of the great mystery films.
Like dreams do, my dream started fading into oblivion as soon as I awakened.
And yet something also stayed with me: It’s true, everything is a clue.
We forget that at our peril. We’re here to figure it out, whatever it is.
June 1925–Elks Temple dedicated
by Ron Roizen
The Wallace Elks Temple was dedicated on Saturday, June 6, 1925. The handsome structure has served as a hub of Wallace’s social life ever since.
What the new structure replaced, at the corner of Cedar and Fifth streets, is difficult to determine at this remove. The Sanborn fire insurance map for December, 1908 (the most recent available source) offers a look at the 400 block of Cedar St. 17 years before 1925–and, of course, a lot may have changed over that intervening period. Still, the map is worth examining.
The northwest corner of Cedar and Fifth, the Elks’ corner, was occupied by a wallpaper shop and a bakery in 1908.
It may be noted that the 400 block of Cedar bears remarkably little resemblance to its appearance today. A dozen separate structures and addresses crowded the block’s north side in 1908, and only one (at 411) was labeled “D” for “dwelling” or private home. Today, there are only three active structures/addresses on the north side of Cedar–the Elks building (at address 417), the Scott Building (at 413), and the post office (at 403). The south side of the block was dominated by private dwellings in 1908; not so today. (Incidentally, the “Moving Pictures” unit–in red, at 417 Cedar–was likely a nickelodeon, the earliest form of what would soon evolve into the movie theater.)
The Sanborn map is useful in another sense. It suggests that the new Elks Temple’s footprint may have covered all of the lots at 425 and 423 Cedar as well as part or all of the lot at 421. The Wallace Miner, as it happens, is searchable at Newspapers.com from February, 1907 to February, 1924. Searches for those specific addresses therein turned up nothing for 421 Cedar; but the other two suggested that a tin and sheet metal shop was located at 423 and a shoe shop at 425 (see images, below). These two ads were, of course, more proximate in time to the commencement of the new Temple’s construction, and thus they likely tell us the businesses that were displaced.
If dates attached to the two Barnard-Stockbridge photos shown below can be trusted–and they often cannot be!–then a push for a new Elks Temple in Wallace was already well along in 1922.
Word arrived in August, 1924 that a project to build the new structure was in progress. The Spokane Chronicle reported on August 15, 1924:
Charles I. Carpenter, architect in the Empire State building [today known as the Great Western Building at 901 W. Riverside Ave. in Spokane], is preparing plans for the new $60,000 Elks temple to be built at Wallace. It will be two stories, 70×90 feet, on Fifth and Cedar streets. The architecture will be colonial and it will be built of red brick with white cast stone trimmings. The lodge room will be 50×70 feet and will be able to accommodate 450 or 500 people.
By April 28, 1925 Shoshone County Prosecuting Attorney and Elks Exalted Ruler Charles E. Horning could announce that the (now) $100,000 structure would be dedicated during the Elks Roundup occurring in June, 1925.
Not the least engaging news about the upcoming dedication event came in reports of a slate of boxing matches highlighting the evening’s entertainment. Two 10-round, main events headed the bill. In one, Spokane bantamweight Frankie “The Battling Sheik” Grandetta would square off against Wallace’s own Tommy Thank. In another, welterweights George McCormick and Pep Webster (the latter, “negro,” said the press) would battle each other.
The Grandetta-Thank contest particularly attracted pre-fight attention in Spokane’s press. Frankie Grandetta–also known as “Spokane’s Beau Brummel of the ring”–had recently lost a decision to Thank and, said one report, was “out for revenge.” Spud Murphy, “dean of fight referees of the Inland Empire,” would travel from Lewiston to officiate the evening’s matches. The Elks’ gym in the new structure could accommodate 2,000 fans and a capacity house was expected.
Some 200 Spokane Elks would be taking “a special train” to Wallace to attend the dedication on Saturday, June 6, 1925. Both the Spokane Elks’ drum corps, with its 25 members, and the lodge’s singing quartet would make the excursion. Herman J. Rossi noted that Elk delegations from Coeur d’Alene, St. Maries, and other towns would be attending. “Governor [Charles C.] Moore and wife, federal and superior court judges and many others of prominence,” he added, “will be with us.” The evening’s entertainment would include a ball “for the wives of the Elks” and “a smoker in Howarth hall.” On Sunday, guests would be taken on a tour of local mines.
The Saturday afternoon dedication ceremony was well attended, with audience packed into the “lodgeroom” and overflowing into the adjacent reception rooms. Hugh Toole, exalted ruler of the Wallace Elks lodge and current mayor of Wallace, presided. Dr. John O’Shea, “past exalted ruler of Spokane lodge 228,” said one report, “spoke feelingly of the true significance of brotherly love a[s] a tenet of the order, and expressed the hope that the Wallace lodge would consider the large pilgrimage of Spokane Elks to Wallace as an expression of feeling[s] of brotherly love.”
The governor added brief remarks and was followed by “vocal solos” offered by Mrs. L.E. Hanley and Otto Rubke. The Spokane Elks quartet sang a number of “pleasing selections.”
Tommy Thank, weighing in at 118 lbs., bested Frankie Grandetta in a 10-round decision. The two welterweights fought to a 10-round draw. “Young Firpo” (Guido Bardelli)–“the wild bull of Burke”–knocked out Jimmy Monroe of Seattle in the first round of a preliminary bout, thus continuing what the Spokane Chronicle described as his “meteoric career.”
Tommy Thank’s win by decision, however, sparked controversy and aroused the ire of some fans. Days later, referee Murphy explained that in his opinion the battle should have been called a draw. Murphy gave the first five rounds to Thank and the sixth, seventh, and 10th to Grandetta “by wide margins.” The remaining two rounds were scored even.
“According to Idaho law,” said Murphy, “the referee must total the number of rounds on each card, and give the bout to the boxer who gets the majority…The referee has no choice in the matter.” Although, he added, “It is possible that the rule may be modified.”
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