Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Leaving Idaho September 40 years ago

It was 40 years ago this month that I left the beautiful snow capped mountains of Southern Idaho for the flat, flat, flat prairies of Minnesota in my ‘67 Plymouth Satellite loaded with all I owned in the world. That would have included a Magnavox portable radio, Smith Corona typewriter and a rather meager collection of clothing.
As someone remarked this summer: “You are a Minnesotan.” I resemble that remark but I cling to the fiction that I am an Idahoan, born in Spokane, scant minutes from the Idaho border where the men are men and you know the rest. Famous for their libertarian notions, Northern Idaho is a far cry from the more straight laced Mormon dominated Boise where I was a boy reporter for the Idaho Daily Statesman, a Federated Newspaper, for four years, Local option gambling was popular in Northern Idaho.
I had exhausted my possibilities in Boise, having won a national award for my reporting on air and water pollution. I was a member of the Capitol Jaycees, a post frat drinking society, where I produced a slide presentation with audio on pollution that I showed to community groups. (Lon Dunne at KIDO NBC Radio did the audio track). By the time I reached the four year mark I was researching a story on pop culture , interviewing the program director at KFXD Radio, which boasted a Sunday night underground rock extravaganza. I can’t believe that Jim Golden, the assignment editor, gave me time to do this. Nothing came of that story.
I was massively bored by this time and when my friend at the Statesman Ralph Nichols suggested I get a master’s degree I jumped on that, researching universities and getting valuable insight from Gene Byrd, a Marquette University journalism professor who later transferred to the University of Minnesota to initiate a urban affairs emphasis in the School of Journalism. Byrd soon ran into a brick wall and left for the University of Texas. It was clear that the U of M faculty disdained anything as faddish as urban affairs journalism. So that was my first mistake.
It was a gorgeous sunny fall day when I drove into Minneapolis on Highway 12 with AM radio tuned to KUOM where they announced a seminar on the Urban River at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, sponsored by the University. I had a wonderful supportive supervisor, Vern Keel, at the Agricultural Journalism Department where I worked as a graduate assistant. So Vern got the University to pay my way to the Urban River seminar where I floated down the grossly polluted Mississippi with Star columnist Barbara Flanagan and other community do-gooders. It was a super introduction to Minneapolis.
So as Jim Gilligan of the Statesman observed: I had “returned to the womb” at the glorious U of M, a graduate student in journalism taking inter-displinary classes related to urban and regional affairs. I was the right guy for Agricultural Journalism because economist John Hoyt was heading an initiative on regional development, a controversial issue supported by Gov. Harold Lavander, a moderate Republican unlike the strident ideologue Republican who now holds the office. My student days at the University were all I dreamed they would be and after graduation I was hired by the U, based on my great efforts as a graduate student.
Bottom line: It’s better to be a student at the U than faculty where you bump up against petty egos, back-stabbing and other drama. In 1981 I returned to the University staff at KUOM radio for a one-year temporary dreamy job as an assistant producer on a radio documentary series on psychology with Vickie Lofquist. I cherish those memories of KUOM where I used broadcast tools I learned at the University of Washington.


Mike Barer said...

I had not read your blog in a long time. Glad to see that you are still cranking it out.

Burl Barer said...

The incredibly popular, violent horror films of recent decades, such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday The 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, owe much of their existence to the undisputed Godfather of Gore - Herschell Gordon Lewis. In 1963 Lewis, with his monumental splatter movie Blood Feast, single-handedly changed the face of horror cinema forever.

As well as virtually inventing the gore generation, Lewis also produced a number of "exploitation" movies, as well as sampling the full gamut of exploitation subjects ranging from wife-swapping and ESP to rock 'n' roll and LSD. A Taste of Blood details all these, plus gore classics such as 2,000 Maniacs, The Gore Gore Girls, Color Me Blood Red and Wizard of Gore, placing them in context amid the roots and development of the exploitation film.

"Herschell Gordon Lewis is the man who put red meat into the American cinematic diet. Ultimately Herschell made Quentin Tarantino possible." - Joe Briggs

Gene Johnson said...

Wow - Stories about your past I've never heard before. I read this to Linda and she enjoyed it too.

Scott said...

Hello there, my name is Scott Simpson, and I read with interest your blog on Spirit Lake, Idaho. I live on Spirit Lake - Nautical Loop Road - in the home originally owned by Fred and Louise Shaw. My family acquired this home in about 1981, but we have been on the lake since 1966.

I am looking for some history as to our property and historical photos of it. Any help you could provide would be most appreciated.

Scott L. Simpson

Thank you!

themurderedfamily said...

Dave Zarkin!!
Don't ask me how, but I happened across your column that included reference to me. I sure do remember you. You taught me how to say "Chaim" when I was telling you about this wonderful book, The Chosen, I was reading by "Chy-ham" Potok. Hope all is well with you.
Vern Keel now in Denver. Check out

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Anonymous said...
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Scott said...

Snowing in Spirit Lake, Idaho this morning - Spring is very very late.