Let’s be Frank about the Earl-y days: Part 2

By Ted Bowers

Reader Columnist

​In the mid 1970’s Sandpoint still had much of its small town flavor. The tourist industry was still in its infancy and the economy was ​largely ​timber based. The construction companies were few and new home building, while existing, wasn’t surging as it began to do in the 80’s and later. Sandpoint had not yet attracted the attention that other resort communities throughout the west were “enjoying.” We few longhairs and young adventurers who had somehow discovered this place hadn’t altered the town’s character to any extent. We were rather viewed as an annoyance or amusement, depending on who did the viewing. While sitting in the Pastime or Connie’s Cafe, I had the occasional logger offer to give me a haircut with his chainsaw. Fortunately, that never materialized but the image was definitely burned into my brain!

​Frank and Earl gave us “outsiders” a unique opportunity to become locals. Our customers were almost entirely old time residents with long histories in town. Our main building supply houses were right downtown­­Bonner Building Supply and Bargain Supply were only a block apart. Bonner Building, owned and run by Jack Bopp was our main supplier. Jack was a fine man, well respected in the town, warm hearted and generous.

Shopping there was a cultural experience in itself. The small staff knew all the builders and the shack that served as the store hummed with gossip and good humor.

Connie’s Cafe, sometime in the 1960s. Note the front of the cafe used to be beveled and didn’t meet the streetcorner like the current cafe is. The front booths today are located in what used to be the sidewalk. Photo courtesy of the Bonner County History Museum.

Connie’s Cafe, sometime in the 1960s. Note the front of the cafe used to be beveled and didn’t meet the streetcorner like the current cafe is. The front booths today are located in what used to be the sidewalk. Photo courtesy of the Bonner County History Museum.

​Our other source of integration into the community was our daily coffee break at Connie’s Cafe. No matter where we were working, in town or out in the county somewhere, we somehow found ourselves sitting at Connie’s at 9:30 every morning. Earl kept a close watch on the time and although sometimes we would no more than get set up to go to work, we would have to drop whatever we were doing and “go eat coffee!” Here he held court, catching up on local gossip, joking with the local tradesmen and occasionally doing some business. Annie was our favorite waitress and her fondness for Earl and Frank extended generously to us youngsters. It was a great experience for us­­a unique doorway into a small town society that we were very grateful for.

​Our subcontractors were always the same and were characters in their own right. Jerry Mott and his son Kenny, were our electricians. Jerry drove an old Econoline van with “Here Comes Jerry” painted backwards in large letters across the front of the van so when you looked in your rear view mirror, you knew who was behind you. Les Alspach was our plumber, Rolly Bricker was our painter–he had a habit of pursing his lips and making a sound like he was spitting a watermelon seed out, “pptt pptt!”–and then there was a mason we worked with named Don House, a man we called “Old By Golly” because practically every sentence he uttered was interspersed with, you guessed it… “By golly!”

I remember sitting in a bar with Earl after work one day, having a beer, when someone asked another old painter who was there how you got paint to stick to galvanized metal. His name was Don Leveque and he was well known for spending as much time in the bar as on a ladder. His response: “you piss in the bucket!”

I could go on about those days­­in fact, I think I will… See ya next time, and by the way, if you have any memories to share or questions or corrections, write me at [email protected]

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