Timothy Egan, on winning the National Book Award for The Worst Hard Time two years ago, from today's NY Times:
Spokane, Wash. There must be something literary in the river that runs through it. It has produced two National Book Award winners in the last two years (Sherman Alexie, last year), and a third person, Jess Walter, was a finalist for fiction in 2006.
I must admit that I am not that much of a fan of figure skating. This week, however, Spokane is hosting the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships. This is definitely the big thing in town this week. The local newspaper, the Spokesman-Review, is providing very extensive coverage of the events. A special section in the Sunday paper included a list of all previous champions -- men, women, pairs. I like history and I like lists, so going over those names really was quite interesting to me. I must admit to not recognizing many names (especially from the very early years), but then there were also the names of famed skaters who won titles several years in a row. Tenley Albright and Carol Heiss dominated the 1950s. Then there was Laurence Owen, who won the women's title once -- in 1961 -- and a few years later Peggy Fleming, who dominated in the late 1960s. Those two skaters marked different points in a great tragedy of 1961.
In early 1961, Laurence Owen won the women's championship at 16 and appeared to by a strong contender for the gold medal at the 1964 Olympics. It was not to be. The plane carrying the 1961 U.S. Figure Skating team to the world championships in Prague crashed in Belgium, killing the entire team, along with coaches, friends, family members, and judges. Laurence Owen died along with her sister, who was also a skater, and her mother, who was a former champion and coach. In 2006, the story of the 1961 team was recounted in the book Frozen in Time, the Enduring Legacy of the 1961 U.S. Figure Skating Team, by Nikki Nichols.
As a result of this tragedy, the junior skaters of 1961, including then 12-year-old Peggy Fleming, were hurried along. Peggy went on to become a U.S. national champion and to win the gold medal in the 1968 Olympics, thus marking the team's comeback from the unbelievable tragedy of 1961.
Since we've had a substantial snow fall and Mary mentioned Cannon Hill Park in her "Ouch" post, this is a perfect time to post some pictures of Cannon Hill Park in the snow. These pictures were taken last winter, but everything looks pretty much the same today. Be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them so that you can appreciate the beauty of the park and its neighborhood.
First of all, I should mention that Cannon Hill Park is named for A.M. Cannon, an early-day Spokane banker and real estate developer. (In Spokane, "early-day" means late 1800s and early 1900s -- I can almost hear our British readers chuckling.) The park is not now, and never has been, an artillery park. The site of the park had been a brickyard at one time. In the early 1900s, the site was developed into a public park. Spokane has a magnificent park system that is one of the great legacies of the city's founders. A general plan for the park system was developed by the Olmsted Brothers of Massachusetts. The brothers were the sons of America's great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
Mary and I live more or less in between Manito Park (the crown jewel of the park system) and Cannon Hill Park (a smaller, but delightful park). Our neighborhood is generally referred to, not surprisingly, as the Manito-Cannon Hill neighborhood, and the legal description of our property shows that our house is situated in Spokane's Cannon Hill Park Addition. The picture in the previous paragraph is the view down the street from our house and the picture in this paragraph is of a house facing Cannon Hill Park.
Cannon Hill Park has a lovely pond (originally the pit for the brickyard) and two stone bridges. It is serenely beautiful and sits in the midst of many fine older (that is, early 1900s) houses. Walking in and around Manito and Cannon Hill Parks any time of the year is one of the great treats of living in Spokane.