Let’s Talk About: Coulee Dam Memories

This is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read lately. It’s the story of “Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.” 

College rowing had been a team sport since the early 1800s and began in New York. By 1900, many major colleges had rowing teams and the competition was fierce.  I literally couldn’t put the book down as I learned about the history of this sport and the teams at the University of Washington in particular.  I do recommend this as a worthwhile winter read for you all.

What I want to share with you today begins on page 122 and I both quote and paraphrase:  “In one small corner of the country (Washington state), something large was beginning to stir that terribly hot summer….. early on August 4th (1936) …. folks from Seattle climbed into their automobiles and headed east. People in Spokane filled their picnic hampers and loaded them into their cars and headed west. By late morning, the roads were black with automobiles converging from all directions on one unlikely spot: Ephrata, a forlorn little town of 516 people, out in the desolate scablands, not far from the Columbia River and a 50-mile long canyon called the Grand Coulee.

By midafternoon, 20,000 people had gathered behind a rope line in Ephrata. When Franklin D. Roosevelt appeared on the platform before them his cigarette holder angled jauntily upward, the crowd roared its welcome. Then Roosevelt began to speak, leaning forward on his podium, clutching it. In measured tones, but with rising emotion, he began laying out a vision of the benefits that the new Grand Coulee Dam would bring to this arid land in exchange for the $175 million public dollars it would cost……….”

Roosevelt then spoke of the many benefits and in closing said:  “We are going to see, I believe, without own eyes, electricity and power made so cheap that they will become a standard article of use….for every house within the reach of an electrical transmission line.” 

While it was not mentioned in this book, no doubt Roosevelt spoke to the thousands of “arid lane” that could be transformed into productive agricultural land. 

I wasn’t there; you weren’t there, but with this author’s words, we can well imagine the day, the crowd and his welcome news.