Word on the Street

The latest news in and around Tacoma, Pierce County and South Puget Sound

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Archives: Nov. 2008


No doorbusters at this Christmas tradition

From reporter Kris Sherman:

There were no doorbusters. No get-this-for-a-pittance, get-that-for-a-song ads. No ringing cash registers. No smoking credit cards.

The lighting of Tacoma’s town Christmas tree was free to all comers Saturday night.

And in a rough economy, that price clearly appealed to the estimated 800 to 1,000 people who counted down from 10 with Santa Claus before the five-story evergreen erupted in a glow of red, white, blue and green lights.

It was a simple ceremony, perhaps just what many needed in complex times.

The crowd gathered as darkness descended, many trundling into the lobby of the Pantages Theater at South Ninth and Broadway for hot chocolate or apple cider.

An army brass quintet blew seasonal songs into the relatively balmy evening.

A number of sponsors brought about the event. They included downtown businesses, the Broadway Center, Life Center, Fort Lewis, which supplied the tree, and Tacoma power, police and fire crews, which played roles in hauling it to town and getting it decorated.

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Pre-dawn bargains and courteous crowds

It was pretty cold outside the South Hill Mall Target at 9:30 p.m. Thanksgiving, when Chris Leppell and his mom, Gail Leppell, showed up to wait for the doors to open on Black Friday.

Chris wanted an Xbox 360 enough to stand outside shivering all night. He’d earned half the early-morning sale price. His mom had come to shiver with him and cover the rest.

Things warmed up considerably at 1 a.m., when Terri Anderson and Tim Shortsleeve arrived with chairs, blankets, and a propane heater.

They settled in and refined their strategy for the pre-dawn assault on cash registers. One son deployed to Circuit City and another to Staples. A daughter stationed herself at Toys R Us. They’d divvied up responsibility for the toys, the GPS, the electronics.

"I have a whole big list," Anderson said.

Actually, that list is smaller than the one for last year’s pre-dawn raids.

"I’ve already warned them that mother is not spending what she did last year," she said. "Things are obviously tighter."

Short funds were all the more reason to show up for the fun of staying out in the cold all night, warmed by the memory of turkey and the anticipation of good deals on board games, DVDs, electronics and all things Miley Cyrus.

Nick Lucara, 14, was about to own Guitar Hero, the reward for a summer of mowing lawns and saving allowance money. His buddy, Zach Bray, also 14, been saving, too, for video games. They’d camped out last year and had enough fun to do it again.

It was the third year for Alyssa Wendt, 16, who wrapped herself in a blanket and cuddled up with her grandmother, Nancy Wendt.

"This is a special time for us," Nancy said. "It’s a tradition. We come and spend time together.

"And meet new people," chimed in Polly Oeung, who, with her friends Sina Men and Myra Lopez-Chhour, had enjoyed getting to know the Wendts, as well as Linda Kalmbach and teen buddies Haley Poppleton and Kristen Herman-Haberly.

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The roots of the Mount Tahoma rock

The big rock that graced the old Mount Tahoma High School site for 43 years which is now the site of the new Gray Middle School was not left there by a glacier.

A story in Tuesday’s edition about the rock said no one was sure where the rock came from but Tacoma school district officials thought it was found on the site.

Walt Dunlap, 79, said Wednesday he helped bring it to the old Mount Tahoma site in either 1958 or 1959 when the school was being built. The high school opened in 1961.

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Turkey Ladies return with food for the Tacoma Rescue Mission

The Turkey Angels – Angie Sherman and Shari Crumbaker – are at it again this Thanksgiving.

The Pierce County real estate sales duo delivered $600 worth of holiday meal fixings Tuesday night to the Tacoma Rescue Mission after an evening of shopping at the Safeway store on Pearl Street.

Today they are returning to the mission with at least $260 worth of turkeys they are buying this morning.

The $860 for the Thanksgiving food was collected by them from friends and co-workers.

"It was incredible," Sherman said. "Even with the economy, people are still willing

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A bright idea, and a free light bulb

Those First Creek Neighbors know how to sell a meeting.

Hauling people out of their comfy homes on a Wednesday evening so they can sign up for volunteer gigs picking up garbage and shooing away hookers, pimps and drug dealers is not as easy as you might think. But this group packs meetings to the standing room only point.

They start with impeccable manners in their announcement: "You are invited to attend the monthly neighborhood meeting of First Creek Neighbors Dec. 3. 2008, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Portland Avenue Community Center, 3513 Portland Ave."

No matter whether it’s

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Controversy? Not for hundreds at Graham-Kapowsin

The hundreds of people who packed the gymnasium cheered with each basket. They giggled when a player fell of a donkey, or if the animal decided it would run away from the basket. Cheerleaders lined both baselines. Spectators munched on cookies and slices of pizza.

The donkey basketball tournament might have been controversial, but few people seemed to care. Hundreds turned out for the event at Graham-Kapowsin High School, which raised money for the Bethel School District Foundation.

"This is an excellent time," Debbie Waynick said. "Such a good time."

Waynick, a teacher at Cedar Crest Junior High in Spanaway, had never before played donkey basketball, in which players ride the animals around the court. She finished scoreless but earned a few style points: She caught a rebound, but her donkey started to walk away from the basket, so she flipped the ball over her head. It spun around the rim and fell out, but the shot drew cheers from the crowd.

"It was an awesome, awesome time," said Jim Warnke, a fourth-grade teacher at Elk Plain Elementary School. "The donkeys handled it very well. I see nothing wrong with it – but everyone’s entitled to their opinions."

Three women, though, weren’t happy with the event – and they protested outside the gates to the school.

They worried people attending the donkey basketball games would see the event as harmless fun, and they had concerns about the animals’ welfare.

"We’re out here for the animals. This is just exploitation," said Marilyn Wilfong of Graham. "Why don’t we go back to having bear wrestling or pit-bull dogfights?"

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Safety along Green River Road at fatal crash site examined

Auburn and King County officials are talking about whether a guardrail or some other kind of safety measure on Green River Road might have helped stop a car from plunging into the Green River on Nov. 7 and drowning two youngsters.

"We are talking with the county now about what can be done there," Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis said Friday.

He said he and some of the Auburn City Council members have been to the accident site just north of the Auburn Golf Course. The narrow two-lane road comes within 10-15 feet of the sloping river bank where

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The Great American Smokeout is under way today

"I’m quitting today again," said Monica Hall as she stood in front of the Great American Smokeout information table today in the Upgard Student Center at Tacoma Community College.

She was wearing a nicotine patch she had obtained free by calling the American Cancer Society Quit Line.

"They work really great," the 43-year-old student and mother said, adding that her teenage children are "constantly on me" about quitting smoking. Quiting isn’t easy for some who has smoked for 21 years, she said.

But she was determined.

"I want to be a great role model," she

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