When Dan Coyle began removing old cast iron pipes from a house he rents near Gonzaga University on Tuesday, he discovered a piece of Spokane history he never expected.
Wrapped around one of the pipes as a thrifty form of insulation was a copy of the Spokane Daily Chronicle dated May 25, 1923.
“Ninety-eight years from the day they put the plumbing in, we ripped it out,” Coyle said.
As workers continued to remove the pipes, they found more papers. Copies of the Chronicle and Spokesman’s Review of the entire month of August 1944 show the steady progress of Allied troops against Nazi forces during the final months of World War II in Europe, along with weather forecasts and color comics by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
“Patriots’ army roars in Paris as American steamroller crushes Nazis,” reads the headline of the Chronicle on Aug. 22, 1944, above a photo of smiling General George S. Patton.
Three days later: “Paris overjoyed at the arrival of the Americans: the Nazis of northern France flee to the Rhine”, headlines on August 25.
Three more days, August 28: “The Nazis are retreating on all the French fronts.
The August 30 issue of The Spokesman-Review offered some snapshots of what was to come in the months and years to come.
Under a headline reading “Global Security Plans Outlined,” a dispatch from the Associated Press of Washington, D.C., recounted the early days of the Dumbarton Oaks conference, where leaders of the United States, United Kingdom , the Soviet Union and China laid the foundations of what would become the United Nations.
“The men who should know are confident that the first major airborne field army in history can leap directly over Hitler’s vaunted western wall,” one military analyst wrote in another story, foreshadowing the Allied offensive on the Siegfried line which began the following month.
On the same day, a local story announced a planned reduction in aluminum production at the Mead plant in Spokane, but aluminum was not the only commodity in short supply during the war. Diaries like the ones Coyle discovered were collected as part of the government’s “Salvage for Victory” campaign.
Coyle, who has owned the house since 2001, said he was unable to find any records showing who owned it in the 1940s, let alone 98 years ago. The Spokane County assessor’s record shows the house was built in 1900.
In a hurry to complete the renovations before his new tenants arrived in early June, Coyle replaced the antique plumbing and left the papers rolled up in piles, but within hours they had crumbled.
“I don’t know enough about chemistry to know why they would crumble now when they weren’t five hours ago,” he said. “I am slightly concerned about the welfare of these newspapers. I like old stuff.