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Joe Johnson got his heart and his back broken in the same car accident when he was just 17 years old. The boy, whose family were all proud veterans, was unable to pass the military enlistment requirements when his time came because of his injury. Giving back was the core of his DNA, and he could not. But good men rise up and move on, and born soldiers don’t quit. Joe Johnson is both. He pursued a successful career in sales.
Then one typical day, in one ordinary moment, an extraordinary thing happened. Joe and his wife were watching TV when a commercial came on with a man who was starting a restaurant and wanted to hire as many veterans as possible. Joe turned to his wife and said, “What if all of us made it a point to do business with as many veterans as we can, giving them a chance to continue to serve their country from home?”
John Howell III loves Thistles. When he retired, he got word from his wife’s college roommate that her family had found a boat out in Coeur d’Alene. She wondered if Howell might want to take a look at it.
“It was sitting in a barn on their property,” Howell said. “I flew out, looked at it, rented a 26-foot truck and put the boat in the back of it and drove it back to North Carolina. It was worth it.”
Turned out, the boat was No. 48, one of the first of 4,050 Thistles ever made. Being so near the beginning of the boats’ run, this one was made of wood, and it was a beauty, Howell said.
“They’re really phenomenally responsive boats, a beautiful boat in the water,” Howell said. “Just small changes make a huge difference in your boat speed. It’s the difference between sailing the boat and sailing it well.”
Howell is making the trip back to North Idaho again this July for the Thistle Nationals 2019.
As she pointed out inventions, airplanes and photos spanning more than a century of United States history, Rachel Riddle Schwam found herself apologizing for mixing up the dates on a few displays at the new location of the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center.
The double-checking was understandable. There are a lot of dates for her to keep track of. Some items go back at least 150 years.
“You’ve got old airplanes, new airplanes, antique inventions to modern day inventions,” Schwam said the morning before the museum’s June 1 opening at the Coeur d’Alene Airport. “It’s a big learning environment of the history of the United States, so it’s a pretty awesome place.”
For nearly 12 years the Bird Museum called Sagle, Idaho, home. But now that home is at the end of West Cessna Avenue, in a large blue hangar with a door that opens to the airport tarmac. It is a fitting location for a museum with almost a dozen airplanes and a collection that celebrates, among other things, the history of flight in the United States.