ETCETERA - Firefighters to tackle stairclimb fundraiser March 11

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Strength, stamina, grit and a desire to raise funds for a worthy cause have a number of area firefighters racking up intense training for the 2012 Scott Firefighter Stairclimb March 11 in Seattle.

This climb is so popular, said Lance Groom, local climb co-captain with Phil Tonn, that registration was filled in 65 minutes. In contrast, last year the climb sold out in less than 10 hours, and that, too, was mondo fast.

Intrepid firefighters will tackle 788 feet of vertical elevation, scaling 1,311 steps, spanning 69 flights to the observation deck atop the Columbia Center, formerly Bank of America Tower. Situated downtown, it's the second-tallest building west of the Mississippi.

Fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is a critical part of being able to participate, according to the official website. Local firefighters want to raise $15,000 and so far have received more than $3,000 in donations. Donations to the local firefighters' effort may be made through stairclimb2012.com.

There is a $150 minimum entry per person and $1,000 early bird registration, with the departments competing to raise the most. "Everyone is pulling together," Lance said. Last year they raised $8,100.

In 2011, more than 1,500 firefighters from 281 different departments participated and brought in a record $930,000 for blood-cancer research and patient services.

Lance and other firefighters here are running up and down the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center enough times to scale 1,400 stairs in a workout. They're now pushing it to twice daily, said Lance, who will climb for his second year.

"The first year, you learn strategy. You have a 30-pound air tank, 20 pounds of gear and it's hot and heavy," he said. Of critical importance is regulating the air in the tank because when they reach the 40th floor they either need enough air remaining to make the 73rd floor or lose a minute or two to change air bottles, Lance said.

Those who reach the 40th floor without enough air are disqualified. Some, including Lance, want to make it on one bottle. There are officials spaced about every other floor to monitor competitors, Lance said.

"You're pumped and pretty jazzed," he added. "If you go too fast you can blow yourself out. You can see stars and get tunnel vision, so pace yourself. You need the excitement but must control it." Runners can get a little claustrophobic, too, but Lance said that feeling can be controlled as well.

"By the top, you're spent; you're done." People at the top help take climbers' gear off so they can cool down. Their vitals are checked before they're release to take the elevator back down.

It's one of toughest firefighter stair climbs in the world, he added.

Firefighters from here set to go the distance: seven from Walla Walla County Fire District 4, Phil Tonn, Lance Groom, Chief Rocky Eastman, Matt Schuster, Tania Nelson and Alma Gallardo, all returning climbers; and Hayden Linklater.

Tania is going for her second time this year. This fundraiser hits close to home for her, according to a release. Tania's 6-year-old son has bone marrow failure syndrome, which can lead to leukemia. He continues to undergo bone marrow biopsies yearly.

Walla Walla City Fire Department plans to send nine: Javin Berg, Raul Marroquin, Bryan McIntire, Shawn Ongers, Anthony Spada, Jason Strang and Eric Wood, returning climbers; and Fred Hector and Todd Stubblefield.

Cimmaron Perkins from Columbia County Fire District 3 will repeat the climb, as will Otis Garbe with Walla Walla County Fire District 6 in Touchet.

And 10 firefighters with Walla Walla County Fire District 5 in Burbank will make the ascent: Jeremy Garrett and Maria Noonan, repeating the climb; Mike Taylor, a Portland stairclimb veteran; and Bill Waters, Bonnie Waters, Justin Lessard, Mike Eutsey, Jeff Cleavenger, Travis Merk and Mike Morrison.

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It's hard to resist images supplied by retired Whitman College librarian Joe Drazan, who has been going through old Walla Walla newspapers and other sources to collect not only photos but advertisements.

His compilations in several volumes are already for sale for $10 each at the Walla Walla Public Library, 238 E. Alder St., which benefits from the proceeds.

His latest collection is "Walla Walla 1920-1929," which has an illustrated history in 650 ads and 600 pictures.

Photos and ads are also viewable at his website, www.wallawalladrazanphotos.blogspot.com/

One such event touted in an ad and a news article took place in 1931 at the Edgewater outdoor dance pavilion.

That's when three men took on Billy, the 630-pound bear, in rounds of 10 minutes each. Joe found the ad and article in the June 1931 Bulletin newspaper.

"The guy brings his two bears to town and has them grapple with some of the locals. The followup news item is funny - too bad someone didn't have a camera," Joe said.

The ad promotes "wrestling tomorrow night at the Edgewater, 8:30 o'clock" (it was located behind what's now Marcy's Bar & Lounge, 35 S. Colville St., on Mill Creek).

Wrestler Robin Reed was to face Mervin Barackman in a best two falls out of three, in eight 10-minute rounds. Then, Barackman's Billy, the Bear, would face Leemon Broadhead of Pomeroy, Joe Kitterman of Dayton and Lee Smith of Pasco in three 10-minute rounds; and finally, Billy's 125-pound cub Andy would face 85-pound John Ruff in three 5-minute rounds.

Tickets were sold at Shep's and headquarters (thinking as it was a V.F.W.-sponsored event, it would be V.F.W. headquarters). Admission was $1.65 ringside; $1.10 general and all of 50 cents for ladies.

"Billy was ponderous. He also was a bit tired. But with the three middleweights who grappled with him, he did put on a novel bit of action. ... Brodhead had the most success in stirring Billy to action," the newspaper reported the following day.

Both bears had muzzles and the cub was gloved as protection. Plus the grapplers wore a leather jacket, "and got nicely hugged during the proceedings."

The event "drew more kids, that is the bears did, than have been together since the circus was here."

The only photo Joe could find of the Edgewater pavilion was taken during the April 1, 1931, flood.

The water is up under and over the Colville street bridge, and the Pavilion deck hangs over the creek.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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