(SARAH ENGLISH/Chewelah Independent)
John Salisbury’s family homesteaded in Chewelah in 1902 when the school that would become Washington State University was just 12-years old. By Cougar coincidence 12 members of his family have attended WSU thus far. “We all have been Cougs through and through for years,” he said.
Salisbury was the first post-World War II baby born in Chewelah, and milked cows, bucked bales and set pins in the bowling alley growing up. There was fun, too. “Families would fish together, picnic together, attend events together,” he remembers.
One event that his family always attended was Homecoming at WSU. A meal at the Tau Kappa Epsilon house, where Salisbury’s dad was a member, was often on the agenda. Though Salisbury’s dad couldn’t get him to pledge, he did get him to commit to WSU after Salisbury graduated from Jenkins High School in 1962. His dad, who served as editor of the student newspaper The Daily Evergreen and helped care for Butch, the live cougar mascot, had regaled Salisbury with stories from his time at WSU.
Salisbury has his own stories, including a world record “pot push” in May 1964. He and 13 others were angry at the lack of support for the Cougars when Spokane papers said the sports teams were “in the toilet.” A toilet bowl which had been used as an ashtray was attached to buggy wheels and given a coat of orange spray paint for the impromptu trip to Spokane.
Their trip was hampered by a police stop outside of Colfax. “Little old ladies driving the road would see a bright orange toilet being pulled in front of them and were freaking out,” Salisbury recalled. After reflectors were added to the back and flashlights were added to the front, the toilet was on the road again. The 92-mile trip to KXLY studios on Spokane’s South Hill took 22 hours. “I understand the record we set stood for a few years,” he recalled.
Spending time with Butch was also a highlight of Salisbury’s time at WSU.
“We loved it during the home football games when the yell squad would roll the portable cage with Butch inside around the track when we scored a touchdown,” he said. The mascot’s death caused some grief.
“That night at the Rotunda Dining Hall–where both my future wife and I worked–they served steak. It was real tough, and we asked Squeaky, the dietician, if she was serving Butch. Boy, was she mad!” Salisbury recanted.
After graduating with a degree in Psychology in 1967, Salisbury served our country in the Air Force and then returned to work in his family’s insurance agency. After moving back, Salisbury observed, “Chewelah grew in size but the community spirit continued.” Despite liking the town, he didn’t like selling insurance as much, and headed back to Pullman for a degree in Education.
Though he and his family eventually settled in Oregon, they still visit Chewelah to fill up on that community spirit and to play the WSU Fight Song on his phone to his H***y friends.
He still has a Pullman community spirit as well, and he and his wife, also a Cougar alum, support other students by contributing to scholarships to “ensure that other young adults can become Cougs like us,” he said.
Salisbury has some advice for today’s students. “Become involved with both the campus and the city of Pullman; that is part of your education,” he says. “It is ok to have fun–which we both did–but remember why you are there!”
After all, the pot does have to make a return trip to Pullman.