Shawn & Lani McMahon

The McMahon clan arrived in Idaho in 1884. Great Grandfather William had left Ireland in 1849 at age 17 during the famine. We don’t know where he spent his first years in America prior to 1862. However, that year, he enlisted with the Union Army as a private with the Wisconsin volunteers. He survived the war and Sherman’s march to the sea, and afterwards settled in LeMars, Iowa where he farmed. He married Emma in the late 1870’s and their first three sons were born in IoWA Her side of the family, the Platts, had taken the train and settled in Genesee, Idaho. The McMahons followed upon hearing glowing reports of good soils and available land.

Their third son Ormond, was two when they came west. He was my grandfather, and grew up in Genesee. He moved to Spokane after high school to seek employment. He worked at a couple of business establishments, before joining the Nott-Atwater Company. The business supplied specialized equipment to the growing number of mines and lumber mills in the Pacific Northwest. He became an officer and stockholder of the company. He worked there until 1958. In 1919, he and two other friends entered into a 99 year lease with the US Forest Service for a beachfront lot on Priest Lake. He helped build the road from Nordman, Idaho, down to the lake. The three men built a cabin on the property. When my grandfather married Jessie Tyler, and their family began, the cabin became theirs.

My father, Terence (Terry) McMahon was born in 1930 and was the third of four siblings. They spent most of the summer at Priest Lake with my Grandmother, and my Grandfather would come up for a few weeks of the summer. During WWII, with 35 mile per hour speed limits, and poor roads, it was an all day trip from Spokane. My father Terry started working summers for the US Forest Service when he was in high school and the first couple of college summers. He worked on the blister rust crew, pulling ribies bushes trying to save the White Pine trees. He also fought forest fires and climbed trees when being chased by bears.

Top Left: Great Grandfather, William McMahon, circa 1890, Top Right:William McMahon, 1862 (Civil War), Bottom left: Great Uncle, William McMahon, Jr. circa 1940, Bottom right: 1st row right - Emma McMahon (great grandmother).

Terry married Shirley Maurer, my mother in 1951, while attending Washington State College, now WSU. He was in the Air Force ROTC, and upon graduation in 1952, started serving his country in the USAF during the Korean War. I arrived in 1953, and shortly after my birth, my father left for a one year tour of duty in Western Alaska, as a 2nd Lt. at a DEW line radar station. When he returned, his two year tour was over, and he was hired by the Phillips Petroleum Company, and worked at the regional office in Spokane. A year later, he was transferred to Coeur d’Alene, as the district sales manager for North Idaho, Eastern Washington, and Western Montana. We moved to 621 Borah Avenue, across from the brand new grade school.

My mother’s family had lived in Idaho and Eastern Washington as well. St. Maries, Colfax, Colville and Spokane were all places they had called home, as well as Riggins and Elk City when my Grandfather Raymond Maurer was in the CCC’s. My grandmother, Ruby Bailey Maurer kept a well organized home in a tent-frame during the summer. My mother attended the one room schoolhouse in Elk City for her first three grades.

To the North of our home on Borah Avenue were a few homes, but mostly open land and an alfalfa field that bordered Best Avenue. My neighbor and “best” friend was Chuck Best. He had two sets of grandparents that lived across from each other at 7th and Best. I was the recipient of a lot of both grandmother’s cookies and hugs. When we finally mastered bicycles without training wheels, the North end of Coeur d’Alene was our playground. From Albertson’s and the Modern Drug retail district at 4th and Harrison, to the Sunset area at 4th and Appleway, we covered it all. The Wagon Wheel Drive In owned by the Hoopes was our favorite place. We rode our bikes to the base of Big Best Mountain on 15th street, and would spend the day hiking and looking down on the city. We would stop and look at the horses that people had on their property on 9th street. Our mothers would load us into a car and head to Sander’s beach for swimming. With all the sawmills operating at that time, there were always lots of small logs to swim to, float on, and try and stand on. We took swimming lessons at the City Beach. It seemed that the couple of years that we took the two week course, it was the coldest and rainiest weeks we had ever had.

My first grade teacher at Borah school had an extended illness for a few months. The principal, Robert Jones, later was the principal at Coeur d’Alene High School during my years there. He was a gracious man with a booming voice, and he pronounced Coeur d’Alene like Louise Shadduck does, the French version. My 1971 classmates and I were the first group to graduate from the “new” high school on 4th and Dalton Avenue. It was a big change from the former high school, currently Lakes Middle School. It was just the junior and senior classes, about 800 students, with open classrooms and a campus layout. It was a great year.

In 1962, Phillips Petroleum informed my father that they wanted to transfer him to Weiser, Idaho. Since none of us were fiddlers, the idea didn’t sit well with my parents. He decided to go into the real estate business as a salesman with our family friend, Russ Morbeck at Panhandle Insurance and Realty. It turned out that Terry had a quite a knack for it, and like everything he did, he immersed himself in the field. In 1966, he started his own company, Northwest Real Estate at 1130. N 4th Street. I learned the periphery aspect of the business as a kid, as did my sisters and brother, Sherry, Ken, and Keri. A family picnic could start by looking at some timberland or acreage, with a break in between, and taking a different route home to see another property that had just come on the market. We helped clean up rental properties, became painters, passed out flyers, and sometimes drug a chain behind a boat to clean up weeds in front of lake front properties (pre-milfoil days!). 

Right side: Terry & Shirley McMahon (parents)

We also were able to meet lots of interesting people who Dad would bring home to have dinner with us.  When I enrolled at the University of Idaho, the last thing in the world I wanted to do was get in the real estate business.

I thought I wanted to teach history, after Ralph Bell inspired a lot of us in his class at Coeur d’Alene High.  However, before I got to Moscow I had changed my mind, and decided I wanted to be an attorney.  A year of political science classes made me switch to general business.

I graduated with a Business degree and a major in Marketing and a Major in Real Estate and Appraisal, just for the heck of it. Not wanting to sit behind a desk or wear a tie, I worked as a painter, did some logging, and then headed to Alaska for a couple of years. I ended up working in Prudhoe Bay in the oilfields the year the pipeline opened. I bought a house in Coeur d’Alene and commuted by plane to work.

I was the office manager for an oilfield service company. Two things changed my attitude about working there after a while. I asked for a raise and received a nefarious answer, and the fact that in the tundra of Alaska, there was a pretty girl behind every tree, but there just weren’t any trees. By January of 1978, I had moved back to Coeur d’Alene, and become a salesman at Northwest Real Estate. 2007 is my thirtieth year in the real estate industry.

If I hadn’t moved back, and been in the real estate business, I probably would never have had the great fortune to meet my future wife, Lani. A chance circumstance at a business I had listed, and a glowing reference from a mutual friend, Laurie, resulted in a second date. Thank goodness!

We survived the tough economic years in the 1980’s. Being forced to be frugal helped us move forward when things improved. We were still here, and able to help others with their commercial real estate needs. We have been fortunate to create many lasting relationships and business partnerships with friends in our community. We have been able to invest and help foster many positive changes in Coeur d’Alene. This part of Idaho is so unique and special to us. When we travel, it’s a comforting feeling to come home to this area.

We are pleased to be able to help the Coeur d’Alene Library. Our family is a group of “readers” and use the library system. We know how this helps young people succeed in life. Congratulations to Coeur d’Alene for creating such a wonderful facility.

Shawn McMahon
August, 2007

1st row right: Jessie & Ormand (grandparents) and Shawn (2yrs).