PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Kathy Peterson said she just doesn’t want to pay for anybody else’s trash.
“That’s really all it boils down to,” said Peterson, the co-owner of the Dockside Saloon in Northwest Portland. “If other people put garbage in my dumpster and I see that it’s a different bag or whatever, I go through it and find out who you are.”
And that’s how the connection between Portland’s ice skating champion Tonya Harding and the attack on her Olympic teammmate and competitor Nancy Kerrigan came to light.
On January 31, 1994 — Super Bowl Sunday — the Dockside Saloon, located in the middle of parking lots and industrial areas, was closed. Kathy and her husband, Terry, used that time for restaurant maintenance.
Kathy went to the garbage bin, opened it up and discovered the items that thrust her into the middle of the biggest story in sports.
“There were bags and bags and bags of someone else’s trash,” she told KOIN 6 News. “It wasn’t the bags we use.”
She found a commuter ticket to Detroit, a ticket from the Ice Skaters Association and an envelope with doodles about Nancy Kerrigan’s home arena, the Tony Kent Arena.
She called the FBI and left a message. Then she went to a Super Bowl party.
“The stuff that I found that I thought was important, that I was going to turn over to the FBI, I just put in my car for safekeeping,” she said.
That was 25 days after Kerrigan was whacked with a club on the back of her knee, injuring her and hurting her chances for a spot at the upcoming Olympics.
“The most damaging paper that was found was an envelope with information concerning Nancy Kerrigan’s practice schedule at her home rink the Tony Kent Arena. The handwriting was found to be Tonya’s. She had earlier denied any involvement in the whole affair, but the garbage proved otherwise.” – Dockside Saloon
As the full story emerged, the nation was caught up in a real-life soap opera.
The FBI came by the next day. The story hit the news and Peterson said what ensued “was just like chaos.”
She said she knew something was up when she saw Tonya Harding’s name on a check receipt and the name of Jeff Gillooly — Harding’s ex-husband — among the garbage.
Both Kathy and Terry knew the Harding-Kerrigan story and figured the garbage was just a part of the story.
“This cameraman came over and said, ‘This is going to be crazy,’ and we’re kind of going, ‘Yeah, right. It’s no big deal,'” Terry said. “It was a big deal.”
All the networks at the time — CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX — all showed up at the Dockside Saloon. They had 6 TV stations lined up at 6 tables and they did 48 interviews in 2 weeks, all while they worked.
Karen Wente, who’s worked at the Dockside for 26 years and has been friends with Kathy since high school, said they still get phone calls from media outlets every Olympics.
“A lot of people come in here that have never even, don’t even have a clue,” Wente said. “They read the back of the menu and they’re like, ‘Are you kidding me?'”
Kathy Peterson went before the grand jury, was ushered into court and up to the DA’s office. She was thrust into the middle of one of the biggest-ever stories in sports simply by happenstance.
She said Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly were never customers, so she’ll “never know probably for sure” why the dumpster at the Dockside Saloon ended up with Tonya Harding’s trash.
She said she’ll see the new movie, “I, Tonya,” mostly out of curiosity.
“We’re trying to figure out how they’re making a movie without this being a part of it,” she said.
Now, nearly 24 years later, everything around the Dockside Saloon is changing. But Kathy Peterson said, “We’re still here. Yep, absolutely. Thank goodness.”