By Cindy Hval
For 65 years, a group of dedicated history buffs has met monthly to share its passion for the American West.
Established in 1955, the Westerners Spokane Corral is one of 60 clubs worldwide, and the only one in the Pacific Northwest. The international group, founded in Chicago in 1944, features clubs in countries including Sweden, Denmark and Japan.
The goal of the group is bringing together those who have a common interest and zeal for discovering and disseminating knowledge of the American West, especially the history and lore of the frontier period.
The Rev. Ted Bradley, 94, has been a fixture at the Spokane Corral for 60 years.
“My family had a great interest in history,” he said.
That interest sparked his own, and for more than 30 years he taught history at area Catholic high schools, including Gonzaga Prep and Marycliff.
“Teaching boys was easier. If they got out of hand you could paddle ’em,” Bradley recalled. “But when I scolded the girls, they’d cry.”
Bradley noted that for many years the club was limited to men.
“Jerry Peltier and Tom Teakle founded it, and Teakle hated women,” he said. “He wouldn’t even let wives or girlfriends come to the Christmas party.”
The first attempt to include women at the local level went down in defeat in 1991. The motion needed a two-thirds majority to pass, and the vote was tied at 23.
Westerner club presidents are called sheriffs, and in 1994 author and historian Tony Bamonte held the title. He waited until many of the older members went south for the winter, then held a vote. The measure passed, and women were finally admitted to the club.
Bradley vividly remembers a presentation by the club’s first woman sheriff, Jean Oton.
Oton gave a talk about the bordellos in Wallace and showed up in full Madame Ruby Ridge costume.
“Women saved the club,” Bradley said.
Longtime member Lynn Wells joined the Spokane Corral because she was doing research into local history. She served as the club’s second female sheriff.
“I grew up close to the Spokane House Interpretive site,” she said. “I thought I’d found everything written about Spokane House, but I called Jerry Peltier, and he invited me to become a member.”
Likewise, Susan Walker was involved with a historical project; the Spokane Law Enforcement Museum. She met Tony and Suzanne Bamonte, who invited her to join.
“I fell I love with history,” she said. “I enjoy this club because it brings history alive. You get to know our area and our community, and mingle with others who have similar interests.”
Current sheriff Dick Jensen joined the group in 1998, and organizes the group’s summer day trips to regional historical sites.
“When you visit a site where history took place, it comes alive,” he said. “I really enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.”
He pointed to the Westerners’ logo, a buffalo head, on his name badge.
“This is Old Joe, based on the art of Charlie Russell,” he said. “Meetings used to start with greeting the logo on the wall, ‘Hello Joe, you old buffalo.’ ” And they used to end by saying, ‘Adios Joe, you old buffalo.’ ”
The monthly meetings feature guest speakers who present a wide array of topics, including Fairchild Air Force Base through the years, the history of Millwood, and haunted Hillyard.
Fun and fellowship aren’t the only hallmarks of the organization. Twice a year, the group publishes the Pacific Northwesterner. Each publication covers a subject dealing with the Pacific Northwest, highlighting people and historical events. Past titles include “The Two Mrs. Fassetts: Controversy, Scandal and Social Change in Early Urban Spokane,” and “Baxter General Hospital: ‘City of Mercy,’ 1942-1945.”
These publications are distributed to 35 museums, libraries and universities, including Princeton and Yale.
The Spokane Corral has about 75 general members. The public is welcome to attend its monthly meetings, which for now are conducted via Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Jensen said history has much to teach us about how to respond to pandemics.
“We learned about social distancing during the 1917/1918 flu,” he said. “We can learn new ways of looking at old things. History fits the big jigsaw puzzle of life together.”
Westerners Spokane Corral
This Zoom meeting is open to everyone.
Westerners monthly meeting on Zoom
Time: Jan 14, 2021 06:30 PM Pacific Time
Join Zoom Meeting
Our January 14, 2021 speaker will be Westerners member Jim Bannister. His presentation, "Edward Steptoe and the Indian Wars," will cover the story behind the last Indian victory in the Pacific Northwest, and how a Virginian became involved in the process. He'll discuss how communication, trust, and luck led to the battle, and how Steptoe escaped with his life in a manner that is still hard to explain.
Jim teaches 8th Grade U.S. History, and has been an educator in the Nine Mile Falls School District for 35 years. He has also been a tour guide for 29 years, specializing in tours to Washington, D.C., Gettysburg, and New York City.
Westerners Speakers Team
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Upper images are courtesy of the Northwest Room. The image to the left is courtesy of a photo from Ron McFarland's Edward J. Steptoe and the Indian Wars: Life on the Frontier, 1815-1865 book. The image above is courtesy of the Nostalgia Magazine Collection.