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.”
Call Sheriff Dick Jensen (509) 747-1335. Send mail to: The Westerners Spokane, P.O. Box 1717, Spokane, WA 99210 for more information. We meet the third Thursday of every month, except July and August. Meeting time is 6:00PM for dinner and 7:00PM for the speaker (we will continue using Zoom for those that can't attend). Starting in April our meetings are at the Corbin Senior Activity Center, 827 W. Cleveland Ave. Spokane.
Westerners Spokane Corral
with two of his children, Becca and Tony Ball, who are both pilots.
Upper images are courtesy of the Northwest Room. The image to the left is courtesy of the Steve Ball. The image above is courtesy of the Nostalgia Magazine Collection.
The purpose of the Westerners Spokane Corral is to bring together in warm fellowship men and women who have a common interest in Pacific Northwest history. The Westerners meets the third Thursday of every month, except July and August. Westerners encourage historical research, popularize western lore , history through publication, awards and preservation of archival records, documents and other evidence of the Pacific Northwest.
On May 20, Steve Ball will present “Echoes of Yesterday: Relocation of Indian Graves before the Flooding of Kettle Falls.” Steve’s grandfather, Howard T. Ball, was owner of the newly-formed Ball and Dodd Funeral Home when in 1939 he was awarded the contract to move Native American graves from the shores of the Columbia River, which was soon to be inundated by rising waters behind the nearly complete Grand Coulee Dam. The waters would eventually cover thousands of ancient burial grounds, some many centuries old. There were no maps or written records of these locations, only verbal history passed down through the generations.
Howard used only native labor in disinterring as many graves as he could find as the waters began to rise. Recognizing the historical significance of the project, Howard realized it should be documented. He rented a cinema-grade 35 mm camera and used color film to capture as much of the experience as possible. He took thousands of feet of film.
Howard’s son Don Ball, who succeeded as owner and president of Ball and Dodd Funeral Homes, was bothered that none of this historical footage was available for viewing by the family or public. In 1978 he hired a documentary film producer out of Hollywood to organize and put the film into a usable format. The result is now on dvd, which Steve will show the Westerners members at our meeting in May.
Howard Ball died in 1979 before the documentary was completed, but he knew his efforts had been permanently preserved. Steve’s father Don titled the documentary “Echoes of Yesterday.”
Our presenter, Steve Ball, joined the Washington Air National Guard in 1966, and retired in 1996. He served four years as an enlisted airman working as a flight simulator technician in the F-102 and F-101B fighter interceptors. In 1970 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. and attended USAF flight school; in his military career he flew the T-33, T-37, C-131, UH-1, U-3, F-101B, KC-135A, and the KC-135E.
Steve also had a civilian aviation career, flying a corporate jet for Merrill Womack, the owner of the National Music Service Inc. headquartered in Spokane, and for Cascade Airways. In 1986 Steve was hired by Alaska Airlines where he flew the Boeing 727 and the McDonnell Douglas MD-80. He retired from Alaska in 2008.
In addition, Steve and his wife Robin opened Sharp Shooter Indoor Range and Gun Shop in 1995, which continues to operate today. In his free time, Steve is an endurance cyclist, hunter, and fisherman, and he enjoys racing Corvettes, land sailing, and ice boat sailing.
To reserve your place, no later than the Sunday before each meeting, please contact Barbara Leiss at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 509-276-5927 (between 10:00 and 4:00 p.m.).
Westerners Speakers Team
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