Six times a year, men don tuxedos and women dress in long, formal gowns for an evening of fine dining and listening to speakers at the Spokane Club.
Now with about 210 members, the nation’s oldest chapter of the Knife and Fork Club has been dining at Spokane’s finest restaurants since 1936, when members paid the outrageous sum of $1.50 per plate on top of the $10 annual membership fee.
Kennard Jones, club secretary from 1937 to 1941, said that was a lot of money in those days.
When he married in 1932, Jones made $100 a month and “spent $25 a month on food, and we didn’t starve,” he said.
Spokane’s Knife and Fork Club was started by Benjamin Franklin, a descendant of the brother of the famous inventor of the same name. The first dinner - Dec. 7, 1936, at the Davenport Hotel - featured Sen. Nye from North Dakota, who was paid $200 to speak.
These days, big-name speakers are more expensive and it’s harder to pay their fees with membership dues. “Now they want $200 a minute,” Jones said.
For a gourmet dinner in the ‘90s, members pay $18 (in addition to $75 membership fees) for the privilege of hearing speakers like Charles Kuralt, Sen. Barry Goldwater and astronaut Ron Evans.
Until a year before it closed, the Knife and Fork convened at the Davenport Hotel - except for four years during World War II, when a lack of waitresses forced the hotel to discontinue serving the dinners.
The group next met at the Ridpath Hotel before moving two years ago to the Spokane Club.
Dennis Murphy, club president last year, said he joined the Knife and Fork Club because “I like to get dressed up.
“It’s a class act. I like class acts.”