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Sun., May 4, 2008

Sisters’ stories part of Spokane’s

April 6, 1945: We went over to our book review in Chronicle building. Mrs. Beals reviewed “Anything Can Happen” by a Russian author and his wife. Was very interesting. – From the journal of Keo LaVell.

My forever dream was to write a book about Keo LaVell and her sister, Iowa Cowan. They belonged to the pioneer King family of Spokane. My father was their attorney, and by the time I knew them, Iowa and Keo were widows living together. They became like gentle great-aunts to us. Keo died in 1966; Iowa in 1977.

When my dad died, I took possession of several boxes of Iowa-Keo photos, letters and postcards, and three journals Keo kept in the 1940s. The items dated from the early 20th century to the 1970s.

Neither Iowa nor Keo could have children, and I felt an obligation to pass on their life stories to a new generation. So I stuffed the contents of the Iowa-Keo boxes into a large filing cabinet, and except for one column I wrote about Keo’s journals in 2004, the material remained there untouched.

I intended to write their story as a retirement project. Well, one in four adults never read books now. When I retire, the number will be more dismal. And in retirement, after writing daily for four decades, will I feel like scribbling another word? Doubtful.

So what to do with a dream detoured? I’m blogging mine. One week each month on our editorial board blog, A Matter of Opinion, I post excerpts from Keo’s journals, along with Iowa-Keo historical photos. I call it the Keo Chronicles.

March 20, 1947: Franny Crosby asked if I wanted to go to the book review. We enjoyed (“From the Top of the Stairs”) so much. Mrs. Govett, a frail looking-oldish lady – about 60 maybe – gave it.

Sara Davidson’s coming-of-age book “Loose Change” was a mega-seller. Davidson wrote for television, too, but found herself in her 50s unemployed and begging her way into a guest journalism teaching gig at the University of Boulder.

She is friends with songwriter Carly Simon, who was dumped from her record label when she grew older. Both women despaired as the usual outlets for their talents – books, TV scripts and record contracts – dried up.

Simon and Davidson finally concluded that the creative process itself matters more than finding mainstream ways to channel the creativity, and they are pursuing some of those new channels, with renewed success. Their experience freed me up to abandon the retirement book project in favor of the blog. The end result doesn’t matter. Telling the Iowa-Keo story does.

Sept. 16, 1948: Our book review club resumed. Mrs. Davenport gave “Shannon’s Way” and Mrs. Montgomery Smith reviewed “The Life of Gertrude Lawrence.”

Iowa and Keo spent many evenings listening to book reviews held in The Spokesman-Review and Chronicle buildings. I like to picture them walking the same halls I now walk.

The Keo Chronicles can be read free on our blog, from anywhere in the world. The photos and postcards in the Iowa-Keo collection chronicle Spokane’s growing-up years when dirt roads were the norm and people visited a stone “owl castle” at Manito Park. These photos and postcards will become part of The Spokesman-Review’s digital photo archives. Someday, in this Google world, those photos will likely be available to everyone, too.

As Iowa and Keo might have said in their soft voices, “Oh my dear, imagine that.”

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