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Valley Heritage Museum shares area’s stories

Students from across the Spokane Valley have been enjoying field trips to the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, 12114 E. Sprague Ave. Students have a couple of new exhibits to see while they learn about the area where they live.

Jayne Singleton, museum director, said students start their tours inside for a presentation about the Spokane Valley. Singleton said she asks the children to close their eyes and imagine a time before computers, cell phones, automobiles or even running water.

“We’ve gone back in time,” Singleton said.

Outside the museum the students will find tractors, a full-size tepee and an old-fashioned hand pump where they learn how people got water into their homes before modern plumbing.

There is also an outhouse with a sign that reads “The Way it Was” and below that, “Thru rain, heat, cold & snow, Nature calls, U gotta go.”

Singleton said the exhibit helps to establish a connection between the past and the present. They learn about what is different and what is the same between now and then.

Singleton said the students have been asking lots of questions on these tours – right now, the major interest of the students revolves around “Under One Sky,” the exhibit that opened last month highlighting events in the Spokane Valley from 1800 to 1899.

In 1858, after the Battle of the Spokane Plains, Col. George Wright and his army slaughtered more than 800 horses belonging to the native tribes along the banks of the Spokane River near what would become the Washington-Idaho border.

Singleton said there have been some very quiet moments in the museum after the children hear this story, and mostly they want to know why it happened.

She said the tours are age-appropriate and are designed to educate the children, not disturb them.

“One hundred years ago, death was the norm,” Singleton said. “(We) step back a moment and point out how things have changed.”

Student groups can make appointments for tours of the museum. Singleton said they are always looking for groups to come through.

Keeping the museum open to share the history of the Valley is an expensive endeavor. Singleton said the museum is kept open through donations, the price of admission and grants. On Nov. 13, the museum will hold one of its major fundraisers of the year.

The sixth annual Tea and History Program will be from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Part of the event will honor West Valley High School for its preservation of the school’s arch and other decorative façade pieces before the original building was torn down in 1993. The old building was built in 1924 on the corner of Trent and Argonne.

Now-retired Superintendent Dave Smith had the 26-foot granite and marble archway dismantled and covered in plastic. It remained in storage until the school was refurbished in 2006-’07.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful story of historic preservation,” Singleton said.

Singleton said every year the board of directors at the museum nominates individuals and organizations for their contributions to historical preservation or the museum. The vote for West Valley High School was unanimous.

“I really hope a lot of alumni are able to show up,” she said.

The theme for the event this year is the “Golden Age of Radio.” Singleton said there will be music and radio shows from the 1930s and ’40s presented by Jerry Anderson of the old KZUN radio station that served the Valley.

During her presentation at the lunch, Singleton will show rare photos of the old West Valley High School and other historic photos.

The funds from the tea will benefit the museum, and Singleton said the tickets are tax deductable, since the museum has 501(c)3 nonprofit status.

It is the sixth year this event has been held for the museum that has been open for five years.

“We’re very excited at how we’ve continued to grow,” Singleton said.