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Spokane Valley Heritage Museum volunteer gets talk flowing

Spokane Valley Heritage Museum volunteer Don Gorman shows visitors from Maryland the rotary phone display Friday in Spokane Valley. (Dan Pelle)
Spokane Valley Heritage Museum volunteer Don Gorman shows visitors from Maryland the rotary phone display Friday in Spokane Valley. (Dan Pelle)

Don Gorman began volunteering for the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum before it existed and he never quit.

The way Gorman tells the story, he met Chuck King at a picnic at Terrace View Park back in the early 2000s where King was giving rides in an antique merry-go-round shaped like a rocket ship.

“He talked me into it,” Gorman said.

King and museum director Jayne Singleton had the idea for a museum, but no building yet.

Together with a group of volunteers they had formed Spokane Valley Legacy Foundation, and in 2004 the group was given the deed to the old Opportunity Township Hall at 12114 E. Sprague Ave.

The 1912 building opened as Spokane Valley Heritage Museum in 2005.

Gorman helped restore and update the building both inside and out.

“I’ve been up on the roof and I’ve cleaned the gutters and worked on the outside walls when we fixed it up.” Horman said. “I even conned my wife into doing all the flowers here.”

Since then, he’s pretty much done everything at the museum.

“He’s incredible,” said Singleton, while Gorman was hosting a tour of the museum on Friday. “We are so lucky to have him.”

And it’s obvious that he loves giving tours.

On a recent Friday afternoon, he walked a couple of visitors from Maryland through Native American exhibits with pelts, arrow tips and snakeskins; a demonstration of an early telephone switchboard; the traveling space exhibit from the Smithsonian; and a kitchen from the early 1900s.

“I have a gift of gab,” Gorman said. “I really do love giving tours.”

The best part for Gorman is the questions he gets.

“I learn something new every day,” he said.

Especially children have intriguing and inquisitive comments, like the young girl who was stroking the beaver pelt and got to the beaver’s flat, hard tail.

She looked at Gorman and announced that the tail wasn’t real, it was plastic.

When Gorman explained that the beaver’s tail was like her nails, she gently informed him that nails could be made out of plastic too.

“And what do you say to that?” Gorman said, laughing.

A young boy questioned Gorman’s retelling of the five-day, nonstop flight the Spokane Sun-God took from Spokane’s Felts Field to New York City back when flying across the country was uncharted territory.

He wanted to know how the pilots got food, and Gorman explained it was lowered into the plane from another one.

Still trying to catch Gorman in a tall tale, the boy asked where the pilots pooped.

“I told him that was classified information,” Gorman said.

When he’s not giving tours he helps build and maintain displays.

He loves to see the donations people bring in.

“So far we have accepted everything that’s been donated,” said Gorman. “But we are almost to the point where we have too much of one thing.”

The museum always receives a lot of vintage dresses, maps and scrapbooks.

Gorman said they are always in need of more volunteers and he’s pretty sure he can find a job to match anyone’s skill set.

What’s most surprising to him?

“When people come in and say they’ve driven by here for years, but never stopped,” Gorman said. “They walk around and say: ‘Wow – we didn’t know you were here.’ That surprises me.”


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