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100 years ago in Spokane: Man bathes naked before the eyes of God and downtown

 (Spokesman-Review archives)
(Spokesman-Review archives)

Bert Gould, a 35-year-old Spokane laborer, wanted to follow the teachings of his religion.

So he plunged into the Spokane River, wearing only his “long flowing hair and untrimmed beard.” He had “divested himself of all of his clothing,” right in the middle of downtown at the Howard Street bridge.

Onlookers, either shocked or amused, notified police. When he clambered back to shore, police arrested him for indecent exposure.

Judge Witt attempted to show some sympathy at the hearing. After Gould told the court that his long hair and beard were taken from the teachings of the Israelites, the judge asked him these questions: “Is it also one of the teachings of the Israelites that you must keep yourself clean? Was it because of your teachings that you took this swim without even a bathing suit, right down here in the city?”

Gould replied in the affirmative.

So the judge gave him a 30-day sentence, but suspended it with this warning: “You can wear your hair and your whiskers, and you can keep clean — we want you to keep clean — but you certainly must find a less public spot for your bathing place.”

Gould vowed to “try and find a place further up the river, where I will not be seen.”