Gonzaga University has 70 newly acquired photographs of Bing Crosby that offer a glimpse of his life growing up in Spokane.
A selection of the photos will be on display Saturday during a special “White Christmas” open house at Crosby’s boyhood home at 508 E. Sharp Ave.
The event inside the restored Crosby House will run from noon to 4 p.m. The free event is hosted by GU with the Advocates for the Bing Crosby Theater providing help.
Crosby’s music will be playing over the house sound system.
The new photographs, donated through the Crosby family, are part of a large collection of Crosby memorabilia held by Gonzaga.
Most of the objects in the collection – such as record jackets, a feather for his hat, a tobacco pipe, gold records and Crosby kitsch – can be seen in the house display cases.
On one wall is a flag from the 17th hole of the golf course near Madrid, Spain, where Crosby died of a heart attack in 1977 near the clubhouse.
The museum-quality pieces attract visitors from around the world.
One of the newly acquired photos shows Crosby milking a cow, but the location is not identified.
Another photo has him holding a dog. He’s pictured in a baseball uniform in 1922; on the front of a horse at a ranch in Malden; and another as a small boy holding a baseball bat.
Bing is also shown wearing a woolen swimsuit outside the Spokane Public Bath. The year is not given.
He appears in a 1915 photo with Ray “Red” Flaherty, who coached football and basketball at GU and went on to coach for the Washington Redskins professional football team from 1936 to 1942.
Crosby was born in Tacoma in 1903 and was brought to Spokane in 1906. His father was a bookkeeper for a brewery, according to associate professor Stephanie Plowman, special collections librarian.
The Craftsman-style family home on Sharp Avenue dates to 1913. Crosby attended GU and lived in the home until he left to pursue his recording and movie career in Hollywood in 1925. The GU Alumni Association acquired the home in 1978. It was passed on to the university in 2008.
The Crosby collection was moved to the Crosby House last summer from the former Crosbyana Room at the Crosby Student Center.
About 1,000 people each year have visited the collection. Many of them are in the Spokane area visiting family or for another purpose, but take time to get a close-up look at Crosby’s life.
“It’s something to do in Spokane,” Plowman said. “He is still really popular.”
History student Thomas Short, of Reno, Nevada, helped put together parts of the Christmas-themed event, including a collection of Crosby Christmas cards and gifts that he gave to friends over the years. Among them: a large gold-plated shoehorn and a toy figure of Crosby intended as a tree ornament.
Also in the display will be scripts from Crosby family Christmas television shows in the 1970s.
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