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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Music unites old rivals: Band of East Valley alums invited to play at West Valley’s 30-year reunion

Stone Apple Band drummer Johnny Bittner plays during a private party at 4:20 Friendly  in Spokane on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Stone Apple Band drummer Johnny Bittner plays during a private party at 4:20 Friendly in Spokane on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

When Johnny Bittner, drummer for the Stone Apple Band, told his bandmates he’d booked a gig for them to play at the West Valley High School 30-year reunion, it came as quite a surprise. Most of the band members are East Valley grads.

“We hated each other back in high school,” Bittner said, of the two schools. “It was pretty intense back in the day.”

Indeed, the rivalry between East Valley and West Valley was heated, especially in the 1980s.

Christie Burton-Hart, co-chair of the 30th reunion, booked the band.

“I heard the legend about students from one school leaving a toilet on the field of the other school,” she said. “Then there were the Golden Throne and the Golden Plunger games.”

She booked the Stone Apple Band after hearing them play at the Rock Bar and Lounge in Spokane Valley.

“It was the first time I’d seen standing room only at the bar,” she said. “It was a hands-down, easy decision.”

And she remembered Bittner quite well.

“He was the bad boy out of East Valley,” she said. “The girls used to fight over his jersey.”

Bittner played football, basketball and baseball for the school.

Burton-Hart has good reason to remember him. When she auditioned for the coveted mascot role of the West Valley Eagle, she dressed an East Valley Knight cutout in Bittner’s jersey. Then she danced out with the “Rocky” theme blaring and beat the Knight to shreds.

“I won by a landslide,” she said.

So, that might explain why guitarist and East Valley grad Jim Marion was a bit apprehensive about the booking.

“What I remember is West Valley beat us all three years I was in high school,” he said.

Bandmate and East Valley alum Mike Thrams shares those memories. He was captain of the basketball and track teams. During his senior year, the basketball team didn’t make it to the playoffs, but he was very clear about one thing.

“West Valley did not take us out,” he said. “I can’t believe we’re playing at their reunion. Our rivalry was friendly, but not that friendly!”

His son, Dreau, 19, plays lead guitar with the band.

As they warmed up to play at a private party, Marion grinned and said, “We’ve come a long way since the garage.”

Bittner said the band started playing together right out of high school.

“We went to Seattle and tried to make it there,” he recalled.

That dream didn’t pan out, and they went their separate ways for awhile, before reuniting several years ago. They play classic rock, blues and a bit of country.

As for playing at his rival school’s reunion, Bittner grinned.

“Actually, my best friend graduated from West Valley,” he said.

The battle lines have become blurred over time.

Now, Burton-Hart’s kids attend East Valley High School.

“I’m an East Valley mum and a West Valley alum,” she said.

She gets a kick out of seeing an eagle featuring an inspirational quote at East Valley when she takes her kid to school.

“Talk about irony,” the former WV Eagle mascot said.

Burton-Hart said there weren’t any objections from the reunion committee about booking the Stone Apple Band.

“I think we’ve outgrown all that,” she said. Then she paused and chuckled. “Unless a brawl breaks out.”

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