Mead High School alumni Ty Brown set out to learn more about the history of his family, who founded Wandermere Golf Course, and ended up writing a history book instead.
It’s only natural that Brown, who teaches English and history at West Valley High School, should write a book on the history of the Wandermere area. His self-published book, printed by Grey Dog Press, is titled “Wandermere: Legacy on the Little Spokane River.”
“It’s been a pretty good journey, this book,” Brown said. “It started out as a family history. I found out a whole heck of a lot more than that.”
His great-grandparents, Robert Charles and Mary Jane Ross, bought the 350 acres where the golf course sits in 1930. They built the clubhouse and lived in the attic, where Brown found boxes and boxes of receipts, contracts, documents and photos that had been undisturbed since his great-grandmother’s death in 1967. Many of those pictures ended up in Brown’s book.
“Most of the pictures in here were negatives I found in boxes,” he said. “It was like Christmas. There were tons of pictures in there that people had never seen before.”
His great-grandparents built a nine-hole golf course, but then his great-grandfather had a stroke and died in 1935. The Depression and World War II put things on pause, and the back nine holes were not completed until 1948.
But Wandermere was about a lot more than golf. A lake on the property provided swimming and diving in the summer and ice skating in the winter. There was horseback riding, snowmobile races and more.
Brown devoted an entire chapter to Wandermere’s ski hill, which hosted a professional ski jumping competition in 1933. It was a smashing success, but there was no snow in 1934 and it had to be brought in from Leavenworth by train. The competition lost money that year. It was held again in 1938 before stopping for good, with the exception of an anniversary event in 1954.
The book also covers the early history of the area before Brown’s great-grandparents bought the land. Brown said it took him two years to research and write the book. He spent hours scrolling through microfilm records and tracked down the descendants of local historical figures for interviews. “The research was the best part,” he said.
Brown said he got a lot of help from local author Tony Bamonte, who has written several books on local history with his wife, Suzanne.
“I was guided by Tony,” Brown said. “He was my mentor on the project.”
While he uses old newspaper accounts liberally in his book, Brown said he never would have been able to write it without the treasure trove of documents and photos he found in the clubhouse attic.
“That was the meat of the whole thing,” he said.
During his research he took care to find multiple sources to back up his facts, he said.
“I’m an English and history teacher,” he said. “You have to cite, cite, cite.”
The book came out in January, and Brown said he’s sold 600 copies. It’s $29.99 and available at Auntie’s Bookstore, the Wandermere Ace Hardware, Mel’s Nursery and the Wandermere Golf Course and on Amazon.
“There’s all kinds of places to get it,” he said. “It’s been really successful.”
Brown said he’s heard from people who grew up in the area who told him they learned a lot from his book.
“That makes me happy, that I’m teaching and telling a story,” he said. “It’s not a matter of making money.”
He learned so much while researching the book that he’s already thinking about writing another, perhaps focused on the Little Spokane River Valley.
“I couldn’t fit it all in,” he said. “I didn’t even go up beyond Wandermere. It would be unwise not to do another book.”
Brown’s mother and uncle still own and operate the golf course and several of his cousins work there. “I work down there in the summer because I like it,” he said.
The area north of Spokane has changed dramatically since the time of his great-grandparents, Brown said.
“Wandermere has been there for all of it,” he said of the golf course. “Now it’s become this oasis in the middle of this urban sprawl. It was out in the middle of nowhere.”
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