The City of Lacey History Talks! Series explores many facets of local history, both in Lacey and the greater Pacific Northwest. The series was created to engage the audience in local history as well as the greater context of Washington State events. The current series runs through the spring of 2020. A range of local authors, professors, and historians will discuss topics like the 1962 Columbus Day Storm, the Oregon Trail, and the history of the state’s women’s suffrage movement.
“It’s a way for us to reach people in a different way than getting a tour at the museum,” says Erin Quinn Valcho, curator for the Lacey Museum.
Most talks within the series will take place at the Lacey City Hall, in City Council Chambers. Presentations generally last about 45 minutes, with time for the audience to ask questions and add comments at the end of the lecture. “Question and answer time is often one of the best parts of it, when people get a chance to interact with the speaker,” says Valcho.
The series is entering its second season and after experimentation with the series structure last year, the organizers decided to schedule one talk a month, beginning in the fall and continuing into the spring. With each talk presented in a lecture style, Valcho says that the series is geared toward adults and older children interested in local history, although children and adults of all ages are invited to attend.
On September 24, Dennis Larsen, a local author and historian, will recount the 1853-1854 Naches Pass, the original wagon road in Washington Territory. Larsen will present findings from his investigative research on the pass, utilizing maps, photographs, and first-person narratives to explore controversies surrounding the road’s usage and to separate fact from urban legend.
On October 12, author and journalist John Dodge will return to the Lacey History Talks! stage to discuss his book, “A Deadly Wind,” which describes the aftermath of the 1962 Columbus Day Storm. Winds reaching 100 miles per hour were recorded during the storm, which led to dozens of deaths, hundreds of injuries, and tens of thousands of damaged homes. Dodge also spoke at last year’s History Talks! Series and was brought back due to popular demand.
Karen Johnson, curator of the Schmidt House, will explore the development of the Cowlitz Trail with her November 18 presentation. In addition to her role as a curator, Johnson is also a researcher, writer, and author. She will take the audience through the creation and utilization of the Cowlitz Trail, the passage that led pioneers north after reaching Oregon Territory. Sometimes dubbed the worst road along a pioneer’s journey, Johnson will explore both the trail itself and the people who traversed it.
Sponsored by Humanities Washington, the presentation, Washington on Wheels: Odd and Innovative Transportation Ideas from the Pacific Northwest, will take place on December 4. Broadcaster and author, Harriet Baskas will guide the audience through the yesteryear of transportation culture and technology in Washington State, including canoe adventures and flying cars.
Local broadcaster and community activist, Dick Pust, will guide the audience through the history of the KGY radio station on January 29. In addition, Pust will draw from his 50 years of experience in the local broadcasting industry through his talk, Lacey’s Role in Radio History. Currently writing a book about KGY, Pust will share historic images and the station’s impact on local residents and culture.
On February 12, the History Talks! Series will observe Black History Month by inviting retired University of Washington professor, Dr. Quintard Taylor, to discuss African American history in the Pacific Northwest with The African American Legacy in Washington State. Taylor, an author of several books about African American history, also created an online database about the subject, BlackPast.org. The database contains an array of information, from audio recordings to encyclopedia entries and first-person accounts of key historical events.
On March 24, the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment will be celebrated with a talk about women’s suffrage in Washington State, titled Washington Suffragettes—Ahead of Their Time. Shanna Stevenson, a local historian, will cover the women who were pivotal to the movement and additional female political figures in Thurston County.
The series continues in April, with Curator of the Lacey Museum, Erin Quinn Valcho, presenting the history of local resorts and recreation in Lacey.
With a range of historical subjects that span the decades, the History Talks! Series is an additional educational resource that can help audience members to better understand the context of the Pacific Northwest and how the infrastructure and culture morphed into what it is today.
“There are a lot of really interesting stories around us about what happened in the past or how things came to be the way they are. It’s a way of expanding your knowledge and understanding of the world around us,” says Valcho.
To learn more about the History Talks! Series and for a full schedule of events, visit the City of Lacey Museum website.