The Making Of: SpokaneCarrousel.org

A short yet captivating essay by Gary Nance

I've been asked by a number of people exactly how this website came to be. Here's my story (and I'm sticking with it!).

Ethyl and Etta, 1915
Ethyl Robbins
and Etta Ward
1915
It actually started with a picture taken 40 years before I was born. My grandmother and her cousin were photographed at the carousel when it was in its early days at Natatorium Park. The picture has endured through the years, and while I was looking at it one day, it occurred to me that the same horse may still be on the carousel, which is now in daily operation at Spokane's Riverfront Park.

One time when I was at the park, I checked out the horses and saw what I thought might be the same horse! After checking the old picture when I got home, I decided that it was either the same horse, or a replacement made to look like the original.

Somehow, I felt a connection to that old horse. And probably more significantly, it helped me to remember my grandmother and the times that we used to spend together.

Several years passed, and whenever I found myself in Riverfront Park, I'd try to stop by the carousel and get another look at my grandmother's horse. In 2003, I took a position in an office downtown, just a few blocks from the carousel. I walked by the carousel often over the winter, and found that the old horse had been removed from the carousel, and was on display in the front window of the carousel building. The carousel was shut down for maintenance, and there was nobody there to answer my questions. So, it was time for a web search. Surely there must be something on the Web about our carousel and my favorite horse.

Web searches yielded a little information about our carousel, but nothing about the horse in the picture. I found other carousel sites on the Web with some good information about their carousels, some good pictures of their carousel figures, and even names for their animals. I was a bit jealous.

I wondered why our carousel, which has been so important to Spokane over the years, and which has been meticulously preserved even though it's been in operation daily for over 100 years, didn't have a website devoted to it.

Carousel Horse Whisperer
Bette Largent
The Carousel Horse Whisperer
While searching the Web, I noticed one name that kept appearing. Bette Largent. She's a world-class carousel painter, she's been involved with most of the carousels in the northwest area as well as many more throughout the country, and she lives in Spokane. Hmmm, I wonder if she'd let me do a website on our carousel . . .

So on the way home from work on the day before the carousel's 2004 season opening, I stopped by the carousel building, and inside there was a lady holding a can of varathane in one hand and a paint brush in the other.

Maintenance Guys
The Maintenance Guys
"Hey, we're closed!"
So after slipping past the maintenance guys who told me that I couldn't come in because the carousel was closed, I introduced myself to Bette, and explained all about my grandmother and the horse picture. "This really is the carousel of our grandparents", she explained.

When I described the horse, she immediately said "Oh, that's Miss Liberty! Yes, she's an original horse, as are all of the figures on our carousel. That's Arizona, and this is Daisy, and Athena is over there . . ."

They have names! Somehow, the carousel figures were no longer just part of an old antique machine, they were much more personal. Now let's see, if I can make Bette think that the website is her idea, maybe she'll let me have a crack at it.

"So Bette, There must be other people like me who would like to know more about our carousel and the horses in their pictures. Why isn't there a website devoted to our carousel?"

"Are you volunteering?"

"Well, maybe. I'll think about it." She may have been a little suspicious when I mentioned that I already had the domain name picked out. "How's SpokaneCarousel.com".

"A dot org domain would be better. A lot of the carousel sites won't link to your site unless it's a dot org site. And it really needs to be spelled with both one 'r' and two 'r's, since both spellings are correct."

"Ok, I'll see what's available and send you email."

Joey
Joey
"Make sure you get off before the ride starts!"
The following week, an early version of SpokaneCarrousel.org appeared on the web. Since my office was walking distance from the carousel building, I was able to stop by daily and coax the carousel operators into letting me in before opening time to take as many pictures as I wanted. And I took over 900 pictures of the building, the park, the people, the carousel and mostly the carousel figures.

BruceTail
Bruce, our highly trained special effects technician
Our special effects budget was pretty low for this production. Actually, the only special effect used on our site was the addition of digital tails to some of our horses. All of the horses are scheduled for new tails later this year, but the pictures were taken before the new tails went on. So, we took some effects shots of the best tails against a white background, so that they could be digitally processed and used to replace the missing tails in our pictures.

Sharon
Sharon
"Don't you have enough pictures yet?"
The information and ideas kept flowing from Bette's archives as we added more and more pages to the site. After a while, it became obvious that we'd need to stop making additions and polish up what we had so that we could make the site generally available. April Fool's Day 2004 was chosen as the official opening date. And on that date, we had a good amount of information in a stable state for our rather unceremonious unveiling!

As a serious note, all of the people that I dealt with when putting together this website, from the carousel operators and maintenance technicians to the members of the Spokane Antique Carousel Society, were pleasant, helpful and willing to go out of their way to help me get the information and the pictures that I needed for the site. Thanks to each of you, I appreciate it!

Gary Four Generation
Four Generations with Miss Liberty
During the summer of 2004, there were four generations of my family at Spokane's carousel for a picture session (and of course to grab a couple of rides.) So for me, it's not just the carousel of my grandparents, it's the carousel of my grandchildren too. And I have the pictures to prove it!

All materials on spokanecarrousel.org are
(c) 2004-2017 Gary Nance
unless otherwise noted.
All Rights Reserved.