Larry Speaking On:
One [of my mentors] was a fellow, Bill Clausen. He just died recently. I remember talking to him very well. He was a great inspiration, because he went through awful things in the ‘40s and ‘50s. He was arrested once. He got entrapped, was arrested, and was scared to death he’d lose his job. He got out of the police station at 5:00 a.m. and made it to work, and he was so afraid, because he was the assistant treasurer. He had no education, Bill didn’t, had no college education. He got to assistant treasurer. He got to make wire transfers for like a million dollars. You know he was a very trusted employee. So he was very proud of his job, and he was on the cusp of losing it, because if they’d found out, he would surely have lost it. Somehow the word didn’t get back to his employer because, of course, he would’ve fired him back in those days.
But one of the things that was most striking to me was, when I was talking to him and he said, “Well, I don’t know why you work on this, Larry. We have everything we need.” I understood. Compared to what he’d gone through in the ’40s and ‘50s, life was perfect. Yeah. There was nothing left [to gain]. He goes, “Why are you working on all this? You’re just stirring a bunch of trouble, and there’s no need. We’re doing fine. Don’t let people know who we are.” I really respected where he came from. Obviously it wasn’t where I was coming from. So when I talk to young people, I always try and never sound like one of those people. We’ve come so far, but we’ve got quite a ways to go: gay marriage and all that stuff.
Bill was out when it was a horribly, terribly difficult time to be out. I don’t think he ever had a boyfriend. I think because he probably wouldn’t let them, because it might affect his career. Of course I think that’s now changed. I think there’s lots and lots [people in relationships]. Jan and I’ve been together 15 years this month. Now all that’s changed, but in the old days, it was very hard to have a relationship.
At the time I did [Stonewall], there was no national [gay] magazine that was in Rosauers [Supermarket]. It wasn’t even in the bookstores. At that time, about the only national magazine was the Advocate. If you wanted to buy it, it was a difficult process to buy it in Spokane. You had to go to Seattle or Portland. So, I wanted to try and get [Stonewall] in as many mainstream areas as I could.
Now you can go to the magazine rack at Rosauers [supermarket] and you’ll find the Advocate. You might find Out. You might find this one or that one. But in 1992 you could find none of that. There was nothing on TV to speak of that was reinforcing. There was no Logo Network, that’s for sure. [Laughs.] There was no internet at that time. So there was, I felt, a terrible need for [a gay paper in Spokane]. I think there really was. Fifteen years later, how much need there is . . . I don’t think it’s nearly as much as it used to be. You can hardly watch television in the evening and not get some positive portrayal of a gay. You didn’t get that back in ’92.
Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson on 8 May 2007; held in the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. Transcribed by J. Zander; edited by Laura S. Hodgman.