Marge Ballack – Sociability

“I had a lot of slumber parties.”

This is kind of funny. Upon graduating, one of [my] friends in another high school had an overnight party. They had a swimming pool, her mom put on a big turkey dinner, and stuff. There were probably, I would say, 16 people who went. We all got in our sleeping bags in this great big rec room they had. By the morning, all but two of us had paired up and [were] sleeping in the same sleeping bag with somebody. The other two gals sat up, looked around, and said, “Oh my God! What’s going on?” They finally figured it out. The gang of people were all jocks, who were at that party. It was fun.

The first [girlfriend] I had a relationship with on a regular basis [in high school was] for probably a year. My girlfriend started dating a guy all for pretense, but I said “Okay, fine. I’m not pretending.” One time my mom said “Marge, you such an easy child to raise. We used to have all those slumber parties.” Yes, I did. I had a lot of slumber parties.

[In approaching someone to date] girls and boys both back then would say, “You wanna go to a movie or something?” It wasn’t a gay thing. It was just, “Do you wanna go to a movie?” And when you’re attracted to someone, you’re attracted to them. It doesn’t matter if you’re a straight person or a gay person. Attraction is attraction. I think that it was very obvious when someone was attracted to me. I guess I was obvious when I was attracted to someone else.

When I started going to college, I went to one of the all-girl dorms. About every other room had gay people in it. You didn’t sign up for a gay roommate, but after about the first quarter, I guess it was, you could switch roommates. So you could pair up—not with a lover necessarily, but [with] someone who was gay. From my point of view, there was a whole bunch of gay women out at Eastern [Washington University]. From my point of view outside of college, it seemed to me that there was a larger population of men who were out.

[In 1970s, the social opportunities for the LGBT community] were underground. There were private parties on the weekends that were literally out in the woods, in barn-type situations. There were cover charges. You had to bring your own alcohol. You were supposed to be over 21, although no one ever checked your ID. Actually, I think the place was called Bud’s barn, or Bud’s place?[1] Younger people could go there and drink beer and, you know, there’s hookups all over the place, as far as some gay people go. I think it was out towards Cheney. I don’t remember, clearly, but it seemed like that. [People at Bud’s would] party, dance, drink beer, and talk. It was just some guy’s house. It was a barn on his property. The door, I remember, was like this huge 3-inch thick steel door. I remember he got busted a couple of times. It wasn’t like the police didn’t know it was there, but we pretty much knew that, as long as we didn’t raise too much hell, they left us alone.

Sometimes you’re faced with drug abuse, alcoholism and AIDS. [That] came about because we had to meet in bars. Not any longer. I don’t see that any longer. It was very, very typical in the ‘70s and ‘80s for sure.

There were [also] sports groups called GAA, Girls Athletic Association. Athletic girls were there, but 20-30 percent of them were gay. I was one of those. This was after I graduated in the ‘80’s. It was just a girl’s athletic association. I think they had BAA, too, for boys.

Knights of Malta: they were a leather [group]. They were they guys that wore the black leather caps. Yeah, they were hot.

I saw [butch-femme culture] around. I was pursued by a couple of very butch women and that was just frightening. They were so adamant about wanting me and it was just, “Hoo! I don’t think so.” It was enough to make you turn and run scared. I think most butch women have more strength in the pursuit.

Sometimes in Spokane [there’s only one gay bar that] you feel comfortable going to. That gets boring after a while. [It’s] more fun to entertain at home. [In the ‘80s, when we were raising kids, we’d have private parties]. Our kids were raised around gay people—gay people who were our friends. It wasn’t like we’d take them into an unknown situation. They knew everybody. [We’d have circuit dinners with gay men and women.]


[1]Bud Buell’s chicken coop.


Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson in December 2006, held at the Northwest Museum for Arts and Culture.