Peter Williams – Spokane in Perspective

“Even Seattle’s gay community seemed small.”

I got hit by a car as a pedestrian over by San Francisco State [University]. I was going to San Francisco State taking classes, and my knee got broken. I sort of just got in kind of a strange space emotionally from the whole thing. That was two years before I moved [to Spokane], so that was ’77. At the time [sighs], there were strange things happening in the movements. The Black Panthers were becoming pretty heavy. In some places they seemed to be strong-arming. Like the place where [the Full Moon Bookstore] got our pastries, [the Black Panthers] came into it one day and said, “Give us food.” And it was a co-op! So it’s not like it was [making a lot of money]. Anyway, things were just getting really different. The city was feeling like it was getting really regressive in ways. It was right before Harvey Milk got shot.[1] There was big ups, but there were also downs, as far as all that stuff. My God! After a time it just got overwhelming. I got tired of living in a city.

I decided I wanted to move out to the country. I wanted a not-city environment. I wanted a whole new frame of reference, basically. So I moved to the mountains, the northern Sierras, on the Feather River Canyon. And lived in this little, dinky community of loggers and miners and had a whole, totally different experience. Then decided I wanted something that was a mix of city and rural country, just sort of looked on a map, and picked out areas to try. [One of them was Spokane, but] I did visit other places. I visited around Portland area. I visited around Seattle. Both of those were too big. And Eugene area. The environment’s great here [in the Northwest]. I liked to canoe and do things like that, so it’s a great environment.

I had contacted someone [in Spokane] through the Lesbian Connection and visited to see if I’d like it. [The Lesbian Connection was] a newsletter. It was put out on multicolored paper and it came in the mail stapled together. They did it all themselves. They ran it on mimeo. It was a nationwide thing. Among other things they had in there was “Contact Dykes.”  If you were willing to be contacted, you’d put your name and your phone number, or your address, in there While I was here, for about a week, [the woman I had contacted] organized a potluck. I met a bunch of people. When I first moved here, I lived in a cottage down in Vinegar Flats. One of the people I met at that potluck offered me housing in this cottage initially. Spokane was so small. It was kind of a culture shock. That first year, I moved here and then I ran over to Seattle to go to the gay Pride. It was this small, little thing; [I was] thinking that it would be like San Francisco, and it wasn’t. [Laughs.]  Even Seattle’s gay community seemed small at the time.


[1]Milk was the first openly-gay person elected to public office in California. He was assassinated in 1978.


Sources: Interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 9 November 2012, 3 December 2012, and 20 February 2014.