It began when I bought an old rotary phone for three bucks at a yard sale. It was the kind of phone where you get to hear the pleasant hum of the wheel each time you dial a number, and the earpiece was separate from the mouthpiece--very old school. Someday, I thought, this will make a fun project.
Years later, when I met with Laura Becker, former head of Spokane Arts, to chat about collaboration opportunities, I told her about an idea my friend Chatham mentioned building years ago—a dial-a-story phone booth. Wouldn’t it be cool, I suggested, to have West Central-themed dial-a-story booths throughout West Central? Each phone booth could hold up to ten stories, and passersby could dial any number to be connected with a story about the neighborhood in which they stood.
Laura loved the idea, and we soon began plotting with Alan Chatham of Laboratory about how such feat of engineering could be accomplished. Enter our current West Central Dial-A-Story project, a collaboration between Spark Central, Spokane Arts, Laboratory, and the Spokane Civic Theatre.
Living in Spokane, you hear all kinds of stories about West Central, but only since I began working in the neighborhood did I hear different kinds of stories—real stories—about lives affecting other lives, neighbors helping neighbors, alleyway traditions, and more. The more time I spend in West Central, the more I find myself caught up in the sense of pride and history that accompanies this historic and unique community.
After an initial workshop this summer, we quickly realized that although the stories were rich and colorful, some storytellers were hesitant to have their name attached to the experiences, many of which involved some…shall we say, shenanigans. We are now accepting anonymous submissions to encourage sharing whether or not the sharer wants to be associated with the story.
The voices of West Central are varied and diverse as the people who live there, and the Dial-a-story project is an attempt to capture the less heard stories: hearsay, childhood reminisces, secrets, tales of “remember when” and “that one time” shared over a drink. Voices of the young and the old, the newsworthy and the anonymous.
Before February 19th, you are encouraged to share a West Central experience of 300-500 words or about 3 minutes (no limit on number of submissions). You can submit your story anonymously or share your name, and we will record volunteer actors from the Spokane Civic Theatre will reading the stories to be played in the Dial-a-Story booths. The actors will perform live readings of select stories during a public performance at Spark Central this spring.
We encourage you to submit your West Central experiences soon to help us capture the unofficial biography of West Central via the people who live, work, and play there.