by Mike C orrigan & r & I didn't know Spokane had an official flag. But there it is, depicted in blue and white with a yellow sun, on a 1912 postcard I spied on the title page of a new book published by local historians and authors Tony and Suzanne Bamonte, Vintage Postcards From Old Spokane. Written by Duane Broyles and Howard Ness, Vintage Postcards (Tornado Creek Publications) compiles colorful picture postcards from Spokane's early days (1870s-1920s). Yet the book is more than just a lot of pretty 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch images set end to end. Broyles and Ness have fleshed out the collection with perspective, insight and history -- both of Spokane and of postcards.
Most absorbing of all are the century-old messages found on postcard backs (the ones that were mailed, anyway) that the authors have included as a feature in many of the chapters. These handwritten messages -- penned by all manner of visitors to our fair city and sent to all corners of the Earth -- are usually more interesting than the photographs themselves and reveal a great deal about Inland Northwest life at the dawn of the 20th century. A card picturing the Upper Falls of the Spokane River and mailed to New York City in 1905, for example, states, "This is one of the greatest falls in the country. Also a beautiful sight. They have some of the largest sawmills in the world here. You are still shy writing. With love, Pop." Another enthuses, "Spokane has Omaha beat in a hundred different ways. I never saw a town so full of pretty and sociable girls." One depicting Louis Davenport's restaurant in 1909 states, "This is where Pres. Taft ate when he was here. A meal may cost ten cents and up."
Still, the postcard images draw you in -- pictures of everything relating to Spokane life at a time when the railroad, mining and timber industries were bringing new people and great prosperity to the Inland Northwest. Chapters focus on street scenes, hospitals, churches, schools, residences, parks (including an entire chapter devoted to Natatorium Park) and, of course, the river after which Spokane was named.