Take The Old Road Highlighted Resilient Communities in Eastern Washington
Humanities Washington is celebrating our 40th anniversary with Forty Years of Washington Stories. Each week on Spark, we’ll offer a snapshot from our past, sharing forty years of stories that have helped shape the humanities in Washington state.
Eight years back, Spokane Public Radio’s Phyllis Silver climbed out of her car in a tiny community in Eastern Washington. “I looked around and said, how does this town stay alive?” she recalls. That question would eventually become the basis for Take the Old Road, a program produced by Spokane Public Radio in 2005.
Along with photographer Beth Carsrud, Silver visited several communities in Eastern Washington that were dealing with the financial hardship brought on by the slowing of traditional industries like agriculture and logging. Through interviews with local residents, Silver tried to figure out how these small towns sustained themselves in the face of economic adversity.
The project engaged community members and turned up surprises, like the fact that the formerly agricultural Dayton, Washington had reinvented itself as a chic tourist destination, complete with farm-to-table restaurants and small shops for visitors. Support from Humanities Washington helped to make the research for the program possible, as well as providing funds for an exhibit of the photos that Carsrud took over the course of the project.
Silver was initially nervous about the local reception of a program that might seem to highlight the challenges facing the towns in question, but she reported being warmly received at a live presentation in Soap Lake. By giving the citizens of these towns a platform to reach a statewide audience, Take the Old Road celebrated the steps being taken to preserve these communities while acknowledging the struggles they faced.