Program for inmate musical in WWII emerges from lockup


It pays to examine the contents of one's safe once in a while because an interesting artifact or two can surface.

So Walla Wallan Lisa Anderson discovered when a program for a theatrical play produced inside the Washington State Penitentiary surfaced recently in her papers.

Lisa's grandfather, Edgar Thornton once reminisced with her about the Walla Walla Defense Recreation Committee in which he was involved and how the group produced several musical plays a year at the penitentiary using inmate actors.

Edgar, who died in 2001 at 96, served as general chairman for the 1943 Defense Recreation Committee production, represented in the program Lisa found.

It was more than an amateur affair. Permission to present the show to the public came from the top: Richard A. McGee, supervisor of state institutions, (through cooperation of Bert O. Webb, superintendent, and Virgil J. O'Malley, assistant superintendent), according to the program.

Production officer Tommy Fain supervised the staging and sound engineering came from G.A. Seeley for "The All Inmate Musical Show Priorities of 1943" that was in the penitentiary auditorium at 8 p.m. March 20-21. Guests were seated by ushers identified as Victory Belles, since there was a war going on.

Downtown ticket sales were handled by local longtime movers and shakers Arthur McLeod and Alfred McVay. Proceeds benefitted the Walla Walla Cabbage Fund, arranged with state officials and Edgar, at that time general chairman of the Defense Recreation Committee.

Back in the day, circa World War II, soldiers called folding money "cabbage" and funds in that account were used by the Recreation Committee solely for entertainment and welfare of servicemen and women, according to the program.

An orchestra with drums, guitar, piano, trumpets, saxophones, trombone, bull fiddle and a vocalist provided accompaniment for a variety of vocals, solos, group numbers, a song and dance piece and other dances, including tribal dancing billing "Indians" as the performers.

Under Bob Wyback's musical direction, the audience heard "American Patrol," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Jumping at the Woodside," "Pale Moon" and "920-Special" from the orchestra; a tap dance from Tommy Sherwood; and vocals of "I Cried for You," "A Soldier's Dream," "This is Worth Fighting For," "Bugle Woogy," "Waiting for Ships that Never Come In," "Silvery Moon," "Lonesome Road," "What Ya Know Joe," "Miss You," "I can't Give you Anything but Love," "Star Dust," "Sleepy River" and "Reuben Reuben."

Edgar is survived by two sons, Jim Thornton of Walla Walla and Jack Thornton of Port Angeles, Wash.; five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. And Lisa has a nice memento.

There's no reining in former Walla Walla Valley resident Kay Lynn Stevens-Pugh and American Quarter Horse Association gelding Stiffy these days.

The pair made it all the way to National Cutting Horse Association world competition and finished eighth in the standings in the $15,000 novice horse nonpro rider division

"This represents the culmination of a lifelong dream to achieve this elite status, which is particularly challenging for competitors who live in the Northwest as most of the big shows are held in the South," said Kay Lynn.

By finishing the 2012 season in the top 15, she and Stiffy earned a berth to compete Dec. 7-8 at the NCHA World Finals in Fort Worth, Texas.

They finished fifth in the average at world finals and earned $14,539.59 in their division for the year, she said.

They traveled to 22 events in seven states during 2012, despite Kay Lynn's fulltime occupation as psychology professor at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

Kay Lynn was the only competitor from the Northwest in her division and the only competitor who worked full time while striving for the title.

"It required much help and support from family and friends to achieve this feat. (I am) grateful to husband Kenny Pugh, who trains and shows cutting horses for his support," she said.

Kay Lynn's mother Linda Stevens helped out too, as she loaned her truck and trailer to the pair many times.

Kay Lynn's horse is formally known as Cat With A Hat or Stiffler for short. He has a support team too, included horseshoer Don Dudley and massage therapist Mike Watkins.

In all, 10 Team Stiffler members went to Fort Worth for the finals, "giving the team the loudest fan base in Fort Worth."

"It was a very exciting time to watch she and her horse compete," Linda said.

Cat With A Hat did not lose a cow in 2012, Kay Lynn said, and his lifetime earnings are $100,627.22 -- more than $45,000 of it won with a non-pro rider since 2010.

The crew at Walla Walla's Petco store played a pivotal role in reuniting a husky named Kane with owner Leanne Saunders and her son on Dec. 22, nine months after the dog was stolen from her back yard in Phoenix.

Leanne searched long and hard for Kane, checking at local animal shelters, posting flyers and placing a notice on Craigslist.

One thousand miles later, Kane was found dragging his leash down a highway and brought to the Pioneer Humane Society Pendleton Animal Welfare Shelter. Pioneer had just received a microchip reader when Kane was brought in.

With the device they determined who his owner was and contacted her, said Dan Phipps, general manager of the Walla Walla Petco.

A groomer with a Petco store in Phoenix, Kane's owner Leanne wanted him back but couldn't afford to make it happen. She posted a notice Dec. 20 on Petco's Facebook page to see if the company could help bring him home.

As Christmas loomed Petco employees wanted to see a reunion before Dec. 25. Organizing the pooch's return fell into place all in a rush, Dan said.

Kat Smith, Petco public relations, said they contacted Dan at the Walla Walla store. He provided a crate, pads, food and water for the flight and offered to take Kane to the Pasco airport on Dec. 21.

CBS 5 in Phoenix reported that financial aid came from Petco, Blue Mountain Rescue and the Pendleton Animal Welfare Shelter.

To make Kane an accepted flight passenger, Pioneer Humane Society gave him a rabies shot and health certification, dropped him off with Blue Mountain Rescue for an overnight stay and then he was brought to the Walla Walla store early Dec. 21.

Kane was a fur ball at that point, Dan said, and store groomer Carol McClain brushed about 6 to 8 pounds of hair off in advance of his flight and homecoming.

Flying him out of Walla Walla didn't work because they needed a larger plane capable of carrying live cargo, Dan said. It fell to Delta Airlines, which flies out of Pasco Airport.

"But I said, 'no matter how, (Kane)'s getting to this girl if we have to drive it ourselves," Dan said of the numerous calls and concerted effort it took to make the arrangements. "Everyone fell in love with him, too," Dan said

"It was a great team effort by a lot of people from Petco employees, the humane society, and Kat Smith got involved ... well from the CEO on down the line to help get this dog there. I made phone calls all the way through. He was given the royal treatment. About 20-25 people were in constant contact following Delta's tracking number, too."

The well-groomed Kane arrived in Phoenix with his best paws forward and into open arms just before 7 p.m. Dec. 21.

"I couldn't ask for anything more. It's the best Christmas present ever," Leanne told CBS 5.

Dan said there were three news crews on hand when the pair greeted one another. His brother video taped the news reports for Dan, who was interviewed over the phone for the newscasts.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at or 526-8313.



drazan says...

To see the complete program for "Priorities of 1943" , and ads for other WSP shows, visit the photo history blog BYGONE WALLA WALLA at

Posted 9 January 2013, 7:02 a.m. Suggest removal

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