By Ashley Lodato

I totally blew it last week with neglecting to write about my own memories from the May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens eruption. But better late than never! (And if you disagree, please make a special effort to connect with me about some of your news for next week, otherwise I might rehash my memories of things like where I was the day when Johnny Cash died.)

When Mount St. Helens blew I was 10, living in Wenatchee. We had some family friends visiting from the Puget Sound area and we were touring them around Leavenworth. In the 1980s, it was still possible to get a parking place near the center of the Bavarian Village and window shop without feeling the overwhelming urge to purchase a pair of lederhosen. Not that that stopped us from making the purchase — it just felt more like we were being fresh and spontaneous as opposed to brainwashed.

Somehow during our post-breakfast stroll around Leavenworth we got news about the Mount St. Helens eruption, although I’m not sure how, since this was all pre-Internet and cell phones, but post newspaper boys standing on the corner shouting out headlines. Maybe it was the grey ash flaking from the sky that tipped us off, but in any case we decided to head home while driving conditions were still reasonable.

As the ash piled up, the visiting family decided to extend their stay with us, rather than risk heading over Steven’s Pass back to the west side and uncertain conditions. This was in my mind the biggest boon of the only volcanic eruption in my life thus far, as the family had a teenage daughter who decided to organize a dance contest pitting me and my younger siblings against each other.

Although our parents diplomatically refused to vote for a contest winner, I secretly deemed myself the champion since I learned a dance move that at the time I thought would be the single most valuable skill I would carry with me into my teen years and adult life — a move that I have since learned is called the “merengue hands-over-head-slide” and which has not, sadly, proven to be my ticket to enduring fame.

But the most memorable event of the eruption was the commercial exploitation that followed, most notably in the form of a small chunk of geologic something-or-other creatively titled “My Pet Ashley”– reportedly a volcanic memento from the mountain, sold for $2.99, and probably comprised of kitty litter and epoxy.

Community members are invited to a fun literary event at The Merc Playhouse on Thursday evening (May 26) at 6:30 p.m. — a poetry reading by Liberty Bell High School students. The event, which is emceed by Washington state poet laureate and Spokane Get Lit poet Dennis Held, features local high school students and community members reading original poetry. Admission is by donation.


Email Ashley