The event now known as the Quillayute Valley Scholarship Auction turns 54 this year. At its inception, it was known as the Quillayute Valley Scholarship Fund. It began with a group of Forks residents looking for a way to help Forks High School graduates achieve higher educational goals.
The original organizers felt that because of the remoteness of the community the cost of college or trade school education was not always within reach for many Forks families. So a group of local business people and educators wanted to find a way to help and, in a way, give back for the success and achievements they had experienced living in the West End.
In February 1964, the first meeting of the Quillayute Valley Scholarship Fund Corporation and various contract logging operators was held at the Vagabond cafe to begin the drive among local industries for scholarship funds. Robert Rosmond, chairman for industrial contacts, conducted the meeting. It was decided that any young person with “promise and need” would get a scholarship; the immediate goal was $1,000. The kickoff dinner was at the Russ Thomas home.
In 1966, a “Forks Style Banquet” was held at the Congregational Church featuring steelhead, elk, Swedish meatballs and Swiss steak. Admission was by donation at the door. By this time, the organization had raised a total of $6,300 and awarded 39 scholarships.
In 1968, the scholarship fund got a boost from radio. Radio station owner Gordon Otos held an impromptu auction on KVAC, the local radio station, selling off co-owner Bruce Elliott’s birthday gifts on the air. As the gifts ran out, locals started donating more items and more people started bidding. It went on for several days, and the only reason they stopped was because they got tired.
Over the years the dinners were phased out and the radio format took over. By 1980, the event had outgrown the radio station; Northwestern National Bank offered up their lobby as a place to hold the auction and still broadcast it live over the radio.
Eventually, the event outgrew Northwestern Bank and was moved to the Bank of America building. In 1987, the Olympic Correction Center inmates began creating items for the auction. Over the years, those items have contributed thousands of dollars to the fund.
In the mid-1990s, the local cable company put the event on the local advertising Channel 19. The annual, two-day event began taking in $20,000 then $30,000. Then in 1998, a new record was set — $58,000 — in just two days.
In 2008, the auction took in more than $71,000; a basket donated by Muriel Huggins brought in $3,100.
After many successful years in the Bank of America building, the event was moved in 2012 to the Forks High School Commons. This year, the event will once again be hosted by FHS, with the Senior Parents providing concessions for hungry bidders and proceeds going to “Senior Safe Night.”
Thanks to the original board members Robert Rosmond, Harvey King, Russ Thomas, Larry Wagg, A. Nordman, Mrs. Herman Waters and Mrs. George Thompson, the QVSA since its inception has raised more than $1 million to assist Forks grads with scholarships.
QVSA chairman Jerry Leppell is hoping that another record can be broken this year — which would be amazing since last year $130,000 was the final tally!
Christi Baron, Editor