In the August Fountain: From performing to parenting
7/29/2014 2:34:18 PM
Holt recalls life before and after moving to LL
By Sarah Robertson
BeeJay Holt is an easy person to talk to. She's quick to smile and greet you and seems to have an endless supply of clever maxims on life and helpful parenting advice-as she should since she and her husband, Donald, raised five children.
Holt came to Liberty Lake in 1965 after her husband found a job in Spokane Valley. They chose Liberty Lake partially because of the "beach feel" that was similar to the coastal town in California from which they were relocating.
"It was so beautiful, and the people were so warm and inviting," Holt said. "It was a bit rural with lots of room to play."
On her first visit to Spokane, she remembered coming down Sunset Hill - before there was a freeway - and viewing the city below with the mountains and clouds tinged with pink. Before they had dinner or went to a hotel, her husband took them to the Monroe Street Bridge to see the falls.
"It was the most beautiful entrance into a city," she said.
Holt has been happy to call this area home ever since.
"[Liberty Lake] was my children's playground," she said. "They went outside and played all day - they swung on the rope swing and worked on the farms. It was great for my kids - they shoveled snow, delivered newspapers and worked on the farms. I am so glad we moved here. We never regretted it."
Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., Holt was raised in Baltimore, Md. She remembers her family being the "fringy show business types - very much ahead of the times." At 5 years of age, she tried out for an amateur variety show and made the cut - she tap danced and sang every Saturday. She also hula danced with her mother who played the Hawaiian guitar.
During World War II, Holt performed often and in a variety of roles - magician's assistant, dancer, singer. She remembers dancing with Ronald Reagan and meeting many celebrities before they were common household names. She recalls meeting Dick Sherman as a soldier, long before he wrote "It's a Small World" and the music for "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."
After living in Miami, Fla., for a time (her brother, Jim, was a Marine there), her family moved to Portland when her father took a job with the Coast and Geodetic Survey Office after World War II. Holt said her family later found out that her father helped map the South Pacific for the war effort.
It was in Portland where she finally met her husband, Donald. They were introduced by a couple they didn't like very much, Holt said, but they ended up being right that they were perfect for one another.
"I remember the moment. We were in the car, there was a song playing on the radio, and he had tears. Any man who allowed himself to cry was the man for me," she recalled. "I had a job lined up in California and was going to move, but I decided to stick around and see what happened."
Though Donald passed away 20 years ago, Holt remembers his seemingly austere, but kind personality and their wonderful marriage. They enjoyed traveling together, and life revolved around family, golf tournaments and a little bit of business.
"He loved being a daddy, and he helped with all the baby stuff," she said. "He was a golfer and a hard worker."
In fact, Donald played MeadowWood the first day it opened to the public. She joked that the community had the lake for her and the golf course for him.
Holt also remembered the difficulty of trying to raise five children on one income. She recalled having to sell their television and a bit of furniture to make ends meet. When they lived in California, she even sold Tupperware for a while.
"You needed 10 parties to get the [Tupperware] kit," she said. "I didn't know anyone, but I knocked on doors and had seven parties scheduled in one day."
When her youngest child started school, Holt became the catering and banquet manager at the Lamplighter Lodge, which is now known as the Mirabeau Park Hotel.
For all the hard work and worry, Holt also made time for "show business." She and Donald started a theater group in California and joined an improv group when they first moved to the Liberty Lake area. She still enjoys attending theater and loves the productions in Liberty Lake.
These days, Holt is almost always doing something with her family. Most of her children still live in the area, and she has nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren to keep her busy.
"We're very tight," she said. "We always help each other and take care of one another."
But that doesn't mean there isn't room for more in life. As Holt will tell you, she always looks forward to tomorrow and the opportunity to meet new friends.
"The world's full of new friends; we just haven't met them yet."
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Favorite Liberty Lake event
Favorite place to eat
"It doesn't matter as long as I'm with friends or family. I do like to support local places."
What she loves about the area
"I love all the activities available to us in our own backyards. There is so much to do right here."