Sid Snyder's Capitol Stories

When Sid Snyder first came to the Capitol Building in 1949, he was a young man just beginning to make his way in a world that was recovering from years of economic depression and war. The state was still struggling to reconstruct itself after years of turmoil and tight budgets. It was the beginning of a new era in state government, though few might have recognized it at the time.

Sid Snyder

Sid went to work in a Capitol Building that was only twenty-one years old. He began as an elevator operator before the era of mechanized elevators. When he retired as a State Senator in 2002, the Capitol was transformed: every legislator had a private office and on every desk sat a personal computer. Still, despite all the changes, at the heart of state government are the people who travel the halls, lend their voices and will, and make the wheels turn. Senator Snyder's stories help us remember those personalities and events, all part of the rich lore of the Capitol.

This tour was conducted after the powerful earthquake that struck the area in February 2001 damaged the Capitol Building and caused the evacuation of offices for needed repair and rehabilitation. Yellow hazard ribbons rope off damaged areas, but we were still able to move around the building to capture the stories associated with different spaces. We would like to thank Senator Snyder for his time and willingness to share these stories and his reflections on the life and history of the Legislature. We would also like to thank Wayne Lawson and Terri Nelson of the Southwest Branch of State Archives for videotaping help and other assistance.

View Sid Snyder's "Biographical Highlights"

Legislative Building Tour

Click on the titles below to explore video clips and transcripts of the tour.

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Tour Location: Fourth Floor of the Legislative Building


Ms. Kilgannon: Senator Snyder has been associated with this building since 1949. He knows all the back rooms and all the good stories. So he consented to be with us today to tell us some of the insider stories of the Capitol. Senator, I understand when you first came here in 1949 that you were an elevator operator?

Sen. Snyder: That's correct. I came to work in Olympia the second week of the session, 1949. I was unemployed, living in Long Beach. A friend of mine by the name of Ralph Smith was elected that session, and he got a couple of other people jobs and he was home the weekend after the first week of the session, and I said, "How about giving me a job?" and he said, "Well, why don't you come up Monday morning?"

And I came up Monday morning, and a gentleman by the name of Si Holcomb was Chief Clerk at that time. He'd been Chief Clerk since the special session of 1933 and he was named Chief Clerk from then until 1965, and he said, "Well, I've got one job. We need an elevator operator." And I got a job on the swing shift here. That's when it was hand operated. You had a handle and you had to line up the floor.

Ms. Kilgannon: Was there a grill or something to cover the opening?

Sen. Snyder: There were just doors, you know; you opened to the floor you desired. That was my first job. About a couple weeks before the end of the session, or a little after that, there was an opening in the bill room and I asked for that, and I got transferred into the bill room.

Ms. Kilgannon: Oh, I didn't know that you were an elevator operator for only a little bit.

Sen. Snyder: Oh, yes. Well, the sessions were only sixty days, so maybe I don't really remember. Maybe it was half way through the session or more and I went to work in the bill room.

Ms. Kilgannon: Was it at that point where politics grabbed you and took over your life?

Sen. Snyder: Well, I don't know that it grabbed me and took over my life, but Mr. Holcomb, I think, took a liking to me because when the session was over, in the sixty days, or—they used to stop the clock in those days—they'd drape the clock and pretend the sixtieth day lasted three or four or five days, and wind up the business—but he asked if I could stay and help with some of the post-session work, which I did, and then I came back in 1952. I was the bill room supervisor.

I only worked a short time at the beginning of the 1953 session to help get them started, and I didn't work at all in '55, and then Mr. Holcomb called me in 1957 and asked if I wanted to be his assistant. I couldn't pass up the opportunity. It was difficult; I had a small market that I operated—so from '57 to '69 I was Assistant Chief Clerk. At one period in time in 1965 Mr. Holcomb died, and I became the Chief Clerk until the session started in 1967. The Republicans took over control and they elected another gentleman the Chief Clerk and kept me as the assistant. I remained there until 1969.

The last day of the 1969 session, I was elected Secretary of the Senate. I remained in that position for nineteen years, and retired from that in 1988, and decided that I would never be back—I didn't think I would ever be back. Unfortunately, the senator from my district, Arlie DeJarnatt, died in August of 1990, half-way through his term, and I thought, well, I'd run for the two years that remained on his term. He died about thirty-two days before the primary election, and the vacancy occurred more than thirty days, and there was the filing instead of an appointment. And maybe I should stop and continue the rest of that story at a later date and maybe we could move around a little bit and I could talk about some of the other things here.

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Members, House of Representatives, 1949

Representative Ralph Smith, Nineteenth District

Chief Clerk Si Holcomb

Sid Snyder as Assistant Chief Clerk, 1967

Sid Snyder as Secretary of the Senate, 1971
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Tour Location: Fourth Floor of the Legislative Building


Sen. Snyder: In 1947 there was a gentleman by the name of Canwell who got elected from Spokane to the Legislature. He was only here one term. 1947 was the first time the Republicans had controlled the House of Representatives since 1931, and those were in the McCarthy days, in the federal battle, and he was kind of a McCarthy on a local level. He had an anti-Communist committee that he had called the Canwell Committee, and he investigated a lot of professors from the University of Washington and other high-ranking people in the state of Washington, accusing them of being communists, and it drew a lot of attention—a lot of media attention—in those days.

All of the records were stored in a safety deposit box downtown from the Canwell Committee, but this room was where they had a safe and they kept the key to the safety deposit box in this room. I remember the safe. I don't know what they did with the key, or what they did with the material down there—they probably went to Archives, but when the safe became available—it wasn't very big, it just had the key in it—I took it for my office over in the Assistant Chief Clerk's office to store postage in. So this is where the Canwell key was, and Mr. Canwell just recently died. This is 2002 now, so he died earlier this year.

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Tour Location: Fourth Floor of the Legislative Building


Ms. Kilgannon: Senator, this is a famous door in the fourth floor hallway up here in the Capitol. Can you tell us the meaning of this door?

Sen. Snyder: Certainly. You have to realize that from 1927 to 1965, the Legislature was housed almost entirely on the third and fourth floor, and there were committee rooms off the chambers, but these were storage rooms and other little rooms. In the early 1940s there was a gentleman by the name of R.C. "Brigham" Young that was a barber from Cle Elum Washington, who was elected to the Legislature. He was a barber, and things were pretty tough in those days, and he wanted to be able to give free haircuts, so he asked Si Holcomb, the Chief Clerk, if he could find a space for him. So Si found this space for him to set up a barber's chair. And it wasn't long before there were people waiting, and so Brig, being an accommodating person, he decided to put in a refrigerator, and put in a davenport, and he put a few beers and a couple bottles of liquor in there. It became known as Committee Room X, where you could get a drink and get your haircut.

And it's kind of confusing up here, there's a lot of little storage rooms and they all kind of look alike, and people would say, "Well, Brig, I went up there and I couldn't find that room." And he identified it by coming out with a couple of pieces of adhesive tape and he made an X on the door here. So that became known as Committee Room X. And over the years there was probably a lot of booze that went out of there, and the Senate across the rotunda, they set up their own Committee Room X.

But there was a gentleman by the name of Don Miles from Olympia that ran for the Legislature and one of the things that he campaigned on was getting rid of Committee Room X. Well, he did get rid of Committee Room X, but also he didn't get reelected. I don't know if that had anything to do with it or not, but this is part of the lore of the Legislature, is Committee Room X.

Ms. Kilgannon: You were telling me that the Senate had their own version of Committee Room X, which I have never heard of before.

Sen. Snyder: Committee Room X for the Senate was right across the way, about the same position that we're in on the House side of the rotunda. They had some wild paintings of elephants and donkeys and so forth on the walls in their room over there.

Ms. Kilgannon: Now, who cut their hair? Did they hire a barber?

Sen. Snyder: Oh, they didn't have a barber.

Ms. Kilgannon: They just had a refrigerator?

Sen. Snyder: Yes. There are some stories also about some of the other rooms around the corner. Bill Day was a member from Spokane; he was a House member—he was Speaker in 1963 when they had the coalition and he was later a Senate member. He was a chiropractor and he set up a, you don't say a bed, I guess you say, whatever they perform their work on. And he would give free chiropractic adjustments. You didn't want to limp around him, because if you limped around him, he would grab you by the arm and pull you upstairs. He was a big fellow—they called him Big Daddy—and he was about 6'3, and weighed about 325 pounds so people didn't limp in front of him.

Ms. Kilgannon: Or he'd fix you!

Olympia Representative Don Miles in an Olympian article of January, 8, 1963, declared, "Drinking on the job has got to go." He planned to introduce a bill during the session to ban liquor in the Legislative Building, specifically targeting the two "Committee Room Xs." Miles was "shocked" to learn about the existence of the rooms and planned to launch a campaign: "I am confident that when this matter is called to the attention of the voters of the state, they will insist that there be an end to committee rooms X' and such establishments." His main area of concern was to ensure "that we have available to the people of the state the full mental facilities and judgment of the legislators."

Representative Ralph C. "Brigham" Young, Thirteenth District

Representative William Day, Fourth District

Representative Don Miles, Twenty-Second District
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Tour Location: Third Floor of the Legislative Building


Ms. Kilgannon: Senator, back in the beginning, you started working in the bill room your first session after you graduated from being an elevator boy, and you said that it was actually in this space, which is now—what? The Speaker's office?

Sen. Snyder: No, this is the House majority leader's office, right next to the Speaker's office. But at that time, as I mentioned previously, the Legislature was housed entirely on the third and fourth floor, except for a little space in the basement that they used for a steno pool, as they called it in those days. But this was where the bill room was. The Sergeant-at-Arms office was next door, and the lounge was beyond that. There was a post office, and the old telephone station where they had the old PBX.

Ms. Kilgannon: Is that the kind of switchboard that we have in our minds, those historic pictures of people working with the little wires?

Sen. Snyder: Plugging in, yes. I know as we advanced over the years when I was session Chief Clerk, we had two WATS lines to handle all the long distance calls for all ninety-nine members, so there weren't a lot of long distance calls made in those days.

We were right in here, and we had a big table, we had—similar to what the bill room is downstairs—bills in the racks on the walls, and so we had a first-hand view of what was going on the floor. Of course, we didn't have the modern equipment that we have today and we worked lots of times into the wee hours of the morning. In fact, the workroom, which is around the corner, they didn't have—I remember when we had our first duplicating equipment, and you put the piece of paper in and it went through and came out the other end, and it was kind of yellowed and so forth. We all kind of stood in amazement to think that you could duplicate things like that, because we had to do what they call cut stencils on a typewriter and then put them on a mimeograph machine and turn out mimeograph copies.

Ms. Kilgannon: Were they those little purple-ink things?

Sen. Snyder: Yes, purple. And that's the way we turned out most all the materials for the floor, like the calendars that we have today, roll call transcripts, and the amendments that the bill room had. We had to go around and manually put those amendments in the bill books. We were in competition with the workroom for all the work they had to do for their material, so sometimes we had to wait before we got them. Often times we would split the crew and at midnight part of the crew would go home and come back at eight o'clock in the morning, and often times the late crew would still be here at eight o'clock in the morning, putting in the amendments. And the workroom worked every night. It was a lot more hours devoted to the legislative process, and getting the materials for the members in those days.

Ms. Kilgannon: How many people would be in there working, doing that?

Sen. Snyder: We probably had a dozen people in the bill room.

Ms. Kilgannon: What kinds of people would they be?

Sen. Snyder: Well, most of them in those days were younger people, college-aged students—

Ms. Kilgannon: People who could stay up all night?

Sen. Snyder: Yes. Sons of members. The page room was next door. The pages were hired for the entire sixty days.

Ms. Kilgannon: Oh, not a week at a time like now?

Sen. Snyder: Not a week at a time like today. Later on, we cut it down to two weeks and now, as you know, they come for one week. There are advantages in that: it gives more youngsters a chance to participate in the process.

Also in the old days, bills were typed and then sent down to the Printer, and the Printer reset them on a linotype machine. So we had the original bill that we dealt with on the rostrum and through the process, the ones that we would send over to the House, and we had the printed bills on the floor. And they weren't identical, because that was before we had the modern techniques of doing the offset printing, and you would have an amendment, and you would say, "Being line eight, page seven of the original bill, being page nine, line 16 of the printed bill"—one was the original bill, one was the printed bill. So it was a lot more work, and it was a lot tougher in those days to get anything accomplished.

Upstairs there were the committee rooms and on the opposite side, where the caucuses are now, they had a transportation committee room, a judiciary committee room, and in the corner of the building, where Speaker Frank Chopp's office is now—as you know there was a tie here, and they each had an office and then the tie was broken half way through the legislative term and so Rep. Chopp had to move out of his office—but that was the appropriations committee room. And like I said, they had the steno pool downstairs and the only desks the members had were the desks on the floor.

Ms. Kilgannon: Right. No offices, no staff then.

Sen. Snyder: No offices.

Ms. Kilgannon: No telephone.

Sen. Snyder: If you were a committee chairman, you had a corner in the committee room, and that was it, so you had to be a ranking committee member like in appropriations or transportation in order to have an office of your own. There were some advantages to it. I think the members were a lot better acquainted with one another in those days because they would go out to eat and they would come back in the evening and you could find from a third to a half or more of the members on the floor—

Ms. Kilgannon: Maybe we should step in there and show what the desks look like.

Sen. Snyder: Okay. And going through their mail or reading bills, and oftentimes you would find little groups visiting in the front of the chambers, or the back of the chambers on the couches back there, or the lunchroom is just down there; walk to the back of the chambers and down the steps. Members would go down and sit and have ice cream or coffee and talk about pertinent things, or things that maybe weren't too outlandish. I think members were better acquainted with one another. Now, their offices are scattered around. Some of them are in this building, and we have three other buildings where members offices are, and they don't get as well acquainted.

And in those days also, there were no hearing rooms like we have now that can accommodate pretty good-sized crowds. So anytime there was a public hearing—like on a cross-sound bridge or capital punishment—it was held here in the Chambers, and the public came and sat in the audience. Of course, the ones that testified, testified from the rostrum.

Bill Room, 1969

House Committee Room 1949
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Tour Location: Third Floor of the Legislative Building


Ms. Kilgannon: Let's look at the rostrum. I understand it's a little bit different now.

Sen. Snyder: It is a little different. The press is now over in the corner here and years ago these front rows of desks weren't here. They were along the side, so where you see two, there were three seats all the way back. Three chairs side by side. And the press sat down here.

Ms. Kilgannon: Right up here?

Sen. Snyder: No, they sat with their backs to the rostrum.

Sen. Snyder: They sat here and there was a long, round table that they sat at. And as assistant chief clerk I was right over here on this end of the rostrum, and they often would turn around and ask for amendments, or carry on conversations with those people. But I think the changes were made in the late sixties, to make the change that we have here today.

Ms. Kilgannon: Another huge change: now people vote electronically, but can you describe how the voting was done earlier?

Sen. Snyder: Well, it was an oral roll call, and in those days, we had—the roll call was one long sheet with all ninety-nine members—we only have ninety-eight today—but all ninety-nine members were listed, and it took about five minutes to get through a roll call.

Ms. Kilgannon: All in alphabetical order?

Sen. Snyder: Yes.

Ms. Kilgannon: Was it divided Ds and Rs?

Sen. Snyder: No, it was just one long sheet, all in a roll alphabetically, except for the Speaker being last, as it is on the board up there today. We can't see that, but it's the last name on the board.v

Ms. Kilgannon: Would you have been the one ticking off the votes or someone else?

Sen. Snyder: No, there was a reading clerk, just like we have a reading clerk today who calls the roll. We still do it orally in the Senate.

Ms. Kilgannon: Would you then take charge of these rolls?

Sen. Snyder: Keep track of them, yes; the general clerk would keep track of those.

And like I said, over on that side were the three main committee rooms that we had on that side.

Ms. Kilgannon: And the galleries would be full of people watching you, because this was where all the action was?

Sen. Snyder: There were a lot more people in the galleries those days than there is today, I mean just the general public. I mean, some would say, "Well, that's because there's more TV and media coverage," but I don't think so. In fact, they used to—in 1957 I remember they had a lot of coverage. They covered a week before session began, they covered the Committee on Committees; they did all of these things. There used to be several TV stations that had a permanent crew, at least during the session. And it would be nothing to see four or five or six TV cameras on the edge of the Chambers.

Ms. Kilgannon: Well, that's a difference. Now, which is the clock that you would cover? Would it be that one?

Sen. Snyder: Both of them. They would cover the clocks when it got to be the sixtieth day, and they couldn't quite get finished in time, so they would cover the clocks. They would get up and announce that, "We're going to be at ease for approximately ten hours outside time," or whatever time they wanted to come back.

Ms. Kilgannon: And everyone agreed to this fiction because you just had to finish?

Sen. Snyder: Right, and then they got to thinking that some of the actions that they took beyond the sixtieth day would be challenged in court, and they eliminated that process, and if they didn't get done, then they would call a special session.

Ms. Kilgannon: They still had special sessions then, but there was just that extra push to finish?

Sen. Snyder: Yes, so many times you just needed another day or two. And like I say, they stopped the clock, or draped the clock and we'd be done. The problem is the governor in those days had only ten days to sign bills after the Legislature adjourned.

Ms. Kilgannon: Ten real days.

Sen. Snyder: Ten days not counting Sundays. Now that's been changed. A constitutional amendment changed that. Its twenty days not counting Sundays.

Ms. Kilgannon: But if the Legislature took up those ten days would that just—

Sen. Snyder: Well, that got to be a problem. What if the Legislature went beyond those ten days? And it did go, I think the last time, about seven or eight days. Of course, the only thing they were working on was the budget, maybe a few bills to supplement or support the budget. But it didn't give the governor much chance to go over the budget after it came down to it.

Ms. Kilgannon: Well, maybe you liked that tactic, I don't know. Maybe it worked well!

Sen. Snyder: Well, no, I think it's fine the way it is. And then in 1965, the Legislature was a under a court order to redistrict, and the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate. That's the year Dan Evans was elected governor, and the courts said the Legislature couldn't pass any bills, except ones to pay the expenses of the Legislature, until they passed a redistricting bill.

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House Chambers and Gallery, 1963

House Reading Clerk, 1961
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House Chambers and Gallery, 1963
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Tour Location: Third Floor of the Legislative Building


Holding Bills Over

Sen. Snyder: I have a couple of stories to tell here. One is that the Legislature passed two redistricting bills that Governor Evans vetoed, and by the time he signed one, it was the forty-seventh day of a sixty day session, and we went home for the weekend—I was Assistant Chief Clerk here at the time—and we came back on Monday, the forty-ninth day, with eleven days left. A lot of bills had been worked in committee and were in Rules Committee, and it was an impossibility to finish in the sixty days. And before that we'd always got to the sixtieth day and adjourned, and all the bills were dead and they would reintroduce any of the bills that they needed....

So we—meaning the administration—asked the Attorney General's Office if we could hold bills over from one session to the next, and he ruled that yes, you could as long as they passed both Houses during the same session. And as you now know, when we get to the end of a 105 day session, we back all the bills up that haven't passed in the original House and we hold them over from the 105 day session till the special session if we're having one, or to the next regular session which is a sixty day session.

Ms. Kilgannon: That must save you a lot of effort.

Sen. Snyder: Oh, it saves a lot of effort and a lot of duplication. But people often want to know why a bill has to pass through both houses during the same session.

Dan Evans Swearing In

Sen. Snyder: And another little more interesting story is that the Legislature is sworn in on Monday, the second Monday in January. The state elected officials aren't sworn in until Wednesday following that Monday at noon. So, in 1965 Al Rosellini was Governor until noon on Wednesday, or 1:00, whenever they got around to swearing them in. Well, the big speculation was that the Legislature was going to pass a redistricting bill and have him sign it during that first two-and-a-half days of the session.

The Senate did stay in session until the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday to pass a redistricting bill that got over here that the House did not pass in those two days. Well, the Republicans said that they had made arrangement to take Dan Evans over at 12:01 am and have him sworn in on Wednesday morning.

Ms. Kilgannon: Technically "Wednesday morning."

Sen. Snyder: And if Rosellini would have signed a bill on Wednesday, they would have said, "Well, we swore in Dan Evans at 12:01 am."

On Tuesday we hold the session that's required by the Constitution to certify the election, and at that session the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate sign the certificates of election for the statewide elected officials. It also became a session where state-elected officials that did not run for reelection or were defeated kind of give their swan song. Just this last year, or two years ago in 2001, we came in for the Tuesday session then, here I was on the rostrum—because I'm the majority leader in the Senate—and the first thing I notice is that they had kind of moved very hurriedly through the process of certifying the election and signing the certificates of election. And then they went ahead— because they were making their swan-song speeches, and afterwards I asked the Secretary of the Senate, "Didn't they sign the certificates of election?" And he said, "No, Ralph Munro signed those. He's Secretary of State."

And so I went and looked up in the Constitution—I'm sorry I don't have the citation here—but the Constitution says that they should be signed in open session by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, not the Secretary of State. And I said, "Gee, I'd hate to raise a point of order that these people aren't duly certified and can't be sworn in on our session tomorrow, on Wednesday, and he said he'd look into it. Well, he came back and—

Ms. Kilgannon: Did his face go a little white?

Sen. Snyder: Well, I don't know white or not, but he came back later and said Ralph's name was still on them, but they had been signed by the President and the Speaker.

And why I bring this story up is I mentioned Mr. Holcomb's name earlier. Si had been around a long time and he was a sly old devil, and I say that with all respect. On that Tuesday in 1965, Si did not have the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House sign those certificates of election in case the scenario worked out like the Republicans had planned, and if they would have sworn Dan Evans in at 12:01 on Wednesday am, Mr. Holcomb was going to say, "The certificates haven't been signed yet, and they're not duly certified until the certificates are signed."

So if a bill had of gone down on redistricting on that Wednesday morning, and Al Rosellini would have signed that bill, I'm sure it would have been a test in the courts to see if that was valid or not. And to verify my story and my thinking, I looked it up in the Journal in 1965 and in the Journal the Speaker announced that the certificates of election will be signed at the joint session on Wednesday. So there's a little story!

I had a little visit with Dan Evans a while back, because he's writing a book and he said he wanted to come down and talk to me about some of the things that went on, and of course he knew the story about taking him over and having him sworn in at 12:01 am, but as one news commentary on TV says, "Now for the rest of the story." And I told Dan the rest of the story, and he had never heard it. And he agreed that it would have made a great court test if that bill that never happened would have passed.

But I guess we people that have been around the Legislature a long time—and I guess I can be referred to as a legislative historian now—those are interesting and intriguing stories, and are part of the lore of the place and should be recorded or saved, because there will be somebody who takes a great deal of interest someday and will be doing a lot of research, and will come across this story, and I hope they think it's as magnificent a story as I do today.

Ms. Kilgannon: Well, then, you're going to save some future Secretary of the Senate from perhaps committing a terrible blunder.

Sen. Snyder: Well, I don't know about that.

Ms. Kilgannon: They won't be able to forget this particular gem and all the drama that did not happen. That was a great story.

Governor Dan Evans
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Excerpt from the Washington State Constitution

Chief Clerk Si Holcomb
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Excerpt from House Journal, Tuesday, January 12, 1965
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Excerpt from House Journal, Tuesday, January 12, 1965
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Official Swearing In Ceremony for Governor Dan Evans, Morning Session, House of Representatives, January 13, 1965
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Tour Location: Third Floor of the Legislative Building


Ms. Kilgannon: Senator, a really important group involved with the legislative process that doesn't often get many stories told about it is the lobbyists. In the old days, the lobbyists, I understand, hung out in this hall, which is called Ulcer Gulch, on the third floor, just leading between the House and the Senate. If you would tell us a bit about that group?

Sen. Snyder: We're on the third floor between the House and Senate chambers, in the rotunda. And this got its name, Ulcer Gulch, because the telephone company used to have several telephone operators here and a lot of phone booths on that side, and over here they had couches and this is where the lobbyists hung out, for the most part. They would get their phone calls here, they would go over to the doors of the House Chamber, or the doors of the Senate Chamber, when we were in session and pass in notes to the members to ask them questions or request them to vote for something or thank them for a vote that had just happened. Oftentimes, members would come out and ask to see a lobbyist, because lobbyists are people that are full of information, and that's what they're here for is to provide accurate information. When they get themselves in trouble is when they don't provide accurate information. But the word Ulcer Gulch; naturally this is probably where the members of the Third Estate, the lobbyists, got ulcers from waiting out here.

Ms. Kilgannon: So you could call it Heartburn Hall or Ulcer Gulch or any number of things.

Sen. Snyder: That's right, Ulcer Gulch was this way, and a few years ago in the late eighties, I think '89, they decided they would give them space downstairs where they could meet. When things get really hot and heavy, you will find a few members here that are available for the members or they're passing in notes, or they're going from here up to the gallery to see what's going on in the Floor.

Ms. Kilgannon: They're still haunting the halls. How many lobbyists would fit in a space like this?

Sen. Snyder: Oh, they would come and go, and you'd have a hundred people out here probably.

Ms. Kilgannon: So pretty packed?

Sen. Snyder: Yes, it would be packed, yes.

Ms. Kilgannon: Must be kind of the gossip center.

Sen. Snyder: "Working the doors" is the term for lobbyists passing the notes.

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Lobbyists in "Ulcer Gulch" hall between House and Senate Chambers, 1969
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Tour Location: Third Floor of the Legislative Building


Ms. Kilgannon: Now, of course, we're doing this tour when the Legislative Building is about to be remodeled. So you're going to see all kinds of tape and packing equipment and whatnot. You were going to tell us: you were here in 1949, 1965, and during the recent earthquake, although you told me earlier you were not present in the building for the earlier ones.

Sen. Snyder: That's correct.

Ms. Kilgannon: But this is the chandelier that swung in—was it in '49?

Sen. Snyder: Sixty-five, if I remember it. In 1949, my first session here, I had just been gone a week when they had the earthquake. And at that time after the quake, it did so much damage that they had to take the dome off and redo the dome at that time. And in the House chambers, at that time there was heavy skylights that came down and fell onto the desks—gouged into the desks—and if they had been in session at the time, there would have been fatalities without any question.

In 1949, it happened about five minutes to twelve. The one in '65 happened about 8 o'clock in the morning and I was just walking out of the door of my motel out at the Tyee, and it was on Good Friday. And we came in and this chandelier was still swinging that you can see up there, and it was really at a swing, and it swung for several days afterwards until it finally settled down. Days might be an exaggeration, but I know it was hours, and there was still a little movement on it Monday when we came back in.

The recent one that we had on February 28 of 2001, we were in our caucus room, and that was pretty scary. There was no question about it. We have large tables in there. Everybody dove under the tables except Darlene Fairley, Senator Fairley, who walks with crutches, and she couldn't get under the tables. But with those big stones above, if they'd ever started coming down—they weigh 50,000 pounds or whatever it is—those heavy tables wouldn't have protected us very well.

Ms. Kilgannon: No, you would have all just gone together.

Sen. Snyder: The building was earthquake proofed back in the seventies, and I think that did a lot of good. I think the building probably would have come down if we hadn't had that earthquake proofing. And one of the reasons we're moving out now is to do some more earthquake proofing on the building. Plus, the electrical and plumbing are pretty old.

Ms. Kilgannon: We've come a long way since 1928.

Move down the hall...

Sen. Snyder: We're in front of the Senate chamber on the north side now, and right outside of the chamber is some framing that had to be out in place to keep the marble from falling off the walls, it was so loose after the earthquake in February of 2001. So we've all been holding our breath that we wouldn't have another rumble of some kind before they can do the remolding work here on the building.

Repairing the damage to the Legislative Building and Insurance Building from the 1949 earthquake

Closeup of Dome Repairs, 1949

Repairwork from the earthquake of 1965

Outside view, 1965

Closeups of damage caused by the earthquake of 2001

Click image to enlarge

Tour Location: Third Floor of the Legislative Building


Ms. Kilgannon: This area has not always looked like this, because previous to the Centennial of 1989, those areas were quite plain. They painted them, right?

Sen. Snyder: That's correct. They ran out of money, and they never had enough money to finish the decorative work. And it was just plain white, or grey or a light white up there. In fact, the legislatures back in the 1920s were highly criticized for spending so much money on an expensive building, but it's strange how things change over the years, because people come in now and they say, "My, what foresight those people had to build a building like this," and I think the cost of the building was $27 million dollars.

Ms. Kilgannon: You can't get much for that now.

Sen. Snyder: And today I don't know what it would cost. Hundreds of millions, I would believe, at least, if not more than that.

Ms. Kilgannon: If you could even have craftspeople around that knew how to do all these things now.

Sen. Snyder: Yes. It's a magnificent building and I think that everybody comes in and enjoys it, and everybody kind of falls in love with the building and with the grounds around it. I certainly don't mind my tax dollars being spent for the upkeep of this building, and the buildings and grounds. I've been to other state capitols that aren't nearly as lovely as this one and also their grounds don't look nearly as nice as ours.

Ms. Kilgannon: Some are squished right in the middle of other buildings.

Sen. Snyder: Yes. The downtown.

Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge

Tour Location: Third Floor of the Legislative Building
Views of a Senate Docket Book


Ms. Kilgannon: Senator, what can you tell me about these benches? What kinds of people hung around in this area?

Sen. Snyder: Well, members will sit here now and talk with staff, or talk with each other. It's kind of nice to step off the floor and talk without being disruptive.

Ms. Kilgannon: Have a private word, yes. Are lobbyists allowed into here, or is there sort of a barrier beyond which they should not go?

Sen. Snyder: A member can go ask a lobbyist to come in and they'll certainly be over here, on the couches over there and visit with them, but especially as soon as the member's and the lobbyist's conversation is finished, the lobbyist leaves. And that's during the session.

Ms. Kilgannon: So there is kind of a line.

Sen. Snyder: Yes, there is.

Walking to rostrum...

Ms. Kilgannon: So when you first came to the Senate, you were up here?

Sen. Snyder: Yes.

Ms. Kilgannon: Where would you sit? I understand this is a little bit different now, that they have modernized it.

Sen. Snyder: It was this way when I came over. Before that, this is where I sat as Secretary of the Senate, and I served in that position for nineteen years. The Secretary of the Senate is elected by the members. You're a non-member, and you do everything fro—in those days, it's changed a little bit now—act as parliamentarian for the presiding officer, to assign parking spots. And assigning parking spots is more difficult than being Secretary of the Senate, because we never had enough parking spots to go around and still don't today.

And here in the Senate, like in the House, the press used to be up front and that row of desks weren't there—they were along the side. As you know we have forty-nine members, twenty-five Democrats and twenty-four Republicans, serving in the Legislature today in 2002. Thank goodness we can't have a tie like they have in the House of Representatives, like they've had for the last two years.

Ms. Kilgannon: I don't think you could have two Lieutenant Governors.

Sen. Snyder: The marble in here—there's lots of stories I can tell you about that. The one in particular that I want to show you is can you see the ballerina girl here? Can you see her hips?

Ms. Kilgannon: Oh, yes.

Sen. Snyder: Can you see the ballerina? There's a lot of other stories that the tour guides could do a much better job of telling, but that's one that always amazes me, is that it looks so realistic, and it doesn't take much time to. . .

Ms. Kilgannon: Now, is the chamber pretty much the same as when you were here?

Sen. Snyder: The only difference is that the configuration of the desks is a little different. These are still the original desks, even though some have been added, because until 1957 they only had forty-six members of the Senate, and forty-three before that. The Constitution allows up to ninety-nine House members, and you can't have more than one-half the amount in the Senate or less then one-third, so the House could go down to sixty-three members and the Senate could go down to twenty-one members.

Ms. Kilgannon: That would be a lot smaller.

Sen. Snyder: It would. But as it is now, each legislative district represents 120,000-plus people.

Ms. Kilgannon: And senators have always sat alone at their own desks—that's one of their perks?

Sen. Snyder: Yes. There are some desks that are kind of together back there.

Ms. Kilgannon: But not joined together like the House members?

Sen. Snyder: Well, the Chambers are about the same size even though we have the space that you took pictures of earlier that shows the little space in between, so we have almost as much space as the House does, but not all on the floor.

Ms. Kilgannon: And senators, like the House members in the early days, only had their desks?

Sen. Snyder: Yes.

Ms. Kilgannon: They didn't have any other extra perks, being senators?

Sen. Snyder: No. No.

Ms. Kilgannon: Now, let's show what you would have seen when you're sitting up there on the rostrum behind. . .or in front of rather—the Lieutenant Governor. Now in your day, that would have been John Cherberg, right?

Sen. Snyder: Yes, he was the Lieutenant Governor the entire nineteen years I was here as Secretary. In fact, he was the Lieutenant Governor for thirty-two years, and there was one gentleman in between by the name of Anderson for four years and then twenty years prior to that, Vic Meyers, so there was only three Lieutenant Governor's in fifty-six years and one of those was only here for four years.

Ms. Kilgannon: That's impressive. That's longevity.

Sen. Snyder: Yes.

Ms. Kilgannon: Now, we have this very special book that you were telling me about. We were able to borrow it with special permission from State Archives for this occasion. Do you want to explain what this is?

Sen. Snyder: Well, this is a Senate docket book. Senate bills and resolutions. We had a docket clerk, that sat over in the corner where the press is now, who, by hand, entered the title of the bill and the action as the bill went through the process: when it was read in, when it was reported from committee, when it came out of Rules Committee for action on the floor, when it was voted on, and then when it came back from the House, and when it was enrolled—that's a bill that is prepared for the governor's office. And in the old days—now we just spit ‘em out of a computer with the changes—in the old days, those had to be all retyped on paper that was this size, and with five or six or seven copies—that was with carbon paper. And some of the bills are dozens of pages long, or occasionally they get to be hundreds of pages, and we had to bring in an extra typist to start typing those enrolled bills that went to the governor's office. But with modern technology and computers, we got rid of all this. This is still done by the Journal Clerk.

Ms. Kilgannon: This feels like a real journal—I mean, this is a beautiful book.

Sen. Snyder: Yes, this is. The docket clerk used to be somebody with decent handwriting. Here's a bill that just got read in, that was referred to committee, and never got out of committee, so I said to Anne the other day, I told her about these and I said, "I'm sure they've got them over in Archives." But that must weigh fifteen or twenty pounds.

Ms. Kilgannon: Oh, yes, that's a hefty thing.

Sen. Snyder: And so there was a lot of manual labor, so that's why we worked so many hours around here.

Ms. Kilgannon: Would this be a man or woman customarily who did this work?

Sen. Snyder: A woman, I think. I think even though back in the old days, I talk about Mr. Holcomb, he was—his first job was back before World War One, in the Legislature he was a male stenographer at that time, so I don't know that they had any women work in those days, or very few, probably.

Ms. Kilgannon: Not very many, I don't think.

Sen. Snyder: And then after I'd been in for Si Holcomb, and then another good friend of mine was Ward Bowden, who was the bill room supervisor before me in the House. He was Assistant Chief Clerk in the House, and when he became Secretary of the Senate, I became Assistant Chief Clerk. Unfortunately, he died in 1969 during the session, and that's why I was elected the last day of the session to take his place.

Ms. Kilgannon: Oh. I wondered about that.

Sen. Snyder: Yes.

Ms. Kilgannon: Well, I know there's a lot of wrap-up work that you would do. Just because session is over, right, in that position, so they would still need someone?

Sen. Snyder: And when I first became Secretary of Senate, they had a lot of interim committees, and there'd be one on education, one on higher education, one on fish and game, and one on regulatory reform, and a lot of others. In 1973, when I was Secretary of the Senate, the leadership of the House and the Senate under Augie Mardesich and Lenny Sawyer, who was the Speaker, decided to reorganize the place. They kept the committees— we have the standing committees working in the interim—we eliminated most all of those interim committees, and eliminated our staff, and then we staffed the Senate as we know it today. And I think it's worked out quite well.

Ms. Kilgannon: So was that the invention of the Office of Program Research, that group of people?

Sen. Snyder: Yes.

Ms. Kilgannon: And they're here year round. Did that help the process?

Sen. Snyder: Oh, I think so. We were kind of an antiquated weak third branch of the government because we didn't have staff. Now we have staff and we're a lot different.

Ms. Kilgannon: Gives you a fighting chance?

Sen. Snyder: Yes. Gives us a fighting chance.

Lieutenant Governor John A. Cherberg, 1957-1989

Lieutenant Governor Emmett T. Anderson, 1953-1957

Lieutenant Governor Victor A. Meyers, 1933-1953

Docket Clerk, 1961

Lieutenant Governor Victor A. Meyers preparing to sign a bill

Governor Albert D. Rosellini signing a bill into law

Secretary of the Senate Ward Bowden, 1957-1969
Click image to enlarge

Tour Location: Third Floor of the Legislative Building


Ms. Kilgannon: Can you tell one quick John Cherberg story, what it was like to serve with him?

Sen. Snyder: Well, I think, you mentioned penmanship a while ago. John Cherberg was a teacher at Queen Anne high school at one time, and he taught—what's the word I want to use—he taught typing and penmanship and all those things, and he had great penmanship. I mean, absolutely outstanding penmanship. And he and I always signed the vouchers for the Senate to pay the bills, and one time the auditor was in and said that the Lieutenant Governor shouldn't use his stamp on those bills. He hadn't used a stamp!

Ms. Kilgannon: His signature was so perfect.

Sen. Snyder: His signature was so perfect and so exact, that he—

Ms. Kilgannon: It looked like it was carved.

Sen. Snyder: There's a lot of things I remember about him, but he was always a gentleman, and I could stop by or anybody could stop by with guests, and take them to the Lieutenant Governor's Office, and it was a rarity if he didn't have time, and he would make those people feel like they were the only people that were in his office all week. And I think he did more to promote the good will of the Legislature than any human being who came along.

I will tell one story. This is back when I was Assistant Chief Clerk in the House. It's changed—in those days the Assistant Chief Clerk, part of the responsibility was to transmit the bills back and forth between the House and the Senate. I came over and we'd get receipts from the bill, and I'd come walking on the rostrum. This time I lingered on the edge of Chamber because they'd had a real hot debate—and I'd mentioned that there used to be a lot of TV cameras, and there were several, and most of the debate was over, and a lot of the cameras had left, and there was only one remaining.

There was a fellow by the name of John McCutcheon, who was a great orator from Steilacoom. He got up and he was getting a little long in years, and wore very thick glasses, and asked for recognition, which he received, and he said, "Are the cameras still here?" And in those days, they had overhead lights that were very hot, and they would turn off and on for the TV cameras, but the members couldn't wait to get them off. So, like I say, most of the debate was over, and then Lt. Governor Cherberg looked out, and saw the cameraman standing over there, and he said, "Are the cameras still on?" And the young cameraman pointed that the lights weren't on, and he went like this, that the lights weren't on.

Ms. Kilgannon: Yes.

Sen. Snyder: And President Cherberg thought he gave him the finger!

Ms. Kilgannon: Oh, dear!

Sen. Snyder: Oh, dear, is right.

Ms Kilgannon: What did he say?

Sen. Snyder: He whammed the gavel, put the place at ease and charged out there and the poor young fellow didn't know what had happened.

Ms. Kilgannon: Just what he had done!

Sen. Snyder: Yes. Which he had done nothing, and it was all resolved in a few minutes. But John Cherberg was a personal friend of mine. In fact, I was honored to do a eulogy at his funeral. We made several trade missions with him—we tagged along, paid our own way—and here again, he did a lot of goodwill around the world.

Ms. Kilgannon: Wasn't he actually called "Mr. Washington, Ambassador of Good Will?"

Sen. Snyder: Ambassador of Goodwill for the State of Washington, yes. And another story I'll tell—I wasn't on this particular trip—John Cherberg was on a trade mission, and I didn't happen to be on that trip, but he always did a great job of buying and stealing—no, he didn't steal—gifts to exchange. Especially when you went to the Asian countries, they're great on exchanging gifts, and you can't spend state money for those purposes. And he'd start out, he'd have coffee table books about the state of Washington at his side, but by the time he got to the end of the trip, he was kind of scrounging for things to give.

The last stop was Taiwan, and all he had left was Mariners T-shirts and caps. So he did a little inquiring behind the scenes, and found out which of the dignitaries had children or grandchildren that might enjoy the T-shirts and the baseball caps, which he presented in good fashion. And he made kind of light of the fact that they had made a complete circle because they were made in Taiwan.

Ms. Kilgannon: Oh! That's good.

Lieutenant Governor John A. Cherberg

Left to right: Secretary of the Senate Ward Bowden, ?, Lieutenant Governor John A. Cherberg, ? examining bills

Senator John T. McCutcheon, Twenty-Ninth District
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Tour Location: Third Floor of the Legislative Building


Sen. Snyder: Well, this is my home away from home on the floor of the Senate of the State of Washington. And I never dreamed at any time in my life, in my early life, that I would ever be a member, even after I worked around here. Then, just by chance, and by the unfortunate demise of people, I ended up being a member of the Senate. So I always say, if I can be a member of the Senate, anybody can be a member of the Senate, because I might say I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in South Kelso, and if I got through high school that was great and probably the greatest thing that could happen is if I could get a steady job down in one of those lumber mills in Longview. That would be the pinnacle of what any person would end up with.

But I have been blessed and privileged to be a member of the Washington State Senate. I take my job very, very seriously. The problem is you can't satisfy all the people all of the time, you can't satisfy very many of them any of the time. But we have to keep plugging and doing our best, because I'm certainly proud of our state and our country, and there isn't any better way of doing the business of the people than the democracy we have. My years around here are great memories, there's no question about that.

Sen. Snyder demonstrates the actions of a Senator with his desk microphone.

Sen. Snyder: I demand the previous question!

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Tour Location: Third Floor of the Legislative Building


Ms. Kilgannon: Now we're in Senator Snyder's office. He's Senate majority leader. He has risen to the top: from elevator boy all the way up to a surprising grand finale where you never really expected to be. Has this office always been the majority leader's room?

Sen. Snyder: Well, these offices have been reconfigured over the years. Now, this suite of offices—there's two offices—are occupied by Senator Spanel, who's the caucus chair, and myself. At one time they were occupied by six members. They were much smaller offices.

Ms. Kilgannon: This is quite palatial.

Sen. Snyder: Yes, it's really the nicest office for a member in the place, the two offices are. So the Legislature has changed a lot. It used to be the sixty days, and it was over. There was very little for the members to do in the interim. Now it's a full-time job. There are very few people that have full, out-time, outside jobs and still serve in the Legislature, because: for several reasons. They can't afford to give up their job for so many weeks of the year, or their employers won't let them go, or their business can't afford to let them go, so likewise it's very hard to recruit people for the Legislature.

Vic Meyers Story

But there's a lot of stories, I could go on and tell stories. One I want to particularly tell is when Vic Meyers was the Lieutenant Governor back in 1951. During that session, they did something very unusual. The Constitution says you can't have two subjects in one bill, and they had the appropriation bill out on the floor, and they had an amendment proposed to invoke a tax, and he ruled that—there was a point of order raised on the point—that you couldn't have two subjects in a bill. And Vic Meyers—Victor Aloysius Meyers was his name; by the way, he was a bandleader before he was elected to Lieutenant Governor. A point of order was raised, and he said yes, the member is out of order because you can't have two subjects in one bill. The Legislature—or the Senate, had a way of overriding him, and they chose to challenge his ruling and they reversed his ruling, overrode it, and they passed the bill, with the tax amendment in it.

And I can't remember the people who were taxed but they took it to court and the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to have two subjects in the same bill, so the state—this was in August—and the state was broke, because it didn't have an appropriations bill; it was tossed out. So they had to have a hurried special session in September to correct that error. And Vic Meyers used to say that he was the only presiding officer that ever had his ruling in the Senate upheld by the Supreme Court.

Ms. Kilgannon: There, he's confirmed.

Majority Leader's Office Continued

Ms. Kilgannon: I see on your desk you have the rule books. Is that something you would read regularly just to refresh your mind, or do you have them all memorized by now?

Sen. Snyder: No, I don't have the rules memorized, but that's called the Red Book, or the Legislative Manual. It has the state and federal constitutions in it. It has all the statewide elected officials, including the county-elected officials, the judges of the state, the federal and elected officers, and of course members of the Legislature. And then it also has the rules of the House and the Senate, and then the joint rules, and that's how we operate the Legislature. I'm sorry to say that rules aren't as big a part of the game—or the procedure, I shouldn't say game—that they used to be around here. We spend very little time on rulings anymore like we used to in the old days.

Ms. Kilgannon: Because members don't know the rules as well?

Sen. Snyder: Well, I think it's partly that they don't know the rules, and over the years a lot of the rules just slid by, and they're not challenged when somebody does something that you could challenge their motion on, or their ranking of their motion or a lot of things like that happen.

Ms. Kilgannon: Is it true that the oratory level is not at the same level, that the fine orators are gone from the Senate?

Sen. Snyder: I would agree to that. I don't think we have the orators, and I don't know if it's because we're so crunched for time. In the old days we worked a lot, and the members worked a lot, but it was more because of the mechanics that slowed us down. Today the mechanics keep us up to speed, but we have so much more on our plates today than we had in years gone by.

Ms. Kilgannon: So the actual volume of legislation is much greater?

Sen. Snyder: Yes, I think every member, every session, hits at a dead run and the speed is a little faster every session.

Ms. Kilgannon: Where is this all going?

Sen. Snyder: Well, I don't know. I would hate to see it come to a full-time professional Legislature, even though we have a lot of members that don't have any outside interests to speak of. They're retired, or they're young people that are just getting started in life, and they run for the Legislature, maybe they have a spouse that's working outside the home. That way they can survive. The Legislature pays about $32,000 a year. There are expenses involved—a lot of committee meetings, a lot of meetings around the district. The district I represent is from Aberdeen to Kelso, and everything in between. I think I have thirteen school districts and I don't know how many port districts

Ms. Kilgannon: Wow, a lot of territory.

Sen. Snyder: And about that many cities. And then part of Grays Harbor isn't even in my district. If I get a call from Hoquiam—it isn't in my district, but Aberdeen is—you don't say, "Call somebody else." You take care of them. So it's definitely changed over the years. And I think three big reasons is the time it takes to be a legislator, the time it takes to get elected

Ms. Kilgannon: And money?

Sen. Snyder: And the money. The most horrible job is raising money for campaigns. And then the treatment that you receive in the media and in talk shows. They just rip you apart. I noticed that Dori Monson who has a talk show on KIRO—KIRO lost the Mariners after this season to KOMO—and his comment in the newspaper was, "Well, I'm going to be working more because I won't broadcast—have to be on the air when the Mariners are playing afternoon games," during his timeslot, "but I'll just spend more time—or less time talking about baseball—and more time talking about those nitwits in the Legislature," or the government, or something like that.

Ms. Kilgannon: Oh, well, that's helpful!

Sen. Snyder: Yes. So that's the attitude they have, and it's kind of disheartening. I've always said, all the years I've been here, I don't think there's any member that's served out there that I know that I wouldn't enjoy having as my next door neighbor regardless of the party they're affiliated with.

Ms. Kilgannon: To go out on an up note, is there anything in your office, a special memento, that you would like to just talk about for a moment, and then we'll close the session.

Sen. Snyder: Well, before the session started in 2001, I hung this picture of Harry Truman up that I'd bought at an auction someplace, because I have a lot admiration for President Truman. He's the first President I voted for, that was the first time I was eligible. After the earthquake, you'll notice that the picture isn't quite square. It's off center a little bit, and that's what the earthquake did to the building.

And I think we talked about the Legislative manual. I have a collection of Legislative manuals. I have nearly every Legislative manual from 1889, and some of them, way back when, have a lot more information in them. That's the first legislative manual—

Holds up book

Ms. Kilgannon: So they weren't always red.

Sen. Snyder: No. When we became a state in 1889, it has the rules, it also has a little biography of every members of the Legislature in there. It has the inaugural speech of Governor Ferry. And it gives the populations, and it's amazing how little Wahkiakum County, which I represent, has a little less than 4,000 people now, had over 3,000 people one-hundred years ago. So, some of these places haven't grown too much over the years.

Ms. Kilgannon: Well, that's a very special collection.

Sen. Snyder: So, I have almost all of those, and it's amazing the information you can get. Once and a while I'll look in there, and get a little quotation, and I'll process a bit, and I'll say, "That was 1899 instead of 1999," and it fits.

Ms. Kilgannon: Some things don't change.

Sen. Snyder: Yes.

Ms. Kilgannon: I want to thank you so much, Senator, for your personal tour of the Capitol.

Sen. Snyder: Oh, you're very welcome.

Ms. Kilgannon: I'm just sorry we have to move out.

Sen. Snyder: I am, too, and I hope somebody benefits from this in the future.

Ms. Kilgannon: I think they will. Thanks so much.

Sen. Snyder: [to camera crew] Thank you all for your help.

Lieutenant Governor Victor A. Meyers, 1933-1953

2001 Floor Plans of Legislative Building