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Feb. 7, 2023

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Swimming in history: Clark County lads pout, pose, preen for fun and (non)profit

By , Columbian staff writer
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The frigid water at Washougal’s Sandy Swimming Hole was no deterrence for Brad Richardson. Just check out the sassy pose and seductive pout on Clark County’s premiere history hunk.

“If you’re going to wear this ridiculous outfit, you better commit to it,” the executive director of the Clark County Historical Museum told himself as he plunged in and worked the camera like a swimsuit model — which is exactly what he was.

Seventeen local men donned 1920s-style, one-piece bathing costumes to pose for a vintage pinup wall calendar that’s on sale now (for $25 or $30 via cchmuseum.org/2022cchmvsc/) to raise money for the nonprofit Clark County Historical Museum.

Nonprofit sector leaders are always obligated to explain their mission and ask people for money, Richardson said. It can be an endlessly uncomfortable task unless you make it meaningful and just plain fun.

“I think this is something unique about the nonprofit world,” he said. “There’s this tiny little circuit that switches on in a nonprofit director’s brain that says, ‘If you’re going to do it, commit to it and have fun with it.’ ”

Richardson eventually roped 16 other civic-minded local men to join him in modeling vintage swimsuits, the whole-body kind from a whole century ago. They displayed a distinctly retro-pinup vibe for photographers Missy Fant and Robert Holcomb.

“We have to thank our two expert photographers for making the most of the human forms we gave them,” Richardson said with a chuckle.

The swimsuit calendar idea came from Lee Rafferty, former director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association, who found a vintage family swimsuit and challenged Richardson to pose in it as a fundraiser, he said.

“I’d do anything for money, of course,” Richardson said.

Within an hour he started cooking up plans to ensnare fellow victims, he said.

“We can’t waste this idea on just me,” he told Rafferty. Eventually the pair drummed up 16 more good-humored bathing beauties (see list), from local politicians to business leaders to artists and musicians.

“I started with Brad Wager (of Versa Events), because we’ve got to keep the Brads together,” Richardson said.

The effort snowballed from there. Since he had only one swimsuit to work with, Richardson took the plan to Diana Kirkpatrick, owner of downtown Vancouver costumier Center Stage Clothing, who had two more and the skill to make others.

“I thought the project sounded wonderful,” Kirkpatrick said. “I did some research about ’20s bathing suits. I sourced the fabric and made some patterns.”

Kirkpatrick ended up sewing one dozen vintage-style swimsuits. Each one took about four hours, she said. First, though, the models had to stop by for personal measurements.

“Yup, the guys all started coming into the store and I got all up in their business for fittings,” Kirkpatrick said with a laugh. “It’s my donation to the museum.”

(The swimsuits she created will stay in her inventory, she said. If some theater company out there is rehearsing a show that features a bevy of historical male bathers, you know where to go.)

In addition to their swimsuits, many models wore straw hats and even a few fake moustaches. A vintage bathtub was borrowed for the photo sessions from Pomeroy Farm in Yacolt. Everything in the resulting photos is rated G (for gentlemen), unless you buy the Jeff Angelo Not-Safe-For-Work edition, which features more skin from the director of disability advocacy nonprofit Without Limits NW, and comes at a premium ($30 rather than $25).

Whether the cause — and the skin — are worth a few additional dollars is entirely up to you.

Most calendar photo sessions happened at Lucia Falls and along the Columbia River, but Richardson had a different idea.

“I went back to my childhood swimming hole, the Sandy Swimming Hole in Washougal,” he said. “I swam there pretty much every day from age 10 to about 16, and it’s special to me. Even though this is such a silly project, I wanted to go there because it connects me with my roots.”

Meet the models

Some swimsuit models will autograph calendars from 2-4 p.m. Nov. 26 (Small Business Saturday) at the Clark County Historical Museum, 1511 Main St., Vancouver.

Here’s a month-by-month rundown:

Brad Richardson (December 2022)

James Oneil (January 2023)

Bryan Stebbins and Kyle Helm (February 2023)

Kim Capeloto (March 2023)

Eric Sawyer (April 2023)

Sammuel Murry-Hawkins (May 2023)

Adrian Cortes (June 2023)

Jeff Angelo (July 2023)

Ryan Philbrook (August 2023)

Cody Ritter (September 2023)

Ben Surratt (October 2023)

Bart Hansen (November 2023)

Brad Wager (December 2023)

Nelson Holmberg (January 2024)

Tommy Miller (February 2024)

Thomas O’Sullivan (March 2024)

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