By MICHELLE SCHMIDTLEWISTON — This city was once known as a world log rolling capital. For a span of 14 years, beginning in 1958, four Lewiston women won 11 of the world championship titles in log rolling.
When Dave Jones, a video producer out of Bend, Ore., first heard this, he knew he had found a story. Now, more than a year and a half later, he’s telling that story in a 49-minute documentary, “Queens of the Roleo,” that premiers with two shows, 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday at Lewis-Clark State College’s Center for Arts & History.
This 14-year domination in log rolling struck Jones as peculiar. He wondered how it could be and what had happened to these people and their sport, also called birling or roleo. His curiosity led him to Lewiston, where he had family and had begun his professional career at KLEW-TV.
If the surprising facts of the story caught his attention, it was the people who kept it. Jones quickly discovered there was one man who tied these champions together: their coach, Roy Bartlett. He met with Bartlett and eventually all four of the champions — Bette (Ellis) Jordan, Cindy (Toste) Cook, Barbara (Newbry) Peturka, Penni (Dixon) McCall — who agreed to tell their story in the documentary, which Jones titled “Queens of the Roleo.”
“It’s really about these people, like all good stories are,” Jones says. “It’s the story of Roy, the girls and the parks and rec department who got behind it.”
The Lewiston women who won the world championships were among those who benefited by the strong community support for log rolling. Even though they were petite, they were able to go up against — and beat — women who were bigger than them.
“They were the Michael Jordans of their sport,” Jones says. “They had fame, they were on game shows, they were in traveling sport shows. Sure, it was pre-ESPN, pre-big money, but these women certainly achieved levels of fame.”
Jones describes the story as something that just fell into his lap, one that he knew wouldn’t be told if he didn’t tell it.
“This is a story that will be lost with this generation,” he says. “It’s a story about a time in Northwest history that is gone.”
Log rolling as a sport still exists, but not like it once did, Jones says. But he wondered if Lewiston could relive its glory days and asked yesteryears’ champions if they thought it could make a comeback.
“Without giving it away, I thought their answers were interesting,” Jones says.
With his background in video production, the audio and video equipment to make it happen and an available schedule, Jones filmed and funded the entire production himself, including the hiring of an Emmy-award-winning editor to polish the piece. He’s begun a Kickstarter campaign aimed at recouping a part of the cost.
If you go:
What: “Queens of the Roleo,” a documentary by Dave Jones
When: 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday showings
Noon to 3 p.m. a log rolling pond will be set up outside the building on Fifth Street; 4 to 6 p.m. a reception with former champions
Where: Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History, 505 C St., Lewiston