Thoughts From Half A Century Ago


I wanted to share a personal walk down memory lane which began 50 years ago today, ironically enough at what today is Memory Road–the overpass on I-84 near Micron.

It was 50 years ago today in 1968 when I drove from Ypsilanti, Michigan with all of my earthly possessions in a 1965 Mercury purchased with my “mustering out” Army pay to take a job as the cops and fire reporter for the Idaho Statesman. I had just served a tour in Vietnam.

The freeway, known at the time as I-80N, ended at Isaacs Canyon and became Federal Way (U.S. 20/30), a desolate two lane highway across the desert. First real sign of civilization was an old wooden dance hall where later the Perkins Pancake restaurant occupied the Southwest corner of Gowen Road and Federal Way. Gowen ended at Federal Way.

Old 20/30 Truck Stop On Federal Way is now Flying-J

Back in October 1968, I passed the seedy 20/30 Truck Stop which today is the Flying-J. The location overlooked the old Triangle Dairy and its rich green pastures across the street. Triangle Dairy used to maintain a fire truck in those days to answer alarms in areas not served by a fire department. It was typical of the sense of community that encouraged me to make Boise home for the rest of my life.

There was a small sign on Federal Way with a downward arrow which read, BOISE VIA BROADWAY. I dove off Federal Way, took the rugged two-lane Broadway toward the heart of town past the red brick fire station at Boise Ave., past the wooden bleachers which served as a football stadium at the young Boise State College and encountered my first stoplight at Broadway and Warm Springs.

Idaho Statesman was on NE corner of 6th and Bannock.

I spent the night at the Safari Inn on Myrtle Street and found an apartment the next day, thanks to a friendly classified ad clerk at the Statesman who let me have first crack at the new apartment listings.

City Hall and police station were located at SW corner of 6th and Bannock.

St. Luke’s hospital was a modest brick building with ivy covered walls, St. Alphonsus was at 5th and State (now state offices). The Idaho Statesman at 6th and Bannock was in the heart of the city less than a block walk from the Statehouse, Courthouse, City Hall, Police Headquarters, and Number One Fire Station. It was only two blocks to the Borah Post Office which also housed the United States District Court and was across the street from the towering Hotel Boise.
Half a century ago every vehicle traveling between Salt Lake City and Portland passed through the intersection and eventually down Capital Boulevard and out either Chinden or Fairview westward. Motels lined Capital Blvd. and the Village Inn was a major restaurant…all before there was a freeway around the city.

Central fire station once stood at 6th and Idaho.

It wasn’t just buildings that impressed this newcomer to Boise. Collectively,we Boiseans were headquarters to Morrison-Knudsen Construction, Boise Cascade, Albertson Grocery, OreIda Foods, and the J.R. Simplot Company. We were also a major stop on the Oregon Trail and home to what later became United Airlines (Varney Airlines carried the first commercial airmail in 1926). The Statesman was owned by the Miller family’s Federated Publications, The two TV Stations, KTVB and KBOI were locally owned along with the half dozen radio stations.

And the neat part was we all recognized the CEOs of these companies and warmly greeted each other when we met on the street. In short, Boise was an amazingly egalitarian society. Today Only the Simplot Company retains its original roots on the big business side of things.

The Bank of Idaho was the tallest building in the state at Capital and Idaho. I opened an account there in early November 1968 and a city hall worker I had met looked over the top of her glasses and sternly scolded, “You know, that bank is NOT locally owned!” Times have certainly changed.

Today, I am often accused of wanting life to be like it was 50 years ago. I may have to plead “guilty as charged.”

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Carolyn Eardley
    Oct 30, 2018, 3:42 pm

    Thank you so much for that trip. I was born in Boise in 1955 and have lived in this valley for most of those years. It has changed so much over that time period. It was especially enjoyable to read your words during this sad week. Thank you again for a few moments of reflection on a simpler time.

  2. Scot M Ludwig
    Oct 30, 2018, 4:07 pm

    Fraz: Thank you for this account of your deep roots in Boise. You arrived 11 years before I did and share many of the same memories. You are the consummate Boisean and contribute to this City in many ways. One of those is this publication, The Guardian. Your continued oversight and pursuit of transparency and accountability for Boise is so valuable. One such recent example is the potential conflict of the Ombudsman as that position relates to the position of Interim City Attorney. You drew attention to an issue that needed immediate attention. Thanks to you I contacted the Mayor’s office and that issue has been clearly resolved and no further potential conflict can occur. Thank you for that and all you do to make Boise the greatest City in the country. Here’s to many more years of your great contribution. Scot M. Ludwig

  3. Thanks so much for sharing those memories and insight on our local history. My have things changed!

  4. Great story, Dave.
    You were a decade ahead of me. I’ve been here 40 years, more than half my life. It’s felt like home more than any other place I’ve lived—except maybe the Upstate New York farm village of Poestenkil where I attended 1st & 2nd grade.
    We experienced Boise’s golden age, I think. The rapid growth truly threatens that hometown feeling, especially in local government. Keep up the good work—with pix!

  5. Hi Dave,
    Your post brought a lot of old memories back. I drove that same route in July of 1967, leaving from my home in Livonia, Michigan. I had just graduated from U of Detroit as a Civil Engr. and took as job with the Bureau of Reclamation. I remember that drive down Federal Way, but I took Vista into town. Always remember the Yanke Machine Shop just below the Depot. I never left Boise, but I am sad to see what is happening to this town and valley. Our current mayor is destroying the whole valley. I hope when historians write about his legacy it is pointed out that he is the one that destroyed the Boise valley. He thinks he is so smart, but doesn’t have the common sense to realize what he is building here is exactly what people coming here are running away from.

  6. Brian Crossland
    Oct 30, 2018, 9:49 pm

    Great stuff Dave. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I arrived about 10 years behind you, but still remember Boise, in it’s infancy. The good ole days! 🙂

  7. Brian Crossland
    Oct 30, 2018, 9:54 pm

    I just commented on the great article and then, read the comments just now. I was thrilled to see Scott Ludwigs comments and happy to know that situation is being rectified. Scott is a good man, and we have you Dave, to thank for that quick result. Nice work, and keep it up!

  8. Yossarian_22
    Oct 31, 2018, 10:46 am

    I was born here in 1962. Not leaving. I watched this city and valley grow all since then. I would love to have alot of it back. My complaints growing up are nothing compared to what I complain about now. I never had it so good. Some new things are great, but I lived without them before. People all wanted the same things. Now, too many want to tear down what I valued and install agendas. I didn’t see this until recently.

  9. The same could be said of MANY cities and towns.

    On the other side of the coin are the stories of towns drying up or out-right dried up.

    “There used to a bank in that empty building”.
    “Downtown is all boarded up now”.
    “None of my classmates live here anymore”
    “the freeway used to come through here and people would stop”
    “The old motel is falling down now”

    This summer, I visited one of those former popular cities. Growth is better for everyone.

  10. Thanks for sharing your experience. Really enjoyed this one.

  11. Elizabeth Carmody
    Oct 31, 2018, 1:43 pm

    Dave, it is as though I were in the car with you as you approached our city for the first time. Oh, boy how I remember what it was like back in the day and my, how things have changed. Having been born here (St. Luke’s, 1951) and privileged to live here most of my life, I can recount so many good and bad decisions by our city leaders that have left a permanent mark on this city we call home. The trouble is, once you start changing the landscape, there is no going back. It is so sad to witness the type of growth occurring in Boise and our neighboring towns. For the record, I am not anti-growth but would like to see a display of more responsibility and accountability on behalf of our elected officials. We will never return Boise to what it was, but may we reflect on it and embrace that sense of missing the allure of a small city where life was just plain simple. Yes, Boise will never be the same but it is not too late to do the right thing.

  12. I was born in the old St. Alphonsus Hospital you make note of. 65 years and 4 days ago. (Let me thank you taxpayers – you’ll be taking over my healthcare in the not-too-distant future!)

    I was whisked home – to a new house right across the street from where Gary Richardson lives now. (Unless he’s moved…) Boise’s population was maybe 50,000. The tallest building in Idaho was Hotel Boise – now the Hoff Building. The big venue in town was the Boise College Gymnasium. The west edge of town was Curtis Road.

    My dad was an OB/GYN – his office was in the Idaho First Nat’l Bank building on Idaho between 11th and 12th (now US Bank). Soon after, he and his partner built their own office at 121 E. Fort St. (The Boise Little Theater was built across the street soon after, using the same bricks as Dad’s office.)

    I attended Roosevelt Elementary, East Jr. High (where Dona Larsen Park now stands), Boise High. Toward the end of my BHS years, they started building the new Boise Cascade Building… little did I know at the time that many years later I’d earn my bread working in that building (just passed 24 years).

    When our esteemed Guardian editor came to town, Hillcrest Plaza was sparkling new – the biggest shopping center for 300 miles in any direction! I was riding dirt bikes in the foothills – ruining the environment! (Since then, it’s been SAVED! Now that same real estate is covered with subdivisions, as far as the eye can see.)

    Mayor Bieter wants to make “Boise the most livable city in the country.”

    From this old-timer’s perspective, we’ve been headed in the WRONG direction for many years – certainly for his entire tenure as mayor. I would gladly give up my Connector and Taco Bell Arena and parking garages and Boise Towne Square and 50 strip malls, to live in the town I grew up in.

    (Thanks for the happy nostalgia, Dave and everybody else!)

  13. Diane C Stearns
    Oct 31, 2018, 2:02 pm

    I think I have you all beaten…
    I arrived in Boise mid-June 1970 at age thirty (the Interstate wasn’t even completed). That makes me a really ole’ broad now… Since I moved from the Mid-West, I had never seen flood irrigation, barbed-wire fences, hills or mountains. We bought a 2,750 square foot house on one-third of an acre on Morton Drive just off Mountain View and paid $30,000. I can’t imagine what the value of that home would be now… For a treat, we would walk up Ustick Road to Delsa’s Ice Cream shop.
    I worked for Albertson’s General Office for ten years when it was above the grocery store that was located where the bank is now at 16th & State. After saving enough for my two boys to attend college, I worked nights cleaning commercial buildings and then spent the weekends holding open houses for McLeod Realty, so I could graduate from BSU, which I did in December 1984.
    After that, I obtained a position as a Workers’ Comp. Consultant at the Idaho Industrial Commision which was at 3rd & Main, and I remained there until retirement.
    Boise used to be wonderful years ago, but now it’s one traffic jam after another, the price of housing is unreal and certainly not affordable for the average family.
    Oh, how I long for the good ole days…

  14. Lets see if any one can beat this
    born 1950.. St Lukes downtown ( of course there was only 1 St. Lukes
    Jolly time kindergartner by Morris Hill ( now close)
    Jefferson Elementary
    Moved To Adams Elementary
    East Jr. High ( the old one when they were still burning coal for heat)
    Boise High School
    Boise (State)College

    Lived in Boise or Idaho City since….

  15. Kent F Goldthorpe
    Oct 31, 2018, 4:10 pm

    Thanks. I came to Boise shortly after that and took the same turn off the same road but I never did make it to City Hall or the Statesman. I couldn’t drive past Manley’s.

  16. Great post and it gives great perspective to your slant on the news. My perspective is a bit different and usually lambasted in the comments hear and elsewhere.

    I live and work in the Northend and Downtown, which is a different reality from what is happening in most of the valley. I moved here after college and bought in the Northend while it was still affordable. I mostly ride my bike to work, stores and fun within 2 miles, so parking and congestion are no bother. When I do travel out to the mall area or Eagle Rd, it usually is not a pleasant experience due to traffic.

    But I do understand the change as I grew up in McCall and that place is no where near the same today. Cascade is much closer to the McCall that I remember.

  17. Thanks Dave for the memories!! A few nights ago I was lost in thought of when I arrived in Boise, June 1977. Actually months earlier I had previously flown into Boise during spring break from the University of Wyoming and my former hometown of Laramie, Wyoming. I had applied on a whim thru job interviews for a position of DVOP (Disabled Veterans Outreach Program) with the State of Idaho, which was a new Federal Program to hire Disabled Veterans like myself. Little did I know, based on my military service and education that I would be selected for the position covering the area from Nampa to Weiser including Emmett. Moving to Boise in 1977 was a venture in itself, I was not used to the heat and lower elevation (Laramie Wyoming where I grew up was 7,250 feet and cold), but I quickly assimilated into Boise life! My first house was on Saratoga Drive near the old Tate’s farm/dairy and my house was the 12th one in the new subdivision. So here I am today, 41 years,5 months and have lived in 4 houses in various areas of Boise. My only son, SPC Brandon T. Titus was born at St. Lukes,graduated Borah HS,gave up college scholarships to enlist in the military and sadly he was the 1st Soldier/Veteran to be buried in the new Idaho State Veterans Cemetery when he KIA, August 2004. So much has changed in Boise, some not so good, but I am home here and really miss those places you shared in your recollections. Thanks Dave, for the memories and the smile you brought to my face!!

  18. Gee, with all these old-timers, my stories pale in comparison. My family came to Boise in 1974 from the Midwest. We lived a few months in Boise (my house at the time is now Goody’s up in the North End, and Paul J. Schneider’s oldest son was my best friend), until my dad got a job teaching at Vallivue, and we moved to Nampa. Everything that has happened bad in Boise happened to Nampa as well, just different. When Boise Town Square opened in 1988, I was working in Karcher Mall, and literally watched it die. The best finger steaks in the Valley were at the Country Inn in Nampa, which is now an Albertsons gas station, the field where I used to kick up a couple rooster pheasants on my way to junior high is the Nampa Rec Center, and Walmart paved over my fishing hole from when I was a kid.

    I understand the changes, and why they happened. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss what we lost…

  19. Mr. Editor;

    Great article! I would love to read more about your experiences with the Statesman, BPD, City Hall, etc. in those days.
    Maybe make it a regular feature here.
    Or, dare I say it, a book?

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