Fifty years ago Idaho celebrated its Territorial Centennial and Boise celebrated what it billed as the "Greater Boise Centennial." As we now celebrate the 150th anniversary of those landmark occasions, let us look at how they did it then. They certainly did it well.
Although I was a college professor in Massachusetts in 1963, and only came back to Idaho on an occasional summer to teach classes at the College of Idaho, I find from my correspondence files that I had already met and later would get to know and admire some of the leaders of Boise's centennial celebration.
I have before me as I write this a handsome 63-page publication created by the Greater Boise Centennial Committee of the Greater Boise Chamber of Commerce. The title page reads "To our ancestors who left us so rich a heritage, do we dedicate our Centennial, in the hope that we may do as much as they did for our city and state. Carl Sandburg once remarked, 'A nation which has no regard for its past, will have little future worth remembering.' As we honor the past may we also salute the future - a future of ever increasing community progress and growth. MAY THE MOST WE HOPE FOR BE THE LEAST WE GET.'"
Glenn A. Lungren, was president of the Greater Boise Chamber of Commerce, and was also president of the 1963 centennial organization. His portrait in the book shows him with a neat black moustache and a goatee. We know it was grown for the celebration, because one of the events scheduled for July 6 was "Finals, Beard Growing Contest."
When I came back to Idaho in 1969 as director of the state museum, Glenn was one of the first community leaders to welcome me, and we soon became friends. Others who worked on that long ago celebration, and with whom I later worked on a variety of civic projects, include Tom Frye, Jay Sherlock, Berne Jensen, Roger McGinnis, Charles Newhouse, Helen Thompson, Vaughn Price, and Sam Barton. Society Director H.J. Swinney, my predecessor as director of the Idaho Historical Society, was naturally much involved in the celebration. I met him six years later when he was Director of the Adirondack Museum in upstate New York.
Appropriately, this centennial publication included an insightful history of the region by Merle W. Welles, the dean of Idaho historians. In 1963 Merle served as State Historian and State Archivist under "Jerry" Swinney. In 1964 Merle compiled a list of 35 centennial publications that had been created by organizations across the state. It was printed as No. 222 of the Society's reference series. One of the most important books on the list, and still the standard work on the state's mining history, was Merle's own "Gold Camps and Silver Cities," published by the Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology.
Other well-known Idaho writers on the list were Grace Jordan, wife of former Gov. Len Jordan, who edited an "Idaho Reader." Nellie Ireton Mills made the list with her 1963 "All Along the River, Territorial and Pioneer Days on the Payette." Merrill D. Beal's "Intermountain Railroads: Standard and Narrow Gauge," 1963, was the first book to explore Idaho's railroad history. Publications by local historical societies and county newspapers included "The Minidoka Story" by the Minidoka County News, and "A Glimpse of Elmore County" by the Elmore County Historical Foundation. The Twin Falls County Territorial Centennial Commission offered "A Folk History of Twin Falls County."
Next week we'll chronicle the truly remarkable degree to which many hundreds of Idahoans became involved in the celebration of their Territorial, and Boise's Centennial. There was an opportunity for everyone to take part in some way, and the people responded with enthusiasm. That 1963 celebration lasted from June 29 until July 6, with a dozen events every day. Those folks surely knew how to "keep the party going."
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.