Idaho History: Historic photos can establish connections

SPECIAL TO THE STATESMANApril 20, 2014 

PROVIDED BY ARTHUR HART

Today's historic photograph was sent to me by Sharon Hubler of Caldwell with the caption, "Photo of possible interest." Well, it certainly is of interest and made me wish that more of my readers could share family photos as evocative as this one.

The building is one of unusual historic significance of which we have very few photographs. The only one that shows the entire building is of Boise's July 4, 1890, Liberty Car ready to start the parade in celebration of Idaho's admission to the Union as the nation's 43rd state. In the background of that one is the building of the Independent Order of Good Templars, a temperance lodge that built what was Boise's first large meeting hall in 1870.

The Independent Order of Good Templars was founded near Utica, N.Y., in 1832, dedicated to helping its members abstain from alcoholic beverages. It could be considered an ancestor of today's Alcoholics Anonymous. A convention held in Boise in February 1868 formed a grand lodge of Templars for Idaho Territory. The Idaho Statesman reported regularly on the progress being made on construction of Good Templar Hall. When dedicated on Feb. 8, 1870, the Statesman said it was "the largest meeting hall in the territory."

The need for an organization like the Templars was described by the editor of the Idaho Statesman in these moving words in October 1889: "Alas, it is not a sight unknown in Boise, to see men of strong native powers, of honorable position in society, the center of a broad circle of warm friends, and who might honor their profession and reach high standing, reeling from saloon to saloon, furnished with the destructive drink when they are far beyond their own mental control. Aye, and young men, in the bloom and promise of youth, while hearts are breaking at home, following in their track."

By the time today's photograph was taken in about 1908, just before its demolition to make way for the Pioneer Tent & Awning building at Sixth and Main, the Good Templars' building had gone through many transformations and uses, and as the sign emphatically tells us, now housed a bowling alley, had billiard and pool tables, and catered to young men like those posing for the photographer.

The young man in the white shirt is the grandfather of donor Hubler. He was Kenneth Albinus Kimmell, born in Albion, Ind., on May 2, 1894, just six weeks before my own mother was born in Park Rapids, Minn. Hubler's grandfather Kimmell was a carpenter most of his life, and so was my grandfather Maltby. Grandpa Kimmell spent most of his life in Caldwell, where he died in August 1962.

It is entirely possible that I could have met Mr. Kimmell on one of the summer jobs I held as a young professor at the College of Idaho. I painted houses during Caldwell's postwar building boom, probably some that Mr. Kimmell helped build.

It was during this time, Hubler reminds me, that she was a teenage babysitter for the first two of our four little girls, now all four grandmothers to little girls of their own.

Although Hubler and I have not met since she was in her teens, I am certainly aware of her distinguished career as executive director of the Idaho Park Foundation (now Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands) where she served for 34 years, and her volunteer service on the boards of some of the state's cultural and outdoor recreation organizations. Most of all, Sharon Hubler, I thank you for sending us today's photo and the chance to connect on some parallel family history.

Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email histnart@mindspring.com.

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