Idaho History

1927 was big year for America and Idaho

Boise’s unique Egyptian Theater opened in 1927.
Boise’s unique Egyptian Theater opened in 1927. Provided by Arthur Hart

Among the years that stand out in the history of Idaho and the nation is 1927. Not only did Charles A. Lindbergh make his famous solo flight from New York to Paris that year, but he also followed it up with a visit to state capitals, including Boise, underlining the fact that the “air age” had arrived.

The era has been called the “Golden Age of Sport,” and 1927 is the year that Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs — a record that stood for more than 30 years. The New York Yankees went on to win the World Series from the Pittsburgh Pirates that year in four straight games, led by their famed “Murderers’ Row” of hitters.

In September in Chicago, heavyweight champion Gene Tunney won by decision over Jack Dempsey in a rematch for the title. It was the famous “long count” fight that Dempsey would have won by a knockout had the timekeeper not delayed the start of his count over the fallen Tunney, who then got up and won the bout on points. In Boise a crowd estimated at 10,000 people jammed the intersection of Sixth and Main in front of the Idaho Statesman building to hear bulletins read on the progress of the fight — a crowd numbering nearly half the population of Idaho’s capital city.

The young radio industry proudly announced that a record 55 stations nationwide had carried the fight, but that didn’t do Boise sport fans much good since the only radio broadcasts in Southern Idaho in 1927 came from Boise High School’s amateur station KFAU, which didn’t have access to network programming or teletype. KFAU was on the air for an hour at noon and a couple of hours in the evening, broadcasting agricultural bulletins and its rather limited collection of music available on phonograph records.

In the field of sport, 1927 was a good year for Idaho teams. The Coyotes of the College of Idaho had an undefeated football season under coach Anse Cornell, winning their second straight Northwest Conference title. The Caldwell school beat Tacoma’s College of Puget Sound 14-6 on Nov. 19 to close out the season. That day was a big one for the Idaho Vandals, too. They beat Oregon State College in Portland 12-7 in a game that was so exciting, coach Charley Erb passed out from the emotion of the victory. It took 15 minutes for his worried players to revive him. Idaho thus became a contender for Pacific Coast honors, only to be upset by Gonzaga later in the season.

A polio epidemic frightened Idaho enough in November that many public schools were closed for as long as three weeks. Boise High was closed from Nov. 9-28 but played its football games. By beating Gooding on the 24th, the Braves won the Southern Idaho title. In December they played Moscow for the state title and won 27-0.

The face of Boise changed rather noticeably in 1927. New buildings that year included C.C. Anderson’s Golden Rule department store on Idaho Street, later the Bon Marche; S.H. Kress & Co., also on Idaho Street; and the exotic Egyptian Theater at Eighth and Main.

The statue of Gov. Frank Steunenberg facing the Capitol was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies in December. Memorial chimes at the new railway station were also dedicated. The station itself had opened in 1925, when Boise celebrated being on the Union Pacific mainline after being on a “stub line” from Nampa since September 1887. The city’s last electric streetcar ended its run at 12:20 a.m. June 15, 1927. Buses began running that same day.

Another vehicle often seen on Boise streets was the city’s water wagon. It made the news on June 11, 1927, by catching fire, of all things. This gave a Statesman reporter a chance to have some fun. He asked Fire Chief William Foster, “Any water burn up?” Chief Foster was equal to the occasion, replying, “There was 30 gallons missing — figure it out for yourself.”

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

Boise’s unique Egyptian Theater opened in 1927.

Provided by Arthur Hart

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