History

When Germany invaded its European neighbors in 1940, the United States was a long ways from being prepared. The country’s military resources had been all but drained by the Great Depression. The U.S. army was smaller than that of Belgium’s, a nation that could fit inside Maryland. Military war games were being carried out with broomsticks and eggs in place of guns and grenades, and in at least one instance, a U.S. general was forced to order tank replacement parts from a Sears and Roebuck catalog because the military couldn’t provide the items itself.

On a summer morning in July 1915, thousands of poor factory workers lined the Chicago docks, waiting to board ships for the much anticipated annual picnic hosted by Western Electric Company. But as 2,500 passengers flooded aboard the first ship, the SS Eastland, disaster struck. The huge liner flipped onto its side, drowning more than 800 people in the filthy Chicago River, including 22 whole families.

Wikimedia Commons

Members of Boise State’s Osher Institute Tuesday heard lectures linking Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Communist witch-hunts of the 1950s to Idaho. History writer Marc Johnson connected the dots between McCarthy and two Idaho elections.

Grocery shopping is on almost everyone’s weekly list. For many households, that means driving to the supermarket, or an even larger discount mega-store, and loading our carts to the brim with our favorite brands. But grocery shopping wasn’t always this way. A century ago, small mom-and-pop grocers dotted street corners, staffed by storekeepers who packaged bulk items for customers they knew by name. Today, the retail landscape continues to change, as more of us go online for a variety of purchases.

Baseball legends hold a special place in our country’s collective heart. Dizzy Dean, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron are still household names generations after their feats on the baseball diamond made them famous.

But perhaps none represents the promise and hard truths of the American experience during baseball’s golden age better than pitching great Satchel Paige.

It’s been more than 70 years since the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, ushering in the end of World War II. Yet true stories such as the one from today’s guest, Pamela Rotner Sakamoto, remind us how much history still has to teach us, and why personal accounts remain so powerful.

Few would put the name Juan Pujol alongside Eisenhower, Churchill and Roosevelt – the Allied giants of World War II.  Yet, this underachieving chicken farmer from Barcelona could very well be the pivotal figure in one of the 20th century’s most important events: the Allied landings in Normandy during the summer of 1944.

In 1906, an African native known as Ota Benga was displayed in a cage in the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo. Thousands came to view the sensational exhibit. They shouted, pointed fingers, and laughed at the man, who stood 4 feet 11 inches in height and weighed 103 pounds. A sign outside the cage described him as an African Pygmy from the Congo Free State, and announced that he would be exhibited each afternoon during September. An orangutan shared the space with Benga, at times perching on his shoulder.

On May 30th, 1912, Wilbur Wright died peacefully in his own bed in the family home in Dayton, Ohio. He was 45 years old. The cause of death was typhoid, which he may have contracted from eating tainted clam broth in a Boston restaurant. But Orville Wright and members of the Wright family believed Wilbur’s death was attributable to the stress he experienced fighting their archenemy and main competitor, Glenn Curtiss. In Orville Wright’s mind, Curtiss had killed his older brother.

Those of us who grew up playing the board game “Monopoly” likely remember the thrill of landing on an up-for-grabs Boardwalk or Park Place, and buying the pricey properties with our stash of brightly colored fake money. We might also recall the feeling of trepidation when we landed on those same properties after they had been purchased and improved by someone else, knowing we would have to pay an exorbitant rental fee before we could once again pass “Go” and collect our much-needed $200.

Bob Dodson

Earlier this year, we told you the story of Idaho Fish and Game parachuting beavers into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in the late 1940’s. Back then, the idea was to trap problem beavers, put them in special boxes and parachute them from a plane. They were sent to remote areas where they could find a new home.

On May 1st, 1915, crowds lined New York’s harbor to bid farewell to nearly 2,000 family, friends and crew aboard the world’s fastest civilian liner — the Lusitania. The luxurious British ship was bound for Liverpool, England, more than 3,000 miles away. World War I was entering its 10th month, but civilian ships and their passengers were widely considered off-limits from enemy assault. Although the great liner would pass through waters patrolled by German U-boats off the coast of Britain, few worried about the dangers.

This interview was originally broadcast in July, 2015

On July 8th, 1879, the USS Jeannette left San Francisco and sailed northward toward uncharted Arctic waters. Its ambitious destination: the North Pole, a place that had captured the imagination of 19th century scientists, explorers and the public, but that remained shrouded in mystery and wild scientific speculation. If the expedition succeeded, the American ship and its crew would be the first to discover what really existed at the top of the world.

Idaho State Historical Society

When you think of Boise, what names come to mind? That’s the question two local historians asked themselves as they wrote a book about Boise's highest profile people.

J.R. Simplot, Julia Davis, Joe Albertson, Curtis Stigers and Kristin Armstrong are just some of those profiled in the new book, “Legendary Locals of Boise.”

Historians Elizabeth Jacox and Barbara Perry Bauer own TAG Historical Research and Consulting. Jacox says their book covers a wide variety of people.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan challenged the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Two years later, the Berlin Wall was inexplicably opened, allowing East Germans free access to the West for the first time since 1961.

Boise Parks and Recreation Department

This year, the Boise Train Depot turned 90-years-old. The city has been holding tours to highlight the history of the depot. Two tours are set for this Sunday.

Eriks Garsvo is a walking history of the depot. He’s a Boise history and train buff who works with the Boise Parks and Recreation Department. He leads the Boise Depot tours and dresses in a full conductor’s uniform to get into the spirit of the time period.

Boise State University Special Collections and Archives

It was 65 years ago, deep in the Idaho wilderness, when one woman took poetry, turned it into music, and recorded it. Her collection of songs and poems lives on to this day, thanks in part to one dogged researcher and a librarian, both of whom wanted to share this special music with the world.

Idaho Fish and Game

Earlier this year, we brought you the story of beavers parachuting into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The story spread like wildfire, complete with pictures of the beavers, tucked inside their travel boxes, parachuting into their new homes.

It turns out there’s more to this story.

This interview for Reader's Corner was originally broadcast in December of 2013:

In the summer of 1936 the world was transfixed by the grandeur of the Olympic Games in Berlin, and by a determined group of young Americans. In front of high-ranking Nazi officials, including Adolf Hitler, they overcame impossible odds to snatch victory from both the German and Italian crews in the Games’ signature rowing event.

Preservation Idaho

This Sunday, hundreds of people will travel to the Kootenai Street Historic Neighborhood on the Bench in Boise for a chance to tour historic homes. The annual Heritage Homes Tour is put on by the group Preservation Idaho.

Pages