Category Archives: Boise

Car Camping #9 – A Beloved Trailer the first

As our need for more camping gear grew, the challenge of carrying it into the Idaho backcountry became more daunting. The heavy canvases, the Coleman camp stove and fuel, the cotton mattresses, the World War surplus cots, the big tent, the blankets, the canned and fresh food and our family of five had to be hauled up and down dirt roads

My dad often said if he didn’t have trailers he would have had to drive a pickup. That’s no problem these days, what with pickups being more spacious and comfortable than luxury sedans, but pickups in the 1950s were not so well appointed. A bench seat that did not slide forward or backward was good enough for wasting resources on human accommodations. Oh—but the cabs did include a heater. What more could you want?

Meanwhile, Dad did have trailers. There was a whole row of them that my parents rented out to strangers. 

1952 Atlanta INT

From Dad’s earliest photos in 1952, I see the first trailer we used for camping was one I don’t remember. I was seven at the time and not paying attention to why a trailer did not work out for camping. Perhaps it was made of steel and was too heavy to pull up mountain grades. Perhaps it got sold or it got wrecked. What I do know is that Dad would have chosen it because it had solid sides to keep our camping supplies from falling out on the rough roads.

There was a light weight trailer that transported our Arians tiller when folks rented it. Dad also used this trailer in parades around town. He’d hitch up one of our two Ford tractors, decorate the trailer and the tiller (making sure the point got across that we rented all this) and join the festivities. One of my earliest memories is being on that trailer with my two sisters, throwing saltwater taffy to scurrying kids along parade routes through downtown Boise.

1950 tiller trailer INT

About the time Dad ordered the big tent from Pioneer Tent and Awning he converted that light weight trailer into a most useful camp carrier. He enclosed the sides with plywood to keep our stuff in and he left the back completely open for loading said stuff. He fashioned a plywood panel that slid into steel u-channels at the rear of the trailer, thus enclosing the entire kit and caboodle.

1959 Grandjean INT

A bonus with this light weight, spacious trailer was it had a long tongue running from the trailer to the hitch on our car. That long tongue made it easy to back the trailer into any position we wanted.

This trailer ended up being the last trailer in the family. When my dad passed and Mother auctioned off the rental supplies, I kept that trailer just because it was so handy. But I never used it. After several years of sitting in my garage I sold it to a friend who used it to move to Portland. I hope it is still in service and is still being enjoyed as much as ever.

Our next Car Camping story will reveal an incident when that delightful trailer was not treated with the respect it deserved. It was not well treated at all.

Car Camping #7: Store of Marvels

Somewhere in my kid-hood, I’m thinking between eight and ten years old, I remember Dad taking me along when he went to Pioneer Tent and Awning. It must have been 1954 or so. The large store was on Main Street at 6th in downtown Boise. 

Pioneer Bldg INT.jpg

I had no idea what Dad was doing there but I discovered three things: One, the building had a very cool white horse on the roof. Two, on entering the shop the smell of leather and oiled canvas opened my nostrils as my lungs drew in as much of that heavy aroma as I could manage. And third, there were wires hanging all over the ceiling. 

It was the strangest ceiling I had ever seen.

Just then a little jar zipped along one of the wires, whipped around a corner, and landed in what looked like an office on the balcony overlooking the first floor. I followed those wires back to the other end where each wire stopped at a different sales desk. Thanks to as much attention as a boy can muster in a new store it wasn’t long before I saw a clerk put papers in a jar, screw the jar to a lid attached to one of the wires, and pull down on a wooden handle attached to the wire with a short rope. 

The jar flew with amazing force and was slamming to a stop in the office in no time! From then on all I did was wait for another paper with payment to be sent whizzing to the office to be processed. Yes, even at that age I deduced the wire system replaced having cash registers being responsible for collecting payments. Who would have thought of such a thing? 

Writing this account, I learned the jars zipping around the ceiling were an early version of the pneumatic tubes banks now use to get cash and payments from our cars to the teller. Called Cash Carriers, the version in Pioneer Tent and Awning was a Wire Carrier. The mechanism the clerks used to send the containers zipping to and fro is called a catapult. 

If you ask me stores should still have wires catapulting jars around the ceiling if only to keep kids busy while mom and dad shop. Like I said, this is for the kids. I promise I won’t be standing in your way gawking at the ceiling.

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PS – I couldn’t help but give more information on Wire Carriers. Here is the Wikipedia link.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cash_carrier.

PPS – I tried to find a good video of a Wire Carrier in motion. Alas, dear reader, you’ll have to search for one yourself. 

But I did find this most satisfying homily to The Rise and Fall of the Cash Railway. I am not the only child hanging on to the magic of those flying jars. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Dylan Thomas and many others have paid homage. 

The article also describes a fairly common disaster I had not thought of. It reprints a 1903 article from New Zealand involving a proper patron bringing her “big handsome dog” into a large dry good store during the Christmas rush. The dog had been trained as a pointer and was perfectly behaved. Then the patron’s cash went zipping to the cashier. 

I can only imagine if our completely undisciplined dog Flip had joined my Dad and I at Pioneer Tent and Awning …  

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-cash-railway

Flip 1957 INT.jpg

Car Canping #6: 1952 & ’53

My dad worked full time for Idaho Power Company. He and Mom also operated a rental business out of our home. Or should I say they made a home in the machine shop of the rental business? Half the building was home and half shop. 

The business rented a selection of trailers and two Ford tractors including a variety of implements to fit the tractors.

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Dad observed that if he didn’t have trailers he’d have to drive a pickup truck so he could haul things. Our camping gear being an example. 

It was the 1950s and light weight camping supplies were not an option. We’d be in the Idaho back country for a week and went well supplied for five people and a dog or two. Many of those trips we took off with pack horses to spend time in the wilderness and sometimes we’d just spend the time in a Forest Service campground. But even when we were in the wilderness we’d have a base camp that stayed behind, fully set up. 

The first photos I have of our camps is from 1952, when my Dad bought a good camera and light meter. We’d wait for him to set all the adjustments and later look at the slides on the screen he unrolled like an upside down window shade. I remember the smell of that screen as it was pulled from its metal canister. 

The next few Car Camping blogs will show how we roughed it through those hot days and cold nights in the outback. 

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3 camp overnew.jpg

4 camp interior.jpg

5 Mom in river.jpg

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7 1953  Baumgartner.jpg

 

Car Camping #5: Low Rider

As soon as we got our new 1952 Cadillac with it’s powerful V-8 engine we were headed out on a camping trip to Atlanta, Idaho. With the trunk of the car stuffed and pulling a trailer loaded with canvas tent and tarps, cotton mattresses, wood-and-canvas army cots, canned food, cooking supplies and clothes we hit the rocky dirt road heading up the Boise river. 

at dam.png

The operative word being “hit.” 

All was well until we were driving around Arrowrock Reservoir. We were some some thirty-five miles away from home and ten miles an a rocky dirt road. Dad noticed the gas gage going down much faster than he expected — and we started to smell gasoline. A quick stop on the narrow road and a check under the car revealed a steady little leak from the gas line, no doubt from the rock we had scrapped over. 

We drove another mile or so to find a place to turn the car and trailer around and headed back to Boise. Dad drove as fast as he dared, not wanting to rip another gash on the very rough road back to the highway. The road to Arrowrock Dam  had not been paved at the time. 

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Once we were on Highway 21 we made a dash to the Caddy dealer. The shop figured we had a teacup of usable gas in the tank when we arrived.

Now that I’m writing about it I wonder how worried my folks were about the gasoline spewing under a car with hot exhaust pipes. Glad I didn’t think of it at the time. 

At the time most cars had leaf springs in the rear, not coils like in the front. The next day Dad had two extra leaves installed on each side, giving our fine Cadillac the suspension of a truck. We never had to turn back from a trip to the mountains again. 

And that is how our luxury Cadillac always had its ass in the air, nose pointed down, as we toodled around town and drove the highways. Only when we were roughing it in the Idaho mountains did our Cadillac appear the way it was designed. 

Car Camping #3: The Cadillac #3, Parking 

We got our new Cadillac in 1952. In 1952 grocery stores were just starting to include parking lots and advertise for an area larger than the near neighborhood. Shopping for anything else meant going downtown where the department stores were located. 

In 1952, downtown Boise had bustling business buildings, cafes, specialty shops and six large department stores. And crowded two-way traffic. 

Downtown Boise also featured that most challenging aspect of city adventures: parallel parking. Mom had no idea how she would ever be able to park that huge, heavy vehicle in tiny downtown spots with traffic backing up behind her.

INT mom

There was a reason cars had huge steering wheels back then – it gave the driver more leverage when turning the tires. Another way the driver was given more leverage when turning the tires was making it so it took a lot of turning the  steering wheel to move the tires back and forth.

At driving speeds the tires turned rather easily since the they were moving into the change of direction. When the tires were standing still the only thing that worked to turn the tires was brute force. 

Well, folks, the tires on a car are standing still when you are cranking the wheel to parallel park.  No wonder Mom was worried about parking that heavy Cadillac in downtown traffic. Yet on her first try that vehicle slipped into a spot easier than any other car she had ever driven! 

Today we take powered steering for granted, but my Mom never did! 

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PS – While researching this story Wikipedia told me the first power steering for cars was put together by a man named Fitts in 1876. Chrysler sold the first off-the-line passenger car with power steering called Hydraguide in the 1951 Chrysler Imperial. Apparently General Motors was not going to be lost in the dust and had power steering ready for the 1952 Cadillac, the first GM car to feature it. Both these systems were based on work introduced in 1926 by Francis W. Davis. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_steering

Arrowrock Dam GUSHING Spillway!

After I posted the video I took in May I went up to check on how the spillway at Arrowrock is doing now.

We had a very wet winter and the snowpack in the upper watershed is at 200% of normal. For the last several days we’ve had our first real warming trend, with temperatures getting into the 90s. Seems the water is coming down!

Here it is running —

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Here’s the a short video of it gushing —

Arrowrock Dam Spillway

ARROWORCK DAM.jpg

Arrowrock Dam on the Boise River was complete in 1915. For nine years it was the tallest  dam in the world. It was built to hold back water to feed the newly completed New York Canal, the largest of the irrigation projects in the Boise Valley.

As a kid I was fascinated by the massive spillway that passes to the north of the dam. Unfortunately it seems running the spillway is tough on the bull trout that call Arrowrock Reservoir home and use of the spillway was curtailed some time ago.

Until this year. We have a record snowpack and it seems running the spillway has become an option!

I checked it out on Thursday, May 18, 2017 and sure enough the spillway was running! Here’s a little three-minute movie about it.

ARROWROCK SPILLWAY RUNNING

The day after I posted this video of the spillway running I checked the spillway out again. It has warmed up and the snowpack in the upper elevations is melting. The spillway is no longer running. It is gushing —

ARROWROCK SPILLWAY GUSHING