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Christmas, 1955: Christmas! What mysteries and marvels accompany that word! Each generation has very special memories and recollections of home, church, sounds and sights that have become deeply imbedded in the canyons of their minds. Some memories never fade, becoming a part of each of us and determining how we pass on traditions and beliefs to our children.
Sounding the call to church and salvation: Like most of my friends, Sunday school and church was a very large and important part of growing up in the small town of Bonners Ferry, Idaho. The Church, where an attempt was made to instill good values in me, was United Methodist Church in the 6000 block of Lincoln Street on the South Hill.
The joys of dime candy on Halloween: Living in North Idaho requires us to experience four seasons each year. All of those seasons are certainly special, each one having wonderful attributes. For a kid growing up here in the 50s, the seasons were really the holidays. First was Christmas, followed closely by school vacation, and summer, then Halloween and finally Thanksgiving.
Rub a dub du ... uh oh: After six hours of being bent over a wood splitter, stacking wood and then chasing after more wood to split, we finally got the wood shed full. By now I was beginning to feel my years. A cold PBR and a few moments’ reflection on my aching parts led me to think of a soak in a hot bath. With all the stories of the curative effects of soaking in a hot tub, I decided to test the truth of those claims for myself.
The legacy of autumn leaves: Whatever mysterious compulsion it is that makes a kid want to roll around in a leaf pile is one of God’s splendid gifts to children. But then, what adult can remain solemn when a pile of leaves beckon? The dang things just seem to cry out to a person to jump in the pile and squeal! The small village of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, has four seasons of the most breath-taking beauty imaginable.
Just a swingin’: Most parents of the 50s and early 60s were not about to spend money buying outside toys for their kids. We were expected to fend for ourselves in that department. No big store-bought swings or motor driven carts of any kind. Most of us did have some sort of bike. The more resourceful among us would cobble a bike together out of pieces we found at the dump.
Notches away from sturgeon bait: Growing up in Boundary County in the 50s meant you were going to learn the fine arts of hunting, fishing and just plain being an outdoors person. Since most of us youth were always looking for a way to get out of the house, those kind of activities were not necessarily all that bad, or dangerous. That is, not until the day on the Kootenai River ...
Hunting crows: Sometimes we youth of the 50s would occasionally do something that should have resulted in severe consequences. In some instances the parents were, more or less, responsible for what took place. There seemed to be a good deal of slack given to the things we were allowed to do in those days. Such was the case when a brand new .22 rifle found its way into my hands on the Christmas of my 11th year.
The joys of bridge night: Looking back at the 50s, adults enjoyed hobbies and activities that were simple and quite different than what adults entertain themselves with today. An activity particularly enjoyed by our mothers was Bridge Club. Bridge is a 17th century card game which was derived from the game Whist. English nobility enjoyed playing the game, which is comprised of two partnerships.
The Lake: “The Lake.” It’s a term many of us are familiar with from our childhood. Growing up in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, in the 50s and 60s meant that during the summer, you and your family were going to be spending time at “The Lake.” Never mind which lake it was, if someone said “We’re going to ‘The Lake,’” everyone in the family knew which lake they were referring to.
Fishing with the kids: Raising kids in North Idaho inevitably means that as they grow older you will be involved in outdoor activities. There is no end of fun things to introduce a kid to involving outdoor recreation in Boundary County, and perhaps the most entertaining is that of teaching a youngster how to fish.
Memories on an old highway: Being fortunate enough to be raised in a small town in North Idaho in the early 1950s and 60s has provided a host of memories for us baby boomers. Memories that can come rushing back brought on by the simplest activities. Take, for example, a drive down old U.S. 95 south of Bonners Ferry.
You are going to learn how to dance: "You are going to learn how to dance!" I was to learn how to dance, or suffer the consequences. No word was necessarily given regarding those consequences, but an eight-year-old boy has just two choices when it comes to edicts by his mother. One, obey. Two, obey.
Ode to Mud: Moyie Mud Bog 2018 is nearly upon us, commencing Friday, May 11, so here's an Ode to Mud and a welcome to all who are visiting for the event. Be sure to read past the pictures, as there are a few updates for boggers to be aware of. "In the spring of the year, when we have lots of fog, the rednecks get together and play in a bog!"
Just in case: The primary source of meat in the Ashby home in the 1950s and 60s was that which my dad would hunt and fish for. That included, but was not limited to, venison, duck, geese and, of course, fish. He was a consummate hunter, killing or catching every known species that lived or swam in Boundary County.
Defying life and limb at Herman Lake: According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the definition of a swimming hole is "a place in a river, pond, etc. where people swim." That definition certainly fit some of the swimming holes we used in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, in the middle '50s. Some of we youth in Bonners Ferry felt that a drainage ditch in the Kootenai Valley was just excellent for dipping, even if it was murky, muddy and had a few small leeches and other assorted aquatic critters in it.
Risking life and limb on a revitalized Schwinn: Like everything else in the mid 50s, bicycles were so much more simple than they are now. Most any kid with a screw driver, a small adjustable wrench and lots of perseverance could dismantle one of the things in an afternoon. After leaving some items off the frame, notably fenders, we could have it in running condition by morning.
The music that brings back yesterday: There are so very many things that link the baby boomer crowd together. From the small and mundane to the ordinary routine of our lives together, we shared a fantastic and marvelous era of America. When coupled with living in a very small village in North Idaho, well, you have the makings of some charming and, some may say, enchanting experiences. The advertising methods of those days are so different from today, yet we can still sing the ditty “Winston Taste Good, Like a Cigarette Should,” or the verse to the Hamm’s Beer commercial, and tell you what the cartoon character in that commercial was.

© Mike Ashby and Kootenai Valley Times
P.O. Box 1625
Bonners Ferry, ID 83806
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Email Mike Ashby at
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