The week in eastern Idaho history

100 years ago

The Idaho Register felt compelled this week in 1917 to rebut an editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune accusing eastern Idaho potato growers of “criminal cupidity” in failing to harvest $2 million worth of potatoes. “(The) farmers of the valley, in response to the request sent out by government authorities to produce in great quantities in order to feed a starving world, met the request with a hearty response everywhere, and no place more readily than in the Idaho Falls district. A great crop was planted, cultivated and brought almost to maturity when the freeze came.” The potatoes had been planted late and were too green to stand shipment. “(They) would have gone bad, and not only been a loss but would have given the Idaho potato a bad reputation in the markets,” the paper said. The crop might have been gotten in had farmers been willing to pay “highwayman” prices to men taking advantage of the labor shortage caused by the war in Europe. “(They) are of the type which takes advantage of every condition to make it harder for legitimate business that supports the country and the government,” said the article.

75 years ago

Idaho Gov. Chase Clark instructed state highway crews in Bingham and Bonneville counties to suspend all maintenance work and volunteer in the sugar beet fields to assist with the harvest. A shortage of workers was hampering the movement of beets to factories. The previous week, a letter had been sent out statewide requesting workers to volunteer as farm laborers. The farm labor problem and the draft of married men was also the topic of discussion at the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce’s weekly luncheon at the Rogers Hotel.

50 years ago

Idaho Falls Police this week in 1967 arrested one adult and four juveniles in cases involving at least three house burglaries. An adult identified as Darryl A. Webb, 18, and four juveniles were being held on local charges, and were believed to be involved with burglaries in the Seattle area in which more than $5,000 in property was reported stolen. Officers Barrett Hillier and Ralph Walker were involved in the investigation, aided by Patrolman Duane Sibbett, Lt. DeWitt Larsen and Detective Richard Ackerman. The loot, discovered at a Lee Avenue address, included a coin collection, three rifles and ammunition, articles of clothing, jewelry, records, three tape players and amplifiers and an electric guitar.

25 years ago

The saga of Pit 9 at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory took a new turn this week in 1992 at a public hearing attended by nearly 100 people where an EG&G Idaho scientist admitted the first cancer risk warnings might have been exaggerated. Dating back to the pre-EPA days of the 1960s, Pit 9 contained about 150,000 cubic feet of waste, including carbon tetra chloride, radioactive americium and about 44 pounds of plutonium. Cost of the cleanup was estimated at $127 million, and since the pit represented just one acre of the 88-acre Radioactive Waste Management Complex, one person suggested cleanup might run into billions of dollars.

Paul Menser is the author of “Legendary Locals of Idaho Falls.”