BLACKFOOT — Bingham County historian Lois Bates will be turning 90 years old Tuesday. Now, it’s her turn to have some history shared about her.
Lois was born on Tanner Lane in Blackfoot. Her father was a cowboy, who passed away when she was four years old after he suffered a head injury while riding a horse. That led to some lean times for her family as she was growing up, leaving her mother with two children to raise.
She lives just down the street from Stalker Elementary School in Blackfoot. Donald Stalker was her sixth grade teacher.
Her brother Dale came out of the Navy as a full commander.
Lois met Joe Bates — a World War II Navy veteran — when she was a junior in high school, but they didn’t start dating until she graduated from Blackfoot High School in 1947. They were married July 20 that year.
Joe passed away in March 1989.
Joe and Lois had two sets of children, daughter Laurie and son Bruce, followed by daughter Jaeme who was born while Bruce was in college.
Lois took a lot of college classes herself. In 1952, she took a job as a Blackfoot society correspondent for the new Idaho State Journal in Pocatello.
“When people at the paper would see me, they’d say, ‘Here comes the Blackfoot society person,’” she said. “”I got paid a nickel a column inch, $1 for a picture.”
Bruce became a cowboy himself, doing a lot on the rodeo circuit. Lois said he can even claim that he once beat rodeo legend Larry Mahan at a rodeo in Idaho Falls.
Lois worked at the Pocatello paper for three years before deciding that her not being able to drive made it too difficult to do the job. She then tended children in her home for two or three years.
“I’d watch, feed, teach, and play with them,” she said.
She was also a Girl Scout leader, receiving a 50-year pin for service to Scouting.
“In Girl Scouts, you name it, I did it,” Lois added. “I rode horses, slept in the snow, all kinds of things. The Bates family was known as a Scouting family.”
Lois loved the outdoors.
“Joe said he thought I was part mountain goat,” she said. “I said I’d rather do fun things in the mountains than chase a little white ball around. Joe was dedicated to the golf course.”
What most people in Bingham County know Lois for, though, are her contributions to documenting the history of the county. She was honored for her work by the Idaho State Historical Society in the early 1980s.
“I was always interested in history,” she said. “I loved to hear my grandma Emma tell stories.
“She was born into a family from Switzerland, and she told wonderful stories. I was always kind of listening to what people had to say.”
Lois returned to the newspaper business for about 10 years, writing recipes for the Morning News, plus going back to write for the Journal.
Part of what interests her so much about history, she says, is knowing people’s heritage.
“It’s a challenge to look into people’s history,” Lois says. “I see headstones and I want to know more about the people. I go through libraries looking for information. I wonder about them and I want to find out more about them.”
Lois has been a part of three volumes of books on Bingham County history, producing two of them completely herself. She is a lifetime member of the Bingham County Historical Society.
“I don’t know why I like history, but I do,” she said. “I want to write the history of Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. There’s a bit of Blackfoot history there too.”
One thing that’s stood out in her mind as far as county history has been the way the state fair has grown through the years. She said her mother was the first secretary of the fair, which granted Lois the ability to go on countless rides.
“I’m grateful that I can do the things I do,” she said. “I’ve really loved working with the historical society.”