100 years ago
Celebrating its 50th birthday, Yellowstone National Park officially opened on June 19, 1922. “Two special train loads of Shriners, returning from the San Francisco conclave, arrived at the park Sunday morning and under special arrangements the great national playground was thrown open for them, but the season does not open for general tourist business until today, and continues until September 29,” a report in the Salt Lake Tribune said. “Automobile tourists are already heading for the park in increasing numbers. “Dad” Clay, known throughout the west as a trail-blazer, officially opened the trail to the western entrance of the park three weeks ago and cars from many eastern states are now passing through here en route to the park.”
75 years ago
This week in 1947 saw the first Hi Sheriff Stampede in Idaho Falls, a four-day rodeo in Tautphaus Park sponsored by the Bonneville County Mounted Sheriff’s Posse. The festivities started June 18 with a parade through the city of more than 200 horses and riders. “(The) rambunctious stock did enough stiff legged hopping to provide a varied assortment of spills — one of them an unusual jolt for Ed Skelton, Stingler, Okla., who was in the Idaho Falls LDS Hospital with a broken collarbone,” the Post-Register reported. “Skelton lost his seat on a whirling bronc shortly after it came out of the chute, falling flat on his back after being hurled several feet in the air.” At the opening ceremonies, Rhea Justin was chosen as queen. Her attendants were Jeannine Wood, Betty Bloxham and Eva Coughlan.
50 years ago
Hughes Air West announced this week in 1972 that it planned to increase air service to Boise on July 1 with an updated flight schedule. Changes included a new morning service direct to Spokane and an added flight to Idaho Falls and Pocatello with a new later afternoon return to Boise; a new evening flight to Spokane via Lewiston and a new afternoon service to Walla Walla and Pasco, Wash., also by way of Lewiston.
25 years ago
Flooding in the Upper Snake River Valley continued this week in 1997, and tragedy struck near Firth when a helicopter crash claimed the lives of the pilot and the newly appointed Idaho National Guard commander, Maj. Don Baxter. An accident team was investigating what might have caused Lt. Will Neal, 29, of Picabo, to lose control of the craft during a reconnaissance tour of the area. Another passenger, 27-year-old CW2 Shelby Wuthrich of Boise, was reported in serious condition with back injuries at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. Sherry Lang, who lived near the crash site, said she heard Wuthrich screaming. “He was laying face down on the ground around 10 to 15 feet from the helicopter,” she said. “I think he was thrown out. He said, ‘Pull me away from this fire,’ so I grabbed his arms and pulled him 20 to 30 feet. He started screaming about his buddies in the helicopter. He said, ‘Oh God, they’re dead!’” The accident came as melting snow drove the outflow from Palisades Dam to a record 40,000 cubic feet per second.
Paul Menser is the author of “Legendary Locals of Idaho Falls.”