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Posted: Mar 29, 2005, 11:17

Boundary County History includes living the good life
Local business owner remembers when 40 acres of farm land sustained a family

      


Lamar Olsen owns and operates the local stationary store, Lamar's in downtown Bonners Ferry.
In a recent interview, LaMar Olsen, owner of LaMar’s Stationary in downtown Bonners Ferry, ID, described what it was like to live on a farm in Boundary County during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Following is a rural history as he recalled it.

Personal history and scouting

I was born in Inkom, ID, outside of Pocatello. My parents moved to Boundary County in 1936 when I was one-year-old. I’m the first born of three children and I have two sisters. I went to elementary school in a two-room schoolhouse up at Porthill. In my eighth year, I started at Mt. Hall Elementary, which was brand new in Christmas of 1949. After I graduated from high school, I joined the army and shipped out to Korea in 1955. I managed a Post Exchange or army PX, until 1957.

My favorite teacher during elementary school was Jim Hay, who was also the scoutmaster in the Boy Scout Troop #156. It’s been over 50 years since I started as a cub scout, and I’m still in scouting as an adult leader.

After Jim May, Andy Darnell became the scout leader. He was single and had a small farm so he had the same free time as we did. We’d pool our resources and go camping all over the place. Our favorite place was Robinson Lake. Though now you can drive up to the front or back, back then, we hiked in from the back. We’d stay for a week at a time. We developed our own little spring for drinking water and we fished, swam, built fires and cooked our own food.

I became an eagle scout along with eight others out of the 16 boys in our troop. I give credit to Andy for that.

I’ll tell you about some of the fun we had back in the 1940’s. We used to get big snows, as much as a foot to 18 inches at a time. We didn’t have forecasts and telephones in those days, so we didn’t know when the storms were coming. The schools closed when the snow came and so did the roads because the State of Idaho didn’t have the equipment to plow all of them. The trucks couldn’t get through and it took time for the local farmers using their track crawlers to open the roads. Therefore, we’d hike over to Andy’s house with our toboggans and stay for a week. We had a ball! Then we’d come home and see if school was open. Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn’t. Andy died 20-years-ago and I miss him.

Rural lifestyle

People did a lot of fishing and hunting during the depression years of the 1930’ and 1940’s. They lived off the land with food from the forests such as venison and grouse, and caught fish from the lakes and streams. The fish were usually cutthroat trout and rainbow trout. Licensing was required, but the hunting and fishing were one came license, which was good for the whole year. Spearing fish was legal during ice fishing season. When I was a boy, I caught many Ling because it kept well. Ling are eels that are about two and one half feet long and about two inches in diameter. They were tasty and had a lot of nutritional value. We’d skin them with pliers and fry them. They had a fish flavor that was richer in oil than trout.

For our winter supplies I remember Mom canned a lot and we always had a big garden. I helped by tilling and weeding, though probably not as often as Mom wished I would. The garden was down by the creek and the mosquitoes were thick. My Mom made hoods out of oilcloth for us to wear when we were down there. If we took them off we quickly put them on again!

We didn’t have electricity until the 1940’s. When it came in, my dad and I installed electric panels, lights and ran electric wires in the neighbors’ homes. I had a dog named Patsy, a black spaniel. She was a good kid’s dog. We didn’t have tractors. We farmed with horses.

We only went to town about once every three months because we got most everything we needed from the farm, the garden, chickens and cows, hunting and fishing. However, we traded the extra cream from our cows’ milk for basics such as salt, sugar, flour, tea and coffee and later soap; though Mom made soap herself for a while from lard and ash we got on the farm. By the 1950’s, we had a Model T or A with a crank starter and we used it to go to town. We worked together with the neighbors getting everyone their supplies in one trip.

Back then a family could live off the land on a farm with only 15 to 40 acres. Now you can’t make it on 4,000 acres!

I’ll give you an example of how things changed. We raised extra hay, alfalfa and clover because they were good legume crops and built the soil more permanently than other crops. We sold the extra to the dairy farmers. One year all the farmers had a bad crop and many farmers raised their prices way up, but my dad said, “We’re all farming together. We need to keep the price fair so the dairy farmers can be here next year.” I think that’s a good philosophy, and if more people followed it, our small farms might still be profitable.
Lamar's provides office supplies to meet just about any need, including speciality items for both adult and children's crafts.
LaMar’s Store carries stationary, office supplies and seasonal craft items, including child craft items like Crayola, modeling clay, and art supplies. The store carries Bernina sewing machines and repairs all makes of sewing machines. Store Hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.



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