July 5th I took my motorhome into the RV repair shop in Idaho Falls as scheduled. I was able to park on the side of the repair shop and stay living it while the repairs were being done. I was there to get some brake work done……after an inspection by the mechanics, I needed new brakes, pads, and calipers which was to only take a few days. So we mostly hung around the motorhome, walked to the corner where there was a deli, and had lunch. On the second day ( July 6th ) another woman came into the shop with her motorhome that was also in need of repairs. She parked her motorhome next to mine and was able to stay in it as well. Over the next couple of days as we were waiting on parts and repairs to get done we had become acquainted and got to know each other. Her name was Gail, she was about 5 years older than me and was traveling by herself with her cat. Gail had a convertible Volkswagen that was on a trailer that she pulled behind her motorhome. I did not have a car, so with my motorhome being my only mode of transportation, we decided to take a little road trip together in her convertible to Alpine, Wyoming which was about an hour and a half drive. What fun it was to be zipping along the highway with the top down and the wind blowing in our hair.
We stopped off in a tiny town called Swan Valley that has a population of about 200 people. What caught our eye as we were driving through was a Rainey Creek County Store/World Famous Square Ice Cream. Inside was an ice cream bar with 20 different flavors that are served square-shaped. It is a strange way to serve ice cream, but it is incredibly unique. A special scoop is used to serve the ice cream which gives it the one-of-a-kind square shape. The ice cream comes from a company called “Farr’s” from Idaho Falls and is “yummy”
Alpine, Wyoming is a small town with a population of about 828 people that sits against the mountainside at the convergence of three rivers, the Greys, the Salt, and the Snake River. All three of these rivers merge and flow into the Palisades Reservoir. Alpine is also the gateway to Jackson Hole, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone.
Along the way we came upon some beautiful water scenery, so we stopped to check it out. This was just such a beautiful view from up on the bluff and a really pretty little waterfall that was fed by the creek.
On our way back to Idaho Falls we stopped so the kids could swim in the Palisades Reservoir just outside Alpine, Wyoming on the Idaho/Wyoming border. The water was warm, with beautiful scenery, and even an amazing hawk sitting on a tree limb near the water.
Black Foot, Idaho
The next day July 8th I borrowed my friend, Joann’s car again. We made the short half-hour trip to Black Foot, Idaho………Home of the “Idaho Potato Museum,” what an amazing little museum this was with everything you ever wanted to know about potatoes.
The museum shares the history of the revolution of the potato industry, from the original potato planted in Idaho, to the largest potato crisp made by Pringle’s Company in Jackson, TN. The museum also takes you through the growing and harvesting process, nutrition, trivia, and educational potato facts.
Some Potato History
The Russet potato…….a famous Idaho potato is known for being large in size, white, mealy & delicious. It was developed by Luther Burbank, beginning in 1872 when he planted twenty-three seeds from an Early Rose parent plant. All produced tubers, but one was superior in yield and size. Originally smooth-skinned, the familiar Russet potato is actually a mutant of the Burbank. It is more resistant to blight than the original.
Joe Marshall became known as “Idaho Potato King” because of his untiring efforts in improving the industry. He first came to Idaho in 1902. Over the years he was an overseer of all aspects of potato growing, harvesting, storage, marketing, and shipping. He was always ready to pass on his knowledge to other growers, and his reputation as a potato expert became widespread.
Men such as Marshall are given credit for establishing the principle that quality was an important factor in marketing Idaho potatoes. Marshall took great pride in his crop and insisted it be handled carefully and he put only merchandise of which he was proud in bags bearing his brand.
Other shippers soon followed suit when they realized that the introduction of the Russet Burbank had given the state of Idaho a unique product to sell, and quality began to be the watchword of Idaho potato shippers.
Another man, John (Jack) R. Simplot became the largest fresh shipper of potatoes in the state, the largest grower of Idaho potatoes, and the largest processor. He began building his potato empire in the 1930s as a fresh shipper. He aggressively sought new customers and bought out competitors. In 1940 he was the largest single shipper of Idaho potatoes. He had thirty-two packing warehouses from American Falls to Jamison, Oregon, and in 1940 shipped 10,000 cars of Idaho potatoes to receivers all over the United States.
Simplot started a system with growers from whom he bought potatoes. He would buy certified seed and encouraged each one of his growers to purchase ten or more bags from him on credit. They were instructed to plant these ten bags of potatoes late in the season which caused the tubers to be small in size and relatively immature at harvest time. This lot of potatoes then, which had been grown from the certified seed and multiplied by one year’s growth, served as the seed for the next year’s crop. The practice, which Simplot developed, proved to be so superior to using “year out” seed that it became almost a universal practice in the potato-growing areas of Idaho.
Simplot also discovered the value of chemical fertilizers one year when he purchased a carload of fertilizer to try as an experiment. A portion of the field was planted with the plant food as far as it went. When it ran out the rest of the field was planted without the fertilizer. At harvest time the portion of the field where the fertilizer had been applied had a beautiful crop of potatoes. They were large, of good quality, and yielded a heavy crop. Where the fertilizer supplied had run out “was where we ran out of potatoes” according to Simplot.
The fertilizer industry was in its infancy and supplies of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer were difficult to obtain. This led Simplot to build his own fertilizer production plants which had become a large and lucrative division of his enterprises. Simplot also developed a system of dehydrated and frozen potato products. He has plants in many locations and markets all over the world.
The Guinness Book of World Records qualifies this as the world’s largest potato “crisp.”
The invention of the Spudnik
Mr. Potato Head was invented and developed by George Lerner in 1949 and was first manufactured and distributed by Hasbro in 1952. It was the first toy advertised on television and has remained in production ever since. Originally, Mr. Potato Head was offered as separate plastic parts with pushpins to be attached to a real potato or other vegetables, but due to complaints regarding rotting vegetables and new government safety regulations, Hasbro began including a plastic potato body with the toy set in 1964.
Potato Sack Clothing
When the Great Depression hit America, millions of people were forced to rely on their wits and creativity to survive. With everything being in short supply, making do was the only option and clothes were an example. Clothing could be made from things lying around the house. Almost 100 years prior to the Great Depression there was a change in the way goods were transported. Potatoes, flour, and animal feed had previously traveled the world in barrels, now those sturdy wooden containers were replaced with fabric sacks. Eventually, the potato sack had a use for more than just shipping potatoes as it became a necessity for clothing attire.
Lots of potato mashers!
I suppose the first potato masher was a rock or smooth stone, followed by a hand-shaped masher made of wood. With the machine age, the wood masher evolved into a hand or machine-turned wooden mallet. In the mid to late 1800s, two masher styles we see today emerged. The most popular has an S wound wire that is flat at the bottom, or sometimes a round or square wire grid that is flat at the bottom. This is probably the potato masher our grandmothers had. Because of the room between these S winds, there was never the worry of over-mashing the potatoes.
Outside of the museum, you will find many different eras of potato equipment……..potato harvesters, potato planters, potato cultivators, plows, etc. Lots of fun and interesting potato history, so if you are ever in the area be sure and make this one of your stops.