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Good Times Are All Gone Now: Life, Death, and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Town

Overview

Julie Whitesel Weston left her hometown of Kellogg, Idaho, but eventually it pulled her back. Only when she returned to this mining community in the Idaho Panhandle did she begin to see the paradoxes of the place where she grew up. Her book combines oral history, journalistic investigation, and personal reminiscence to take a fond but hard look at life in Kellogg during “the good times.”

Kellogg in the late 1940s and fifties was a typical American small town complete with high ...

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The Good Times Are All Gone Now: Life, Death, and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Town

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Overview

Julie Whitesel Weston left her hometown of Kellogg, Idaho, but eventually it pulled her back. Only when she returned to this mining community in the Idaho Panhandle did she begin to see the paradoxes of the place where she grew up. Her book combines oral history, journalistic investigation, and personal reminiscence to take a fond but hard look at life in Kellogg during “the good times.”

Kellogg in the late 1940s and fifties was a typical American small town complete with high school football and basketball teams, marching band, and anti-Communist clubs; yet its bars, gambling dens, and brothels were entrenched holdovers from a rowdier frontier past. The Bunker Hill Mining Company, the largest employer, paid miners good wages for difficult, dangerous work, while the quest for lead, silver, and zinc denuded the mountainsides and laced the soil and water with contaminants.

Weston researched the late-nineteenth-century founding of Kellogg and her family’s five generations in Idaho. She interviewed friends she grew up with, their parents, and her own parents’ friends—miners mostly, but also businesspeople, housewives, and professionals. Much of this memoir of place set during the Cold War and post-McCarthyism is told through their voices. But Weston also considers how certain people made a difference in her life, especially her band director, her ski coach, and an attorney she worked for during a major strike. She also explores her charged relationship with her father, a hardworking doctor revered in the community for his dedication but feared at home for his drinking and rages.

The Good Times Are All Gone Now begins the day the smokestacks came down, and it reaches far back into collective and personal memory to understand a way of life now gone. The company town Weston knew is a different place, where “Uncle Bunker” is a Superfund site, and where the townspeople, as in previous hard times, have endured to reinvent Kellogg—not once, but twice.

 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806140759
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 9/18/2009
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 1,375,259
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Julie Whitesel Weston practiced law for many years in Seattle, Washington. Her short stories and essays about Idaho, mining, skiing, and flyfishing have been published in Idaho Magazine, the Threepenny Review, River Styx, and other journals and in the anthology Our Working Lives. She and her husband now divide their year between Seattle and Hailey, Idaho.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2010

    Story is not totaly true

    Julie has omitted in the book that my brother Gary Hauser of Wardner, Idaho is the Father of her daughter Melonie. We could easily do a DNA test to prove it.

    Gary passed away last May but we have all kinds of DNA available. Garys family is hurt that she would be so untruthful as we have always held Julie in high regard, I named my daughter after Julie. I would like her tobe held accountable, and tell the whold truth.

    Gail Hauser Tabacek

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  • Posted November 18, 2009

    A book that sticks in your bones

    This is one of those books which will always stay with me. Ms. Weston offers up a sort of archeological and sociological excavation of her hometown, and I found it fascinating. In driving around this country, I've passed through many small towns where I've wondered about the people who live there, wondered why they stayed. This story evoked memories and images of my own barely surviving hometown, also once a booming company town (but not mining), where I also grew up in the '40s and '50s. This book gently peels away the present facade and explores and explains the components beneath that created Kellogg, Idaho--not quite as wholesome as the name "Kellogg" would imply. It's a history of the intertwined good and bad, blessings and curses, that co-exist with everything, everyone and everywhere, but most blatantly, perhaps, in a mining town. Ms. Weston writes in such a way that attaches the readers to her side and takes us along on her journey as witnesses. I appreciated sharing parts of her childhood, exploring the town through her eyes, learning of another life in another prosperous small town in the that era, and then coming back with her and watching it all fall down. Some parts of it I'd rather have avoided, such as the trip into the mine, deep inside the mountain. I am also claustrophobic and cannot imagine the courage it took for her to do this. I loved this book and highly recommend it to anyone who has ever lived in a small town, driven through and wondered about one, or never lived in a small town or a company town, and to whoever appreciates the cost some extraordinary men paid to give us all a better life. The writing is clear and concise, with vivid descriptions of the town, its people, and, of course, the mine operations and its ramifications. An outstanding book, Ms. Weston!

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  • Posted October 7, 2009

    A Unique Childhood

    The author writes about her childhood in a mining town in northern Idaho where she never really noticed the brown haze that hung over the town, the product of the smelters sending out steam, sulfuric acid, and lead particles into the air, or the barren hillsides and piles of slag. Nor did she really give much thought to the row of brothels she passed on her way to and from school or the ladies who worked there. Although she knew they visited her doctor dad periodically for a clean bill of health so they could continue working. Typically of kids in those days, she played outdoors most of the time and in all kinds of weather. She and her friends playing "Indian tribe" found in the garbage cans of the hospital, where her dad worked, interesting things for barter or trade: bottles, gauze, rubber tubes, and even syringes (with out needles), but they didn't touch the jars of what appeared to hold human organs and fetus looking things. Maple trees grew in the town, turned colors and shed their leaves, normal sounding, but, she says, only robins sang in Kellogg, the only type bird that could survive regular doses of lead poisoning.
    In her research for the book, Julie Whitesel Weston interviewed many who have lived there for years and who remembered how it was back then. She explores her family dynamics, especially her relationship with her Jekyll and Hyde father who was loved by his patients, but whose family bore the brunt of his drunken rages. She also tells the story of mining and even went down into a mine to understand a little more of the kind of life the miners led. It was for her a frightening experience and she does not envy those men and the few women who went to work everyday into the bowels of the earth, knowing it could be their last, and especially so in the early days of mining.
    In later years Kellogg tried to become the model of a Bavarian village, but wasn't very successful. They now cater to skiing and are casting about for other ideas, determined to have their town once again a thriving (and cleaner) community.
    Eunice Boeve, author of Ride a Shadowed Trail

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