Idaho Falls - City of Destiny



The Post-Register. In its special section, "Century of Progress in Print," July 10, 1980, The Post-Register wrote, "One- hundred years ago today the problem of dispensing copies of the newspaper was easily solved. After The Post-Register rolled off the foot-powered press, the owner simply walked out into the dirt street and handed out copies to the waiting crowd, which constituted most of the town. One man and his wife [handled] the entire operation."

The Post Register has evolved from several publications the first of which began in July of 1880 when the Blackfoot Register was first published by William E. Wheeler.

After four years Wheeler saw that Eagle Rock -- a small town to the north -- was destined to become more of a population center than Blackfoot and so he moved his newspaper there. Eventually the town underwent a name change and became Idaho Falls. Wheeler changed the name of his newspaper to the Idaho Register and set up shop at the corner of what is now Capital Ave. and Cliff St. In 1904 the paper moved a few blocks down Capital Ave. to Broadway.

For about six years Wheeler enjoyed unopposed growth but in 1890 Sam Dennis and R. C. Bonney started The Times. The Times enjoyed a few stormy years of life and eventually was take over by George Chapin as it was about to sink financially. In the meantime M. B. Yeaman came to town and became a partner with Wheeler in the Register.

There then followed some whirlwind changes in the newspaper ownership in the city until finally in 1920 the Times and The Register merged to become the Times-Register. In the meantime another publication had cropped up -- a daily newspaper called The Post. Eventually the Times Register went daily to compete against the Post and the fight was on. In 1925 J. Robb Brady Sr., a Pocatello businessman and former weekly newspaper publisher, purchased The Post. Brady died in 1926 but the paper flourished and in 1931 under direction of E.F. McDermott, by then its publisher, the Post purchased the ailing Times-Register and became the Post- Register. McDermott was publisher of the newspaper for 50 years until the time of his death in 1977. The paper to this day remains in the Brady family. J. Robb Brady, Jr. served as its publisher from 1977 to 1988. Jerry M. Brady, nephew to J. Robb Brady, is the publisher, 1991.

Other Newspapers. For a time in 1905-06 Idaho Falls had three newspapers, one of them a daily. Later there were two dailies which merged in 1931. A weekly, the Idaho Commoner was published in the 30s and 40s, and the East Idaho Farmer in the 50s and 60s. Salt Lake City's Tribune and Deseret News each had bureaus in Idaho Falls from the 1930s to the late 1950s. (Tony Huegel, Post Register, July 4, 1991)

"The last bonafide weekly to find life in the market was a political organ called the Idaho Commoner, printed at Peter Ramsing's commercial shop, then located on B Street in the 1930's. Cliff Read, who went to California after selling his interest in the Daily Post, was brought in to edit and publish the paper. After a rather uphill battle, Aden Hyde and Henry Dworshak, then U. S. Senator from Idaho, purchased the Commoner, moved to a building on C Street, and changed the name to East Idaho Farmer. It was devoted entirely to agriculture and the farming problems of the area. Mr. Hyde, who had just sold his Caldwell Daily Tribune, stepped in as editor and publisher. He remained both until his death in 1976. His interests were acquired by the John C. Porter organization of Rexburg, a pioneer newspaper publishing family.

"The Post-Register in 1976 was the second largest newspaper in Idaho . . . a long jump over a lot of hurdles since 1880." (Post- Register, July 2, 1976.)

Submitter: Post Register and Mary Jane Fritzen
Sources: Post Register files. For more information: Post Register microfilmed back issues in Idaho Falls Public Library, at Post- Register and Ricks College.
Bonneville Museum Idaho Falls topic file, Post Register.

Telephone Service in Idaho Falls, 1899-1991

The Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone company brought telephone service to Idaho Falls in February, 1899. By December, 1899, the new building housing the exchange was opened at 246 Broadway with 21 telephone lines.

The building was later used as Faber Hall and then as the Labor Temple. If you will look behind the sign and over the front door of the deserted building, you will see a bell, cast in cement, to commemorate its beginning.

The rate back then was $150.00 per year, with the customer paying half of that every six months, which amounted to $12.50 per month for single-party service. The rate in 1980 was $6.80 per month and the rate in 1991 is $16.53 per month, one dollar of which is a surcharge for extended 911 service. Party lines of four or eight parties were more common in the beginning and of course, party line rates were lower. By 1900, there were 28 telephone lines and that number had increased to 713 by 1910 when the population of the city was 4,827. In 1930 when the city's population was 9,429, there were 3160 telephone lines and when 1960 rolled around, the number of lines had increased to 19,000 in a city of 33,161 people. There were 33,000 telephone lines in 1970, 55,380 in 1980, and 31,650 in 1991, with a population of 44,000. The decrease in lines is primarily due to the reconfiguration of communications at the Department of Energy.

The first long distance line was installed in Idaho Falls in 1901. One of the early-day telephone operators was Emma Poppy, a cousin of Joe Marker, long-time historical editor at the Post Register.

As the demand for telephone service increased, the building at 246 Broadway became inadequate. Construction began December 8, 1927 on a new 40 by 59 foot two-story brick office building at the corner of C Street and Shoup Avenue.

Holmes Construction Company erected the building at a cost of $70,000. The land was purchased from the Idaho Falls Elks Lodge for $10,000. Handling the real estate transaction was the Eastern Idaho Loan and Trust Co. with W. L. Shattuck and E. L. Shattuck listed as principal owners. Henry Morgan was for years manager of the telephone company.

Some of the telephone operators that moved into the new building were Irene Downs, Marjorie Jocum, Annie Atkinson, Cora Beale, Beth Janzen, Alice Wilson, Wanda Bateman, Geraldene Samsel, Dora Dick, Oretta Hansen, Mamie Nelson, Lila Ahlstrom, and Alverta Wood.

Alice Wilson recalls the Christmas party on December 20, 1928, as recounted by Joe Marker in the news article which is listed as a major source for this information. In addition, Alice remembers the strictly enforced policy of requiring telephone operators to be single ladies. Alice tells of one operator named Vergie Molen who got married on her lunch hour. When she returned to work, she was immediately fired.

A new cord switchboard was installed in 1931 and served until the dial conversion in December 1956.

Following Irene Downs, other chief and assistant-chief operators were Alverta Wood, Alice Wilson, Lillie Higgins, Mary Jo Scott and Maxine Hansen. Maxine was chief when operator's services closed in Idaho Falls in December 1981 and moved to Pocatello, Boise and Salt Lake City.

The first telephone exchange in the world was opened on an experimental basis at New Haven, Conneticut, on January 28, 1878. The telephone was introduced in Idaho when the Hailey exchange was opened on September 17, 1883, closely followed by Ketchum, November 1, 1883; Boise in late November 1883, and Caldwell in December 1883. The Pocatello exxchange opened in December 1898, and as previously stated, Idaho Falls in February 1899, the last exchange in Idaho opened in the 19th century.

Telephone company records show that by June 30, 1907 there were 40 Bell telephone exchanges in Idaho and that every city and town in the state with a population of more than 500 had telephone service.

From 1898 to 1907 long distance telephone lines were spread over Idaho connecting the state and extending to Salt Lake City and other points in Utah on the south and Montana points on the north. In 1915, the first transcontinental long distance service from New York to San Francisco was connected through Salt Lake City, making available nation-wide long distance service to Idaho.

Credit for bringing the telephone to Idaho goes to a superintendent of the telegraph at Cheyenne, Wyoming for the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1878, C. F. Annett, who in later years was a merchant at Jerome, Idaho, organized the Wyoming Telephone company and opened a telephone exchange in Cheyenne and another later in Laramie. From Cheyenne, Annett went to the Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone company as general manager, with headquarters in Salt Lake City. The first four telephone exchanges were opened by the Bell company while he was general manager.

By 1911, the original Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Company became part of the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company, serving Idaho and the other mountain states. Later, while retaining the legal name of Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company, business was conducted under the name, Mountain Bell.

On January 1, 1984, the Bell System was reorganized into seven autonomous regional holding companies. U S West became the new name for the companies known previously as Northwestern Bell, Mountain Bell, and Pacific Northwest Bell. The area covers 14 states and stretches from the Dakotas to the Pacific coast of Washington and Oregon and to New Mexico and Arizona on the south.

Telephone expansion in Idaho was steady and well balanced from 1899 until the beginnings of World War II. War time activities and restrictions slowed the pace of telephone growth to such an extent that the end of the war in 1945 found the M.S.T.& T. Company facing many serious service problems. Since that time, the company has grown to provide the service needed to meet the demands of the people.

Other milestones in the Idaho Falls exchange were the building addition and large central office expansion in 1953; another building addition in August, 1956; dial conversion December 16, 1956; direct distance dialing July 15, 1962; first U. S. error detection and correction teletype service installed at the Atomic Energy Commission's Idaho operations office in 1963; another $320,000 building addition and $700,000 central office expansion (basement and two floors) completed June, 1966; touchtone available for one and two party lines January, 1967; microwave expansion from Idaho Falls to Pocatello, July 1956 at a cost of $250,000; first 24 hour data network in U. S. installed at A. E. C., November 1968, flashing 40,800 bits per second; another $200,000 building remodeling project for a new business office and installation of equipment completed May 1969; and another addition and installation of electronic switching equipment was completed October 1975.

Since the closure of operator's services in December, 1981, computerized equipment has increasingly made possible the consolidation and remote control of communications services. Operator's services are controlled in Pocatello, Boise and Salt Lake City; Business office functions are handled in Boise and Denver; Marketing services in Great Falls, Pocatello and Boise, and toll and carrier services in Salt Lake City, Des Moines, and Seattle.

Remaining in Idaho Falls in 1991 are Engineering, Construction, Toll Maintenance and Central Office Switching, Installation and Repair services. Many technologically advanced services are available to the people in the Idaho Falls area, including long-distance carried on fiber optics (also known as laser) from Idaho Falls to Boise. Inter-state long distance is serviced by other carriers. There are many vendors for telephones and other equipment in the area. U S West Communications is responsible for local service and intra-state long distance in the area south of the Salmon River, including Idaho Falls, and 8 exchanges in the Lewiston area and 4 in Eastern Oregon.

Submitted June, 1991 by Norma Jean Housley, retired Business office supervisor, Communications Consultant, Account Manager (1956-1990).
Sources: Telephone company records and information obtained from the Public Relations and Regulatory Affairs departments of U S West Communications, Idaho; recollections of retired assistant- chief operator, Alice Wilson, and using as a major source a news article from the Post-Register, January 4, 1980 by Joe Marker.


The city's first radio station--250-watt KID, called KGIO radio at the time--went on the air Dec. 3, 1928. According to a Times-Register report, the station `presented to its invisible audience a program of music, short address and publicity about Idaho Falls and the Upper Snake River Valley.'

KID launched another first at noon Sunday, Dec. 20, 1953. It brought television to Idaho Falls, and, with 100,000 watts, to much of eastern Idaho.

First, though, there had to be an audience. That problem took care of itself in short order as eastern Idahoans rushed out to buy television sets before that first broadcast.

It was a major event, with nearly 12 hours of programming scheduled, including the Ed Sullivan show. TV electronics pioneer Philo Farnsworth, a former Rigby resident whom many consider the inventor of television, was on hand.

Reception was `mixed,' according to news accounts. Some viewers saw distorted and hazy pictures. Others reported a `relatively clear' signal. Television servicemen were busy rushing from one set to the next to give viewers as much adjustment as possible.

A second Idaho Falls television station went on the air on January 21, 1961. KIFI-TV Channel 8 launched its first broadcast as Idaho's most powerful station--316,000 watts. The station logged a number of firsts in either the region or the state. Among them: a live basketball telecast from Reed Gym at Idaho State University, Pocatello; broadcast-quality studio color cameras (1967); computerized election returns (1976); a satellite earth station both owned and located at a TV studio; and the first stereo broadcast in eastern Idaho (1985). Its coverage was comparable to KID-TV.

Note: For beginnings of other stations, consult the chronology. Dewain Silvester, retired broadcaster, who contributed dates for the chronology, is compiling a history of broadcasting in Southeastern Idaho, which will be available at Bonneville Museum and Idaho Falls Public Library.

Source: Tony Huegel, Post Register, July 4, 1991



Begin Here
Introductory Comments
Chap. 1 - Agriculture
Potatoes, grains, sugar beets, livestock, irrigation.
Chap. 2 - Business and Industry
Banking, Chamber of Commerce, Rogers Brothers Seed.
Chap. 3 - Amusements, Arts and Music
Amusements: dancing, circus, baseball, theaters, Heise Hot Springs, War Bonnet Roundup, parades. Arts: painting, drama, dance, music, symphony, opera theatre.
Chap. 4 - Communications
Newspapers, telephone, broadcast.
Chap. 5 - Celebrations
Centennials and Jubilees, Pioneer Day, Intersec.
Chap. 6 - Churches
Chap. 7 - City Government
Mayors, City Hall, Public Library; Departments of Electricity, Fire, Police, Building and Planning, Parks and Recreation, Public Works.
Chap. 8 - Courthouse and Federal Post Office
Chap. 9 - Historic Preservation Efforts
Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls Historic Preservation Commission (Historic buildings, places, homes), Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
Chap. 10 - Schools
Chap. 11 - Clubs/Fraternal Organizations
Lodges, Sportsmen's Association, American Legion and other Veterans Associations, Boy Scouts.
Chap. 12 - Transportation
Railroad, Automobiles, Aviation.
Chap. 13 - Medical Practice &Amp; Hospitals
Chap. 14 - Native Americans
Chap. 15 - Snake River
Bridges, Greenbelt, Temple.
Chap. 16 - Tourism and Hotels
Chap. 17 - Lawyers and Judges
Chap. 18 - War Efforts
Red Cross, World War I, World War II.
Chap. 19 - Population Growth
Chap. 20 - INEL
Appendix 1 - Bibliography Guide
Appendix 2 - Chronology