BONNERS FERRY — The Boundary County Museum paired up with local schools to bring a unique experience to the students in celebration of Idaho Day, which commemorates March 4, 1863 when Abraham Lincoln signed the paper to make Idaho a territory.
For three days, starting on March 4, six tours were given in downtown Bonners Ferry, showing students what life was like 100 years ago, as planned by Dottie Gray.
On a chilly Monday, fourth graders from Mrs. Perez’s class at Valley View Elementary and all grades from Classical Conversations Homeschool came in for the first two tours. It was considerably warmer on Tuesday when Mrs. Leach’s Valley View fourth graders and Mr. Murray’s Naples Elementary School fourth graders took the tour. The last day Mrs. Fuentes’ Valley View fourth graders and Miss Schnuerle’s Mt. Hall Elementary School fourth graders did the rounds.
The exciting field trip started with the students all being assigned a horse, represented by a paper horse on a string. Because horses were not allowed on Main Street one hundred years ago, the students all tied their paper horses to the iron fence. Only a few escaped.
“When they first got off the bus, we told them that it was one hundred years ago, 1919, and they crossed on the old wooden bridge, the 1910 bridge, on their horse,” said Boundary County Museum Curator Sue Kemmis.
Main Street was dotted with volunteers, all decked out in period costumes and representing real people from a century ago. Along the way, the students collected items from the different characters, from pickles to pencils, and put them in backpacks provided by the Boundary County Commissioners and Clerk Glenda Poston, with My History Idaho printed on them.
The different character included Jumbo of Jumbo’s Restaurant played by Howard Kent, First National Bank Embezzler, F.A. Shultis, played by Dave Anderson, Bonners Ferry Herald Editor, played by Darrell Kerby and Patti Kerby.
Mrs. Zimmerman represented the City Meat Market and was played by Clarice McKenney, Mary Dirks, and Leilani Cummings.
“We talked out how pickles were a nickel. So we thought why not have them all dig into a barrel and get a pickle,” said Kemmis.
David Koon played Mr. Stookey, owner of Stookey’s Furniture & Undertaking, while Dave Gray and Donna Kent played SooKee of the Kootenai Hotel.
A favorite of the students was the confectionary, although when asked what a confection was, it left many of them stumped. Carolyn McNeill, Nolda Gross, and Audrey Schenck played the part, with a bowl full of candy.
Boundary County Historical Society and Museum Volunteer Laura Anderson played the part of the dentist all three days, standing on the corner in front of the Groove Studio.
“I think it is fascinating for the kids to be exposed to what our town looked like a hundred years ago,” said Anderson. “I think it has been good for our kids to have this part of history. They live here so it is good for them to know what it used to be like.”
Along the way, Kemmis used old photographs to show the students what each part of Main Street used to look like, narrating the tales of the businesses and people who used to reside there.
All safety precautions were covered, with crossing Guards Randy Cummings and Rege McNeill in place any time the students needed to cross a street.
After the tour was over, the students went to the museum and were asked to draw a picture of their experience. They were also treated to an Idaho shaped cookie and a cup of cocoa.
“The kids have been super and given the task to draw something that they learned,” said Anderson. “I thought that was a pretty daunting task, but they just grabbed on and drew building, and pickles, and Mr. Stookey.”
As for the lost horses, Little Billy, Bob, and Benton… Kemmis managed to wrangle them for their young owners by the time the tour was through.
The artwork the students made adorns a long wall in the Boundary County Museum and will be up until mid-May, giving the community a chance to enjoy the experience through the eyes of children.