Pioneer Hall

pioneerbldg

Pioneer Building

bank

Idaho State Bank

 

Here are photos of Pioneer Bldg in New Plymouth circa 1908.  The second photo is inside the front of the building in the Idaho State Bank about the same time.  This bldg’s limestone walls were similar to another across the street that burned. This limestone was the exception to the usual bricks used in most New Plymouth buildings.

The bank would move around 1946, a block away to the north end of town, into a new building just built.  However, it had been in the Pioneer Bldg over 40 years, since the bldg was built around 1904.

The Pioneer Bldg was and still is a primary bldg in New Plymouth, occupying a commanding view from the south side of the “central plaza” where two other streets cross Plymouth Ave (the main drag) creating a six spoked intersection and the heart of “downtown” New Plymouth!

The banker during my years was a man named Green.  He had a son, Johnny Green, in my sister, Charlene’s 1947 class.  Like so many farmers of that era, checkbooks were pretty much beyond their “ken.”  My folks never ever reconciled a checkbook.  So they were forever overdrawing their account.  Then, a very patient Mr. Green had to walk them through their accounting.

In this same bldg, at the south rear, was the post office (occupying about 20′ of the store front) and the telephone office when most phones came to town (also occupying about 20′ of the store front). The telephone office and post office had been in other places, but was here in my years. When the post office was first established you could get general delivery there or rent a box — before this everything had to come thru the train depot at north end of town.  I remember going in there in the 30s when my mother bought penny postcards, a real luxury/extravagance for us in the depression.

Later on she was greatly enamored over pictorial stamps and simply loved them to the point that she never mailed a letter without one. She actually badgered the PO staff to obtain the rarer ones.  Mom never lost a friend — she wrote swiftly (as she did everything), very newsy letters to everyone she had addresses for. A very people person, she loved receiving mail and even corresponded with the ones that couldn’t be bothered to reply except Christmas Cards. We could never afford to rent a post office box.  Most of the time we sent messages via relatives going to visit those we wanted to write to.

News of a letter to you spread quickly in early New Plymouth by word of mouth, or if it came via RR, the depot simply kept it until you claimed it. When you had something to do in town, then you checked at the depot as well.  In fact, at first that was the mail service — I remember letters sent to us via the RR.  Mail service out our farm way, did not occur until late 30s, and then only along major road grid. So most of us were forced to walk up to half a mile to our mail box. When you got into the real boonies, like up the Willow Creeks, then mail boxes simply clustered around a confluence of several roads at mouth of Creek, or a common road.  When initial school busing began, the routes followed these same mail routes requiring all kids to walk the same distance as to the mail boxes.  Mail delivered to our farm on Butte did not arrive until 1951 when I left home.

I remember going into the old telephone office many times when my mother paid our monthly bill, which was around 75 cents. We got the phone in 1942.  The switchboard and operator were right there easily seen. The switchboard was a number of plug in connectors – labeled with alpha bet and numbers up and down.  Our number was 8J2, which meant meant two short rings — it being a “party line.”  Ruby Creps, a few years older than I, was one of long time operators.

In 1946, when the bank moved to the new building, so did the post office — to the back of the new building behind the bank — but with double the room it had been renting.

Thru the years the Pioneer Bldg, aka Pioneer Hall, had housed a number of tenants. It had been the Elks Lodge. It had been a movie theater seating over 400 with a loge seating another 60 or so. It had been a community center hosting plays and other events. It had been a dance floor.  It had a stage, with, importantly to that fire-damaged-era, fire escapes from back of stage and side to quickly evacuate  the large number of folks it could accommodate — up to 500. Old Doc Strauss, a dentist, New Plymouth’s only dentist thru the years, had his office upstairs (NE corner) overlooking the central plaza, that is until he moved to Fruitland in the 40s, until fully retired in his 80s, to a farm just down the road from my parents–later bought by Schmidts.

The local Mormon branch used it for a chapel from 1947-1951 until they built their new chapel south of town.  The Mormons had begun meetings in the upstairs of the Creasey bldg (which had housed various groups).  Then the Mormons moved to the community center (Little Grey School House) for six weeks,  then to the Pioneer Hall as it was called at the time.

There has been a parade of tenants occupying the first floor. Almost every realtor or insurance agent in town over the years had rented there. It remained the primary “general commerce bldg” in town. However, a large bldg like this with a wide open upper story is a fire trap deluxe.  It had additionally been irretrievably damaged when electricity was retro engineered into it.  It had fire escape ladders that fell off the bldg, with doors to those now gone ladders, staring at the world.  It had a myriad of small rooms, cut up in haphazard fashion from the many differing tenants and their differing needs. It had nooks and cranny compartments impossible to get to in event of fire. It had an antiquated kitchen arrangement.

And, it had a very crickety main stairs built as an after thought on the back end, when an internal main staircase was abandoned with the need to meet a new lower floor client’s need.  And it still had the old stage with its prop storage under the stage.  Many of these situations made it an impossible bldg to defend by the town’s firefighters.

When an organization currently renting the upstairs mistakenly left the heat on all night, the top floor caught fire. The top floor was unsalvagable, so was removed to save the remainder of the building.

The Pioneer Hall – where I went to Mormon church during my teen years, was dear to my heart.  There were literally dozens of places for kids to play and investigate — so many nooks and crannies.  A lovely, very well built old bldg, built during the good times of turn of century for that period – its history evident everywhere you looked. Since it had hosted stage plays, it had a plethora of old props of an amazing number and type hidden in large space under the stage.  Plus there was the usual back stage paraphernalia trappings – so many entrances – lovely heavy plush drapes and curtain.  A kid’s paradise — you could go up in the loge seating and watch folks below.

The dance floor was perfect for dancing,  It was where I learned to dance and learned a great many different dances and steps.  Every year for the 24th July celebration (memorial for when LDS first came to Salt Lake City) they would prepare for big festival – have a sort of rodeo type get together at fairgrounds with enactments of pioneers, lots of folk dances, etc.  Yearly the youth would learn various choreography for those dances.  Also the church put on “Lucky Clover Dances in each stake (like a diocese) for the youth (13 — ~mid 20s) every Friday night — with a band — these were swing, foxtrot, waltz, quickstep–that sort of dancing.   Like the tv dancing with the stars show.  A lovely place to take a date.  Also, once per year each ward (local church branch) had a “Gold and Green Ball.” This was a very formal dance event in Dec/Jan. The girls all made formals for the dance — again a lovely place to take a date.  These dances were always a few notches above the jr/sr proms at the high schools.

Each stake would host a G and G Ball each week for ~13-16 weeks giving each branch its night (Fri or Sat), to which the entire stake was invited.  Weiser was our stake center in my youth (included all of Payette Valley including Emmett). Later this split to where Emmett had its own stake, as did Ontario and Weiser. The LDS established a New Plymouth branch when I was 14 (1947).  I noticed the recent demographics of Fruitland — which showed the % of different churches — Mormons were 30+.  That is higher than in my day when it was about 20%. Baptists always had a summer bible study for kids of any faith.  Churches were extremely useful for communities back then.

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