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The Good Times Are All Gone Now: Life, Death, and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Townby Julie W. Weston
Synopses & Reviews
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 familys 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.
Book News Annotation:
Seattle lawyer Weston grew up in the small Idaho mining town of Kellogg. This is her personal memoir of the town in the 1950s. It is also a memoir of the town and, by extension, a thousand other small one company towns in America. Kellogg was homogenous, rural and conservative. Weston interviewed old friends and strangers about life there. She also researched town records for the early history of the town and the lead and silver mine. The Red Scare for Kellogg residents was real and affected the establishment of a union for the mine workers. Her role in ending a debilitating strike was a pivotal moment in Weston's early life. She doesn't hide the bigotry and xenophobia of Kellogg but emphasizes individual stories of basically decent people. She lets the subjects of her interviews speak with few comments. Her prose is restrained with little embellishment, rather in the style of Thorton Wilder and it suits the subject. An epilogue tells of Kellogg today, the mine closed as an environmental hazard. For better or worse, Kellogg is changed and this memoir is almost the only record of the way it was. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A soul-searching memoir of growing up in a company town
Julie Whitesel Weston left her hometown of Kellogg, Idaho, but eventually it pulled her back. Only when she returned to this mining community did she begin to see the paradoxes of the place where she grew up. 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 have endured to reinvent Kellogg—not once, but twice.
About 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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