Life, Death, and Rebirth in an Idaho Mining Town
Size: 5.50 x 8.50 in
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.
“An important portrait of the interior West—the true stuff, raw and gritty, honest to the bone.”
– Craig Lesley, author of Burning Fence and Sky Fisherman
. . . this unflinching and beautifully written memoir of place. . . . Weston write[s] this poignant and affectionate memoir of place, showing clearly the gifts and perils at the heart of real people, real communities, real life.”
Story Circle Reviews by Susan J. Tweit.
“Julie Weston’s book could have been subtitled Growing Up in America: The high school proms, the ski trips, the Jantzen sweaters, all against a background of poison from one of the most notorious mining operations in the world. Weston’s insights are unforgettable; her writing is wonderful.”
– Mary Clearman Blew, author of All but the Waltz and Jackalope Dreams.
“Mining the rich vein that lies between memory and history, Julie Whitesel Weston finds in her own story and that of Kellogg, Idaho, a true picture of the American West in the late twentieth century. This is a book full of love and tragedy, told in beautiful, caring, heartbreaking language. It’s also a book full of disturbing questions for readers who connect the dots between mining, money and tourism.”
John Rember, author of Traplines: Coming Home to Sawtooth Valley.
“What a generous gift Julie Weston offers us! In showing us the lost world of an Idaho mountain mining town, she doesn’t take sides, but reveals the life of Kellogg in all its horror and glory.”
Carolyn See, author of Dreaming: Hard Luck and Good Times in America