By Hannah Combs
Jean Wright developed her passion for gardening from necessity, according to her daughter Bev Kee, first growing food during the Depression years, later adding perennials and flowering vegetation “to her repertoire.” By trading plants with friends, “she could make a beautiful garden out of next to nothing,” says Bev.
The art of creating beauty from the earth has a long tradition in Bonner County. Some gardens serve a practical purpose, from the Depression’s kitchen gardens and the victory gardens of World War I to the back alley raspberry bushes and plum trees, overflowing with ripe fruit in the summer. These gardens were designed to feed us, but can’t help showering us with beauty too.
And then there are the gardens that are designed to impress, like that of Cora Clagstone. Cora moved to north Idaho in the early 1900s with her husband Paul, and they established a sprawling cattle ranch near what is now Athol. A former Chicago socialite, Cora adapted quickly to the hard work of farming life, but she believed that women should take time for themselves to embrace the simple joys of their homes. In a public speech she encouraged all women to keep a garden, saying, “You will find the care of it the greatest pleasure, for not only will a few minutes a day do much for the flowers but for yourself as well.”
Thanks to the profitable cattle business, Cora was one of a handful of “privileged pioneers,” according to her daughter’s memoirs. This meant she had almost unlimited resources to design the garden of her dreams. What started as a simple flower border along the house evolved into a full-fledged English garden, with a formal layout and cottage-style blooms. A horse team spent three days leveling the ground in preparation and laying down several tons of manure. At the center of the garden was a custom-built sundial, which Cora said “adds much to the picturesqueness besides keeping good time.” At one garden edge, she had a simple pergola of rough timbers “on which I have old-fashioned roses, clematis and bittersweet growing.” The enormous effort had been worthwhile: “The pleasure of caring for this garden, and, when busy sewing, looking out over its mass of blooms, is enormous.”
The pleasures of gardening have bloomed for generation after generation in Bonner County. That’s what happened for Bev Kee and her siblings, learning to love the soil from their green-thumbed mother. Bev, now a gardener herself for many years, sees the practice as a form of art. She says, “It is fascinating to visit friend's gardens, or public gardens, and study the style and uniqueness of each garden. No two gardens are alike; they are the artistic personality of the creator.” With the landscape as the canvas and plants as the medium, every choice of color or curve of a pathway “adds style or character to each owner’s garden.”
Bev believes the joy of gardening lies in sharing plants and starts with neighbors and friends. Not only does it bring people together, but it gives the plants stories that they carry from garden to garden. She says, “I particularly love the ability to design a new garden for someone using transplants from my gardens. There are many a garden in Sandpoint that have been created by someone pulling up their van or pick-up and hauling away enough transplants to start their entire garden.”
Maybe you are a garden artist, adding dabs of color to your masterpiece every spring. Maybe you can’t wait to divide starts among your friends and neighbors in a few weeks. Maybe you’re hoping you can keep just one plant alive with your less-than-green thumb. Whatever the case, take pleasure in your garden. As Bev says, “Plant it, move it, share it, remove some, change design, repeat. Unlike a good book, it never ends.”
By Helen Method Newton
Self-quarantining is not entirely new to Bonner County old timers. Seventy years and more ago, it was pretty much a way of life. Farm families especially were used to being home almost all of the time except for a few hours a day for the children who were at school. When cows have to be milked at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., there isn’t a lot of time left to socialize. At the time we didn’t’ even know we were practicing social distancing.
In late 1946, my father bought a 240 acre farm at the top of the hill just south of Northside School from the Berg brothers, two old Norwegian bachelors. The land was separated down the middle by the dirt county road, then known as the Farm-to-Market Road but now called Colburn Culver. We moved there in February 1947. My parents, Harold and Ruth (Fetty) Method, were of strong mid-western stock and they were not strangers to living without electricity and indoor plumbing. It was their first order of business to have both brought into the house. When what you eat is dependent upon what you raised or grew, attention had to be paid to keeping the cows healthy, raising chickens, occasionally a hog, and maintaining a very large garden and a few apple trees. Mother spent her summers planting, weeding and then harvesting and “putting up” (canning – freezers came years later) vegetables and fruit. It seemed that all summer long she kept the wood stove stoked and was either canning something or cooking for harvest crews.
My father was busy from before dawn to after dusk tending to his 42 Holstein milk cows and plowing, seeding, and harvesting crops of hay and grain, all the while continually clearing more land of trees and stumps. September 1947 found me walking one mile each way to and from the Pack River School. It sat exactly where Northside sits today. We had one room, one teacher for eight grades, a large wood stove, and an outhouse and “the big kids” hauled water in from the well in the school yard. There was a small stable for the kids who were lucky enough to have a horse to ride to school. I envied them. I always wanted a horse but Daddy said, “A horse eats as much as two cows and the horse doesn’t produce any milk,” and selling milk was our only source of income.
Whenever I share these early school day details, people look at me and ask incredulously, “HOW OLD are you?” Old enough. Limited socializing took place with an occasional visit to a neighbor’s home where coffee was shared and always served with a dish of canned fruit and/or something the hostess had just baked. These visits were spontaneous. No calling ahead. No phones. Our first phone had 12 homes on the party line. It provided another way to know what was going on in the neighborhood while practicing social distancing.
By Hannah Combs
My first spring in Sandpoint, I visited a friend at her cabin, and she wouldn’t let me leave without a visit to “the big tree.” The property behind her home turned into a mass of creek channels during spring run-off, and she lent me thigh-high muck boots to slog through the frigid water. Clinging to shrubs, I propelled my way across, only looking up when I was on dry land again. I was standing in the shadow of the most incredible tree I had ever seen, a lone western red cedar whose fellows had been cut or fallen decades before. Over eight feet in diameter, it was stretching out into the creek, looking as though it might go for a walk at any minute. The interplay with water through the years had sculpted its lower trunk into a fantastical twisting growth of burl and roots.
Coming from the Midwest, this first encounter with a “big tree” was a moving experience, waves of pure wonder pouring over me. For those who have lived their entire lives here, the imposing trees of the West may not be such a surprise, but they still inspire awe and respect. As one of our native species, cedars have played a role in Bonner County history for thousands of years. The cedar has been used by the Kalispel tribe for many daily practices, from building canoes and bark baskets to smoking fish, and cedar is still a popular building material, cut and milled for everything from roofing shingles to guitar soundboards. Cedar forest provides wildlife habitat for species like black bears and hairy woodpeckers, and old growth stands are resilient to forest fires, because they do not support the dense understory that provides fuel for the fire.
After more than a century of human development, pockets of old growth cedar can still be found close to home. Though the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars northwest of Priest Lake and the Ross Creek Cedar Grove just across the border in Montana are two of the most popular places to stand among these giants, cedars can be found all over Bonner County. The “Grandfather Tree” at Schweitzer is one iconic example. Nestled near the Springboard run in the Outback Bowl, the towering cedar can be discovered in the winter or summer months, though a summer hike might entail more of an expedition.
Though neither native to North Idaho nor as imposing as the cedars, the magnolia tree’s history goes much further. Known for its exquisite and ephemeral pale blooms, the magnolia was one of the earliest flowering plants, developing during the Cretaceous Period. The fossil record shows magnolias on Earth as early as 95 million years ago.
The magnolia developed some interesting characteristics throughout its ancient past. "The petals of the magnolia flower are quite strong and feel thick to the touch compared to other petals," says local gardener and BCHS Volunteer Coordinator Jacquie Albright. The magnolia was around before bees and butterflies, so it adapted for a different pollinator. "The petals have to be strong enough to hold a beetle as it enters into the centre of the flower."
Though the oldest magnolias are native to eastern Asia and eastern North America, its 200+ subspecies have adapted to a variety of climates, including North Idaho's. With blooms that usually appear before the leaves, magnolias always put on a stunning early spring display, which can be seen throughout our community. The magnolia is the state flower of Mississippi, where the record-holding largest tree stretches to 122 feet and has a diameter of over 6 feet.
Bonner County is home to a few record trees of its own. The University of Idaho Big Tree Program recognizes six Bonner County trees as the largest in the state: the Douglas maple, red alder, butternut, subalpine larch, paper birch, and black cottonwood. The record-holding subalpine larch can be found near the upper Roman Nose lake. The paper birch and black cottonwood can both be seen on the Gooby farm near the base of Gooby Rd. The Sandpoint Tree Committee’s Outstanding Trees of Sandpoint, Idaho booklet says of this black cottonwood, “This multistem giant measures 8 feet in diameter and reaches a height of 113 feet.” The black cottonwood’s sap was used by some Native American tribes as a glue or even for waterproofing, and today its flower buds are used in some perfume fragrances.
Whether your favorite tree is hidden deep in an old growth forest or on colorful display for everyone to see, take a moment this spring to visit your tree and stand in awe of its beauty. The history of these ancient species precedes us, and there is much to learn from their grace and resilience.
Research courtesy of U.S. Forest Service, Sandpoint Tree Committee, University of Idaho, Jacqueline Albright.
By Hannah Combs
Have you found yourself lately standing in front of the mirror, hoping that quarantine will last the three months it takes to flesh out a proper handlebar mustache? Have you gone crazy wrangling squirmy children while giving them lopsided haircuts? Have you taken the midnight plunge into the irretrievable world of bangs?
We’ve been seeing a lot of creative home haircuts in the past weeks. In an effort to distract you from the agonizing mustache wait or your fidgety children, and to give you one last chance to rethink the bang situation, we’re sharing the surprising history behind some of the most iconic hairstyles of the past.
The beehive was one of the most dramatic and accessible looks of the 1960s and is still favored as a showstopper by the likes of Beyoncé. In 1960, Modern Beauty Shop magazine commissioned Chicago celebrity hairstylist Margaret Vinci Heldt to bring life back to the stale world of hair. Heldt designed the style to fit under a particular fez hat she adored. When the towering look was assembled for the magazine, Margaret took the hatpin from her fez, shaped like a bee, and adorned the hairdo with it. With that, the beehive was born.
Expected to be a passing fad, Heldt was shocked by the longevity of the hairstyle’s appeal. But for millions of women around the world, she had hit upon an idea that made a statement and was actually quite easy. The beehive relies upon two simple techniques: backcombing and lots of hairspray. For women who had spent hours curling their hair for the intricate hairdos of the previous decades, it was a no brainer. Hairspray had become ubiquitous after it was ingeniously paired with the aerosol can in 1948, and backcombing, though destructive on split ends, was a fast way to achieve volume.
Another look known for dramatic volume was that popularized by Ambrose Burnside, a Union general who led several battles of the Civil War as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Thanks to developments in the art of photography, his other legacy is not soon to be forgotten: that of the epic sideburns. Though not the first to sport the distinguished look, Burnsides was incredibly proud of his facial hair, and as a prominent figure in society, the look was named after him. Legend says that as a young cadet at West Point (and a bit of a trickster), Burnsides first donned the distinctive look to skirt a rule against long beards. By shaving his chin, he was able to sidestep the rules, and he never looked back.
As many of us have discovered, there’s another common hairstyle you can’t easily go back on: the bangs. Love them or hate them, they have ridden the waves of hair history for more than a millenium. Though often thought to have originated with Ancient Egyptians, thanks to depictions of Cleopatra in film, surviving Egyptian wigs merely show longer strands or braids of hair placed low across the forehead. True bangs, cut in a fringe, were first popularized by a Persian musician and polymath known as Ziryab. He was invited as a cultural diplomat to the Cordoba court of early Spain in 822 and started one of the first music schools that was open to both male and female students. He took his role seriously, and aside from influencing popular hairstyles and fashions, he also promoted hygiene practices like dental care, regular bathing, and treating hair with fragrant oils. Bangs reappear in many forms throughout history, and by the 1920’s they were cemented in our hairstyle vocabulary by fashionable flappers like Louise Brooks.
Whether you want to extravagantly style your facial hair, dye your hair with food coloring, or bravely take the scissors to your locks, there’s no time like the present to experiment. History provides thousands of do’s and dont’s for your entertainment and inspiration. Or maybe it seems wiser to wait until the salon opens and hand your hair over to the professionals. However it turns out, don’t split too many hairs over it, just have fun!
Research courtesy of Helin Jung, Silk Road Rising, and the American Battlefield Trust.