STORIES BY KAREN BOSSICK
The school building resembled an early Forest Service lookout and the wind howled through the windows until someone put on new windows and asbestos siding on it.
Her father was a dairyman who raised Jersey cows, along with potatoes, and onion seeds. And he was deferred during the war, Grace recalls, because he was more valuable on the farm than in a uniform.
Grace Eakin has painted numerous paintings of the wildlife she sees on her ranch.
“Gooding just had the state school and the TB tuberculosis hospital then. And my aunt went to Gooding College, which was run by the Methodist Church. I remember my mom would get up at 5 in the morning to pick beans and peas because then she had all days to cook them.”
That was the first quarter of Eakin’s life.
In 1956 she met Jim Eakin at the 4H camp. She was recreational director for the camp, which was based at that time at Cathedral Pines, and he was agricultural agent for the University of Idaho. The two married in 1957 and settled down in the Wood River Valley where Grace has lived ever since.
The two immersed themselves in valley life, with Jim helping to build the 4H camp north of Ketchum and Grace starting a cooking clubs for boys in 4-H.
For this, Eakin was nominated to the 2017 Blaine County Historical Museum’s Heritage Court, which honors women for their role in building the Wood River Valley.
Eakin and three other women will be feted in a coronation ceremony for the 14th annual Heritage Court at 3 p.m. today—Sunday, June 11—in a celebration open to the community.
A graduate of the University of Idaho, Eakin taught high school English and home economics in what is now Hailey Elementary School But she quit before two years was up after she had her first son.
“He was too cute to leave!” she recollected.
She and Jim would have two more boys and four girls over the next eight years, a brood that shifted her focus to things like 4-H.
“The first county fair was in the gym of the old Carey School, and we tied livestock under the trees,” Eakin recalled. “When they built the new school, the county acquired the buildings and moved the fairgrounds to where it is now.”
The family lived in several different homes in Hailey and Bellevue before Jim took a job at the Cove Ranch in the Bellevue Triangle. At that time, they bought a ranch of their own near Highway 75.
“Someone forced us to put names on our roads about 20 years ago so someone named ours ‘Pero,’ which means dog in Spanish. When we moved here there was one TV station and we didn’t ski so we read a lot—I guess we were kind of boring,” said Grace, who has lived in the home for nearly a half-century, an Australian shepherd named Roby and a tabby cat named Tiger to keep her company.
As an agricultural extension agent, Jim Eakin was always experimenting with 50 head of registered Hereford he raised on the ranch. Grace and the kids took care of the irrigation and moved the cows on foot from pasture to pasture, sometimes stopping traffic on highway 75 when the cows would get out on it.
“The calves came bigger here than they did in Jerome—maybe because of our cool evenings which didn’t stress them as much as hot ones,” said Eakin. “Every year we’d take one cow for the family—they made fine hamburgers, roasts, stews. The best were those with very round butts—that’s where all the meat is–on the rear. That’s the end where round steaks come from.”
Eakin served as secretary for the Wood River Valley Irrigation District for 35 years and she currently serves as chaplain for the Upper Big Wood River Grange. She’s volunteered 14 years with the Bellevue Historical Museum.
When the kids had grown, Eakin began going into people’s homes and helping them with cleaning and meals before going to College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls to become a nurse’s aide.
After Jim died in 2004, she began traveling outside of the Wood River Valley, cruising the Amazon in Brazil and visiting places like Alaska, Hawaii and Europe, in addition to taking shorter trips to places like Boise, Nampa, Meridian and Spokane to see her children.
She’s filled the walls in her home with paintings and photographs she’s created after taking art classes at the Hailey College of Southern Idaho. She makes rag quilts for her children and nursing home residents and she gardens with the help of her daughter Pam Pierce and her husband Michael.
And she relishes her weekly walks with her Over 60 and Getting Fit Class, especially since she has a new knee to take her around the gym.
“I’m always up for a challenge,” she said.
“They didn’t have radios then,” Conrad recalled. “If he got stuck or the snow plow broke down, he ended up walking.”
Conrad has seen more than seven decades of Idaho snowstorms, having been born in Rigby. But she never let a single one deter her from a busy life of teaching Sunday school classes, holding Cub Scout meetings or volunteering with the Parent Teacher Organization for Carey School.
And that dedication earned her a spot on the 2014 Blaine County Historical Museum’s Heritage Court, which honors women who have gone above and beyond in their contributions to making the Wood River Valley what it is today.
Conrad will be honored along with Betty Murphy, Grace Eakin and Sue Rowland in a ceremony open to the public at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 11, at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey.
Having grown up in Dietrich, Conrad had to swallow her pride when her husband was transferred to Carey from Mackay in 1966.
“I’d said I never wanted to live in Carey because they were our school rivals. But it turned out it was a great place to live,” she said. “It’s quiet. You can have a garden there. And it was a good place for our four kids to grow up.”
Conrad got involved in 4-H on behalf of her children, raising bum or orphaned lambs, cows, horses chickens and peacocks on the acre and a half farm her family owned.
She taught sewing. And, once, she ended up doing a lot of unplanned brushing, as well.
“When my son was in high school, he had just finished washing his lambs for the 4-H show when the field across the road caught fire and the sheep turned black with soot,” she said. “It’s not easy to brush sheep but we did.”
During the 1970s Conrad served as president of the local chapter of the women’s section of the American Farm Bureau Federation, which was organized in 1920 to enhance the lives of those living in agricultural communities. She later served as president of the regional Idaho Farm Bureau chapter.
She and now-State Rep. Maxine Bell organized conferences and luncheons to educate women on the issues. And one of those issues was the then-fledgling women’s liberation movement.
“It was a new thing. I didn’t even realize women were not equal until that came along,” she recalled, adding that she was generally pro-liberation.
When her youngest daughter graduated from high school, Conrad and daughter Robin began working at King’s Variety Store in Hailey, a job Conrad held for 13 years.
She enjoyed the work, in part because she had good bosses. But the 30-mile drive could be hair-raising during winter.
“One time we went via Timmerman Hill and it was a sheet of ice,” recalled. “We did a complete circle in the middle of the highway. I thought other cars were coming when we started, but fortunately there was no one around when we finished.
“Another time we were driving down Gannett Road and it was snowing so heavily you couldn’t tell where we were or even if we were on the road or off it. But we made it home.”
“I’m sad to see King’s close. It had a lot of things you can’t get anywhere else. Even the Family Dollar store doesn’t have everything it had. Plus, it gave high school kids a start in life and a little pocket money.”
Since retiring, Conrad has been involved in upping the culture quotient of Carey, helping to organize calligraphy and Spanish classes.
“My son was in Uruguay at the time so I tried to learn Spanish. And I have a grandson-in-law who is from Mexico. But I just got the basics.”
She also helps to lead Fit and Fall-Proof exercise classes at the Carey Senior Connection.
“Got to keep those old bones moving,” she said.
Betty Murphy turned down an opportunity to be Miss Universe. But the trade she made opened up a world of new opportunities for the young lass from Toronto, Canada.
She ended up rubbing elbows with such movers and shakers as former President Jimmy Carter and Erma Bombeck. And her path eventually brought her to Ketchum where the former Canadian, who sets out the American flag daily in front of her Warm Springs home, ended up deeply enmeshed in Idaho politics.
Murphy’s work on behalf of Blaine County Democrats, the Sun Valley Ski and Heritage Museum and other organizations has led to her being one of four women named to the 2017 Blaine County Heritage Court. She will be inducted in a ceremony at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 11, at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey, along with Sue Rowland, Grace Eakins and Edith Conrad.
Murphy was born in 1933 in her grandmother’s house into a close knit Scottish family with seven aunts and uncles on each side and 29 first cousins. It was the height of the Great Depression. But her father, a printer who excelled in creating reproductions for museums, was never out of work.
Nor did they go hungry, as Murphy’s mother loaded the table with crumpets and jam, steak and kidney pie, butter tarts, soda biscuits and root vegetables like cabbage, turnips and potatoes (There was no salad since Murphy’s father considered it rabbit food).
“My mother was always there at home, except for a brief time when she made armaments—bullets—during the war. I double dated with my cousins. Toronto was a very safe city—thanks to kindness, gun control and the Royal Mounted Police, of course. We didn’t have TV, but every Friday night we went to school sock dances where we danced to Frank Sinatra. And during winter we skated at the park under the lights.”
Named Miss Cheerleader, Murphy dated the school quarterback, who was given only three downs to make 10 yards. Upon graduation, she got a gig with the Canadian National Exhibition, serving as a guide for then-Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.
“We were subjects of England at that time so we sang, ‘God Save the King’—Queen Elizabeth’s father George was king then,” she recalled. “The dress was beautiful, made out of heavy satin and decked out in jewels. I had to know everything there was to know about who Princess Elizabeth married, who was in the wedding party, how much the dress was worth.”
As a former Miss Cheerleader, Murphy decided to try out for Miss Toronto in 1953 when she turned 20. Going up against 487 applicants, she spent nearly a month parading across the stage with 24 others at a time. Applicants were not required to give speeches or perform talents then.
“I never forget how embarrassed I was because the nurse had to reach into our swimsuits to make sure we were real. Any hint of silicone and you were out,” she said.
Upon winning, Murphy was ushered into a whirlwind of parades and ribbon cuttings at grocery stores when representatives of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Chamber of Commerce invited her to be their guest for 10 days to talk to their Rotary and Kiwanis clubs and appear in a fashion show.
Betty, who was engaged to a longtime schoolmate at the time, asked if she could bring her parents along since she had never been out of Ontario before. And on her arrival she found herself conducting an interview with a young reporter for the Miami Herald’s Fort Lauderdale bureau.
“Pat tried to get out of the assignment initially,” Murphy recalled. “But, the interview got longer and longer as he asked me what I thought of the King and Queen. And at the end he asked if I would like to see Miami Beach.”
The two buzzed to Miami in a convertible that Ford Motor Company had loaned to Betty. They danced at a hotel nightclub and walked barefoot along the beach. The next day Pat was back to take her to Key West.
“He called his parents, who lived in Coral Gables, as we were making our way to their house and told his mother that he was going to ask me to marry him,” recalled Murphy. “We dated every day for 10 days until I had to go back.”
Pat Murphy followed up her visit with four-page love letters, asking if he could meet the rest of her family at Christmas. The two married over the holidays, honeymooning at the Royal Albert Hotel and holding a reception for his and Betty’s large extended family at the Royal York Hotel, which at that time was the most famous hotel in the Western hemisphere.
“We dated for 10 days and were married for 58 years,” she said of her husband who passed away in 2011. “He was the most interesting person I’d ever met. He was just back from fighting in Korea and he was so charming and exciting. The boy I had been engaged to ended up helping to perfect the tracking system for the Polaris missile so we eventually got to have lunch with him while he was at Cape Canaveral.
Murphy never regretted not taking part in what was just the second year of the Miss Universe contest.
“It’s a full-time job being a beauty queen. You can’t go out of your house without makeup. And modeling is not my cup of tea.”
In Florida Murphy was ushered into a world of lavish dinners and parties put on by the Miami Herald while her husband covered the crime beat and worked with the likes of Al Neuharth, who went on to found USA Today. She found herself on TV a lot, answering questions about what she, a Canadian, thought about the Royal Family.
She also found herself in the company of John F. Kennedy, whose family had a compound at Palm Beach, and Richard Nixon, who had a house in the Florida Keys. She watched her daughter—now Kathy Carsons—play tennis with tennis champion Chris Evert Lloyd—“Chrissy always won,” she said.
Come evenings she’d prepare a picnic dinner for Pat and daughters Kathy and Patti while they swam in Biscayne Bay.
“There was no air conditioning in those days so the hotels would close during the summer when the humidity was 100 percent. The locals had the beaches to themselves,” she recalled.
Betty wrote and organized three cabarets on behalf of the Junior Women’s Club, which was made up of 350 women between the ages of 18 and 35. They sold out the auditorium Jackie Gleason broadcast out of and employed the man who invented audio for airplane seats to run sound. And they raised enough funds to have two dentists work full time providing free dental care to youngsters who couldn’t afford it.
For her efforts, Murphy was named Outstanding Young Woman of the Year when she was 35.
Four years later she and Pat found themselves in Phoenix, Ariz., where Pat had been named editor of the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette.
“Barry Goldwater and John McCain came to Pat Murphy when they wanted to run for president the first time. Other legislators would ask him how to vote. He’s always say, ‘Vote how you think. If I don’t like it, I will let you know,’ ” Betty recalled.
In Arizona Betty helped with the annual fundraiser for the American Red Cross and served on the board of the Alzheimer’s Association, spurred on by her mother’s eight-year battle with Alzheimer’s.
The Murphys attended hundreds of speeches and benefits on the busy Phoenix political circuit.
But, every once in awhile, they were able to take time out for hilarious evenings with “Family Circus” cartoonist Bil Keane and Erma Bombeck, who parodied suburban life in such books as “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank” and “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I doing in the Pits?”
“They looked at the world totally different from us,” said Murphy. “I remember talking to Erma before going to her house for dinner, and she said, ‘I’m so insecure I set the table two weeks ago and covered it with Saran Wrap!’ ”
To escape Phoenix’s 115-degree days, Betty began visiting Sun Valley, where her daughter Kathy Carsons and her husband Paul, a former ski champion from Betty’s hometown of Toronto, had settled. And when Pat retired she got him to join her in the home she had bought in 1993 in Warm Springs.
She met Wendy Jaquet over coffee hour at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood and Jaquet promptly enlisted her to begin volunteering at the Ketchum/Sun Valley Chamber and, later, on her campaign for state legislature. Murphy worked on Jaquet’s campaign for the next 18 years.
“Being married to a newspaper guy, I had always had to be an observer. And in Canada campaigns are restricted to six weeks. But I thought Wendy was pretty qualified,” said Murphy.
“She’s done everything from writing people’s names on envelopes providing information about absentee voting to decorating the Blaine County Democrats floats for Wagon Days,” said Jaquet. “She’s made hundreds of phone calls and recruited precinct people. And she’s been involved on state level with Democratic women caucus. She’s always so reliable. I could ask her if she would do something and I could be pretty sure she would.”
Murphy served six years as chair of the Blaine County Democrats helping to build up the party—1,300 people turned out at the party’s caucus in 2008. She registered 800 voters during that period.
Driving Sun Valley’s part-time resident John Kerry when he was running for President was a full-time chore.
“We were given 24 hours notice when he came here and we’d drive him to the ski resort, to lunch, to meetings since you’re not allowed to drive when running for President,” Murphy said. “He came with the Washington Press corps and personal staff so we had two dozen people to drive around.”
Though Murphy describes working with the Democrats as a full-time job, she still found time to volunteer with the Blaine Manor Auxiliary, now the Blaine Belles, and the Wood River Hospice.
The last Hospice patient she cared for was a little boy who just wanted to live long enough to ski one more time. He died that Halloween, she recalled.
Murphy also volunteered with the former Sun Valley/Ketchum Ski and Heritage Museum for 12 years where she was especially thrilled to display the Olympic uniform and medals of Gretchen Fraser, the Sun Valley racer who became the first American to medal in Olympic alpine skiing in 1948.
Her biggest project was saving the small white church house that used to house Louie’s restaurant.
“We heard it was going to be demolished and in an hour we had raised enough money to have it moved,” she said. “We spent seven years going before the City Council asking for a permanent place and finally it found at home with the Picket Fence.”
Today, she says, her biggest job is taking her much spoiled labs Spud and Tater for their morning walks in Adams Gulch.
“I can’t understand people who complain about anything in this community,” she said. “It’s paradise—why don’t they know it? I feel very fortunate to live here. And it’s not a big effort to help it.”
When Sue and Frank Rowland moved to Hailey in 1972, their daughter Ginger could wave to the train conductor as he drove the Ketchum-bound train up the track a stone’s throw from the deck of their home on Fifth Avenue.
Today their grandchildren wave at bicyclists passing by on the converted train tracks. And houses and trees now block the open view they once had all the way to Quigley Canyon.
But the heart and soul of the community that brought the couple here remains the same.
Today, in fact, the former Forest Service ranger and preschool teacher are considered part of the heart and soul of the community. And the community will celebrate Sue Rowland’s contribution when she is inducted into the Blaine County Heritage Court with a coronation ceremony on Sunday, June 11, at the Liberty Theater in Hailey
Sue Rowland will be honored along with Ketchum’s Betty Murphy, Bellevue’s Grace Eakin and Carey’s Edith Conrad.
Sue was born to a Salt Lake City family that lived for skiing. Her mother made her a ski outfit from her dad’s ski parka in the days before there was such a thing as children’s ski clothing and equipment. In fact, the Salt Lake City Tribune once ran a picture of the tiny tot skiing at Alta since children skiing was such a novelty in those days.
Occasionally, her father, a shop foreman for a freightliner company, would bring the family skiing at Sun Valley.
“Sometimes my brother and I would sit outside the on wooden bench with a wooden cowboy while our parents played slots inside casino,” Sue reminisced. “The River Run side of Baldy had three lifts to the top in those days. One year they had so much snow that an avalanche knocked out a couple lifts. Since they didn’t know when they would reopen, my Dad packed us up and took us straight to Alta. We didn’t even stop at home.”
Sue raced on the ski team at University of Utah where she met Frank, whom she married in 1964. She taught second grade and worked as a preschool teacher in Utah before Frank took a job with the Forest Service as the Sawtooth National Recreation Area was being created.
In those days, the Forest Service maintained offices in Forest Service parks in Hailey and Ketchum.The Rowlands spent summers at Redfish Lake where Frank’s father had worked at the old Stanley Ranger Station, now a museum, from 1947 to 1953.
“They wanted us to live in Stanley in the winter where I could have taught in the one room schoolhouse, but I couldn’t envision living there year round,” Sue said. “Frank didn’t really want to work as the Redfish ranger because it was so busy. The three campgrounds were always full of people from Pocatello and Boise. We did love the Stanley Stomp at the old Rod & Gun Club, though. Everyone—all the cowboys and sheep men—came dancing there every Saturday night.”
The couple took up residence in a century-old home that they moved from Croy Street near Carbonate Mountain where it had once been part of the Ivy Sawmill.
Though remodeled and expanded, the home still boasts the fireplace where its original owners used to heat bricks to carry to bed to keep warm.
Everyone, it seemed, had a gun over their fireplace and no one locked their doors. The squeak, squeak, squeak of the town’s variety store was like walking back in time.
“You knew what day it was because the church bells rang on Sunday, the fire bell rang on Wednesday and the paper came out on Thursdays,” said Sue. “No matter where you went, you knew everybody, and it’s still that way. It’s still a wonderful community.”
Sue started Miss Sue’s Preschool with 13 children in her home. She moved it to four more locations, including the site of Jersey Girl, as it expanded to 50 preschoolers.
“When we were in north Hailey, the city used to pile snow up for me so the kids could go sledding during winter,” she recalled.
Sue hired former students to help with her summer kid’s camp, taking preschoolers swimming at Bald Mountain Hot Springs and on field trips to the Molyneaux farm, fire station and Sun Valley Resort.
They staged plays, creating their own costumes, and learned about the solar system. And Sue stressed good citizenship.
“We had circle time in which we’d look in each others’ eyes and say, ‘My name is so and so. What is yours?’ We’d choose partners by pulling sticks so no one ever felt slighted. And we’d go to different stations where we’d do things like puzzles and numbers. The kids would learn to wait their turns if someone was already there.”
Every year at graduation Sue congratulated her former students by putting cards on their commencement seats.
“I ended up teaching the grandchildren of some of the first kids I had over the 30 years I ran a preschool,” she said. “Many of my former students—students like Sara Allen and Erika Greenberg—are now teachers themselves. Some are policemen. One’s an eye doctor. I remember telling him, ‘When Miss Sue grows up, you’ll take care of me, won’t you?!’ ”
While Sue worked with young minds, Frank was hauling tons of trash out of backcountry sites in the days before the “Pack it Out” ethic became ingrained.
“They called one guy, ‘Ox,’ because he carried out a hundred pounds of tin cans at a time,” Sue recalled.
It was son John who introduced his parents to Nordic skiing when he joined one of the first Nordic ski teams in the valley. Realizing the growing interest in cross country skiing, Frank worked with former Olympic skier Leif Odmark and Bob Rosso of The Elephant’s Perch to transform an old logging road into what now makes up part of the Prairie Creek Loop.
Frank took hand sketches of grooming equipment to a Bellevue welder who made a track setter that they called Edgar and drug behind a snowmobile.
“It was the first groomed cross-country ski trail on National Forest land nationwide,” said Sue.
Frank also established a Nordic trail behind SNRA headquarters, now known as the North Fork trail. He worked with Ken Britton and John Hepworth to put in a trail following portions of old logging roads to create the route for what is now the year-round Harriman Trail.
And he worked with Rob and Amy Landis and Steve Haims to establish the trail network around Galena Lodge.
“We have a system of trails that’s world class. We’ve met people from Hawaii, Alaska, even Europe, who have come here to ski our Nordic trails because of its good grooming and varying degrees of difficulty,” said Sue, who has volunteered with her husband with the Blaine County Recreation District courtesy Nordic patrol for the past 12 years.
Eventually, Frank retired from the Forest Service to pursue environmental projects with Power Engineers—a job that took the Rowlands to Hayward, Wis., for four years.
While there, Sue helped start the Birkie Girls, volunteering with the 50-kilometer American Birkebeiner race, which draws 10,000 Nordic racers every year.
But they never forgot their first love—downhill skiing. They put their first daughter Jennifer in a backpack as they skied at Rotarun and Dollar mountains.
And Sue bought her all four of her grandsons—Hunter and Axel Diehl and Spencer and Solly Ferries—learn-to-ski packages. She and Frank are always on hand for local contests as they watch Hunter turn flips in freestyle competition and Spencer ski the rails in slopestyle contests.
“I always tell them, ‘Poppy’s up there in heaven and he’s sending you good luck,’ ” she said.
In addition to skiing, Frank served on school board as it charted a new high school. It was payback for his own children– John Rowland, now an architect; Jennifer Diehl, a photographer, and Ginger Ferries, who established Hound Around dog walking service.
Sue helped with PTA and the Middle Moms—mothers of middle school students. She was among those who organized the first overnight prom.
She also volunteers as usher for Company of Fools—“I love whatever they have, and the set’s always over the top.” She volunteers at the Blaine County Historical Museum. And she started the Blaine Belles after Blaine Manor Auxiliary dissolved.
“I looked at those beautiful pillars of our community and decided these women need to keep getting together,” she said. “We get together a few times a year for lunch. It’s important to keep socially active as you get older. And this community is a great place for that.”
CELEBRATE Sue Rowland’s service to the community when she is inducted into the Blaine County Heritage Court at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 11, at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey. The event, which includes entertainment and refreshments, is open to the community.