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Hailey Asks You to Make a Call Back in Time
Friday, June 14, 2024


In the age of cell phones, you might be surprised to learn that the City of Hailey has refurbished two phone booths on Main and Elm streets, installing gleaming pay phones in each. But don’t expect to call your best friend.

Instead, you can make a call back in time, ushering you into the Wood River Valley of yesteryear as you listen to stories about Native Americans, the local Chinese of the 19th century and the dog that struck it rich—at least for his master. Each story is told in English and in Spanish.

The Travel Through Time Story Phone Booths were repurposed by the Hailey Arts & Historic Preservation Commission as a joint art and history project. The one on the west side of Main Street features a short story written by Michele Johnson that tells of a typical 4th of July in Hailey. The one on the east side features several short stories:

One written and told by longtime Hailey resident Joan Davies recounts the story of a young Native American girl harvesting protein-rich white camas bulbs with her digging stick in the wet marshland of the Camas Prairie south of the Smoky Mountains before venturing to Hailey to sell smoke-tanned leather gloves.

Davies tells another story of an old sheep wagon where refrigerated food is stored underneath the bed, the coolest part of the wagon.

Gemma Daggatt tells of Idaho’s Chinese, who made up a third of Idaho’s population in 1870. “Too many poor people (in China}….can’t make money fast. In Hailey, make money easy; in China belly hard,” she quotes Hop Chung, a laundryman in 1882 Hailey.

Bellevue historian Tom Blanchard recounts the story of a dog who discovered a 3-foot vein of pure silver and lead in what became the Minnie Moore Mine west of Bellevue.

Ann Christensen tells about the long-tailed weasel whose coat turns from brown to white as winter draws near.

Sandra Castillo tells of introducing Salvadoran dishes from her El Salvadoran homeland to the Mexican menu at Lago Azul in Hailey. “After all these years, I still don't speak English very well, but I can understand the language and can get by well enough,” she adds.

Michelle Johnson tells about her mother Sandy Bridges Ovard, who was born in an apartment above the doctor’s office, in what is now Christopher & Company’s jewelry shop. “Everywhere we went, people knew us and our family… You didn't dare get into trouble; if you did, someone was sure to see and tell your Mother!” she quotes her mother.

And Juan Salamanca tells how he switched college majors from engineering to teaching after he was told how badly the local schools needed bilingual instructors.

“The goal of the Art and Historic Preservation Commission is to bring art to the city and preserve history so we’re always looking at how can we remember history in an artistic way,” said Robyn Davis, Hailey’s community development director. “We had noted that the phone booths, which were used by the crossing guard for shelter, had fallen into disrepair so we thought: Why not use them to offer a way that people can remember history while looking at something cool.”

The city found the phones on eBay and historic photos of old Hailey in the Martin Mallory collection at the Hailey Public Library. They then painted the phone booths red and vinyl-wrapped the photos around the booths.

Finally, the city tasked locals with writing and recording short stories.

“I think it’s so unique and fun,” said Davis. ”What I like is that it’s artistic yet also a fun way to learn some history.”

”It’s a lovely way of enhancing the city and interactive, too,” added Joan Davies. “And it’s something that should appeal to everyone. These different art forms make us stop for a moment in our complex society and think.”

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