In From the Cold

An Introduction to the Author and His Ambitions for this Blog

I first graduated from Boise State University with a BA in History in 1995. I graduated the second time with my Masters in 2010. A long stretch, and I am glad to say that no, I was not in graduate school for a full fifteen years. I re-entered the academic world in 2007, after a full twelve years away. Even though nothing I did in that time really contributed to the establishment or advancement of any kind of proper career, it was not time wasted. My wife and I kicked about, got married, bought a house, traveled a bit, pursued our hobbies and generally lived the life of a childless couple with jobs casual enough to be flexible, yet still paying enough to maintain a decent standard of living. Toward the end of this period, however, I began to get a restless feeling. Brought on, certainly, by friends and peers shaking themselves out of similar interims to return to school, but also by a gradual recognition within me of a specter of historical engagement. I don't recall the exact cause, but midway through the last decade, I began to come across, and then actively seek out, echoes and reminders of a city I once had lived in, but now seemed, in many ways, vanished.

9th and Main Streets, 1975
9th & Main Streets, 1975  (photo courtesy Capital City Development Corporation)

Looking at old newspaper and magazine articles, maps and photos and recalling memories dredged up from misty forgetfulness, I felt not just nostalgia for the Boise I grew up in, but a drive to understand it. To more fully account for the transformations I had witnessed, often without noticing. Like a ghost image flickering out of an antique  projector, there was another city behind this one, and behind that another faded skyline, and so on behind that and each succeeding one until there lay at the end of it all a collection of wood buildings clustered among a rough grid of dirt roads between a river and hills in the final years of the Civil War.

So it came to me that it wasn't enough to witness the changes of the city, nor only to participate by experiencing them. I wanted, somehow, to say something about them. It was apparent to me that the recent history of the city remained an open field, little studied and inadequately analyzed. I wanted to have a hand in writing that history, but hardly knew how to begin, or how to have anything I might produce even noticed, let alone taken seriously. It is rare, but there are occasions in life when we are visited by coincidence so fortuitous it takes on an uncanny character of the inevitable. In the winter of 2006, when these thoughts on the city and its history had been as clouds within my mind for several months, I received a note, seemingly from out of nowhere, from Dr. Todd Shallat of Boise State University asking if I was interested in a graduate fellowship. A fellowship, it turned out, tasked with the study of Boise's history.

I don't really know why, but somehow my 12 years in the wilds outside of academia had not wiped me completely from the minds of my former professors. When the call came, I was ready, and thanks to Dr. Shallat I came in from the cold and realized immediately that I'd returned to the place I always belonged. And so in the summer of 2007 I began graduate school one month after the birth of my first child, and graduated in the spring of 2010 weeks before the birth of my second. In between these milestones, I had the great good fortune to serve as the City Historian during the creation of the Boise City Department of Arts and History. Events such as these cannot but change one's life in essential ways, and at the end of it all, I have at last been able to make my desired contributions to the study of Boise's history.

One of which is contributing to this blog. I am pleased to join the illustrious company of my two fellow co-bloggers, both of whom I have had the privilege of working with on other projects, and are documentors of and participants in the ongoing historical development of this city and state in their own right. As this long-winded posting suggests, I do hope to use this platform to express some more personal and philosophical ruminations on the theory and practice of history and the individual's relation to it. Beyond that, however, I will write some more straightforward pieces illuminating aspects of Boise and Idaho's history. As I live in an old home myself, in a historic district, I'll also be writing about the challenges of maintenance and renovation faced by those who lack handy skills, money, or both. When spring finally comes around and I'm going outside more, I'll be posting occasionally about rambles in the historic North End. Lest this blog end up being all about me, I'll also introduce the readers to friends, colleagues and organizations in the history and preservation field, profiling the people and groups working to uncover and save our history and its remaining physical traces.

I may end up the wordiest of our PI blogging trio, but I hope our readers bear with me and keep up with all of our postings. We aim to generate a dynamic approach to our history and generate fresh enthusiasm and dialogue. The history of Idaho is still a field full of potential, open to new analysis and interpretation. In this blog you will read of new approaches and new beginnings to understanding and preserving the past of this great state.



Every now and then I would think about Tully Gerlach in whose company I spent many happy hours in Dr. Harbison's class and others. I am glad to find that you are settled into your perfect niche and wish you and your wife the best of everything! love, joni

Wordy words I love


You are wordy, in wonderfully word-loving ways. I can't wait to read more about your adventures, in particular, as a historic homeowner. It's fun to be blogging with you!


ps I might give you a run for your money on wordiness. Yikes (see my first post). :)

Tully's blog post

Like a Soviet double agent, Tully Gerlach comes in from the cold and becomes.......City Historian!    You da man Tully!   We appreciate all your work for the City of Boise and for the BAP.   You're a great example for our young folks.   Being a history "geek" pays off and leads to any number of exalted and celebrated positions!   We look forward to your future blogs.  

Kudos from the BAP!

Thanks, Doug! And I'm glad you caught the Cold War espionage reference. I'm a big LeCarre fan and the influence of his novels seeps into my life more than is probably healthy. But like any proper agent, my role as an "example" requires the judicious suppression of certain past details. Such as the extent of my engagement in high school history classes. But in those days, Boise High had nothing as inspired and flat-out awesome as the BAP to hook me in and inspire my dormant historical imagination.

Fair warning, Doug-- you might end up the subject of one of these posts before too long.

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