I said, “Dad, don't you have some slides or something?”
And he said, “Daughter, dear, you know not what you ask.”
It turns out that her father, Audus “Red” Helton, had thousands of slides and films he had taken of Idaho in the 1950s and 60s. They were shot while he traveled the state as a plant pathologist and professor for the University of Idaho, and during family trips into the backcountry.
“I needed a camera right from the beginning to record the shape and size of symptoms in the leaves,” says Red.
“I started taking them up and holding them up to the light, and I knew,” said Helton. “I mean, I knew in seconds. It's gold.”
For her, the images represented a bygone era that shouldn’t be forgotten, one in which families hiked, camped, rode horses and talked together, without the need for technology.
“We didn't drive Winnebagos and big huge rigs to go camping with satellite dishes,” she says. “We carried our stuff in, you know, and we walked. Let’s not forget this little piece of history when we used to gather our sticks in the woods and build our own little fires.”
“I have this feeling that if we knew our history better we might be smarter,” says Rifka. “I think the art of historical storytelling, multimedia with music, is really a powerful experience.”
Helton projects the photos on a screen while she sings and plays the piano and guitar. She has also turned some of the images into notecards, and enlarged versions of many of the photos are also hanging in the Glenns Ferry Historical Museum.
We're still looking for more stories for the show, so if you know of other Idahoans who are doing their part to be “history keepers,” especially preserving stories of the Idaho outdoors, please let us know.
For his part, Red is proud of his daughter's efforts to save and share his photos.
To watch “History Keepers: My Father's Idaho,” click here.
For more information on Rifka Helton's project, click here.