By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Tales from potato country
Placeholder Image

BLACKFOOT, Idaho — All across the countryside are unique little museums paying tribute to one thing or another.

In Toccoa’s old train depot, the Currahee Military Museum is largely dedicated to the “Band of Brothers” of the 101st Airborne who trained there in World War II.

In Cedartown, the old train depot is a welcome center with a museum dedicated to native son Sterling Holloway. For those who may be old enough to remember, Holloway was the first voice of Winnie the Pooh. He will always be the real voice of Pooh.

Holloway also played the peddler, Bert Miller, in an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Bert came to town with his wares and raised the ire of crusty store owner Ben Weaver, who was played by Will Wright. Bert is eventually bought out by Ben and invited to join the store’s staff.

My travels recently took me to Idaho and I stopped in Blackfoot, which is about halfway between Pocatello and Idaho Falls. I’m sure that clears up the location.

In the heart of downtown Blackfoot is the Idaho Potato Museum, which is in a former train depot of the Oregon Short Line Railroad.

Potatoes, as you might guess, are big business in Idaho. It even says so on their license plates.

Most of the potatoes grown in Idaho are within a stone’s throw of Blackfoot. Southeastern Idaho is potato country. You can even see them growing on the edge of town.

The folks in the potato business clearly have a sense of humor. One of the companies that makes all sorts of equipment for potato handling is called Spudnik, a little play on the name Sputnik, the Russian satellite that launched the space race in the late 1950s.

The museum features several pieces of Spudnik equipment as well as a Farmall tractor that looks like it also came out of the ’50s.

There is a painted image of Marilyn Monroe wearing a potato sack dress. Let’s just say it fit her very well.

The world’s largest potato chip has been preserved under glass in the museum, but it has seen better days. Outside, a giant baked potato is complete with a pat of butter that looks like it would be ready to melt. My wife took my picture standing beside it.

The museum is also home to the Idaho Potato Hall of Fame. The names all sound like men who could have well been Idaho born and bred. One name stood out: Masa Tsukamoto, who was inducted in 2010.

The name was enough to arouse my curiosity so I looked him up on the Internet. Tsukamoto was born in Pocatello to Japanese immigrants. He graduated from Pocatello High in 1943 and began his own successful farming operation a decade later. He was also an inventor of several products still used in potato production.

He died in 2009, and was honored posthumously by Gov. Butch Otter. He also worked to preserve the internment camp where residents of Japanese decent were held during World War II. It doesn’t say, but he likely was among those.

Tsukamoto was truly a son of Idaho who gave back to his state and community in many ways. Blackfoot, Idaho, is a better place because of him.

I’m glad I stopped to visit.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

Regional events