Friday, July 1, 2011

Pocatello secret

I haven't mentioned it yet, but I had another reason to stop by Pocatello. Back in '43, when WWII was in full swing, my grandfather was working with the Ford Motor Company, who sent him and his whole family to Idaho to fix combat airplanes. And as you have already guessed, Pocatello is where my mother called home for about half a year and even started school in 1st grade (no kindergarten back then.... when did they start kindetgarten anyway, it sounds like some sort of LBJ program to me).

Truthfully, I didn't expect to find anything remaining from those days, and the Starbucks and McDonald's that lined the streets definitely reaffirmed my expectations. My mother, who was the age of my kids today, had only vague memories of the place. But she did remember the name of the motel where they stayed- "Lobbs Motor Court". A quick Goole Map search brought up precisely nothing.

So when we were buying tickets to get in to the Fort Hall Replica from a woman in my mother's generation, I blurted out questions about Lobbs and WWII, or something like that. I wasn't optimistic that she would be able to help (such a weird out-of-the-blue question was kind of like the Europeans who used to ask me if I knew their buddy from America, back when I lived in Germany).

After verifying that she had lived her whole life in Pocatello, I asked her if she had ever heard of 'Lobbs Motor Court'. The answer sort of like (and I am paraphrasing here) 'duh, of course, hasn't everyone heard of Lobbs Motor Court'.

I was excited by the answer, and started blurting out my family history to her. She cut me short and asked me what me mother's maiden name was, after which she retreated to a back room coming back with a Pocatello directory from the 1940s. She opened up to the 'A's, and showed me the following:

It was my grandfather's name, but at a strange address, and listed as working at a strange dry cleaner. Could this actually be him? I have no idea, but it is interesting to me that the only 'Albright' in Pocatello that year was named 'Henry'.

Then she flipped further through the directory, and found the following:

OK, that explains it. It turns out that "Lobbs" is really "Laabs", hence the null Google search. (I'd have really been impressed if my result had come back with "Did you mean 'Laabs'?")

Now it turns out that the woman I was speaking with went to school with the young Laab (who isn't really young anymore, I guess), and was able to tell me about the Pocatello schooling system, including the name of the school that my mother went to (which she could not remember). We drove around and found said places.

Here is where my mother first went to school, Jefferson School, now expanded multifold and renamed 'Irving Middle School'

This is just a few blocks away from Laabs. Shocking Mom, really.

I also went to the mystery address listed by candidate grandpa in the directory. It is now a parking lot

with an antique store nearby, which, incidentally, back in the day was just called a 'store'.

Here is a view of the older part of Pocatello.

Here is a picture of my grandfather holding my grandmother upside down. This is actually in Montana, and Montana is right next to Idaho, so this photo is actually quite relevant.

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