History Repeating: Remembering Rupert Square

Norvin Dickson recalls the owner of Daly’s Grocery Store as a “big heavy-set guy. He must have weighed 300 pounds.”


RUPERT – The People’s Market, Culley Woolford Inc., Buttcane Furniture, Carter Cleaners and Tailors.

All made up the Rupert Square during the 1930s. And all advertised on a backdrop used by the Jackson Mormon Church. At the time, the church badly needed such a device for its productions and asked merchants to pay $2 to have their names emblazoned on the backdrop. An artist volunteered to paint the ads on the backdrop for free.

In the center of the backdrop is picture of a winding road running around what’s assumed to be the Snake River. The old Ford dealership, the Minidoka County Motor Company, and the precursor of Goode Motor, advertises on a sign along the road.

You may have noticed the old backdrop as you walked into the history building during the annual Minidoka County Fair. The backdrop was given to the Minidoka County Fair Board several years ago by a family that discovered it after turning the old church into a home.

Long-time Rupert resident, Norvin Dickson, 91, visited the building Monday and fondly recalled the business owners who bought advertising on the screen. He especially remembered his uncle Lou Dickson’s People’s Market

“It was my Dad’s brother’s store. He started it in the 1920s. My parents shopped there,” he said.

He also recalled Buttcane Furniture. As a newlywed, Dickson visited the store sorely in need of some furniture. He had only $7 in his pocket.

“I was the brokest guy in the country,” Dickson recalled.

One of the Buttcane brothers solved the problem.

“He said ‘I know your Dad. You can have anything in the store. I bought a couch for $3. It wasn’t new; it was pretty tired,” Dickson said.

And then there was Daley’s Grocery Store.

“The owner was a big heavy-set guy. He must have weighed 300 pounds,” Dickson said.

H.P. Lewis owned Potatoes, Beans and Seeds of Rupert. Lewis was an exceptionally tall man.

“He always wore a suit. We used to call him ‘Mr. High Pockets,’” he said.

Joe George, “The Tire and Battery Man” sold and repaired Bosch Radios.

“He was an ornery rascal. He liked to go to the pool hall and give free advice to people. He gave some advice to one guy who didn’t like it. Joe George picked up a chair and threw it over his head. He put the man in the hospital, and he got put in jail for a while,” Dickson said.

Dickson recalled visiting the Wilson Theatre that also advertised on the backdrop. It cost just 10 cents to go to the show.

“Well, a dime used to be pretty big then,” he said.

Dickson often delivered handbills advertising for the shows.

“I got two free tickets into the show,” Dickson said.

He also recalled sneaking into the Wilson on occasion.

“We got through the coal shoots into the back, crawled under the curtains and watched the show for nothing,” he confessed.

The Rupert Police eventually put an end to it.

“The last time we did that, the lights came on (catching us) and two deputies said ‘there will be no more of this’,” Dickson said.

Ed Schoenhal owned Auto Body and Fender Shop. During the war, he had the only new truck in Idaho for sale. Dickson and his father hauled milk for a Jerome Co-Op and needed the truck for work.

“You had to apply for it. I had my name in for a new truck. I had to pay 17 months storage on the truck. It was 1941, and it cost me $1,700. It broke me and my Dad both,” he recalled.

Also on the Square was the Rupert Drug Company, The Rexall Store. At one time, the store gave away 12 Kodak Box Cameras, and, Dickson received one such camera. Dickson also recalled Whitehead Furniture, the Boise Payette Lumber Company and D.L. Carlson Coal and Seed that gave away free calendars every year.

“My Mom always sent me in once a year for a calendar. Mr. Carlson was a very fine old gentleman. He was quite a credit to the community,” Dickson said.

Dickson recalled the owner of Rupert Electric Company named Victor who sold everything from radios to garden supplies.

“At one time he was a probate judge,” he said.

And then there was the Rupert Bakery.

“The owner would sell us a whole sack full of bakery stuff for a dime,” he said.

This article was originally printed Aug. 13, 2009.

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