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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Veterans from Ketchum who lined up in October 1919 for a photograph were, from the left, Howard McPeters, Fred Povey (visitor), Eugene Flowers, John McCan, Russell Bonning, Bill Lombardina, Alwin Felton, George Venable, Joe Parks, Pete Lombardina, Clarence Bonning, Frank Venable, Tom Reed, Ray Redman, Joe McPheters, W.H. Reynolds (Civil War, S.), Will Parks, Arthur Winslow (Spanish-American War), Ed Obenchain, W. M. Price (Civil War, N.), Artie Obenchain, John Parks, Herb McPheters (Spanish-American War), Norman Wilson, Elfred Obenchain, Ernest Brass (Spanish-American War), Oscar Griffith, Walter LeFlang, Roy McCoy, Albert Griffith, Capt. Miller S. Benedict (visitor). Photo courtesy of Jeanne Flowers


Remember the boys who went ‘Over There’

Ketchum sent more men to World War I than any other U.S. town

For the Ketchum/Sun Valley
Heritage and Ski Museum

Memorial Day weekend is a good time to visit the Ketchum/Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum and view the exhibit of memorabilia and photos of World War I veterans from Ketchum on display there. After World War I, the U. S. government issued the town of Ketchum a national award in recognition for having sent the greatest number (per capita) of men to serve in that war in the U. S. from one town. After the armistice a representative came from Washington, D.C., to present a flag and plaque to the town.

As reported by Josie McCoy on Oct. 8, 1919, in the Wood River Times, there was a huge celebration in Ketchum when all of the boys finally arrived home. It included a program at the Odd Fellows Hall, with songs and recitations, and an address by George J. Lewis, a pioneer citizen. There was also a parade, which included Civil War and Spanish-American War veterans; a banquet; dancing until the wee hours to the music of two different bands; and a midnight supper. Photos were taken of the parade and of each of the Ketchum soldiers.

The museum’s current exhibit is comprised of items donated by Mary Jane (Griffith) Conger, Jeanne Flowers, and Phil Obenchain. The items belonged to Oscar and Bert Griffith, Artie Obenchain, and Eugene Flowers. There are portraits of Bert and Oscar Griffith, Eugene Flowers, and Artie Obenchain, as well as a banquet photo of Artie Obenchain’s company at Vancouver, Wash., and two group photos of all of the Ketchum veterans.

The Flowers collection includes memorabilia and photos of Eugene Flowers who was in the Ambulance Corps 157 stationed near Verdun, France. On display are his helmet, overcoat, and jacket, as well as numerous postcards from France, a sewing kit, dog tags, belt pouch, first-aid kit, a medal presented by the City of Ketchum, and various souvenirs from France. Most of the picture postcards in the collection are not of the bucolic, French countryside variety. Rather they depict the ravages of war, one being entitled "The dead on the battlefield."

The Griffith collection includes a helmet, Bibles, a banner, a book of postcards, portraits of Albert and Oscar, and more. A notebook contains original letters home by Ketchum pioneers Oscar and Bert Griffith as well as discharge papers for Oscar Griffith.

Memorabilia and photos of World War I veterans from Ketchum are on display at the Ketchum/Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum. Photo courtesy of Jeanne Flowers

Letters home provide perhaps the most revealing and sometimes humorous insights into the experiences of the Ketchum veterans. In a letter dated April 29, 1918 to Eugene from Artie Obenchain, residing at the Vancouver YMCA, Artie laments that: "Well, Eugene, they are trying to make a cook out of me now. I don’t know what success they will have, but I have been cooking about a week now. It isn’t such a bad job." As was discovered from many letters home, Eugene did not arrive in France until the war was nearly over. So his duties were chiefly routine: assisting with care of the wounded, transporting patients, cooking and maintaining hospital facilities etc. Though conditions were atrocious, in his letters to his mother, Addie, Eugene seldom complains of hardships other than the endless rain and the absence of "sweets." Oscar Griffith of the Corps of Engineers, who arrived in France during the fighting, writes on Sept. 23, 1918: "My but we get tired of the mud and rain… It is a regular Fourth of July here all the time. The big guns going and shrapnels bursting but still one never notices it much..."

Perhaps Ketchum’s most famous resident, though not in Ketchum at that time, was Ernest Hemingway. In WWI he volunteered as a Red Cross ambulance driver and was the first American wounded on the Italian front. His experiences of the war and events surrounding it form the basis for his 1929 novel "A Farewell to Arms." More about Hemingway’s life may be learned from the museum’s Hemingway exhibit.

The museum is located on 1st and Washington in Ketchum in Forest Service Park. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Call 726-8118 for more information.


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