Little Known Facts About Twin Falls—Our Top Five
Everyone knows that Twin Falls is named after two twins who fell off their beds sometime in the 1800’s and bumped their heads (not true, drunk guy at Woody's, not true). I was once told there is a secret blue lake that flows underneath the area between Fred Myers and the Lynwood shopping center, thus the name “Blue Lakes Boulevard” (Not true either drunk guy at the Oasis, not true.) I even once heard that our little micropolitan community in the desert was the birthplace of sticky notes (that one I already knew was definitely not true, I saw 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion' too, drunk girl at 360’s). But aside from my associations with Cliff Clavin know-it-all-bar-types there are a few facts that you may or may not know about Twin Falls that you can use during your next “Did you know..” moment at the Pressbox or your next round of “Twin Falls Jeopardy”, whichever comes first...
The much celebrated godfather of irrigation wizardry, I.B. Perrine, may have founded the city of Twin Falls when he constructed Milner Dam, but it was actually members of a group led by Wilson Price Hunt who were the first white people to discover the area in 1811. Unfortunately Hunt’s year long float trip expedition to Oregon from Saint Louis came to a crashing halt when the group hit rapids on the Snake River near present day Murtaugh. One man died and they lost most of their supplies. Having known people who have lost everything from their iPhones to their car keys, even in the calmest parts of the river, I’m sure one of my bar friends has a 'Loch Ness Monster-like/Ancient Indian Curse' explanation for this phenomenon. Hunt’s party took it as a sign that they should walk the rest of the way to Oregon, but somewhere there is still some old-timer shaking his frail old head saying “You angered the snake god, white man, you angered the snake god.”
You’ve seen the photos, whether it was a field trip to the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center in the 4th grade or on one those “splash of color” Blip Printing/News Radio 1310 KLIX Bisbee photo calendars we used to give away to collectors who still have the complete years of 1989-2007 next to grandma’s family Bible, you’ve seen a Clarence E. Bisbee photo. Bisbee originally came to Twin Falls to help promote the area. A few black and white photos of I.B.’s orchard later he decided he liked the area so much he decided to stay and take pictures of everything. Everything! It didn’t matter what the occasion, from a birthday party to two guys standing near a wagon full of apples, if it happened in Twin Falls, Clarence took a picture of it. Bisbee and his wife opened a home studio and had great success until other photographers discovered they too could take black and white pictures of wagons, dirt roads and birthday parties. Bisbee and his wife were forced to sell their studio in the 1930’s during the depression, but like any true pioneer, he continued to take pictures up until his death in 1954. After he died, a bunch of businessmen bought the photos and started using them to make money. Today his photos are among the most prized possessions of Blip calendar collectors, lazy historian authors of books about the area and the Twin Falls Public Library. So the next time you see a Bisbee photo on a poster you can shake your head knowing that the famed “Clarence E. Bisbee” was in reality just another starving artist whose art has fallen victim to good ol’ commercialization.
Oh I know, I know, next to I.B. Perrine and Clarence Bisbee, no one person in modern history did more to put Twin Falls on the map then Evel Knieval. I feel almost blasphemous for even being the one to point it out, but in reality the famed dreams of eBay toy collectors everywhere was, in short, a snake oil salesman with a really cool motorcycle. Though the former insurance salesman from Montana had a motto that he “always kept his word”, the locals who were around Twin Falls in 1974 have kind of a different story. His Snake River Canyon jump was doomed from the beginning. One author points out that at the time the town had "21,000 people, 46 churches, 15 parks, and 14 negros” (Not exactly a hot spot of fame and fortune or a place ready and willing to suddenly be placed on the world stage by some guy wearing a sparkly red, white and blue jump suit). As soon as the Knieval camp came to town the stories began. Housewives were being raped, motorcycle gangs were about to over take the area, and there were even reports of--SHOCK--“rampant skinny dipping!” Aside from a few skinny dippers, most of the rumors were false, but to be on the safe side the sheriff at the time deputized 40 extra citizens to handle the pending anarchy. After the failed September 8th jump, (“You angered the snake god, white man, you angered the snake god.”), Evel and his camp packed up and left town leaving a trail of unpaid I.O.U.’s to those who helped out with security and construction. The dark side of Knieval doesn’t end there though. According to a book written by the promoter of the Twin Falls jump, Shelly Saltman, Knieval abused his wife, did a lot of drugs and beat his kids. In order to prove the allegations false, as soon as the book was published, Knieval jumped on a plane, arms and legs in casts, and beat the promoter with an aluminum baseball bat, leaving him to die. Fortunately, just like Evel’s trail of broken bones and broken promises, the Snake River Canyon jump site still exists, drawing hundreds of visitors like some redneck mecca to the area every year. Unfortunately it’s little more then an unglamorous pile of dirt, though perhaps Shelly Saltman and those who the now dead Knieval still owes money to, find that fact a fitting tribute.
Before the iPhone, before the iPod, before the 'uber hip' 'new-agey' genius bars with geeky teens who know way more then you, before the annoying "I’m a Mac/I’m a PC" commercials, before Steve Jobs was the god of every business major everywhere, even before the Macintosh itself, there was the commercial that astounded the world. Apple’s “1984” commercial is still considered the pinnacle of all television advertising. Directed by “Alien” and “Blade Runner” mastermind Ridley Scott, the message of the “1984” ad continues to resonate to nonconformists, tea party advocates and female athletes around the world. The 30-second spot was simple: a nameless women with a hammer in hand runs through an auditorium, filled with those who would one day read and memorize every word of Bill Gates' “The Road Ahead” book. On a big screen, a governmental black and white type figure is droning on about the evils of Individualism. Our runner is being followed by a group of armed men we assume to be the “thought police”. She runs up to the screen, smashes it, and in doing so gives birth to endless discussions of Apple vs. Windows internet flame wars forever. Except, no one saw the ad, at least not originally. The ad agency who came up with the world’s first Macintosh commercial knew they had gold in their film can, and they were going to air it during the Super Bowl. However, in order to win any awards for their brilliant creativity the rules stated that the ad agency had to air it on television BEFORE the end of 1983. Their solution? Find some unknown market out in the desert and put it on the air at some ungodly hour. In other words, air it in Twin Falls. It worked! KMVT got a pretty good spot rate for airing the ad at one o’clock in the morning. Those Twin Falls residents who were still up and watching snow at that time in the morning (remember this was 1983, before 24 hour television), got to see the world’s most groundbreaking ad ever, and Apple, well, it would become Apple.
The “six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon” game has nothing on Twin Falls. Everyone knows someone who was in “Breakfast of Champions.” The Kurt Vonnegut based piece of weird, yet, strangely beautiful film that is “Breakfast of Champions,” was filmed almost entirely in Twin and that meant they needed a lot of extras. From KEZJ’s Brad Weiser (Hazmat Suit Guy #3) to College of Southern Idaho’s Doug Maughn (Voice on TV) when Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, and Lucas Haas came to town in 1999 it seems everybody who had ever wanted to see themselves on the big screen got the chance. Bruce Willis himself believed in the project so much that he bought the rights to the book and put up most of the 8 million dollars it cost to make the film. He also apparently believed in Twin Falls so much that he chose the town to bring the story of has been sci-fi writer Kilgore Trout and cross-dressing Dwayne Hoover's Pontiac dealership to life. It’s “must see” if you want to see your neighbor or the current Best Western building on Blue Lakes, or if you’re just interested in seeing Haas playing a troubled lounge singer named ”Bunny.” Unfortunately, not many people seemed to want too. Critics hated it, most movie goers never heard of it and it certainly isn’t the type of flick that most Twin Falls residents have on their shelves, not even if they were in it, which they probably were.