On the Cusp of Change

Story and Photos by Elise Barker

From our home on the West Bench in Pocatello, we have a view of Chubbuck. The two cities have always appeared indistinguishable to me (the lights twinkle with the same intensity on the northern border of Pocatello as they do at the southern border of Chubbuck) and I’m not alone in this perception.

One day before class, when I asked my composition students at Idaho State University what they thought of Chubbuck, a student named Joe Kramer laughed and said, “Chubbuck is like Pocatello 2.” It’s easy to see why people hold this perspective, considering that the original dividing line between the two cities was merely a wiggly ditch, which no longer exists. Mayor Kevin England of Chubbuck told me that Mayor Brian Blad of Pocatello jokes about adding a “Welcome to Pocatello” sign near the deli inside a department store near the borderline.

But lately, as I’ve tried to look at Chubbuck with open and accepting eyes, I’ve become more attuned to the subtleties of the view to the north from our place. I’ve noticed that the lights of Chubbuck do undergo a burst of intensity right on the border of Pocatello, at the intersection of Quinn and Yellowstone, where our mall and chain restaurants are clustered. Then, as Chubbuck expands northwards, the lights become more irregular, eventually fading into the darkness of farmland and sagebrush reservation land beyond.

I’ve heard people refer to Chubbuck as a “bedroom community” in relationship to Pocatello, but was a little disappointed when I looked up the term and discovered it simply means a residential area outside a larger city to which people commute. To the fanciful side of me, the image of a “bedroom community” conjured a vision of Chubbuck as a city comprising warm, cozy bedrooms, where everyone wears their slippers and jammies in communal comfort and congeniality. This certainly matches how Bessie M. Shrontz Roberts-Wright views the city in A History of Chubbuck (the only published history of Chubbuck). “I have never been in a town where the feeling of friendship is as unwavering and steadfast as I find it to be in Chubbuck,” she writes.

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Elise Barker

About Elise Barker

Elise Barker teaches English at Idaho State University. She is currently planning the second year of an intensive hands-on Harry Potter summer camp for kids ages eleven to seventeen through ISU’s Continuing Education. If she gets to the end of the day and hasn’t done something Instagram-worth, she rouses herself and creates a memory.

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