Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chicken Dinner ... more than a meal ...

Marlene Terry
I guess not everyone is curious about why a street, avenue or boulevard was given a certain name. But there are those names that no matter how you try, you just can't assign an easy explanation to. ... And so ...  you wonder.

Take the Treasure Valley in Idaho, with streets in Boise, Emmett, Caldwell, Meridian and Nampa, for instance. Ever hear of Frozen Dog Road, Black Cat Road, Old Penitentiary Road, Freeze Out Road or Chinden?
There's a wonderful, surprising story behind every one. And I promise we'll get to them as time goes by. Right now though I want to focus on the street that grabbed my attention shortly after we arrived in the valley. 
Never had heard a name quite like the one given to a road out in the sticks, so to speak, of the Caldwell/Nampa area. And I don't know how  many times I've driven down "Chicken Dinner Road," and made up my own version of what must have happened for the road to be named that.
I was close on a few of my guesses, But nothing equals the fun facts of the REAL story.

As in so many great tales the origin of the name began long ago. Back in the 1930s when C. Ben Ross was serving as governor of Idaho.

Back then, the governor's close friends, Morris and Laura Lamb, lived along the then unnamed road.
Mrs. Lamb was a renowned cook, and the governor, who enjoyed dinners there, was especially fond of her fabulous fried chicken ... not to mention her wonderful homemade rolls and apple pie.

It had to be during the winter months, I think. You know, when dirt roads were wet and muddy and getting from the governor's home to the Lamb's home, was an unpleasant process. 
I'll bet it was then the conversation between Mrs. Lamb and Ross heated up.

First Mrs. Lamb complained about the pitiful state of roadway outside her house.
The governor, because of his frequent trips there, was no stranger to the conditions she spoke of. And probably because he also wished for an easier route himself, he struck a deal with her.
If she could talk to the appropriate officials and convince them to grade and gravel the road, he told her, he would make sure it was oiled.

The rest is history.

Mrs. Lamb got her part of the deal done. And the governor reciprocated with the oil.

Now close your eyes and imagine, miles of dirt roads out in the valley, barren and unkempt for years. In the midst of it all was one stretch oiled, the part that just happened to run in front of the Lamb's home. 
Why is it IT graded, graveled and oiled? I'm sure folks wondered. And with everyone adding a little more to what they knew, the story became a topic for conversation ... and laughter.

Is it any wonder then, that one day (the day after Halloween to be exact) the Lamb's woke up to see the words "Lamb's Chicken Dinner Avenue," painted in big bright letters on the freshly oiled surface of the road?

Other accounts also agree that children passing by the Lamb's home in the school bus every day, joined in the fun by chanting the words, "chicken dinner, chicken dinner, chicken dinner," through open windows.

... And with all that attention to one of the only oiled roadways around ... is there anyone out there who is really surprised that the name "Chicken Dinner" stuck?

... Me either!

♦ Hope you'll let me share your stories and photos here at my new residence "In a Nutshell." Email me at nutshellstories@gmail.com.