The Tendoy Store


by Clay Scott
Photos by Clay Scott

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February 1, 2012
Tendoy, Idaho

CLAY SCOTT: You’re listening to Mountain West Voices. I’m Clay Scott. I was driving through the Lemhi Valley south of Salmon, Idaho, with the Beaverhead and Bitterroot Ranges to the east and the Lemhi Range to the west, and I pulled over to read a plaque commemorating the birthplace of Sacajawea, the Shoshone woman who played a crucial role in the Lewis and Clark expedition. Next to the plaque was the single building that comprises the entire business district of Tendoy, Idaho – the Tendoy Store and Post Office. Sitting at the cash register, behind racks of jerky and candy and potato chips, was the petite, smiling, white-haired woman who’s run this store seven days a week for the last 63 years.

VIOLA ANGLIN: I’m Viola Anglin, and this is Tendoy, Idaho. I moved here July 1st of 1948. I love the place. Love my mountains. And I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be.

SCOTT: Before she came to Tendoy, Viola lived with her family in the little mining community of Leadore. She taught school during the day – English and History. Then, every afternoon after school was out, she went to work at the railroad and telephone office. She had to stay at her post until the night train crossed the pass to the east.

ANGLIN: If they were on time there it would be 11:20 at night…and I can still hear Eddie Lambert’s voice say, “Miss Barrett, this is Eddie Lambert, reporting through the tunnel.” And that meant that they were through the tunnel on the Montana side, and I was able to close the switchboard, and throw the switches to connect Salmon to Dillon, Montana – Ernestine – and I could go home, which was about a mile and 7/8ths. And if it was a cold, wintery night, up at old Junction, my dad would be outside to walk me home. Good memories, all of them.

SCOTT: Viola’s father had lost a hand in a ranch accident, but he still worked several jobs during the Depression. Not only that, but at a time when his own family had to tighten their belts, he provided lodging and food and health care for old and needy people in the community. And when they passed away, he made sure they had a dignified burial.

ANGLIN: He dug all the graves, he attended the funerals, after which he went back to the cemetery with his friends, and together they buried the dead, covered the graves, and consoled the grieving people. And helped to the best of their ability. And all of these are true stories, and that’s the kind of thing that people did in the old days.

SCOTT: Viola sawTendoy for the first time in 1938. Her-husband-to-be decided to impress her by taking her in his new car across the steep, rocky, rutted road that crossed the Lemhi Pass.

ANGLIN: My future husband brought me down across that pass in a new Buick. And that pass was something else. When I come across the pass I saw the headwaters of the Columbia River which flows to the Pacific Ocean, and on the Montana side I had straddled the headwaters of the Missouri River, which flows to the Atlantic. I wasn’t sure that anybody that would bring a new Buick across that pass…I wasn’t sure I wanted to marry him or not.

SCOTT: Viola did marry him after all, and they spent several years in mining towns around Idaho, Montana and Utah before settling in Tendoy in 1948. From the time she opened the store for the first time, Viola says she felt like she’d come home.

ANGLIN: The store is my life’s blood. I love it. I couldn’t stay home in four walls. I’ve got to see the people and visit with them. I love the store.

ANGLIN: (TO CUSTOMER WALKING IN THE DOOR): Hi, Honey!

CUSTOMER: Hi!

ANGLIN: How are you doing?

CUSTOMER: Fine, how’ bout you, Vi?

ANGLIN: I’m fine, honey.

ANGLIN: I’m too old at 92 years of age to keep books on anybody…so I have signs up that says NO CREDIT. Because I can’t do that work anymore.

SCOTT: Do you make exceptions for anybody?

ANGLIN: I try not to. Because I love ‘em all.

ANGLIN (TO CUSTOMER) Did you have to go to work this morning?

CUSTOMER: No, I got to stay home today. Bye-bye!

ANGLIN: Bye, honey!

SCOTT: You’ve been listening to Viola Barrett Anglin at the Tendoy Store in Tendoy, Idaho. This is Mountain West Voices. Our series is produced in association with the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, a regional studies and public education program of the University of Montana. To see images of today’s story, and to listen to and download dozens of archived stories from around the Rocky Mountain West, go to mountainwestvoices.org. I’m Clay Scott