Who could forget the taste of smelter smoke?

My brother RaymondPert posted this yesterday, titled "Bringing Reality Into Being: I Grew Up In Miasma". He wrote about the pollution we lived with growing up in Kellogg because of the emissions from the Bunker Hill smelter.
I didn't know what it was like not having the smelter smoke in my life growing up. My strongest memory is playing on the playground at Sunnyside Elementary. Especially morning recess, because that is when it seemed the strongest. While running on the playground on a cool, crisp morning, you would see a dark cloud of smelter smoke hanging over the hills around Kellogg like a large smoke ring decending upon our town.
And you just took it for granted there would be a burning sensation in your throat as you played tag, or keep away, or hopscotch on the playground.
I was never really that physically fit as a child, but I do remember the one year I received the President's Physical Fitness certificate (no I didn't earn the award, just the certificate), and it was one of those cool, crisp valley mornings when I had to run around the field on the west end of the playground to get my time for the physical fitness test, and my throat really burned that morning.
It's funny the things you remember.
But it was just a part of my life. I grew up sitting in the chair in front of the big picture window in our living room on Cameron Avenue, and daily seeing, first the small smoke stack, and later, the two larger smoke stacks spewing forth the smoke that caused the hillsides to cease to produce anything green, and my throat to burn, and my valley to be assaulted with poison.
I remember dad joking about one of the Bunker Hill P.R. guys insisting it was just steam coming out of that stack.
My youngest daughter, Kiki Aru, is working on a documentary for History Day competition on the reforestation of the Silver Valley. She interviewed Ed Pommerening, who was the force behind the reforestation project.
He described the conditions that stunted the growth of the pine trees in the valley. He said when the smelter smoke would combine with the moist air, the two would combine to make a substance similar to battery acid. This would get on the small pine cones, and would destroy them so they couldn't reseed.
Even though the stacks have tumbled down, and "steam" no longer spews forth into the atmosphere, there are reminders. Last year, PKR took our dog for a walk up by the mine, and said he kicked up some dirt, and he could smell and taste the smelter smoke in the dust of the ground.
The EPA hasn't completely stripped it all away, from our landscape, or, more importantly, from our memories.

1 comment:

InlandEmpireGirl said...

for some reason the time i remember the smelter smoke being the worst was when we went down the "downstaircase" and walked through the breezeway at the high school after first period. i always burned out my lungs then.