Rick Davis of Rexburg shares his memories of Rexburg prior to the collapse of the Teton Dam on June 5, 1976. Learn more in the video player above. | Brian Howard, EastIdahoNews.com
REXBURG – If you could go back in time 45 years, Rexburg would look very different.
Many people have clear memories of the landscape and businesses that are now long gone. But the events of one day, in particular, have never been forgotten.
On June 5, 1976, the Teton Dam broke.
“I remember those days well,” Rick Davis of Rexburg tells EastIdahoNews.com. “There were friends everywhere whose businesses were ruined that day.”
Davis got word of the dam’s collapse and had about four hours to help family and friends move belongings and equipment to higher ground where it would be safe. Despite the panic from the unknown, Davis thought it was important to document the day with pictures.
“I went around and just kind of documented places — places that I grew up with as a child. Like this theater,” Davis says inside the Romance Theater at 2 East Main Street. “This theater I used to come to as a kid at 14 cents per ticket.”
Davis still has many of those photos and he recalls how many things have changed in Rexburg since then.
“The businesses that are where they are now versus what was there before — that’s interesting to see how that has changed,” says Davis. “There are businesses that have simply disappeared. There used to be a sawmill in Rexburg, for example. That’s long gone. I wish they were still here but, of course, that was a different economy then. That was before malls, that was before online shopping. So downtown had to change — had to morph in the process.”
Forty-five years after the dam’s collapse, Davis is hosting an event to share his photos and the memories behind them. He’s calling it “A Flood of Memories,” and it’s happening Saturday afternoon at the Romance Theater.
The event will begin at 2:25 p.m. — 45 years to the minute when the floodwaters from the Teton Dam hit Rexburg.
Davis says the presentation not only documents the flood damage, but also shows how the disaster brought the community together.
“I’m going to start with some pictures of the dam collapsing,” says Davis. “We’re gonna see (flood damage) and then the aftermath where we started to clean up. So a lot of debris and a lot of clean-up, a lot of mud.”
The Teton Dam collapsing. | Courtesy Rick Davis
Davis feels like it’s his responsibility to share his photos so others can know the history of what happened.
“History is life. We’ve got to remember this day,” Davis says. “Our job as the older generation is to teach the next generation facts, not fiction. So we need to preserve truth so the next generation can understand what people went through.”
Tickets are required for the event. The cost is $5. They can be obtained in advance at The Museum of Rexburg at 51 North Center Street. Proceeds benefit the ongoing preservation of historic buildings in Rexburg.
Courtesy Rick Davis
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