POCATELLO — Kyle Bascom dresses in attire common during the city's early days four days per week and tells small groups stories learned through his research of the local history.
His half-hour Living History Tours use the Pocatello Junction mock town site in Upper Ross Park as a backdrop and feature his singing, poetry and historical anecdotes.
Bascom, a 2019 Highland High School graduate, had his mission to Canada for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. He chose to participate in a church service mission as an alternative, and he's found a project that makes good use of the skills he acquired through high school theater.
Tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Tuesday through Saturday to paying customers of the Bannock County Historical Museum, 3000 Avenue of the Chiefs. Bascom leads the tours with Elder John Lunt every Wednesday through Saturday as groups show up at the museum. Two sister missionaries lead the tours on Tuesdays. He said the church also sends about a dozen volunteers every Wednesday to perform basic maintenance at the mock town site.
Tours started in mid-July and will continue through the end of August. Bascom said tours may continue into September to accommodate field trips by local fourth-graders, and he's already committed to offering the tours next summer, as well.
"I did a number of plays when I went to high school and really enjoyed doing that," Bascom said. "I saw this as a big opportunity to use my talents. I've played the piano for a long time and I get the chance to do that. I also get the chance to sing."
The tour starts at the replica railroad depot. Bascom explains that in 1873, Congress allowed the Utah and Northern Railway to build through the area. Due to the favorable grade, the railroad chose Red Rock Pass south of Downey.
Union Pacific bought out the railroad in 1878. The railroad stationed Joseph E. Edson here, making him and his wife the first full-time Pocatello residents, aside from Native Americans. Pocatello was incorporated as a village in 1889 and became a city in 1893.
At the mock saloon, Bascom plays ragtime music on the piano and tells the story of the famed Montpelier bank robbery on Aug. 13, 1896. Butch Cassidy and his accomplices stepped into a Montpelier saloon before robbing the local bank of between $5,000 and $15,000 in gold, silver and cash. A deputy pursued the gang on bicycle but was unable to catch their horses. One of the accomplices, Bob Meeks, was arrested a while later and sentenced to be incarcerated for 35 years. The stolen loot was never found.
The tour also includes the singing of Here we Have Idaho, which is the state song, and old-fashioned games of jacks and marbles with children. Children also learn to properly fold an American flag.
"It doesn't seem as if too many people know about this place," Bascom said of the mock town site. "I'll be honest, I didn't know about it until this summer. It's just my goal to kind of bring this place to life."