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Nostalgic Eagle: Three Families Give Thanks to Their Sleepy Home Town

Over the river, and through the wood, to Grandfather’s house away! We would not stop for doll or top, for ‘tis Thanksgiving Day.

 

Lydia Maria Child penned the poem, Over the River and Through the Wood. Her trek across woodland and farmland rings familiar to the families of Eagle’s past. Though change has come and built Eagle into a city of nearly thirty thousand, the old town feel remains.

The bright oranges, reds, and yellows in Merrill Park reflect the sunrise and sunsets that come so quickly this time of year. The leaves are crisp, crunching underfoot, as passers-by stroll with their warm jackets and scarves tied neatly to keep them warm. It’s Thanksgiving! It’s the season to sit comfortably and reflect upon those things that make each of our lives have meaning.

Nancy and Alei Merrill cherished the once sleepy little town of Eagle. Nancy worked on the Merrill farm when she met Galan Merrill. They married and moved into a little home next door and began raising their family.

As the town began to grow into a city, Nancy knew that it was essential to maintain the feel of the country. The open spaces, the setbacks, the rerouted highway, are all there by design. They were included so that new residents are welcomed, and long-timers comforted, with that same sleepy feeling of home. Nancy was involved in much of the open-space preservation due to her time spent serving the Eagle community as a planner, a city councilwoman, and mayor. Eagle residents are able to enjoy her legacy of parks to play in and pathways to stroll on, especially during the display of color in early November.

Alei speaks thankfully about the open space she had as a child in Eagle. Riding her horse around town was therapeutic:

“I used to ride my horse through Eagle, I would go to Orville’s and say hi, get a snack, pick up a few things for my dad at Evans Lumberyard, and circle back along the riverbank to the farm. I would pass neighbors and friends along the way. There didn’t seem to be a sense of urgency or time.”

She tells of riding her horse along the riverbank and through cornfields that stood where the connector is now. The freedom she had to escape was priceless. She is appreciative that the downtown area is still so familiar. Orville Jackson’s, the old hotel, the Church that is now Rembrandt’s, the old museum, these places of history still ring true today, even with their changes.

Forty years ago, the Benedetto family lived and played along the banks of Dry Creek. The children built dams and discovered snakes. They rode their trikes down a dirt lane without any worry of traffic. Stephanie, their mom, said, “We were our own Little House on the Prairie back then.”

Stephanie is thankful for her family and that her two daughters stayed close. Every year they gather for their traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Though the festivities have grown with marriages and grandchildren, they still feel the same sense of tradition. She said, “It doesn’t feel like the holidays unless we spend it together.”

Lacy (Benedetto) Hahn described a family tradition of great food and family coming together. Thanksgiving is the kick-off for her family’s Christmas. Shortly after Thanksgiving, they head up to the mountains to find their special tree.

Lacy is grateful for growing up in a community where open spaces are maintained to reflect the Eagle of earlier days. She said,

“I am thankful every day that I am able to raise my children in the same environment, same small town feeling that I was raised with. [I remember] the annual fall carnival that [Eagle Hills Elementary] would hold where families and teachers gather to celebrate the new school year playing games, winning prizes, and sharing donated sweet treats. It felt like you knew everyone, and despite our differences, we were all part of a big community family, just happy to be in each other’s presence.”

Mike, Pat, and Joe Palmer’s parents moved to Eagle over forty years ago. All three of them speak of the same thing: community. They remember a small-town feel with good people all around them. Their father, Chuck Palmer, was the Sherriff of Ada County for twelve years. Mike recalls his father flying his airplane and landing it in their field. He said, “At the time, most of the neighbors didn’t care. I know that today if you tried to land in your pasture, there would be serious objections.”

Pat Palmer remembers the streets of Eagle before there were traffic lights. He said, “State Street was two lanes through town. We raised hay and hauled it to Evans lumber to use their scale. It was so close to Eagle road you almost ran it over when you came to the stop sign.”

Pat is thankful that through all of Eagle’s growth, the city has maintained the beautiful landscaping.

Joe Palmer is thankful for the sleepy little town in which he grew up. He remembers everyone caring for each other. He recalls an unforgettable memory:

“Every year, the volunteer fire department held an auction to fundraise for their burnout fund. Everyone in town was there. The citizens would bid on items [higher than] their actual value. The entire community was incredibly supportive of the cause, because we were ultimately supporting each other.”

Together, these families paint a picture of a small town that took care of them, and each other, as it grew into what it is today. They spoke of the city and their love of the nostalgic old buildings. Orville Jackson’s was a vital stomping ground, and though it has changed, the facade remains. They all want to see the historic downtown preserved, just like their open spaces.

Nancy Merrill said, “We should all be thankful for where we live and how we were raised. Thankful for those you love who gather around you. We’re all people. We all have something to give.  It’s time to start giving back.”