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Looking back: Man dies from food poisoning, Major League Baseball player visits Idaho students and teen kidnapped twice

Looking Back

IDAHO FALLS — is looking back at what life was like during the week of Nov. 14 to Nov. 20 in east Idaho history.


BLACKFOOT — Rattlesnakes as a “marketable commodity” quickly “leaped to the foreground” at the state department of agriculture, the Blackfoot Idaho Republican said on Nov. 14, 1919.

A company with laboratories in Cleveland, Ohio, wanted to “reap a rattlesnake harvest in the state” and sent in an “urgent request for a snake crop report.”

The message explained that members of the company wanted to use the reptiles for manufacturing rattlesnake oil, which they’d sell for $2.50 an ounce. The company manufactured salves, balms and liniments, with rattlesnake oil being one of the ingredients.

“Would you kindly inform me what part of the state is mostly infested with rattlesnakes and how many rattlesnakes do you judge to the best of your knowledge are in the state,” the letter reads. “We have formed a company to catch rattlesnakes and therefore intend to send men out to catch these snakes.”

It continues, “Any information you can give on this subject will be greatly appreciated. Also, what month of the year is best for catching these snakes in your state?”

The local paper said agricultural experts couldn’t find a crop or market report on rattlesnakes in Idaho. The letter was forwarded to the state game warden, “assuming snakes, not being domestic creatures, must come under his department.”


ASHTON — An Ashton man died from food poisoning, the Rexburg Standard wrote on Nov. 19, 1946.

H. Woodrow Larsen died in a Salt Lake City hospital from botulism, a rare but deadly type of food poisoning, according to the paper. Tests received from Boise confirmed this was also the cause of his mother’s death two weeks earlier.

“The poison was attributed to some home-canned spinach which Mrs. Larsen, Woodrow and Mr. Hyrum Larsen had eaten,” The Rexburg Standard stated. “However, Mr. Larsen ate just a minute quantity of the food and has not had any effects from the disease.”

The two deaths “brought warnings” from health authorities in Idaho and Utah for people to be “extremely careful when eating home canned foods.” They said vegetables should always be canned with a pressure cooker and to also boil them for at least 20 minutes before serving home-canned foods.


RIGBY — A former Idaho baseball pitcher who played in the major leagues was going to speak at schools in east Idaho.

The Rigby Star said on Nov. 16, 1961, Vern Law would speak at Rigby Junior and Rigby High Schools on “citizenship and how to beat the Yankees.”

“Law, perhaps is best known for his courage as he pitched two and one-half games against the New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series with an injured and painfully swollen ankle that grew steadily worse,” the article explains. “His wins contributed heavily to Pittsburg’s first Championship in 35 years.”

Over the span of 12 school days, he was going to speak to more than 30,000 students across Idaho in four to six assemblies daily at Idaho secondary schools and colleges.

The plan was to have Law fly by charter airplane to schools in Driggs, Arco, Jackson and Afton, Wyoming.

“In the event of snow, the students and townspeople will assist in removing the snow from the airstrip so his plane can land,” the local paper said.

Law, who played high school baseball at Meridian, received the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in the majors in 1960.


POCATELLO — A 14-year-old Pocatello girl was kidnapped for the second time by the same man, the Idaho State Journal reported on Nov. 16, 1976.

It was unclear at the time the article was published where Jan Broberg was at. Local law enforcement sources indicated they thought the teenager’s “life is still in jeopardy.” But FBI special agent Clark F. Brown said Broberg had reportedly been in contact with her family, and there was “no indication she had been harmed.”

“Extradition proceedings were started against a 40-year-old former Pocatello man charged with first-degree kidnapping in connection with Broberg’s early August disappearance,” the paper said.

Robert Berchtold was arrested at a Salt Lake trailer court on a federal warrant charging flight to avoid prosecution. He told authorities in Salt Lake he’d fight extradition to Idaho.

Garth Pincock, Bannock County prosecuting attorney, said Broberg was last seen Oct. 3 between Salt Lake and Ogden, Utah.

“This is the second time Berchtold has been charged with kidnapping the Broberg girl,” the paper wrote. “He pleaded guilty to a federal kidnapping charge in the 1974 disappearance of Ms. Broberg.”

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