A SKATE STORY                                    

        I know its lame to relive and glorify our high school years, and I hope this TidyBowlDays site doesn’t appear to be a desperate act of an aging reminiscer, a person who peaked in the 3 years that were high school. Nothing could be further from the truth, for me I feel like I survived it and what was going on in my life the best way I knew how. As a skater, stoner, creative type in high school, I was obviously not a part of the popular kids world, the jocks, the cheerleaders, the academics who excelled and were thinking about their future. My world revolved around Skateboarder magazine, how I was going to get to Arden’s at lunch every day, and what skate images I would print in the darkroom during photo class that day. I guess we were inspired to record our core group of skaters at the Tidy Bowl, and for 1978 we had a strong group of talented skaters to photograph. We didn’t have yearbooks with team, or even club photos, the only record we had of our scene is one that we made, ourselves. Todd Huff, Tony Minas, Eric Straubhar, and I created this archive of images over the course of a 5-year period. Remember this was before DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY, everything we shot we developed, and printed ourselves in a darkroom, no cell phones/w cameras, no uploading images to our Facebook or Twitter. Thanks to Capital High’s dark room, and Stan Tromberg (photo teacher) who used to say, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I pondered exactly what this meant as I was getting high in the darkroom. I had been shooting and developing my own images since I was a 7th grader at Hillside Jr. High, it all came pretty natural for me. At the time, skating was very different than other mainstream, supported activities or sports, and by that I mean parental support, school support, society in general. No one really knew about it or cared for that matter, everybody thought it was just another fad that would fade; they were wrong. Which made it even more our own unique thing.

        For me, the older I get, the more I realize how special those days were, and how lucky I was to be a part of it. I can’t talk about all of this without also mentioning what inspired us to be skaters—in the mid 1970’s, it was CALIFORNIA!!!! DOGTOWN, TONY ALVA, JAY ADAMS, SHOGO KUBO, STACEY PERALTA, BOB BINIAK, SKATEBOARDER MAGAZINE, CRAIG STECYK,GLEN FRIEDMAN, LED ZEPPILIN, TREX, SABBATH, VAN HALEN, DEVO, JUDAS PRIEST, SEX PISTOLS, TALKING HEADS, etc., w/o these skaters, photographers, magazines, and bands, the skaters from Boise would never have even existed. This was happening all over the U.S., there were pockets of skaters that were just as inspired, just as committed, and just as accomplished, if not better. In 1977, all real skaters knew that at that time there was nothing cooler happening in the world than Tony Alva and Dogtown!

        In 1976, I was a Sophomore at Capital High School, a typical conservative mainstream mega school. I had been athletic throughout my life, playing organized baseball for 9 years by then, I even played ball for Capital that year. I loved baseball and I was a good boy. But that year something happened, I was good at skating, I worked at it, skating with buddies Todd Huff, Tony Minas at the wave (Lucky Peak Reservoir one-sided concrete overspill) or on Selkirk Road in the Highlands. This was before vertical skating was even a possibility. I met Bob and Mike Neal, Brian Schroeder, and a couple of other dudes from Boise High School named Bob Harper and Brian Small. I quickly belonged to a new small group of guys that skated together as much as possible. I was drawn to skating for so many reasons, it was unique, fun, dangerous, creative, and it required a tenacity to work at maneuvers over and over again until I wouldn‘t slam the concrete. That summer so much happened, the skate team I was on (Budget Tapes and Records) was asked to be a part of a professional skateboard demonstration from California at Bronco Stadium. We were stoked. As it turned out all they did was have us come out and lay down next to each other so Brad Logan (Logan Earth Ski Pro) could jump over us—it was lame. Although after the demo we got to hang out with them and smoke pot, we also invited them to skate a local ramp called the Graybar ramp with us. At this point, we had only been skating the wave, and some shitty ramps, and the Graybar ramp was this cobbled together plywood deathtrap that Mike Fortin jerry-rigged onto the back of his Chevy p/u. He had cleverly designed it so he could back up the truck behind the Graybar asphalt bank, and moronically create another 8 feet of unstable wall to ride. When the pros from California showed up to skate the famous Graybar ramp, they were speechless and quietly declined, while the spud boys ripped the ramp. That was the same summer I was introduced to WEED, it was the 1970s and everyone was getting high, even some of our teachers at Capital High smoked pot. I instantly became a zealot and believed I had found a new purpose for living. From that point on I didn’t care about anything except skating, girls, and getting high. I always struggled to feel comfortable at Capital, it was such a mainstream, conservative institution that promoted a really depressing form of Private Idaho society. Sadly, I never played baseball again, and I sailed through high school, stoned and doing the bare minimum of academic work, still achieving a 3.5 gpa. I realize today that this maybe wasn’t the best choice I’ve ever made, and that my new life of staying HIGH, and living to skate and party was way to insulate and numb myself from a dark, alcoholic force that was devastating my own family’s life, the force that was my father. Looking back I also realize that even though I was a part of this group of skaters, I never really felt a part of any group, I always felt like an outsider, an individual just trying to get through what was going on around me.


        Another huge influence on all of us at the time was a young Californian who had just moved to Boise from Santa Ana, California, his name was Bill Zuehl. I met Bill at Ann Morrison park one summer day, Bill was 26, and old dude and he had a coffee can full of the best bud we had ever smoked. He told us all about the skate scene in L.A., he had also worked for Lazer Trucks, and skated quite a few California skateparks. As it turned out, Bill was the brains behind Boise’s first vertical ramps and half-pipes, he knew how to build a round transition out of wood. He also had a big green van that was perfect for hauling plywood and lumber. We all wanted to build a half pipe, but nobody had the money to invest in the lumber. So it was decided that Bill Zuehl, Mike Fortin, Bob Harper, and I would start late night stealth missions to steal the wood from construction sites around Boise. Of course Mike, Bob, and I were so excited to get to go on these fantastic missions, we wore all black and Vans, and were laughing non-stop. Billy on the other hand was always telling us to shut up and be quiet. It’s funny now that I look back Fortin, Harper and I were always willing to risk everything to skate, never worrying about our future, or the consequences of our actions. Bill eventually went on to build Idaho’s first wooden half pipe and helped build the Americana Skatepark. I always looked up to Bill and admired his free lifestyle. I remember my dad asking me why I hung out so much with Bill, and if I wanted to turn out like Bill, I responded, maybe......


        We all skated the Americana Skatepark and some us even worked there, sort of. The park was nothing special and by today’s standards a waste of good concrete, but it was all we had and we skated it daily, honing our board skills. As much as I can remember the Magallanes brothers and Todd Huff found the a pool on Boise Avenue and named it the “TIDY BOWL.” We all had been reading about pool skating in Skateboarder magazine, at the time it seemed impossible that a skater could actually defy gravity and ride on a vertical wall without falling. The TIDY BOWL was not for everyone—that is, not everyone could skate it, or wanted to work hard enough to learn how to skate it. A core group of about six skaters quickly began to emerge, of these most were part of the original Budget Tapes and Records team. Mike Neal, Mike Fortin, Bob Harper, Mitch York, Ian Smith, and Jeff Magallanes. Ian and Jeff were authentic California transplants, and brought with them an amazing smooth California style. I skated Americana Skatepark quite a bit with Jeff’s older brother Emil Magallanes, who was attending BSU at the time on a running scholarship. Emil was from Monterey, and was also a real surfer, he could carve the most beautiful turns and his style was so incredible, I was in awe of Emil.

        As much as we wanted girls to be a part of our daily skate sessions, they weren’t, they rarely hung out at the Tidy Bowl. It was as if they knew that a skate session at the TB was a sacred ritual for dudes. Skaters have always been the castoffs, the kids who were different, the kids who didn’t fit in, the kids with fucked up families, the kids who were determined enough to keep getting up after slamming the concrete over and over , just because they knew they wanted to be skaters, they were hell bent to BELONG somewhere. I also think that skating was different because there were no expectations put on us as skaters, no scholarships , no support to achieve anything. We did it for the pure love of moving through space on a skateboard, and also hanging out with other dudes who loved it as well. Also, most of us had started skating before the invention of the urethane wheel, that’s right, we started with clay wheels, or even worse steel wheels. Once urethane wheels became available, it allowed us to ride much more aggressively and opened up new terrain that was impossible to ride previously. I know there were other cool things going on in Boise at the time, skiing, cycling, disc, but we didn’t document those other things, and consequently there exists no record of them, just our thing. So, when I think about all of the time I spent skating with Mike and Bob Neal, Mike Fortin (RIP), Bob Harper, Ian Smith, Jeff and Emil Magallanes, Roger Bishop, Brian Schroeder, Brian Small, Carey Hines, Brian, Hat, Bill Zuehl, Pat Smalljohn (RIP), Terry Vineyard, Mark Powell, Eric Straubhar, Todd Huff, and Tony Minas, I feel extremely proud, and blessed as a person for having such a strong bond with others who had found this amazing thing that influenced everything we thought or said for a decade or a lifetime, not to mention what music we listened to and how we dressed. 
         As a father, I have also been fortunate enough to be able to share this passion with my son, Henry, who started skating at an early age. From the time Henry turned 9 years old on, I became an active skater again, skating with him every chance I got. Throughout the years we’ve built ramps, taken skate road trips, played hooky from high school skating all day together, and explored the skate parks of Idaho, Oregon, and Northern California. Henry is a real skater, he knows more about the total history of skateboarding, music, and culture, certainly than I do. Henry lives in San Francisco, where he  recently finished his graduate degree from S.F.S.U. I love skating with Henry today, it truly is a full- circle gift that I don’t take for granted. I also love how when I skate a park today, little grommets always come up and ask how old I am, and say “ Damn, I wish my Dad skated!” or after I slam say “Mr. York are you OK?” as I drag my 51-year-old body up from the concrete I say “Call me Mitch.” I still love the feeling I have of rolling up to a park, being the oldest dude there by 30 years. Carly, my daughter, would always watch me skate, and after I cruised around the park a few times, then rolled to a stop, predict “my Dad is going to pull out his hankerchief and blow his nose now.” 


        Over the last 30 years I have also fallen in love with road cycling and have worked at it the way I worked at skating , loving the pure solitude of a long ride in the mountains, or country road.  Loving the different people and kindred spirits I’ve met and bonded with over this unbelievably difficult sport that has kept me in good enough shape over the years to be able still go skate a pool when I want to without embarrassing myself. 

        So, it turns out my old photography teacher was right, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I think I’ve always had good intentions in my life, but I certainly have made some mistakes and wrong turns over the years and felt like I was in hell at times. My tendency to want to insulate and numb myself has been a difficult life-coping mechanism to break. What I do know today is that my good intentions must be worked at every day of my life, be it working, being a husband, father, or friend, or simply riding my bike and skating. My good friend and skate buddy Mike Fortin passed away in 2010, Unfortunately, Mike and I had a bit of a falling out a few years prior, and I was unaware that Mike was dying from cancer and suffering. I do regret not being able to be with Mike and be his good old friend again, another life lesson for me.


        The last couple of years I’ve reached out to a few of the old Tidy Bowl skaters, Bob Harper, Jeff Magallanes, Mike Neal, and Ian Smith. So far I have been able to go skate with Bob and Jeff, and have plans to go road cycling with Ian this summer. We all remember the days of the Tidy Bowl with respect for one another, and a timeless vibe of warm summer days with nothing better to do than hang out at the Tidy Bowl, listen to music, get high or not, and skate all day.


Mitch York


© 2015 Mitch York