In the August 20, 1951 edition of LIFE Magazine, there was an article entitled, “Idaho’s Foot-Wide Towns.” The article listed the towns of Banks, Garden City, Island Park, Batise, Chubbuck, Atomic City, and Island Park as examples of same. Crouch was the “foot-wide” town most prevalently featured, population 125, and 10 miles long.
These were the towns exploiting a loophole in state law that allowed slot machines in any incorporated town of 125. That encouraged 17 villages along state highways to incorporate by stretching their boundaries up and down the highway, ballooning out here and there, until they snagged 125 people into their city limits. It was gerrymandering for a different cause.
Several of the featured towns, such as Garden City, didn’t much fit the “foot-wide” definition, though Garden City was created to take advantage of the fact that Boise had voted slot machines out.
The January 18, 1951, edition of the Idaho Statesman featured an article about the controversy over slot machines. It quoted a Fremont County legislator as saying 95 percent of Island Park’s income came “from tourists who like to play slot machines.”
Island Park, which has sometimes boasted that it has the longest Main Street in the country at 33 miles long, didn’t quite fit the foot-wide claim in LIFE Magazine. Its boundaries are 40 or 50 feet wide at the narrowest.
The Idaho Legislature outlawed slot machines in 1953, but some skinny towns such as Island Park retained their incorporation so they could serve liquor by the drink, also made possible by the aforementioned loophole.