Red Lights and Silk Stockings
Blaine County's Ribald Past
Photography: Courtesy of Idaho State Historical Society and The Regional History Department of The Community Library
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Except for the red light being removed, Mallory said, “We lived in that house, just like that, for quite some time.” It took a while for word to get around that Peggy’s was no more.
Mallory, then a high school student, was often left in charge of her siblings as her parents worked at the bar and boarding house across the street.
“Don’t answer that door, don’t open that door,” her father would caution. “If anyone comes, tell them Peggy doesn’t live here anymore.”
And, the late night visitors did come. Shooing the other children from view, Mallory recalls lifting the curtain of a front window and passing on the information that the establishment had changed hands.
Mallory says some prostitutes went on to blend into society and lead what was considered a normal life. She remembers one who went on to become a predominant figure in the local Democratic Party, and who ended up as a much-respected citizen of Blaine County.
Depending on whom you ask, the exodus of legal, or condoned, prostitution may have heightened town morality, but it also had a negative impact on the local economy.
According to Hailey’s historic brochure, “A local merchant was heard to lament, ‘There goes the mainstay of Hailey’s business. They always paid in cash.’”
Dorothy Ann Outzs, born and raised in Hailey, was a child during these latter days of prostitution. She can remember when her parents warned her that River Street was a “no no” place. Outzs said her mother once told her a story about local ladies of the evening that reflected the sentiment of the anonymous merchant. When Hailey was a booming mining town, she said, there were numerous jewelry stores.
The businesses, Outzs said, profited very well in the young mining town until the day the town fathers decided to rid Hailey of prostitution. After that, many of them closed.
Maybe, Outzs’ mother would surmise, the ladies of the evening had been the number one customers of the jewelry stores. Or, maybe, unfaithful husbands and boyfriends no longer had to rush to the jewelry store to unbind their conscience after fulfilling guilty pleasures with these neighborhood “girls.”