Tag Archives: history

Butte History

RED LODGE POST

No conversation about Montana history is finished without talking about Carl Rowan (1909 – 1996). Mr. Rowan was the owner and chief cook and bottle washer of Gamer’s Café in the city of Butte from 1944 until 1993, when he finally retired and sold the restaurant.

Carl Rowan
Carl Rowan at Gamer’s Cafe, 1958, Butte, Mont. Photo (Smithers, 0502102) courtesy Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.

Over that stretch of time Mr. Rowan likely met every person in Butte, and, for that matter, a huge swath of the citizens of Montana and points beyond. Guests entering Gamer’s Café were always greeted by the man himself, even before an order was placed. You can meet a ton of people over a lifetime, a few are memorable, most are not. Mr. Rowan falls in the former.

On a typical morning at the restaurant in the early 1990s, Carl took your order and served the meal. This was out of necessity since Carl was the only person on duty to take care of customers. By this time, Carl was 83 years old. But nothing slowed him down. He was on the job every day.

During his later years at Gamer’s, business was often slow on many days. Why? It is hard to say. On the plus side, with so few customers around, Carl always had lots of time to chat with customers. The Chief of the local division of the Montana Highway Patrol came in regularly. He likely knew that Carl’s days in the restaurant business were coming to an end. Anyway, the two men, one middle-aged, and Carl, now old, bonded. Other customers shared a close relationship with Carl, as well.

This was Carl, a friend of everyone. Noticing his big smile and cheerful disposition, customers could tell Mr. Rowan thrived on relationships. Not the fleeting kind but always enduring and so human and genuine.

Some may suggest that Mr. Rowan was a little on the eccentric side. More likely, Carl’s behavior can be understood as a reflection of his zeal for showmanship. Take for example, a common business practice in his restaurant. After Carl presented a customer with the check, the customer, if a regular, knew the next step in the process to complete the transaction. With Carl at some distance away behind the counter, the customer was expected to march to the cash register on the far end of the counter, open the cash drawer, make the correct change, and deposit the amount due. An honor system such as this could only survive in Carl Rowan’s world, Butte.

Carl likely heard a zillion stories from locals over his many years in the restaurant business. On one day, in the winter of 1992, a not so regular dropped in to share with Carl a photograph taken near the end of WWII in Italy. The elderly man from Butte, a veteran, was in Italy in 1945 and saw what had happened in the chaos in northern Italy at the end of the war. A photo no one would ever show to children for sure.

Every story has an element of mystery. Butte-Silver Bow had around 33,000 residents in the early 1990s. Yet, few showed up to dine at Gamer’s Café at least on weekday mornings during the fall and winter months. Why did Carl stay so long in Butte? He had talent and charisma that would have taken him far in other larger cities? Still, Carl stayed and was undaunted and satisfied. He enjoyed his job and above all he loved every customer who entered the front door of Gamer’s.

Nowhere is it recorded how many people showed up for Mr. Rowan’s funeral on a crisp fall morning in late October of 1996. Looking back on that day, if they did not go, they missed an opportunity to say a final farewell to a man who gave so much of himself to so many. Butte can be proud to claim Mr. Carl Rowan as a favorite son.

John Sandy
Absaroka Mountain, Mont.
August 2020




Snapshot of Kalispell

RED LODGE POST

The city of Kalispell (pop. 23,938) and the region around the city are a major tourist destination in northwest Montana. Glacier National Park, a few miles to the east of Kalispell, draws more than 3,000,000 visitors annually. Many arrive during peak season, June thru September.

It is not only Glacier Park that attracts. Vast wilderness areas near Kalispell offer limitless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Fishing, hiking, and boating to name a few. Outdoor recreation is king in the area around Kalispell.

Kalispell mountains
City of kalispell, MT. Photo courtesy Discover Kalispell.

Many tourists arrive in Kalispell at Glacier International Airport. Many others arrive by auto, train, or tour bus. No interstate highways reach Kalispell. Two main U.S. highways connect Kalispell with the rest of Civilization. U.S. Highway 93 runs north-south from the Canadian border to Missoula and U.S. Highway 2 runs east-west connecting Kalispell with Spokane to the west and Havre and other cities to the east.

Many hotels and other types of lodging are available in Kalispell and the surrounding towns and rural areas. Due to the influx of so many visitors, an amazing variety of places to stay can be found here. Cabins, resorts, bed & breakfasts, lodges, and more. As for traditional lodging, the historic Kalispell Grand Hotel may be a better choice than most of the chain hotels in town. The Kalispell Grand offers a continental breakfast, massage studio, and art gallery to make your stay more enjoyable. (406) 755-8100.

Flathead Lake is a few miles south of Kalispell. Fishing and boating on Flathead Lake are a common activity. Five State Parks offer facilities for outdoor activities near the shores of Flathead Lake. Wayfarers/Flathead Lake, close to the village of Bigfork, draws many visitors: Picnicking, fishing, camping, boating, and swimming are a few of the activities allowed at this state park.

A couple of nice attractions are found in the city of Kalispell. The Conrad Mansion Museum, built in 1895, is a window into early pioneer days of Kalispell. Mr. Conrad, a rich businessman, built the house with income from hauling freight and other business activities. The museum features many exhibits and well-manicured gardens enhance beauty of the grounds.

For history buffs, the Northwest Montana History Museum is a must see. The museum showcases the history of early frontier days. A neat glimpse of the old central school in Kalispell is a special attraction in the museum. Artifacts and displays of Native American culture are also interesting.

For upscale dining in Kalispell, try Jagz Fine Dining. A full pound center cut ribeye, char-grilled and topped with bourbon onion sauce goes for $32.95. The Desoto Grill is wildly popular too. The Desoto Grill serves BBQ, sandwiches, desserts, and beer. A smoked chicken sandwich, $12.25. Banana pudding, $4.75. Yum!

Natural beauty is the hallmark of the region around Kalispell. Mountains, pristine lakes, and wild rivers add to the splendor. This part of the country is hard to match anywhere else in the United States. The Visitor Information Center,15 Depot Park in Kalispell, is ready to give good advice and help make your stay more enjoyable. Phone: (888) 888-2308.

Read more about Kalispell and the Wilderness region.

https://www.MontanaTraveler.com
Copyright © 2020 John Sandy




Snapshot of Helena

RED LODGE POST

Helena (pop. 31,429) is Montana’s state capital. The city is quite small, so it is easy to get around, even for first-time visitors. Tourists generally do not flock to Helena like they do other hot spots such as Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and cities and towns near the parks.

Helena is defined by Last Chance Gulch, the main street through  downtown. Why go there? Last Chance Gulch is lined with many historical building dating back to the late 1800s. Architects and common folks will marvel at the beauty of these old buildings, many built with stone.

Helena
Fun on Last Chance Gulch in Helena. photo courtesy of Helena Chamber.

On the Gulch or near the Gulch, on side streets, are some of the city’s best restaurants and hotels. For upscale dining, try On Broadway and Lucca’s. More casual dining is found at Bert and Ernie’s. The Parrot Confectionery, on Last Chance Gulch, is a must-visit old-time establishment, serving malts, mild shakes, chili, and other delights. Plus, the Parrot makes home-made chocolate candies that are in a word, the best.

Two hotels stand out on or near Last Chance Gulch: DoubleTree by Hilton Helena and the Great Northern Best Western Hotel. Both hotels have or are near excellent dining for guests and the public.

As for attractions, the Montana Historical Museum near the state capitol is outstanding. The museum has displays and artifacts covering the early days of Montana’s history. The museum also includes a wonderful art gallery which has many original pieces by famous artist C.M. Russell. The museum is open 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. weekdays and Saturday, closed on Sundays and holidays.

The state capitol is open to the public. The building is magnificent, a genuine treasure for such a small town. The capitol is open 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. weekdays and 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. weekends.

Read more about Helena and the Ranchland region.

https://www.MontanaTraveler.com
Copyright © 2020 John Sandy




Mountain Man Rendezvous

RED LODGE POST

The era of the mountain man, the most active period being roughly 1810-1850, is one of the most interesting periods in northern Rocky Mountain history. People who live in Montana have not forgotten this special period.

Modern day folks gather to celebrate the culture and history of mountain men. These events are called a rendezvous. This summer a dedicated bunch of locals in western Montana puts on a great show.

No Green River excesses (as of early day gatherings, 1830s, of mountain men in Wyoming) at this rendezvous. This event is pure family fun.

In 2020, Wild Horse Rendezvous is  May 22-25. Active participation or just hanging out is okay.  Public welcome. Vendors come too with period clothing and food.

Due to coronavirus concerns, this event is cancelled for 2020.

sapphiremountainmen

https://www.MontanaTraveler.com
Copyright © 2020 John Sandy




Yellowstone National Park Our Natural Heritage

RED LODGE POST

The slogan at the top of the Roosevelt Arch, a huge monument located at the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner, Montana says, “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”  Is this the best way to think of the park?

Let’s work with the National Park Service to change the mission of Yellowstone and refocus on nature. To start with, let’s lobby the National Park Service to build new structures/monuments and place them at  all entrances of Yellowstone National Park, to express as follows:

Yellowstone National Park:

“For the Conservation of our Natural Heritage.”

The forests, wildlife, rivers, and the landscape, more generally, are what makes Yellowstone a special place worthy of preservation and protection.

As for the Park’s cultural history,  the man-made structures/buildings in Yellowstone are only of minor interest and importance. They are a reminder of   commercial ventures, past and present, seeking to exploit this natural wonderland.

Contact Yellowstone today:

Superintendent, Yellowstone National Park, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Call today (307) 344-2002.

On Twitter, mention @yellowstonenps

posted by John Sandy

About grizzly bears.

Promote and protect grizzly bears.

More on protecting grizzly bears.

https://www.MontanaTraveler.com
Copyright © 2020 John Sandy