Tag Archives: museum

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 Great Falls

RED LODGE POST

Great Falls (pop. 58,701) get its name from five magnificent waterfalls that existed during historic times on the Missouri River near the City of Great Falls. Over many years, dams were built on the river and three of the falls largely disappeared from the natural landscape. Only Crooked Falls and Rainbow Falls remain untouched. Nevertheless, much beauty can be seen in the area around the dams and along the Missouri River more generally.

Interstate Highway, IH-15, is a main north-south road that runs through Great Falls and connects the city with Canada to the north and Helena, Butte, and Salt Like City to the south. Another major road, Montana State Highway 200, runs east-west through Great Falls and is the main artery across a huge swath of central Montana, running from North Dakota in the east to Idaho in the west.

Great Falls is headquarters for a vast region. And an amazing city. To the east and north of the city are endless plains, to the west the Rocky Mountains. Fun in the outdoors beckons in the city and the vast largely unpopulated hinterlands spreading out in every direction.

Giant Springs State Park, one of state’s best parks, is almost inside Great Falls city limits. Giant Springs is a great place for hiking, bicycling, picnicking, fishing, and bird watching all the while experiencing  wonderful scenery along the Missouri River. The park is famous for its underground spring that pumps millions of gallons of water into the Missouri River every day. A segment of River’s Edge Trail passes through the park. All of this can be had with an urban environment close by.

Great Falls has two major museums: C.M. Russell Museum tells the story of an early artist during Montana’s frontier days. Many originals of Russell’s art are on display. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretative Center in Great Falls is a classic. Exhibits at the museum explain the discovery of the region by Lewis & Clark at the beginning of the 19th century.

If you stay overnight or for a few days, the historic Hotel Arvon is a good choice. The Celtic Cowboy, a pub and restaurant adjoining the hotel, is amazing for its old-world charm. Lots of craft beers to drink here. Think Irish. Dante’s Creative Cuisine in the downtown area is tops for evening dining.

Great Falls is not the first thing tourists think about when they plan a trip to Montana. Many should reconsider, less an opportunity is missed to enjoy so much offered in and around Great Falls.

Read more about Great Falls and the Discoveryland 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




Snapshot of Bozeman

RED LODGE POST

Bozeman (pop.48,532) is a small city with a big city attitude. The city sort of feels like it would fit nicely anywhere in the Rocky Mountain region.  Say as a neighboring city to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Main Street in the downtown area is always busy.  A beehive for sure.

From Bozeman, travelers can easily reach many popular vacation hot spots in southwest Montana. The north entrance to Yellowstone, near the small town of Gardiner, is south of Livingston on U.S. Highway 89.  And the west entrance to Yellowstone, near the small town of West Yellowstone, is directly south of Bozeman on U.S. Highway 191.

One major interstate highway, IH 94, going east, connects Bozeman with Billings and states in the Midwest. Going west from Bozeman, IH 94 leads to Missoula, Spokane and Seattle. Many flights arrive daily at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

Bozeman June 26, 2015. Photo courtesy Bozeman Convention and Visitors Bureau. From Comprehensive Plan, Logan Simpson.

Bozeman is an education center and a vacation hub. Montana State University is headquartered in Bozeman. The city has limited shopping in a traditional way. But many stores supply visitors with all sorts of goods for having fun in the outdoors.

Is Bozeman a party town? Maybe. Many bars and good restaurants are ready to serve visitors. Some great dining choices here, even extra nice places like Plonk Wine which, you may have guessed, has imported wines from Europe that can set you back $400 a bottle.

Bozeman offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. At the top of the list is fly-fishing for trout in the Gallatin and Madison Rivers. During winter months, many ski bums head for Bridger Bowl near Bozeman. Hiking, bicycling, and whitewater rafting are other major activities enjoyed by many outdoor enthusiasts.

Two attractions standout in the Bozeman, leaving aside Yellowstone. The Museum of the Rockies with its splendid dinosaur collection is a must see. If wildlife is of interest, Montana Grizzly Encounter is a few miles east of Bozeman.

Lots of traffic on Bozeman streets at most hours of the day. Parking spots are hard to find especially on Main Street downtown. City leaders have noticed.  Parking lots on streets to  the north and south of Main Street are ready to serve drivers.

Bozeman tends to cater to visitors who have fatter wallets than most. But some of the outdoors stuff is FREE.

Red more about Bozeman and the Wonderland region.

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




Mineral Museum in Butte

RED LODGE POST

Montana has lots of marvelous attractions, many so interesting. The Mineral Museum operated by the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology on the campus of Montana Tech in Butte, Montana is a must see.

The museum claims to “amaze and inspire.” This statement coveys so much about a place that is even much more. The numerous exhibits at the Mineral Museum offer a window into the science and beauty of rocks and minerals.

The crown jewel at the Mineral Museum is a 27.5 ounce gold nugget, officially named The Highland Centennial Gold Nugget, discovered in the mountains a few years ago near Butte. The museum staff are also especially proud of a large smoky quartz cluster. Measuring two feet in diameter, it’s called The Rheanna Star.

The Mineral Museum is an international collection as specimens come from many parts of the world. A large amethyst quartz geode is from Brazil, for example. As an added attraction, the Mineral Museum has a small collection of dinosaur bones. Over many years, museum staff have amassed a collection of around 13,000 specimens, acquired by donation and other support.

The museum has a gift shop on site. Visitors can buy gifts from a wide selection of rocks and minerals. If you can imagine, admission is FREE.

Hours are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily during the summer months, June 15 – September 15. Winter hours, open on Wednesdays, only.

You don’t have to be a naturalist to appreciate the displays found here. Here’s a chance to see minerals as they exist in nature. A few exhibits will help you understand and appreciate gems stones you may own for jewelry. There’s very high public interest in this museum, some 42% of visitors are from out-of-state. So impressive.

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




A Lot to Love in Lewistown

RED LODGE POST

A small town feel with big time dreams.  Lewistown answers the call from all those who make this town home and to all who visit.

With miles upon miles of paved walking and biking trails you can explore the town on foot and see the historical views, bubbling spring creek, and wildlife all while staying within minutes of city center.

Surrounded by four mountain ranges Lewistown’s opportunities for camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting are endless.

Visit for the famous Chokecherry Festival in September and you are guaranteed a good time from morning to night. The famous painter, Charlie Russell, has a namesake dinner train that travels along miles of the Old Milwaukee rail system.   With entertainment on board and outside you are sure to enjoy your journey.

Lewistown offers a variety of dining as well.  You can get many styles of food, and all eateries offer friendly service, with gusto and a smile.  The dining experience will keep you wanting to come back again and again.  Lewistown offers plenty of good lodging options to suit everyone’s needs.

There’s more fun year-round in Lewistown.  In the spring, enjoy the opening of the Central Montana Museum, a visit to ways of the past at Pioneer Power Days, and join in at Montana’s Longest table for a taste of foods produced in Montana.

Summer offers golfing, car racing, and the annual Montana Poetry gathering.  Fall gives way for fossil hunting, homestead tours, and the famous Bale Trail.

In the winter season, the North Pole Adventure Train takes trips to the North Pole (well, Lewistown’s North Pole).  There are ski hills nearby, and the mountains offer places to snowmobile, snowshoe, or go cross-country skiing.

Lewistown comes together for an annual Christmas stroll on Main Street having s’mores, parades, bonfires, and, of course, the man in red, Santa Claus, makes a stop!  It’s a community event of sharing and friendship, and so another season ends, with a magnificent celebration showing why Lewistown is so special.

So much is nice in Lewistown that you may even want to stay on and make Lewistown your new home.  With an excellent school system, parks scattered through the town, and established youth activities families are sure to find many opportunities to stretch their legs or put down roots.

Karisa Perryman
Lewistown Area Chamber of Commerce
408 NE Main
Lewistown, MT 59457

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