Posts Tagged ‘milltown montana’

dscn0082

by problembear

last time i lived out here milltown market was finky’s foods and diamond dave tended bar at harold’s club and presided over the local royal order of squid as their grand poo-bah…

the mill was in full swing with champion’s parking lot nearly crammed with every conceivable pickup truck and battleship sedan you could imagine. reagan was in his second term and things were pretty ok for a little forgotten town on the outskirts of missoula….

the hellgate winds are settling down to a mild frosty lash accross the face today as i pull into the gravel parking lot of harold’s club. i notice for sale signs on several rigs parked in front. a soft tail harley with low miles, toyota 4×4 with high miles and lots of hard stops, a pontiac sedan circa late 80’s for 450.00 or best offer…

the mayor of milltown is hunched over his cup of mid-day morning coffee at the bar..”never touch booz ’til 5″ he booms when he sees me come in.         i order a glass of bud and we settle into chairs arrayed around a round table which appears to have been made out of an old sign. it says:

Harold’s Club

we cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you.

downtown Milltown MT

walter (not real name) is retired at 66 years old but he appears to look much younger. married to shirley (also not her real name) she is talking with the bartender while we conduct the press conference as they call it. Walter has a lot more color left in his greying beard than mine. he is a busy man so we get right to it:

  • Q. what do you think of the new president so far?   
  • A. dunno, wait and see what happens, i guess. i voted for mccain but shirley voted for obama. he’s ok so far.
  • Q. your office is by proclamation rather than by vote i gather?
  • A. every so often somebody gets the title of mayor of milltown. don’t really know how it happens.
  • Q. do you realize that mayor john engen is extremely jealous of your position as mayor of milltown?
  • A. laughs. i’ve heard that.
  • Q. seriously, how is the economy going for milltown?
  • A. bad. but we’re kind of used to bad around here. ever since champion closed down in ’93 it has only gotten worse. but we stack firewood. freeze game and berries, help each other out. we get by somehow.
  • Q. what do you feel about obama’s chances to turn things around?
  • A. don’t put much stock in politicians myself. look. i was a cat-skinner for a road construction outfit in juneau alaska back in the sixties. i was right near the bay the day the tidal wave hit after the eathquake. it feels like that. i was sitting in a crummy waiting for the other guys to park their rigs when i looked down and saw the water recede a couple of feet from the shoreline in just a couple of seconds time. i remember saying uh-oh…we started that crummy and drove up that mountainside so fast we broke some springs…watched the wave just wash all our bull-dozers and buckets out to sea. it was something to watch. that is what it looks like to me right now. kind of hopeful but the water just receded a little so waiting for the other shoe to drop.
  • Q. so lots more unemployment in store for montana?
  • A. kids around here have the survival skills of their parents so we’ll get by but yeah- hell yes. it is going to shock people when they see how many jobs we’re going to lose in the next several months.
  • Q. how are your kids doing?
  • A. Eric is married to a great woman who has a good job at the university with benefits and eric’s job at albertsons looks ok for now. David is a welder. divorced with two kids to support so he is getting worried. i suppose all the kids are on edge right now, though.

at mention of the kids shirley sidles up to the table. her eyes twinkle at the mention of the grandkids. she shows me photos.

  • Q. when did you move here to milltown?
  • A. right after the alaska earthquake. met shirley in ’66 while i was bumming around the woods catskinning. we met at a dance right here in Harold’s Club. used to have really nice bands here. she made an honest man out of me so i settled down and the mill hired me on and worked there for 32 years. retired in 96.
  • Q. how did they treat you?
  • A. champion was ok but stimson sure stuck it to us every way and in every opening they could find…then they left a mess here…
  • Q. any hope for some new beginnings here with the cleanup and the dam removal?
  • A. at first, i was against the dam removal but shirley eventually talked me into the good sides. the boys are excited about the whitewater park the state is building so yeah, i guess so. sure. it’s good to see folks save our bridge between west riverside and milltown. there used to be talk about a huge shopping center and lots of new houses which i wasn’t too crazy about. in some ways the economy might just slow things down enough to let us have something nice here.
  • Q. there is a special meeting this week called a roundtable put on by the Bonner/Milltown Community Council at Bonner school Wednesday night at 7:00pm. are you going?
  • A. sure we always go to local stuff if for nothing else but to get a chance to BS with the neighbors and catch up on the gossip.
  • Q how do you feel about the council’s job so far?
  • A. i think there have been some missteps for sure like not allowing the public to speak last spring but that is ironed out so i guess they are doing the best they can.
  • Q. well walter i sense that you need to get back to your shop welding that part on your snowplow blade so just one last question; are you hopeful about america’s future.
  • A. hell, yes.

 dscn0084

empty parking lot of the bonner-stimson mill closed down permanently last may… 

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