Life in Missoula - #4

My family had no car and not much money so we never left town for a vacation. Belonging to Epworth League of the Methodist Episcopal Church changed that for me. Each year members from all over the state went to a campground for a week's retreat, called an Institute. There were fun times as well as talks and classes. We had classes in the morning, recreation in the afternoons and speakers and entertainment in the evening. Other than the usual missionaries one expects at a gathering like that, there were legislators and others as visiting speakers.

My first experience was at Wolf Creek, Montana. On our way we stayed over night in a dorm at Montana Wesleyan College in Helena, Montana. It was up a hill from the city and we could look down at the capitol building, standing alone surrounded by fields. When I was there in 1977 I recognized the capitol building of course, but that was all. All the fields surrounding the capitol and the college are gone and now are covered with buildings.

That night we found our way to the Natatorium by streetcar. I'd never seen a place like that before, for not until later did Missoula have an indoor swimming pool.

When we got off the train in Wolf Creek we were met by an Army truck driven by the fiancé of one of my older friends, Irma Johnson. I remember him particularly for he was later killed in France during WWI and on the anniversary of that day Irma never worked. She never married, while her sister, Rhea, was married three times. Both of them were lifetime friends, visiting me in Seattle a number of times, always bringing you children presents.

The next two years the summer conference was in Glacier National Park on Lake McDonald. That meant boat rides on the lake, an evening of entertainment in a huge teepee at the Lodge in Apgar along with refreshments, a hike to the cabin of Charles Russell, the Montana artist. Of course, part of the fun was meeting new boys. One time my best friend and I liked the same one, and he evidently liked both of us, for he wrote to us and we later compared letters.

One boat ride could have ended tragically for the boat leaked. Evidently it wasn't the first time for there were tin cans in the bottom of the boat which we used to bail out the water. We thought it was great fun although none of us could swim.

After I left Missoula permanent buildings were built in Glacier Park. But later I heard they burned down. When I was there we slept in tents and our assembly hall was a huge circus tent. Every morning I awoke sneezing and consequently woke the others in my tent. I sneezed every morning at home, too. It wasn't until about twenty years ago that I discovered the sneezing was caused by feather pillows.

When we were in the eighth grade we went once a week to a special building next to the Central School close to down town. There the girls learned how to sew for half a day and how to cook the other half of the day. Greta Shriver, with whom I started first grade, and I always paired off. In cooking she and I always put in just a little bit more than the recipe said so that whatever we made turned out just a little bigger than any of the other's. During WWI we made awful tasting things without sugar and other ingredients hard to get. While the girls were sewing and cooking the boys were making things of wood and metal.

Greta is my friend who ate dill pickles and ice cream with me and we still correspond.* When I had chicken pox she sent me a note with a poem. Every Christmas she sends me a poem and a few years ago she sent me a booklet of her poems. I have visited her several times in Missoula, where she and her husband live in her parents' old home. Almost every morning I would stop by there and she and I would walk to school together. Many times after school her mother had yummy peanut butter for us. Greta and her husband have never visited me. The year they retired they started out on a trip by car, got frightened by all the traffic and turned around and went home. It makes me wonder if I would have been that timid if I had never left Missoula

Each fall school was let out for a day so we could attend the Western Montana Fair south of town. If we entered something to exhibit like a squash, a big carrot or something we made, we got a free pass. There must have been rides as well as exhibits but the biggest attraction for me was the Indian Pow Wow just outside the fairgrounds. The spectators were always asked to join in the group dances but Dad could never get me to do it even though those who did were given such things as blankets. The Indians camped there in their teepees and Dad took a picture of the oldest one made of skins, among many other ones he took. this Fair was an important part of my brother's planning for our 1977 trip but we forgot to check the dates. For a few years the Fair has been put on in August rather than in September so it was all over when we got to Missoula.

However, a visit to the Annual Pow Wow at Browning, Montana, just outside Glacier Park (several years before) almost made up for this. We went inside the circle of Indians and sat down on the ground with them. My daughter, Verna, took some very good movies of the dances and the costumes.

1988/89 Life Story Class

*Greta Shriver died in 1989.

Life in MissoulaContPt2.txt Page 2 of 2 01/19/01 12:30 AM