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
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
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
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
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