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Communities at Play

Richard HammaDecember, 2013 recorded some of the coldest temperatures in 30 years. That set Chuck Erickson to reminiscing about the winter bane of all kids: putting on snowsuits. Follow the link to read the story and see more pictures. Photo: Richard Hamma, winter of 1956.









(From A Grass Roots Tribute: The Story of Bonner Montana, 1976.)

People in Milltown area worked hard but they played too. Among the main diversions in Milltown were the dances, which were held at least weekly, with live bands.  Dancing was the poor man’s pastime.  The dances were took place in Rainbow Hall, Dalhberg Pool Hall, and Finn Hall, and people from Missoula often attended.  Some of the dances in 1928 were organized by the Milltown Social Club.  They began at 8:00 PM and supper was served at midnight.  As one resident commented, "Dancing was the poor man's pastime....All people went to events at the dance hall. People were unhappy when the dances stopped."



Saloons were an integral part of Milltown from the beginning.  There were many including Mel’s Bar, Harold’s Club, Swedish Bar, Dahlberg’s Pool Hall, Finish Saloon (Sanfacon), Riverside Bar and Pool Hall.  Saloons became “pool halls” during Prohibition, and served different refreshments!  Many residents spoke of the presence of bootleggers in Milltown. One recalled, "There was a pretty fair supply of moonshine."  For example, Clark’s son, William Andrews Clark, Jr. brought liquor from Canada to his Salmon Lake property.  Drinking was generally done on Saturday night and Sunday, most residents only day off.


 

Milltown folks used the water that surrounded them for recreation.  In winter they skated the Blackfoot River from below the Bonner mill, under the three bridges, around the point and along the Clark Fork power pond up to the covered bridge.  Snow would be cleared from the ice and bonfires built.  This popular activity even drew people from Missoula on Sundays who came out on the street car.  Patrick Thibodeau noted that even in the depression people scraped together enough for a pair of skates.  In the 1930s the Milltown hockey team played against teams in Missoula and at Fort Missoula.  When the river froze, children would slide down McCormick Hill onto the river.

By summer, area residents were back in the water.  Some swam in the Blackfoot, but it was particularly cold.  A preferred spot was across the Clark Fork in a backwater pond which was warmer and had less current.  One resident recalled that the water in the Hell Gate River was coppery looking, adding, "…you didn’t want to get it in your mouth."  Many Milltown families whose lots fronted on the river had small boats which they used for recreation and duck hunting.  During the Depression everyone hunted, out of necessity.

Communities at Play

Sleigh Riding in Bonner, Montana
Glen Max Smith, aka "The Hooligan," recalls sledding adventures on Bonner Mountain using Flexible Flyers, skis, boxes, and Coca Cola signs.