Life at the Confluence Riverside Stories an oral history and art collaboration describing the Bonner - Milltown area
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Introduction Life at the Confluence, Riverside Stories is the history of people and their stories from a small place where rivers converge in Western Montana. In the summer of 2012 four residents of the Bonner-Milltown area were interviewed and asked questions about their family photos. These interviews provided hours of wonderful stories about what it was like to live and grow up in the area. A few anecdotes were selected from the interviews and fine art prints were created to depict the stories. The prints enliven the stories and allow viewers to interact with history in a new way. This booklet also features the photos and excerpts of interviews to ground the stories and provide the small details. I hope this project inspires you to seek out stories like this in your own family and area. Sam Berry
Contact Sam Berrysamberryart.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonner Milltown History Centertworivershistory.net 9388 Hwy 200 E. - PO Box 726 - Bonner, MT 59823 email@example.com
Interviewees I would like to thank Lois Johnson, Richard Hamma, Jack Demmons, and Chuck Teague for taking the time to talk to me and share their stories. Full versions of the interviews are available at the Bonner Milltown History Center, in Bonner, MT.
In 1886 the first lumber mill was established at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers, and over time communities sprung up to provide services and housing to the mill employees. Bonner is the company town across the street from the mill, Milltown sits directly above the confluence, Piltzville is along the base of Bonner Mountain, West Riverside is the extension of Milltown on the other side of the river, and Pinegrove is a little further west from there. Over time these communities have changed as mills come and go and industry winds up and down.
The artwork I created for this project are lithographic prints and relief prints. These are historic print making processes of producing multiple reproductions of the same image. Each print exists in an edition of 6-9 and once the edition is established no more can be printed.
This project does not attempt to document this history, simply the lives of its residents. For a more comprehensive history of the area please read: A Grass Roots Tribute: The Story of Bonner Montana, 1976.
To create a lithograph, the original image is drawn onto a prepared limestone block. Then the block is processed and hand inked and printed onto paper. To create a relief print, an image is drawn on a piece of wood and the area that is to be white is carved away. Ink is rolled onto the higher portions and the image is transferred to paper. Stone lithography and relief printing were once the most commonly used ways of mass producing images and communicating to wide audiences in the forms of books, newspapers, posters, etc. The democracy of this proliferation, easier access to the work, and historic legacy are key elements that I wish to carry into this project.
Thank you to: Judy Matson, Minie Smith and the Bonner Milltown History Center Matthew Hansen Foundation Preserving Missoula County History James Bailey, Printmaking Professor University of Montana Philip Maechling Maria Mullins
Lois Johnson Marshall Lake Lois Johnson: This cabin they built up on Marshall Lake. It was the only cabin on the lake and it was on leased ground from the railroad. It was leased from, I think, the Great Northern Railroad at that time way back when they got it. So if the war started in ‘42, they must have got in ‘39 or ‘40. It too had no road into it. They ferried every bit of the wood, everything they built it with, across the lake, floating it on rafts and things that he made. It was, it was a big project; it was a wonderful cabin. He (Earl Fuller, her father) did a lot of work. He just liked to work, all the time. (laughs) Sam Berry: So, can you just tell me a little about what was in the cabin? Lois: Ok, this, this was two stories. He made everything in it. He had a ladder that you could pull down to go up into the loft. So there were four double beds up there plus room for anybody’s smaller children with their sleeping bags to be up there. Down in the main part of the cabin, these were huge windows looking out at the lake and it was one big area. He did eventually build all the tables and chairs and I think the table was something like twelve feet long and it still fit in front of these windows. And then he made all these chairs that went around it and there were big gangs of people that were always up there. There was another area, where they played cards and put puzzles together - kind of a play area. A stove and a counter around it so they could serve from it, were all in this main room. My dad built flumes from up at a crick that was way up on the mountain and brought the water down eventually. He did plumb it and put the water into the house. We packed a lot of buckets before that time. And for a long time
they didn’t have this little addition. He built it on later to make a porch and for storage and also to put a bathroom in. That was pretty unusual out by lakes to even have something like that. So it became very modern actually. So, this cabin was built pretty much from all kinds of lumber from the mill, of course. If it was partly used or had a flaw, and they couldn’t use it down here at the mill, he hauled it home to his barn and then he hauled it up there to the lake. But at that time, in fact, any time there was scrap lumber anywhere, they always dumped it, my mother said, in her yard. Dad leased a barn, and over the years it became absolutely full of lumber. And the boats. He built all the boats that they had on the lake. And barges. He would build those and take them up. We stained and sanded a lot of boats in our lifetime too, (laughs) but there were no motors. I don’t think there was anything against it. My dad was against it. And since they were the only ones on the lake, he could keep it that way, but he used boats for getting supplies back and forth and for fishing. He loved to fish.
Marshall Lake Lithograph 20”x12.5” Sam Berry
Sam: Can you tell me about this little building down in front? Lois: Oh this, this part was boat house, and you could bring the boats up to here and it didn’t have water in the bottom. He had kinda a little bunk house too. He had it in both ends. The boats went in the middle. We had quite an experience when this had to go. We had to tear it all down and put everything back the way it was because they decided that this lease was sort of renewed from year to year to year to year but the railroads changed - and I don’t know all of the details - and they decided to take back all of those leases, and that was part of the agreement. My dad was gone at that time and I was very thankful because that would have broke his heart. We took it all back down and burned it when we got to the end. It wasn’t a fun thing to do at that time. It was a lot of memories but that happens if you don’t own the ground. It could happen; it did. So it had a lot of years of use and a lot of fun. It turned out to be a pretty nice place, but that’s just memories now. Sam: Yeah, I was going to ask if you could tell me about a typical weekend that you would spend up there, the kind of things you would do? Lois: Oh, pretty much we would go up and first thing - we had a nice big dock out here - the first thing if there were any of the young people, they wanted to hit the water right away and wanted to go out and swim and play. And drive the boats out and they all learned to paddle boats by just going out going around close, if there wasn’t a storm brewing. Quite a large crick came into the upper end, I guess it was over here. So many, when they learned to fish, went to fish the little brook trout. Always had a big campfire spot, so there was always a big campfire going. Early in the morning when there was quiet there were always loons out on the lake. Loons have their own call that you just don’t hear other places and that was always pretty exciting. I just think we pretty much played in the water or when it wasn’t nice outside we had tons of games and puzzles and things that we did inside.
Sam: This one, he’s carrying wood to one of his projects? Lois: This could have been because he did haul a lot of it. This is the truck he always had, but someone else could have put a load on. There was always someone going up with him and someone who wanted to help. When, at one time, just before Pearl Harbor, my dad was the head of the night shift with a group of young men down here at the mill. Different job than he’d always had at the mill. And the fellows were all young fellows, right out of high school that were working on it, and when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor these fellas all walked off the job and joined up and went off to the war. Only before they went they asked my dad if he would wait till they came home, ‘cause they had gone up several times with him to haul stuff and they had started the base for the cabin and they asked if he would wait till they came back and they wanted to help him finish the cabin. So it was, of course, there was gas rationing and nobody really wanted to go down the road that much during the time that they were gone. Some of them didn’t come back and some stayed in the service, but the ones who said they would, came back and helped him finish the framework and build the cabin. So for years a lot of people in the area got to go up there and he always had a gang around him that liked to do things with him because he, I think he treated them good. I know he did the rest of us.
Lots of people - in later years my folks and a lot of our relatives and friends went in on snowmobiles - we’d spend some time in the winter in there; however, the water was turned off and drained by that time. They’d have to melt snow to get water or carry their water in. We just had a lot of holiday dinners, Thanksgiving and summer time, fireworks, Fourth of July. I can remember camping at the other end of this lake when my folks first saw the land or the lake and they would hike with some of the friends from Bonner. They would drive up to a place and then would hike in to the edge of the lake and camp there - on Labor Day or some of those times when they had an extra day off. And we always thought that was fun. We’d always pick berries or play in the crick down there.
Lois: This one is at Marshall Lake, he had a - I guess that was like a raft, ‘cause he always had a raft. My dad didn’t swim a stroke, but he hauled across that lake all his stuff to build his cabin. He dumped it one time, he and another fella was with him, and he grabbed a hold of some kind of small lumber that was bailed together and hung on to it till he got himself to shore. Down under this very deep lake there is probably all kinds of things that went out of that thing at that time. And the other fella could swim so, um, it was just - it didn’t matter that he couldn’t swim, he’d go anyway and, of course, I don’t think people had life jackets in those days.
Mom Hunting Relief Print 13”x13” Sam Berry
Ada Fuller, Lois’ Mother Lois: Mom had got, I assume, that’s a deer. They could hunt anywhere. Right up here on the mountain - get an animal or up Johnson Creek which was just up the road. Anywhere they could get access to and there always was, right up here, a train bridge that went right across, so they could go across the river and go on up, even though there wasn’t a driving bridge anywhere in that area - never was, I guess. But they did a lot of hunting. In fact between them raising a calf every year and shooting wild animals, I don’t think we hardly ever ate meat. I mean that was meat, but regular food, I guess. We loved it. I don’t care for it now.
Sam: Did your mother hunt a lot? Lois: Um, she did at first, but she always had her hands so full. And it eventually, I think, wore her down, and she didn’t go as much, but she used to pert near get a deer every year. I know she and one of the other women here in Bonner went up across that little bridge and went up a little way and shot a deer one day by themselves. They didn’t, (chuckles) they didn’t do anything with it. They come out and got their husbands after work to go. I don’t think she ever cleaned one or took care of it, but I guess they thought they’d go hunting. I think that was maybe Lefty Pleasant’s mom. So they come out and got the guys to go and do it. They always razzed them after that, that they could go do the hunting, they did so well. (laughs)
Richard Hamma Rafting
Relief Print 16”x15” Sam Berry
Richard Hamma: I went through Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and actually through Sea Scouts with Mr. Burlingame at Bonner. Started a Sea Scout troop. You know being from Montana, kinda an illogical thing to do, I guess. Judy Matson: What’s C Scouts? Rich: S-E-A Scouts, Sea Scouts - like ocean. We would do the Missouri trip. We would have probably four adults and, I don’t know, up to twenty kids probably. We would put in at Fort Benton and take out at John Kip State Park, the bridge down there just north of Lewistown, take five days to do it or six - camp out. Some of the older boys - I never did it did some rattle snake hunting. Did a lot of hiking and trying to avoid the cactus. It was just gorgeous weather. We would do this in just probably middle of June, gorgeous weather.
Rich: This would have been 1967 probably. Mr. Burlingame as part of the Sea Scout program, I think he spent his own money and bought, you know, several big yellow rafts that we’d use on the Blackfoot once in a while and then we would take on scouting trips down the Missouri. I did that several years and we went down the Big Hole River once from Wisdom to Twin bridges. Sam: And these ones are on the Blackfoot? Rich: Yeah, Skip Glory, and my dad, and me and, Mr. Burlingame.
Rich: But Terry Nielson and I, we’d get up in the morning - this is when we were probably seventh or eighth grade - and we’d mow a few lawns in the summer for some money, but we didn’t have a lot to do so we’d get up in the morning 8 o’clock and grab our poles and go fishing down at the river and when it’d get too hot, then we’d go swimming and then it’d cool off and then we’d go fishing some more and get back home at five o’clock with some fish for dinner. We’d fish mainly just at the end of Bonner at the old railroad bridge - was in at the time so you could walk across the river and fish both sides if you wanted to - and we’d fish from the bridge. You know it was probably fifty feet down but, you know, just put a grass hopper on a hook and let it touch the surface of the water and pretty soon “chomp” - rainbow trout for dinner. And it was kinda fun when the dam would let the water level go down ‘cause the mill had all those piers out there in the river - so it created these channels that went around that were real fun for floating in, or for swimming in, and for fishing in. When I got older like 7th or 8th grade, my buddy Terry Nielsen and I would grab our inner tubes and hitchhike up the Blackfoot and have somebody drop us off at Twin Creeks or some place and just float in our inner tubes back to Bonner and walk home.
Rich: Picture of Hole in the Wall on the Missouri raft trip in 1968, that would have been my first year that I went. I did it probably three years in a row, threw Mr. Burlingame in the river.
We kinda knew where all the apple trees were along the way so we could stop and go pick some green apples and that was probably all we ate for lunch. Green apples seem to be a big part of my youth, it seems like, because there were some wild apple trees around Bonner.
Motorcycle & Conservation Corps
Motorcycle Relief Print 11.5”x10” Sam Berry
Rich: Oh, my first motorcycle. When I was a junior in high school the Youth Conservation Corps started up so I was in the pilot project of that. Um, about thirty or forty kids, I guess. All junior age, all from around Missoula, went up to Lubrecht and worked, um, worked at Lubrecht, and we did a lot of restoration work at Garnet. Did a lot of tree thinning up there - Elk Creek and even toward Drummond a ways, and built some jack leg fences around some water tanks to try to cut down on the erosion a little bit. But that was two months. Two months work. I think I earned $600 or something. Bought a motor cycle. Sam: And then what did you do with it? Rich: I don’t know, just rode it for a while and finally sold it, I guess. Sam: You didn’t get in a lot more trouble after that? Rich: No, I was a pretty good kid till a little later. (laughs)
Chuck Teague Fishing
Lithograph 14”x 17” Sam Berry
Sam: But is this you fishing on the... Chuck Teague: Yeah, fishing someplace. I remember as a kid my grandfather took me over to the edge of the field where he had the huge garden and grain, and we used to swim down there when I was a kid - kinda slow moving. And there were a lot of fish down there; you could see them from the bank. So I had an old steel, one of these extendable steel rods, with a small reel and fish line, and anyway I decided it would be a good idea to try to catch things. So my Grampa went out and caught a bunch of grasshoppers and we went down there. And I dangled the grasshoppers and, boy, I started catching fish, I’ll tell ya. I was pretty excited. So, anyway, I caught quite a few of these fish. Grampa kept going back to get me more grasshoppers. I suppose he was getting a kick out of it, as I was. He fixed a switch - you know, you put it on upside down with a branch with the stick up here and you thread the fish on it, and you can carry it home. So I proudly took them home to my grandmother, figuring she’d cook them up for supper and she picked them up and threw them over in the chicken yard for the chickens. They were squawfish; they didn’t eat that. (Laughs) So I didn’t fish for squawfish anymore, but I had a lot of fun catching them.
Chuck Teague: I caught that in the Clark Fork on a switch. Sam: With the pole you’re holding? Chuck: No, I’m pulling your leg. That one a neighbor caught someplace brought it home and they took a picture of me.
Relief Print 14.5”x20” Sam Berry
Chuck: This is that garage my father built and there’s my Uncle Walt and I. And we had a toboggan and skis and that would be that kind of a day. So that’s how big I was. This is probably about 1941. Well, we used to ski on a hill a little further on, behind the house my dad built. You asked about memories of childhood we used to ski up there and we had just downhill skis. They didn’t have bindings, they had one strap, so you couldn’t negotiate much, but you could go straight down if you didn’t hit anything. So you carried the skis up and you’d point them down hill and you’d get on and you’d go.
Chuck: The whole family, most of the Petaja family, mostly brothers and wives, were at our place, skiing. We had been there all day and mom had made a bunch of chili on December 7th, 1941. And I’ll never forget sitting there at the counter there in the kitchen in that garage which was our house - radio was on and I heard Roosevelt’s speech. That day will live in infamy. So that’s an indelible childhood memory.
Jack Demmons Flying
Relief Print 15”x18” Sam Berry
Milltown near old Highway Bridge Jack Demmons: That was in 19, let’s see, 47. I paid a pilot from Johnson Flying Service to fly me over Piltzville to take some low altitude pictures, just my junior year in high school. He came down fifty feet off the deck and then three passes - quite interesting pictures of Piltzville and the old house. Yeah, that was me in a Piper Cub. That was a fun day - fifty feet isn’t very high off the deck. He had more fun than I did, the pilot. Just something to do, pictures of the place.
You know the pilot just came back from blister rust control out of Yakk River country north of Libby and Troy, came back about a week. I decided to go out and take a ride. Anytime I could save up money I’d go out and take a ride. Sometimes a Taylorcraft, or Curtiss Air Sedan or a Piper Cub and I got to fly in them later on in the smokejumpers, of course. I’d of liked to of been a pilot, but then I took ROTC out here and all they had was infantry so I became infantry and paratroopers from there.
Bonner, looking South
Piper Cub Photo courtesy of Dave Bahnson
Piltzville Jack: Oh yeah, I had my money saved up and whatever I had so I could go take a ride. And it was one time we took off on a Labor Day, Wally DeWit and my brother and me were in the aircraft, in a Curtiss Air Sedan, and the pilot Dean Logan chopped the throttle. Heâ€™d forgotten he had to refuel, so we almost bounced up there on the road up there by the old South Avenue. (laughs) Gassed up and then took off.
Smokejumping Lithograph 13.5â€?x18â€? Sam Berry
Jack Demmons: Tell you about smokejumper days? Sam: Yeah, you had that one photo. Could you tell me about some of your earlier jumps when you were eighteen or nineteen? Jack: Well, let’s see. We had seven practice jumps before we went into active duty. In July of 1950 we took off in a Tri-Motor for a fire out of Sourdough Lookout southwest, southeast of Grangeville about thirty five miles. We lost an engine on the Tri-Motor by Lolo Pass. The engine quit, so we had to come back. We were coming down there by the South Hills. They had a C-47 warmed up so we tossed everything into the 47 and off we went again. Over the golf course over here. Les Goodman and I were the last two out of the aircraft and had a mid-air entanglement. Les jumped and I jumped. We were two at a time and trying to keep out of the lake down below and I looked around and my right foot got caught in the lines and I was hanging head down. Had a knife in (the) parachute, emergency knife to cut ourselves loose, but I couldn’t get up there to cut the line so Les climbed the lines and cut me loose and we hit the ground about five seconds later after my chute popped open. Whammed into the ground face first, but, just bruised up was all. Minie Smith: That was lucky. Jack: That was my first fire jump. That was the first out of 84 total, in the end, counting the paratrooper and the smokejumpers. Minie: So how many years did you do it? Jack: Three years. Yeah, ‘50, ‘51, ‘52, before I went into military service.
Sam: Were there any good fire stories? Jack: Yeah, I’ll tell you one story up there in Thompson River Country. I can’t remember the fella’s name now, we jumped out of Travel Air, Ed Sorenson was flying. So we had Ed drop us over, it looked like everything was okay. We were up in the high country to the west of Thompson River. And I put out the signal that everything was okay, so Ed took off. We had a five gallon can of water. It hit a rock and there was no water, except our canteens. It was a hot day in August, 1951. So we were out there for a day and a half. We fought that fire with just a canteen of water apiece. Put rocks in our mouths like the Scouts did to keep our mouths wet. So near dusk in the second day we took off down the hill to the Thompson River - no trail, packed all our gear down, got down to the river, didn’t even take our clothes off, we just laid in the river. Left our gear along the road there and we heard a noise and here a pickup truck came along and they got out and looked at our gear and they could tell we were smokejumpers. They were checkin’ things out. And they gathered up and looked over and we rose up out of the water and she screamed bloody murder and ran to the truck! And I said, “Don’t go, please don’t go! We need a ride.” They took us into Thompson Falls and dropped us off at the bar at the hotel there and we had some Cherry Coke - boy, boy, you know, Cherry Coke. And they, I thought they were going to toss us out - they were looking at us strangely, kinda dirty looking people, you know. Found out who we were and what we did, they gave us two great big jugs of Coke - Cherry, Cherry Coke. So I called the ranger station and said we’re down here. And he said what are you doin’ at the bar and I said you come on and get ahold of us - we’re still workin’ on overtime. (Laughs) Cherry Coke. Boy, that sure tasted good after those days.
Judy: So when you were a smokejumper what kinds of gear did you have? I’m thinking of Willie Bateman, brought an old, they called it a “Clack Rack” - it’s an old wooden back pack that they used to - he used to be on the ground hiking in to fires. What kind of stuff did you have to use? Was it pretty good or was it pretty rigorous on your body? Jack: We had the same kinda wooden racks. We didn’t have the, uh, metal racks - we had the old wooden racks at that time. We had the jump gear, heavy canvas jump gear, strapped through the crotch there in case you went into a tree. Then they had the helmet like the football helmet, actually with a wire mask on it to protect your face when you came down. And logger boots, White’s, they call them. White’s logger boots. They were very important. We had heavy gear on that. But we didn’t jump with any tools. That all came in in the cargo drop later on - wish we’d had those other fancy packs, you know aluminum backpacks, that made quite a difference. Judy: So once you hit the ground, you’d pick up your tools, then you’d hike to the - wherever you started fighting?
Jack: Right, we’d try to keep out of the fire, of course. Yeah, we’d pick up the things - they dropped all the tools - and then we’d start fighting the fire. And we fought day and night, we didn’t - today they pull ‘em off at night - but we fought all night on the fires. Judy: So you didn’t probably have chain saws, or you did use chain saws? Jack: No, they were starting, chain saws were just starting to come out, but we didn’t have them. In fact, on the big fires I was on a two man saw crew. Judy: Is that right. Jack: Yeah, they’d drop that saw all kinda wrapped up in a coil. It had a small parachute. So, in my time we never used the chain saws, they came out about a year or two later on, but the pulaskis and the shovels, and I could saw, I learned that from my dad. Judy: That was hard work. Jack: Yeah, it was hard work, and it was very interesting work. It was really hard work, doggone it.
Smokejumper Graduation Jump, 1950 X on photo marks Jack Demmons
as remembered by Jack Demmons, Lois Johnson, and Chuck Teague.
Sheep Mountain Lithograph 18”x13.5” Sam Berry
Jack Demmons Sam: Another thing I wanted to ask you about is Grant Higgins. Jack: Grant Higgins? Sam: I’ve got a picture of you, I think, here it is. You’re in that one with him skiing? Jack: Yeah, up on Sheep Mountain. Yeah, Grant Higgins was with us. We took off up to the old lookout. There was an old lookout up there on the top of Sheep Mountain. We had to pack our skis on our back because down below the snow was gone and we got clear up there and I remember looking down onto the Rattlesnake overhang, looked like a nice day down in the Rattlesnake from Sheep Mountain lookout. So we came back and we were late and my mother and dad were over there by that first red bridge, you know, across by Marco Flat waiting for us. And we got back at about 10 o’clock at night. (laughs) Minie: Oh, they were worried. Jack: They thought we were - something had happened. That Grant Higgins was quite a fella. That was our story right here though, up on Sheep Mountain. Sam: Did you spend a lot of time with Grant Higgins? Jack: Oh yes, started, I was in the sixth grade, and began to be a Boy Scout out there under Grant Higgins and all the way into college. He took us skiing all the time, almost every weekend. He had a garage there in Bonner. He stayed in the Margaret Hotel. He had a garage there across, a little bit to the east of the highway. I think he had 50 pairs of skis. He gave me one pair. I was the captain of the ski team in high school so I used them in racing. Thanks to Grant, had some steel edges - first time I had steel edges. Quite a story behind Grant Higgins. Sam: Would you tell it? Jack: Well, he had been in the military for a while and he was one of those that used to test parachutes in hangars. Tellin’ us about bi-planes, you know those old aircraft, and he’d pull the rip cord and it’d pull him off the aircraft and make sure it worked all right, testing parachutes. So that was Grant Higgins. He did a lot of surveying in these mountains around here in the West. There were pictures of him way up on the top of these mountains and then
Bill Demmons and Jack Demmons on Sheep Mountain he’s in Alaska doing some surveying - had a chest injury and he told me, “fate, it is going to get here someday,” and that’s what killed him, later on - years later - the after effects of that chest injury. Not sure what happened, but he took care of a lot of kids out there. Just a lot of kids, that, uh, I remember him swimming up and down that river. Sam: Do you have any idea why he liked to spend so much time with children? Jack: Well, I don’t know, he never got married. I think he had a very disappointing relationship with a woman at one time - I think a long time ago - I had heard about that. So he worked nights over there at the mill, you know. He worked the night shift, bookkeeper over there. He’d go out there at times after work at two o’clock in the morning and flood the pond out there in Milltown for our ice skating rink and he’d take us skiing every weekend up the Blackfoot, anywhere, when the snow’d get up to here - go to Lost Trail Pass, Lookout Pass, Helena, every weekend.
Minie: Did he have a vehicle that you would all go in? Jack: Yeah, he had a sedan. Always rode in his car and sometimes Dean March, an old ex-marine fighter pilot from World War I, who grew up in Bonner, he’d come along with us too, if there was room. Sam: Yeah, these are both of Grant too. Jack: Yeah, that’s old Grant at Look Out Pass, these are the best pictures of Grant right there. That’s the time we went up there - the time we came in at Beck Lake - we had to pack the skis on our back, that’s the time it happened right there, 1945.
Chuck Teague Sam: Was that something that you’d do with the whole family a lot? Chuck Teague: I didn’t much go skiing up there because it wasn’t much of a hill. When I learned how to ski, one of childhood memories was Grant Higgins and Scouts. Grant Higgins was a descendent of some kind of the Higgins family. He was an accountant and he’d gone to college and he worked for the ACM Company in the office. And he lived in the Margaret Hotel. He lived on the northwest, in kinda a nice apartment on, I think, the third floor, bigger room. But, uh, he would mentor kids. And he gave us the structure of Scouts. We all got a Scout handbook and we learned the stuff in the Scout handbook that would be useful, you know, knots, and first aid, and tracking, and camping, and stuff like that. We didn’t do merit badges and crap like that but periodically he’d give us a new badge through the Cub Scouts. You know, various stages, the fox, or a wolf, or a bear, or whatever it is. Tenderfoot, I think it is. Tenderfoot First and Second Class, stuff like that. I don’t think any of us went to the effort to try and be an Eagle. Didn’t really know how to go about it, but he taught us to swim and he taught us to ski, and he’d take us. Took us camping. He took us across from Johnson Creek up the Blackfoot and we had packed up to go overnight. And we were on the wrong side of the river and he said don’t worry about it, your packsacks will float and hold you up as you go across the river. He knew we could all swim, but we were kinda concerned, dressed as we were,
Grant Higgins at Lookout Pass but it was hot, you know, good weather, hot weather. So anyway, we all made it across the river - that was quite an adventure - and we set up camp and we’d taken some fishing tackle just some line and some cheap fishing flies. Used to be able to buy five or ten of them for pennies at the dime store. And they had a short snell on them. And hook it on the end of your line and you’d drop it in (the) creek and the brook trout would catch it, so we each got some brook trout. So we cleaned them and then we fried them up for supper. That was a big adventure. We slept in rolled up blankets, seems like terribly heavy backpacks with the stuff we carried. But he taught all the kids in Milltown, in the Flat, and then Piltzville how to swim. I think, um, if somebody drowned he would find them in the river and retrieve them or if he was able to get them before they drowned he would give them artificial resuscitation and bring them back. He was instrumental in the growing up and development of a lot of us boys in that area - the Demmons boys, and myself, the Ruanas.
I remember specifically, Bill Demmons and I were the same age and we went through school from first grade through college together. But we skied, and he’d take us up to Diamond Mountain, or Mullan Pass, or Lookout Pass. One time he led about four of us to the top of Sheep Mountain and we had these canvas bags on the back of our skis so we could climb the mountain easier, but we climbed up to the top of Sheep Mountain. Judy: That’s a long hike. Chuck: Oh, it was a big hike. I remember it was like a fairyland up there, you never forget, one of life’s memorable experiences. But the trees up there were just like an idyllic picture. Where the wind hit them there was like a six or eight foot hole behind them that the wind had dug out, which was really impressive. So going down at the end of the day, we were skiing down and I remember I disappeared. Everything was white, and I couldn’t see, and I’d fallen into one of those wind shadows behind a tree. Anyway, Grant helped me get out and we got back to the car after dark and half the parents were there to make sure we had, uh, gotten out all right. But Grant was an outstanding individual.
Grant Higgins at Sheep Mountain
Swimming Relief 20”x17” Sam Berry
Lois Johnson Judy: I was just going to ask did you learn to swim or ski with Grant Higgins? Lois: Everyday at five ‘o clock, oh that was a magic time, he would come home from the office and go upstairs in the Margaret Hotel. We were only allowed in there on the first level, to the lobby, or the library. Grant lived up in about the third floor, up in a tower. And he’d come home and change to his swimming clothes, and without eating or anything. We were all lined up there waiting and I said he looked like the Pied Piper of Bonner, with all the kids walking up to the river. We had to cross the railroad track, across the bridge and then walk down the other side to where it was a safer swimming hole. And he taught us all how to swim and it was really pretty wonderful. Once a year he took the old bateau they had for the logging and we’d go up the river and have a wiener roast somewhere. I can remember coming down around the bend after it was starting to get dark, and seeing the teepee burner. It was just like fire works and when it was starting to get dark and you’d come around the bend and see that lit up, it was just beautiful. Judy: A follow up question about Grant, what was he like with the kids, was he quiet or was he jovial? Lois: He was very quiet and business like, uh, at least when he took us swimming. If anybody gave him any trouble they didn’t go again. He really expected us to listen to him and he had his boundaries, um, because of the different ages, and some of us could swim and some couldn’t. He never had any bad close encounters I don’t think. He was business like about it, I guess you might say, but everybody just loved him. He wasn’t, grumpy or he didn’t scold ya, he would just sometimes come and patiently show you again what he was trying to. Of course you know, you take a group of kids and they aren’t always going to want to learn. They just want to play too, so he was strict I think in that way, that he had his rules and regulations, and I can remember a few that probably didn’t do what he wanted, and he wouldn’t be responsible
for ‘em. He was, oh he’d tell stories and things, I don’t remember if he was always friendly and smiley but I don’t remember him being overly jubilant about anything. I can remember that, but that five o’clock every day on work nights, that was a magic time for most of us, and there weren’t a lot of cars that went up and down, but there was enough traffic that he expected us all to, you know everybody wanted to hold his hand and walk with him, but he expected us to trail out a little bit so we didn’t take up the road. So we did walk on the highway till we got up there and he really expected that if you went with him then you stayed where uh, there were always some who tried to, (laughs) tried it out on their own, but he had a lot of patience for some one who didn’t have children of his own. He really, he really was good to us. It was pretty nice to have somebody, and our parents must have really felt very safe with him taking all of us because a lot of them didn’t swim. My mother couldn’t, my dad never could so... Judy: They were probably happy to have you learn. Lois: Well they were, cause you know as long as that was part of living here it was, it was really nice. I think he was really brave to take a group and do that, but we loved him. Everybody did.
Art and Oral History Collaboration describing the Bonner Milltown Area