Archives for category: streetcars

Farewell to 1922 Missoula: to friends and kin, busy streets, department stores, movies, hustle and bustle, controversial hangings, and séance chats with Grandma.  No more having the groceries delivered!  Time to head back to the ranch.  Baby Dorma is about to take her first big journey.  Check out all the modes of transportation she’ll ride, as documented by her mother:

“Wed. April 5.

I went down to the dentist at 10 a.m. & had a tooth filled. Stopped & bid Mrs. Andrews & McDonald goodbye & got home about noon.

Mama washed and cleaned up the rooms all good & in P.m. she went down town & I took Rubys buggy while she was over to her mothers & took baby down to Mrs. Mucklers, her first trip out doors but Mrs. M. was not at home but came over when she returned & brot some cakes & nut bread.

I went to see “Black Hawk” in evening with Mabel & Aunt Lue.

Mama ironed & took care of Baby while I was gone.

Thur.  April 6.

Got up bustling around to pack up & go home.

Never more pleased in my life.

Mrs. La Chome (?) was over to see Dorma.

Had dinner down stairs. Mama & Uncle Al left in the truck about 12 oclock & Baby & I went on the street car to Bonner about 1.

Took the train for Potomac about 2 & Mr. Keagle met us there & took us in to the city in the truck so Dorma had her first street car, train & auto ride. Jay was there to meet his family with the sled.

Ladies so nice to us at Potomac and so sweet to Baby.

Met the York outfit after supper.”

Baby rode a streetcar, train, truck, and sled.  Not bad for a 3-week-old infant in Montana’s chilly wet spring weather.  Sadly, today Montana is right up there with North Dakota in terms of electrified public transportation (or public transpo of any kind).  I adore streetcars and trains, they are so superior to cars and planes.  Lounge car, hello!!

Below is a nice Missoulian article on a restored streetcar, and a gentleman a little younger than our diarist, who remembers riding it to school.  Who knows?  #50 may have been the very car used by our diarist and her family in April 1922:

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‘Pretty’ streetcar No. 50 returns to Missoula

SEPTEMBER 01, 2012 10:15 PM • BY KIM BRIGGEMAN OF THE MISSOULIAN

You might as well call it A Streetcar Named Memories.

It’s been 80 years since old No. 50 rustled down the tracks of the Missoula electric streetcar system, but you can’t really call it old.

The emerald green beauty, adorned in varnished cherry wood and brass, arrived back in town on a flatbed this summer after a 16-year hiatus in Big Sandy, where restoration specialist Randy

Now, volunteer laborers have finished construction of the streetcar’s new home at the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, and the former interurban car, which made more than a dozen runs daily to the bustling mill town of Bonner from 1912 to 1932, is almost ready to be shown off.

A gala 100th anniversary fundraiser and homecoming party is set for Saturday, and director Bob Brown said the Fort museum is planning a free public showing on Sept. 29.

By next summer, a glass atrium on one end of the volunteer-built transportation barn will allow regular viewing of the streetcar and other vehicles to be stored there.

***

No. 50 turned the head of one of its former riders the other day. Fritz Thibodeau, 98, last saw the car in 1932.

“It wasn’t as pretty back then,” he noted.

A cause for celebration and revelry today, the electric trolleys had long since worn off their novelty by the time Thibodeau entered Missoula High in 1928. His mother, Flavie, had moved most of the family back to Bonner after her husband died in southern Alberta a few years earlier.

They lived in Milltown, and Thibodeau recalled a big platform where the streetcar stopped to pick up and drop off passengers. Not-so-old timers remember Weimer’s 66 gas station and later Dave’s Country Station at the site of the stop.

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/pretty-streetcar-no-re…ticle_d705511e-f4b3-11e1-90e2-0019bb2963f4.html?print=true&cid=print Page 1 of 4’Pretty’ streetcar No. 50 returns to Missoula 1/4/14 11:33 AM

Thibodeau graduated from MCHS in 1932, and his high school years coincided with the last years of the streetcars that went out of service on Jan. 24, 1932. Bonner School paid the students’ 15-cent fare, and the seats teemed with teens each morning and afternoon.

“They had a hell of a time keeping the streetcar in any kind of decent shape because of the kids,” Thibodeau remembered.

The Montana Power Co. bought the Missoula trolley system in 1928, according to Missoula historian Allan Mathews. It probably wasn’t long after when Thibodeau and others were summoned to the high school gym.

“They called an assembly just for the kids who rode the streetcar from Missoula to Bonner,” he remembered. “Those cars had those straw seats or whatever they were, and the kids would tear them up and make a mess.

“The guy from the Montana Power Co. wanted to know if they were running the streetcar for a bunch of cattle, or what was going on.”

Thibodeau doesn’t remember the power company boss’s name, “but I know we got a hell of a lecture, because when Montana Power got through with us then the school superintendent had his say.”

The warnings probably had some effect, but they didn’t stop the teenage hijinks. A popular practice at a stop was to pull the trolley from its connection with the electrified line overhead. Thibodeau said it could be done with the tug of a rope at the back of the streetcar.

That forced the motor man to climb down from the car, go around and put the line back on.

“While he was doing that, the kids would be hiding on the other side of the streetcar, and they’d come running around and get on for free,” said Thibodeau, who later served on the Bonner and MCHS school boards and one term as Missoula County commissioner in the late 1970s.

He said it was too long ago to recollect if he took part in the streetcar skullduggery. “But I’m sure I probably did.” ***

No. 50 was a “one-way” car. While the travel direction of the urban cars, some eight feet shorter, could be reversed by switching the trolley connection up top, the interurban car needed a loop to turn around on. The eastern loop circled the roundhouse near the end of Bonner, where the Bonner Post Office and history center are now.

Thibodeau said the Missoula loop ringed downtown on East Broadway, Pattee and Front streets and up Higgins Avenue to Broadway again. There also was a turnaround at Fort Missoula. The interurban car made almost hourly runs to Bonner from early morning to midnight. According to Brown, it continued out to Fort Missoula, now its permanent home, a couple of times a day.

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/pretty-streetcar-no-re…ticle_d705511e-f4b3-11e1-90e2-0019bb2963f4.html?print=true&cid=print Page 2 of 4

‘Pretty’ streetcar No. 50 returns to Missoula 1/4/14 11:33 AM

In the mid-1970s several Bonner residents, now deceased, relayed their memories of No. 50 for “A Grass Roots Tribute: The Story of Bonner, Montana.”

Mildred Dufresne said the streetcar was “comfortable, never too crowded and very prompt.”

It opened a new world for those in the previously isolated mill community seven often bumpy road miles from Missoula.

“In those days of the Model T, etc., many persons in this area were able to go to church, to school, visiting, on picnics and many other places because there was the good old reliable, inexpensive streetcar,” Dufresne said.

Dufresne told of a story she heard from Olive Smith, who was riding No. 50 one day when it hit a cow. Both streetcar and cow were able to resume their journey.

Aafje Demmons, who lived 2 1/2 miles north of Bonner on the Milwaukee Railroad, remembered walking that distance in snow, rain and sunshine to the roundhouse.

“Here people waited for the streetcar; there were several benches attached to the side of the building, and this building housed sort of a small soda fountain; small sundry items could be purchased there. I do believe there was a ‘card-playing room’ off to one side,” Demmons said.

Dufrense said one family used the streetcar on picnic outings at Greenough Park.

“They would pack a lunch, take their baby son and his stroller, get on the streetcar, get off at the Vine Street stop, have a picnic in the park, and catch another car in the evening to go home,” she reported.

*** Jan. 24, 1932, was a Sunday, so Thibodeau doesn’t think he rode No. 50 on its last run.

A front-page newspaper article the next day gave some details. It named no fewer than 15 “motormen” who finished their final deliveries that Sunday.

“The Bonner car on its last run arrived on Higgins Avenue from Bonner at midnight and headed for the barns with Frank Williams at the controls,” the paper reported.

Two other cars finished even later – Walter Mannix and the West Side car a few minutes after midnight and “the last University car with Ralph Starr as motorman” after that.

Starr would later be elected to eight consecutive terms as justice of the peace, and he became Missoula’s 32nd mayor in 1949.

Other conductors of those last-night runs in ’32 were Warren Mayhew and Samuel Myers on the Daly Addition cars, Spencer Esmay on the East Side car, and Ed Ashenbrenner on one of the University cars.

Eight others had finished their runs earlier in the afternoon – Roy Downs, George Richards,

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/pretty-streetcar-no-re…ticle_d705511e-f4b3-11e1-90e2-0019bb2963f4.html?print=true&cid=print Page 3 of 4

‘Pretty’ streetcar No. 50 returns to Missoula 1/4/14 11:33 AM

Warren E. Thieme, Knute Frye, Walter Hufford, W.C. LaMontague, Gordon Tracey and Peter Baron.

When Richards, the dean of motormen on the University route, made his final trip from the Northern Pacific depot to the old country club (now the University of Montana golf course), he was “held up” at the end of the line, the Missoulian reported. A dozen of his long-riding passengers crowded around the platform where the “bewildered motorman” was confronted by A.L. Stone, dean of UM’s journalism school.

Stone presented Richards with a fine fishing rod and said, “We want you to know how much we’ve appreciated riding with you, George, and we wish you good luck always.”

Esmay went down in history as a passenger on both the first Missoula electric streetcar run and the last.

As a boy he’d watched the first cars unloaded from the train in 1910 and took the company up on an offer for a free ride to Bonner. On that January night in ’32, Esmay paid his token to ride the last few blocks with Starr after turning in his own car minutes earlier.

At 7:15 a.m. that Monday morning, the first of 11 United Transit Co. buses set out on their newly established routes. One went south from Broadway and Higgins along Brooks Street to Fort Missoula.

Another rolled east to Bonner, as Missoula’s era of electrified public transportation ended for good.

Mystery and Melancholy of a Street: Downtown Missoula, MT on a winter's eve

Beautiful shot of Streetcar #50, now restored, plying the snowy streets sometime in the 1920s. Our diarist probably climbed aboard plenty of times while she stayed in town, waiting to have her baby.

Check out http://fortmissoulamuseum.org/index.php to learn more about this streetcar.

Our diarist and her Mama sewed so much for the coming baby, and themselves, that their eyes ached!  It must have invigorating, to say the least, to leave their stuffy rooms for the cold streets of downtown Missoula in search of food, friends, and after-Christmas sales.

“Sat. Jan. 21.

I emb. most all day for a.m.

Mama cut out a few new garments in p.m.  I went down stairs and looked for emb. patterns part of p.m.  Mama felt so bum & her head ached so much we layed down a little while then went down town for an airing.

Mrs Muckler & Virginia also Mrs. Nelson & Esther called in Evening.

My Dr. came also but late.  I had toast & soft egg for B. a little rice, potator & venison cooked fine together for dinner & Oatmeal for supper.

Alway milk to drink.”

Missoula probably seemed like a big town to her, but it numbered only 12,688 souls in 1920 (two years before).  Even today we haven’t hit the 67,000 mark yet.  Image

This shot facing north along the Higgins Bridge shows the city ran on steam heat–note the smokestacks.  The riverbanks, now Caras Park, were weedy lots that probably flooded every spring–the Corps of Engineers hadn’t built the levees yet.  The beloved Wilma Theatre, where our diarist may have gone to see a silent movie, shows its familiar pale beige side, and telephone line spaghetti is much in evidence.

See the streetcar?  Missoula pioneered the one-man operated trolley (first in the U.S.!)  I could swear that the narrow walkways on either side haven’t changed: there is still only room enough for two (not very chubby) people to squeeze past each other.  But it keeps us Missoulians friendly.

To travel back in time and hear a bit of city life in the 1920s, check out this wonderful audio project featured on  http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/10/22/239870539/the-sounds-of-new-york-city-circa-1920.  Yes, New York was a little bit bigger — but it gives you the feel.