Tuesday, July 7, 2009

View From The Bridge

“VIEW from the BRIDGE”
by Muncie Morger

Did you want to purchase a t-shirt and found that they were sold out? It is not too late to order as there is a list being compiled for those of you who would like to now order. Call Cathy Burtch at 490-1180 or Connie Jenkins at 750-2918 and they will take care of it. They are very attractive shirts and will be the thing to wear come next St. Patrick’s day. That “wan-a-be Irish” fever certainly hit Fort Benton and the shirts are keepers.

Ruth Carlstrom comes up with the neatest ideas to promote the Chamber of Commerce members businesses. We (13 volunteers) visited the three RV Parks, two out of three Guesthouses, the Pioneer Lodge, and the Grand Union Hotel, riding in the Community Bus. All of these businesses are very pleasant places to stay for an evening or longer. Each is unique and each has special attractions. For a complete list of places to stay, places to eat and other businesses, stop and visit the Visitors Center for a complete list with phone numbers included.

The list is new this year and is printed on a card you can keep by your phone. It comes in very handy especially when you have company, guests, and visitors. While you are at the Center, pick up a free Travel Guide. It lists all the cities and towns in Montana, what each has to offer in the way of museums, other entertainment, hotels, motels, restaurants, and everything you always wanted to know about Montana. Also, pick up your copy of the free Russell Country book, which has a picture of the Grand Union on the cover this year.

Did you know that Montana is divided into six countries for tourism purposes? There is Custer, Glacier, Gold West, Missouri River, Yellowstone, and of course our Russell. If you are traveling somewhere in Montana, pick up a copy of the country you are visiting and read its attractions. Keep a copy in your home and a copy in your vehicles. These attractive magazines are all free. Perhaps by the time you read this, the new Calendar of Events will have arrived and they are so interesting because it lists every event going on in every city and town for every weekend.

Perry and Wanita Stupy (sorry about miss spelling your name a few articles ago) have returned to Fort Benton from Arizona. Soon after they unpacked, they repacked and drove to Alaska. Now Perry is 90 years old and that is a long haul but the adventure of it was a challenge. They said that the scenery was a completely different world. They saw more wild game than they expected and it included moose, elk, black bears, porcupines, rock sheep, musk ox, and an eagle feeding on fish. There were two musk ox butting heads and when an old one walked by they stopped what they were doing. After the old one was out of sight, they began again. In the same area, another musk ox threw up a cloud of dust as he rolled in it. The caribou were generally in larger groups (hanging out together.) Uncharacteristically, the wolves were the only ones who showed any fear of people.

People were curious about the condition of the Alcan Highway (I certainly would be.) All the Stupys could say was that there were 70 mph stretches and 40 mph stretches. In Yukon Territory, there is a certain amount of heaving of the road due to the permafrost and a lot of highway and bridge construction.

In Anchorage, Perry took a bright picture of Wanita at midnight. The long daylight hours provides one of doing more and seeing more. On their 15 days trip, they covered 5,800 miles and they stayed ahead of the mosquitoes.

I am reporting on this trip because I thought it so interesting and I could see Alaska through the eyes of the Stupys. On the Fort Benton website, one of my friends said that she could see Montana through my eyes and that is what the Stupys did for me.

While spraying the Park grounds to mark the spots for Art on the Levee, Janice Hunter discovered a granite bench at the south end of the park. She would not have seen the plaque if she had not been on her hands and knees. It is inscribed, “Fort Benton Woman’s Club Gift of Gust Johnson 1940.” I was asked to check it out because I volunteer at the Overholser Research Center once a week. I did a little research (it was not difficult to find because Joel’s files are so complete) and this is what I found. Printed in the May 15th, 1940 River Press, was this story.

“Gust Johnson of Square Butte, Installs Stone Bench in Old Fort Park. August Johnson of Square Butte, spent Saturday in this city, coming over to set up the stone bench which was carved by Mr. Johnson, was placed in the Old Fort Park, at the south end of the park facing Main Street. It is of Square Butte granite and bears this inscription: Fort Benton Woman’s Club—Gift of Gust Johnson 1940.” This work was done voluntarily by Mr. Johnson, who last fall made a similar gift to the Geraldine Woman’s Club, placing their bench in the Club Park. Setting was done in cooperation with the City Park Committee, Wearn Rowe representing the Council. Mr. Johnson made the trip over Saturday so the bench would be in place for Mother’s Day and the entire project was carried through without a cent of expense either for the Woman’s Club or the City.

The bench is six foot long and carries the inscription on the front edge. The stone cutting is a most artistic piece of work and the bench itself is a fine addition to the Park and will be enjoyed by the many visitors who visit the Old Fort grounds.

Mr. Johnson, who for many years worded as a stone cutter at the Square Butte quarries, has spent more than 65 years at this trade and there are probably few men in the country who have had a longer experience. The bench in Old Fort Park will be a lasting reminder of his public spiritedness and of his handiwork.”

I would like to make some comments about this bench. Mrs. Johnson had passed away in March of 1940 and I thought that perhaps Mr. Johnson had donated the bench in her honor. There is no evidence of that. I checked Mrs. Johnson’s obituary thinking that it might say that she belonged to either the Geraldine or Fort Benton Woman’s Club. There is no evidence of that. We will never know why Mr. Johnson donated the bench unless there is someone out there in Montana land that might be related and the story passed down. Please check with me if you know anything at all about this bench. (Hank Armstrong said there is no longer a Club Park and he was going to look for the bench in Geraldine. I’ll report next week if it is found.

I recently found a beautiful writing by Mother Theresa called “The Final Analysis.” It is too long to print this week but I will give you one line each week. “People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.”
God Bless America. What a thrill we had on the 4th in Great Falls where we saw thousands of tiny tykes waving their American Flags. What a thrill when there were flyovers of three helicopters and four jet fighter planes. Your heart practically pounds out of your chest. I just pray that by the time those tiny tykes grow up there will be peace.