Monday, October 19, 2009

View From the Bridge 10/21/09

VIEW from the BRIDGE
By Muncie Morger

If you missed the performance of Everything Fritz on the 12th of October, then you missed one of the best shows that the Chouteau County Performing Arts has ever put on. The Fritz family consists of mom, dad, and the four kids…two young men and two young women. The Fritz’s did everything but sing and they did not really need that to keep us entertained. They played so many instruments that we lost count. The “step-dancing” was phenomenal and was a cross between clogging and tap-dancing. All of the young Fritz’s are champions and have been playing and dancing most of their lives.

There were two hundred and eleven audience seats filled and that is a record. Word somehow got around because there were people from Great Falls and Big Sandy that were recognized.

I spoke to the sisters after the show and found that they travel for six weeks and go home to Ontario, Canada for two months. Then they are on the road again for another six weeks. I just had to ask what kind of social life they have with that kind of schedule. The oldest sister said that she does have a boyfriend and he sings. The other sister added that any boyfriends would have to be musical. We also wondered if they had a bus that they traveled in. We drove round back of the Elementary School afterward. We saw that they had some sort of van (do not know one vehicle from another) with a medium sized trailer attached. Do not think that would be the life for most of we retirees.

I know that there are many “I’s” in this column but I just have to tell you about the Montana Historical Society’s Conference last Friday. I wish every one of you history buffs could have been there. Kathy Nelson, Jack Lepley, Randy Morger, and myself were the only ones from Fort Benton. Randy and I only attended the sessions on Friday that started with breakfast at 7:30am. There were sessions on Thursday and field trips on Saturday. We had a breakfast speaker who spoke about Malstrom Air Force Base. It was an immensely interesting subject including the story about how it came to be much to the advantage of not only Great Falls but also the entire surrounding area.

I enjoyed the next presentation because of the actors. One of the programs listed it as “How Great Falls Began-125 Years Ago,” and the other listed “Electric Beginnings.” Four colorful characters told the story including Paris Gibson, Whitman Gibson “Vinegar” Jones, Martha Edgerton Rolfe wife of Herbert Percy Rolfe (played by our own historian Ken Robison.) Some interesting facts were that Paris and “Vinegar” were cousins and not loving ones. The banter that went on between them was very humorous. Herbert Percy Rolfe was Paris’ surveyor and lawyer. I am sure that you all know that Paris Gibson was in Fort Benton first. The cast related that he always wanted to start a city of his own. My slant on the story is that when his friend, James Hill, want to built the railroad in Fort Benton along the Levee, the townspeople put a stop to it (thanks to them.) Paris then said, “I’m out of here” and away he went to Great Falls. One very interesting statement that Paris made was that he lobbied to get the University of Montana to locate in Great Falls. Can you imagine if the “Griz” were located there. We would not have to drive over the mountains to see the football games. Awesome but it never happened although Paris tried.

We then proceeded on to the workshops. There were three concurrent sessions for each time period and Randy and I had decided we would attend different ones. I chose “Homesteaders and Homemakers” and again was fascinated with what I learned.

Lunch was again around the poolside area as was breakfast and Stephanie Ambrose spoke about her new book, “Why Sacagawea Deserves the Day Off.” I do not remember there being a questions and answer time because I had a question, I have always wanted to ask someone in the know about. Why does any painting, picture, book cover, coin and other items about this fifteen year old girl make her look like she is fifty years old? I still do not have an answer.

Women and War was my next choice and it was hard to imagine those very intelligent and brave women doing what they did. It was the story of women flying all type of aircraft for transport during WWII. Truly unbelievable. The next session was Water, Land, and Leisure that again I listened to stories I never had heard.

My final session was Medicine in Montana and it was the most interesting of all. It told about how the Deaconess Hospital was started and how the nursing force began. Women…can you imagine training under poor conditions for 12 hours a day. They not only took care of five patients a day, they made beds, scrubbed floors, cooked all the meals, did all the laundry and had to iron everything including sheets and pillowcases. All this work was done for room and board with no compensation until they were seniors. They were mostly 18 years of age, could not be married, and got one day off a year. I will never complain about my homemaking chores again.
If this interests you at all…join us next year (although I am not sure if they are held every year.) The Montana Historical Society belongs to all the people in Montana so take advantage of what they have to offer. Learn all you can about them by going to the internet and checking their web site.

A long time ago, I quoted a poster from a Museum in Polson that said, “A People Without a History is Like the Wind in the Buffalo Grass.” If you don’t know where you came from, you can’t know where you are going.

Don’t want to talk about the weather. We have had two wonderful warm days but what is to came at us tomorrow (Monday.) I was thankful for those two days as I got all the summer “stuff” put away and the dead plants and flowers in the trash can. Will think “snow” now I guess, as I put scrapers in the vehicles and the snow shovels in the garage. Ouch…it’s such a long time from November to the end of March.

God bless America.