StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled to Missoula, Montana, to record stories for our National Teachers Initiative. We were hosted by the Graduation Matters Missoula program, and during our stay, we met Cecil Crawford, a Blackfeet Native American teacher at Hellgate High School, and his co-teacher, Nancy Larum.
According to Cecil, he does not teach by giving directions but by telling stories, and in discussing his life’s work, he did just that. Cecil speaks with a calming cadence in his voice, and after our conversation I felt relaxed and overtaken by his infectious serenity. He shared a story of how one night, he dreamt of himself teaching a classroom full of Native American children. He took the dream as a sign and left his reservation to become the first teacher to implement a Native American studies curriculum in a high school outside the Indian reservation. This later became a model for other schools across Montana and other states. (more…)
StoryCorps Door-to-Door headed to Missoula, Montana for the National Teacher’s Initiative through a partnership with Graduation Matters Missoula. Facilitator Luis Gallo and I embarked on a journey into the wilderness. In keeping with the theme of our trip, it was an education. Moose, bald eagles, deer sightings, sweeping vistas of mountains, and rivers coursing through valleys, it felt as far away from our Brooklyn headquarters as one could get. Just as impressive were the teachers, educators, students, and parents we met during interviews at the Missoula Education Association.
Father and son Wayne and Sean Beddow are both teachers and arrived not quite knowing what to expect, but they gradually warmed to the process of telling their story. Over the course of the conversation, their love of teaching, coaching basketball, and their influence on one another became apparent. (more…)
Facilitators Rachel Falcone and Daniel Littlewood spent their last afternoon in Montana taking a trip to Norris Hot Springs. We soaked while surrounded by rolling hills dotted with these stunning flowers and listening to the sweet tunes of the Spring’s live bluegrass band Thermal Grass.
Montana, we’ll miss you. On to Utah!
All good things must come to an end, and Butte, Montana, sure is a good thing. As July came to a close, Mitra Bonshahi transfered her commission to new Facilitator Rachel Falcone, and Facilitator Daniel Littlewood salutes farewell also. Time to get ready to head to Logan, Utah, for the next step on the StoryCorps MobileBooth West tour.
But we couldn’t leave without thanking our gracious hosts, Barb and Johnny, who provided housing for the Facilitators for the entire month. Visit the Uptown Cafe next time you find yourself in Butte, and tell them Mitra sent you. We’re on the move!
High above the skyline rise the headframes of mines, dotting the landscape as reminders of Butte’s past.
Thanks to the work of several miners, artists, and community-minded folks, the headframes are iconic at night, too. They are visible for miles thanks to the donated red lighting.
John T. Shea worked for years in the mines as a ropesman and driver, along with a host of other jobs. He is a moving force behind Lighten UP, Butte! which aims to preserve the heritage of Butte’s mines while beautifying the city. He and Barbara Kornet told the story of how the headframes were lit. One of Barb’s favorite memories is of being hundreds of feet up in the air with the old Butte miners, getting a headframe ready for its makeover.
Rick Foote and Pam Swiger came to the booth to talk about their time as reporters in the 1960s for Montana’s major newspaper, The Montana Standard. They would cover their beat around town by hopping from one watering hole to the next, getting the latest scoop from the miners and madames who would stay up all night drinking.
The famous M&M bar, one of the many bars Rick and Pam frequented, used to be a round-the-clock drinking parlor and gambling house that catered to miners after a hard day of work. When beat poet Jack Kerouac happened to come upon the M&M in 1970, he described the characters in the place: “old prospectors, gamblers, whores, miners, Indians, cowboys, tobacco chewing businessmen” and maybe even Rick and Pam. Kerouac also proclaimed that the M&M was “the end of [his] quest for an ideal bar.” After a brief pause during the hard economic times of the 1980s in Butte, the M&M is once again a 24-hour bar. What else can we say but cheers to that.
Mining is Butte and Butte is mining and with that comes the tales of the Berkeley Pit.
Opened in 1955 by the Anaconda Mining Company, the Berkeley Pit was the largest truck-operated open pit copper mine in the United States. Due to falling copper prices, mining was shut down in 1982. With the closing of the mines and all their water pumps, highly acidic water laced with toxic heavy metals filled up the pit. Today the Pit is a reminder of Butte’s mining past and now lays claim to being one of the largest Superfund, or environmentally hazardous, sites in the country.
With the expansion of the Pit, thousands of homes in the Italian neighborhood of Meaderville were destroyed. The photographs show the contrast of what used to be the town of Meaderville in 1942 and what has become of the area in 2007.
Despite environmental damage wrought by years of mining, Butte rejoices in its beauty. Nestled in the mountains at an elevation of around 5000 feet, Butte also has huge lengths of mining tunnels thousands of feet underground. As the saying goes, Butte’s a mile high, a mile deep, and the people are on the level.
Relics of Butte’s mining history remain. Besides Copper Street, there’s Mercury Road, Iron Road, Platinum Road, and a host of others. Headframes of mines dot the landscape, towering hundreds of feet into the air, stark steel signifiers of what once was the Richest Hill On Earth.
On their day off, facilitators Mitra Bonshahi and Daniel Littlewood took their truck straight to the hills. After a long hot hike up Lake Creek Trail in Lolo National Forest, they stopped for a well-deserved break. A necessary one, too, as the next step was some vigorous bushwhacking back down, through fallen logs, bushes, and slippery gravel. It was, as the kids say, a blast.
Hats off, or on, to Louise Brooks, artist-in-residence in Butte, for taking us out to the countryside.
With raging appetites from the hike, Mitra and Daniel took advantage of the hospitality of Trixi’s Antler Saloon and Family Diner, the best bar/restaurant in Ovando, Montana and pretty much the only one, too.
Stop by when you’re next in the area and check out the pictures of Trixi, the bar’s namesake, in her trick horse-riding prime.
Stories to tell, nicknames to remember – or is it stories to remember and nicknames to tell. Butte, Montana, is renowned for its practice of giving just about everybody in town a handle. Turns out that there’s actually a book of nicknames that’s been passed around Butte for years, and one of the authors came into the booth on our first day open.
Meet Young Spike Nose, i.e. Kevin Shannon and his daughter Ellen Crain. (more…)
In Butte we’ve parked ourselves outside of a beautiful old theater. Originally built as a Masonic temple in 1923, the reconstructed theatre was named The Mother Lode to reflect Butte’s mining heritage as the "Richest Hill on Earth."
Here’s a view of the interior of the Mother Lode Theater. Notice the lovely chandeliers, the rich velvet trim, and the StoryCorps opening reception in progress. Michael Marsolek from Montana Public Broadcasting gave a few words to let folks know about the project. Also, Butte pasties were served.
The opening of the project was front page news in The Montana Standard.
George Everett was brought to the booth by his wife Barbara Miller, who thought it was time to turn the tables on George. As a historian of Butte, he’s constantly asking folks questions about it, and now had to answer a few himself. As you can see, the answers were satisfactory. Welcome to the StoryCorps MobileKissingBooth West.
There’s no better way to enter a city than with a billboard announcing your arrival. As facilitators Daniel and Mitra drove into Butte, Montana, they caught sight of the billboard below put up by partner station, Montana Public Radio.
And there’s no better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than to have the StoryCorps MobileBooth being towed in Butte’s enormous Fourth of July Parade, a MobileBooth first. Joined by Senior Coordinator Terry Scott, we were the toast of the town. Thanks for loving freedom, Butte, and for loving StoryCorps.
Even babies love stories. One of our younger participants enjoys the company of StoryCorps facilitators.
In Missoula, we are parked right on the Clarkfork River, a picturesque spot. Today, our hosts at KUFM and the Boone and Crockett club held a little ice cream party to welcome StoryCorps to Missoula and introduce us to the community here.
. . . driving over the flatlands of eastern Montana