On the Road: Virginia City, Montana

Alex and I intended just to make a quick hour and a half or so jaunt a couple towns over to Three Forks, Montana but, as seems to happen with us, ended up going way further. We hit a thrift shop about the size of my bedroom in Manhattan, MT which is new since I was last in that town, replacing an antique shop in the space. Found another thrift shop in Manhattan in the back of a building with a hand written sign taped to the window, unfortunately only open mid-week for a few hours a day. Peering through the windows, it was packed with clothes, so maybe worth a trip back sometime soon. The antique/junk shop I had hoped to hit in Three Forks ended up being closed Mondays, so no luck there, and the stacked-to-the rafters dig-through-the-piles thrift shop downtown appears to have moved from their spacious storefront to a small vacant gas station on the edge of town, all their furniture stock stacked in piles under the gas station canopy with a hand written apology letter from them on the front of the store about the mess. That one was also closed, with people inside moving things around. The one remaining shop in town was open, but while it had a lot of antique knick-nacks and odds and ends, was strictly in the 1980s corduroy blazer world when it came to their men’s clothing selection.
With no joy picking wise in either of those towns, we pushed on to Ennis, where we gassed up the car, got lunch at a drug store lunch counter and hit an antique and thrift shop. Ennis is big in the flyfishing world, and the thrift shop was rife with Patagonia fleeces and Mountain Hardware moisture-wicking shirts, but nothing of the era I look for. The antique shop had a ton of things that were *this* close to being right, but everything was too small. ’50s wide brim fedoras, but all in the 6-3/4 range. Vintage cowboy boots in size 7. Yellowstone souvenir belts in sizes small even by children’s standards. So close, but left empty handed.

Our last stop was Virginia City, a ghost town semi-restored to a tourist destination in the 1950s-1960s. I love Virginia City and hate Virginia City. 60 odd years ago, when doing the restoration, interiors of the surviving buildings were recreated and were stocked with deadstock items sourced from all over the state, dating from the late 1800s-1920s or so. This was back when these things could still be found, of course. Since then, though heavily visited by tourists by Montana standards, all of these things have been more or less left to rot in semi-enclosed, semi-abandoned buildings. Deadstock tweed suits from the 1910s, stacks and stacks of caps, deadstock button boots, ties, you name it- they have it all, but from being displayed in the harsh sun and under leaky tin roofs, it’s all water damaged and sun faded now. Great to see someplace where it exists, and upsetting to someone like me to see it ruined from poor display.
So, 160 more miles on the road and completely empty-handed. Not great business (and this is how I pay all my bills and school, not just some hobby), but still a pleasant fall day in some beautiful places. As I say every time, this business is always a huge gamble every time I leave the house. Sometimes it’s 75 necktie jackpots and secondhand store D-Pocket leathers, sometimes it’s moths flying out of the wallet. But unless you pound the pavement and put in the work, you’ll never make the big scores.

Spotted a lot of older cars today, some as beater daily drivers with current tags, others rotting away in fields like the top center one.

Sometimes out here the difference between a small town and a ghost town can be fuzzy.

Some good vintage signage

Interiors in Virginia City and a few antique shop shots


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s