On the Road: Great Falls, Montana

This trip started in Anaconda, nearly a year to the day since my first time in the town, and my fifth or sixth time since the end of August there, helping Alex with a photo project she’s doing on the town.

Old Cars in Anaconda.  Unusual to see the Avanti and the Fiat.

Signs and Such in Anaconda.

Ghost Signs of Anaconda

We went to the Washoe Theater, designed in 1930 by architect Benjamin Marcus Priteca, who also designed the Pantages in Hollywood, CA, among many others. Opening was delayed until 1936 due to the economic ramifications of the depression. The interior design was by Nat Smythe and the murals are by Colville Smythe. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1982 and in remarkable condition, inside and out.
It’s still showing first run movies; Alex and I saw “Everest”. We showed up a bit early to be able to snap some shots before other people showed up. There were a few ghosts, and the house lights went out while we were shooting, causing the manager to run in to flip them back on, finding the lobby completely empty. Spooky.

Great Falls was a mixed bag. Two of the larger antique shops downtown which were the main draw for this trip are closed monday despite what their hours online say. A shop on the outside of town has closed and is empty and for sale. The St. Vincent DePaul was closed today only due to some unforseen circumstance on their part, and the batch of trip-making hand painted ties at the Salvation Army ($10 for the lot, as things stand) were for their auction and can only be picked up in person in five days time. Made a side trip on the way back through Helena to try to salvage some of the cost of the drive from the thrifts there which up till now have been a reliable goldmine. Left them empty handed. So a fair bit of disappointment. But a decent number of low-profit finds, so hopefully I’ll have enough volume to make up for the lack of anything big-ticket this time around. I’ll make the money, it just means that I’ll be making way way under minimum wage with the time I’ll have to put in to pull the finds from this trip out. At least it should be back in the black after a couple weeks of coming up emptyhanded.

In Great Falls, we hit six thrift shops, plus the two in Helena and one in Anaconda, and six antique shops in Great Falls, plus another in Anaconda. So fifteen open stores in all, not including all the closed-for-the-day and out of business ones we tried to hit.

Vintage neon

A view into some of the shops. Most of the other shoppers in all the thrift shops were Hutterites from the nearby colonies. Prices weren’t bad at the shops for the most part, and as usual, I found a ton of skinny lapel suit jackets from the early-mid 1960s but passed on them because of the complete lack of demand. There was a cache of 50+ ties from the 1940s at one of the antique stores, but they were priced at $10-$30 each, with the prices seeming to have nothing to do with era, pattern or condition. One of the shops that was closed had some vintage hats, ties, and sunglasses visible through the front window, taunting me. Maybe some of them will be there next time.

A highlight was the Sip ‘n Dip Lounge. I’ve written about it before on Diner Hunter. We hit it on a night when the mermaids had off (usually they swim up and down in the pool behind the bar) and on a night when Piano Pat also had off (she’s played there since 1963). So we had to take it on its merits as a Montana tiki bar up there on the second floor of the O’Hare Motor Inn. It was Sunday night and we had the place nearly to ourselves, save for a group of young women who left shortly after we came in and one man sitting at the bar. We did as you do at a tiki bar, and we got the fishbowl, complete with orange slices, cherries, umbrellas, swizzle sticks and ten straws.

More old cars.

We just back in and I haven’t had time to really sort through things, but here’s the tally: a Dobbs Homburg, a Stetson 7X clear beaver, Pilgrim porkpie a 1950s tweed overcoat, an early ’60s peak lapel overcoat, Velveteez moc toe ankle boots, a ’60s-’70s pendleton jacket pleat-back corduroy jacket, German Cigarette card collection scrapbook, early ’60s peak lapel suit, 8 vintage ties, a pair of button boots, child sized jeweled and studded western belt and a Sicura (Breitling) automatic watch. I might be going back to buy a 1974 Ford Econoline later in the week, pictured in one of the above posts, if it feels strong enough to make the drive back over the pass.


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