On The Road: Back in Billings

We went back to Billings again yesterday. It’s an easy 140 mile drive which makes for a busy day trip or a relaxed overnight. We opted for the overnight, staying at the Dude Rancher again. There are pics of it in the first post of this thread. We hit town around 5:00, just as the sun was setting, but still with enough time to get an hour in at a big antique mall on the fringes of downtown, Marketplace 3301. There were definitely some things there I wish I had bought, but that were just too high- an 1800s bearskin coat for $250, or the sign off the Great Falls Hub store, from which I’ve had a number of pieces that were originally sold there over the years. But if I bought everything I wanted, I’d be broke with a houseful of unsalable things. Not that that’s too far off the mark as it is.

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The next morning, we went back to 3301, to finish up the second floor, as we ran out of time Thursday evening. We went for breakfast at a place called the Muzzleloader. It boasted having been in business since 1957, and was out on the industrial side of town. I had visions of a typically western cafe- knotty pine, worn stools and a rifle hanging over the counter. Pulling up we were met with an enormous Cracker Barrel reject looking building, half cafe, half casino. Inside was large and impersonal, with that certain combination of beige and pastel that only late ’80s remodelings can yield. But, it was packed with locals and had a chicken fried steak special, so what the hey, we gave it a shot.

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Then on to downtown Billings, for Yesteryear’s antique mall, a sprawling 3 story place. It has remarkable turnover in their stock, and I’ve always managed to find good things there. Oxford Antiques, in business for 31 years, was closed for the day. Last I was there, I was chatting with the owners and they were mentioning that they were easing somewhat into retirement, ramping down their hours and marking lots of the stock in the store down 50% to move it. So hopefully they were out enjoying the last bit of good weather before winter hits in full and I’ll catch them next time.

I made my requisite stop to Montana Vintage Clothing- if you’re ever in the area, you must stop. They have racks and racks of vintage menswear, 1920s-1960s, suits, ties, jackets, shoes, hats, you name it. And while their men’s section has the scope and sheer volume that would make people here weep, it’s small when compared to the women’s side. They’ve been in business 17 years, are extremely knowledgeable and friendly and being located in Billings, have affordable prices. You could score yourself a ’30s suit, tie and hat all for under $200.

Then on to the thrift shops, the big Goodwill outside town, the two St. Vincent DePauls, the Montana Rescue Mission, the Family Service Secondhand. I swear they’ve raised their prices, with better deals to be found at the antique shops. $30 for a mothy ’50s overcoat? That’s more than I could charge with all my experience and contacts. We passed abandoned warehouse buildings bearing the signs of two defunct antique malls, and the abandoned Salvation Army. For a town that’s always been reliable as a source of vintage for me, it seems it hasn’t always been kind to the shops that sell it. There’s a certain desperation to Billings.

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We made one last quick stop in Big Timber, where I finally bought a ’30s/’40s suit (sans jacket) that I had seen on the pricing rack the better part of a year ago, but had been unable to buy then. It took its time, but finally made its way out. As we got closer to Bozeman, the temperature dropped and the snow closed in, white specks on the horizon growing into snowy mountains.

Exhausted, we settled back in. This was the trip of Open Roads. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be another one.

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1960s Kaufman’s peak lapel overcoat

http://www.ebay.com/itm/401020145794
This vintage overcoat was made in the 1960s by J&F for Kaufman’s of Great Falls, Montana. It is single breasted, with peak lapels.

Chest (pit to pit): 23″ (doubled = 46″)
Shoulder to shoulder: 17-1/2″
Sleeve (shoulder to cuff): 23-1/4″
Length (Base of collar to hem): 38-1/2″

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On the Road: Livingston, Montana

Alex and I took an impromptu, “hey want to go to Livingston in ten minutes?” trip this morning a half hour east of here. Livingston’s an interesting town, a mix of worn wrangler jeans and patagonia fleeces, cowboy bars and high end flyfishing shops.

Time ran short, so we had to skip my favorite thrift shop by the railroad tracks, but we managed to hit a thrift shop, two antique stores, and a secondhand shop. I walked out emptyhanded from the thrift shop for the first time- they had a fair number of early ’60s sportcoats and orphaned suit jackets, but have raised their prices since last I was there, and the online market on late ’50s-early ’60s tweed is below even thrift shop prices. The secondhand store had a lot of things I was *this* close to buying, ’50s fleck, ’40s overcoats, a couple ’50s hats, at reasonable prices, but again, all were the kind of thing that I like, but which the market right now is pretty iffy on and didn’t want to risk. Most of those have been there for the two years I’ve been going, so if things pick back up, or if any of you pass through Livingston, they’ll probably be there.

A little over a month ago, I got an invitation from Tamara Mason, owner of the Mountain West Mercantile to drop by the shop and introduce myself and to chat about vintage. I’ve been in a half dozen or so times since I moved out this way, but still have a hesitation about coming out to shopowners as a fellow dealer. We’re a small community, and nearly everyone I’ve run into or talked to has been incredibly supportive, friendly and helpful, but I still feel like I’m on their turf or somehow in competition. So it was a great feeling to get the invite for Tamara and to get to go geek out. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that we know, or know of a lot of the same people in the business. We commiserated about the difficulty in finding golden era vintage and the changing market. She pulled out some real gems for me to see from the back, and I made some exciting finds. As I’m sure you all know, I’m a fan of the vintage westernwear, and this is the most I’ve seen in one place. A real treasure trove of peak lapel gabardine suits, ranch jacs and vintage hats. If you’re in the neighborhood, it’s a must stop- jam packed with high quality, real vintage from the era we like. It’s at 205 S. Main Street, Livingston, MT

So the finds for the day- a Dobbs Golden Coach thirty, a Stetson Gun Club, a late ’40s Bouldercord suit and a ’50s Miller suit.

On the Road: Kalispell Montana and Glacier National Park

This week’s trip was a big one, clocking about 850 miles on the trusty 4 Runner. Starting in Bozeman, Alex and I headed west, through Missoula, up to Kalispell, Montana. The forecast had been calling for serious weather and we got an eerie combination of blazing sun and black skies coming past the old Prison in Deer Lodge. We finally made it up to Kalispell and settled in so that we could get an early start on Saturday.

As soon as they opened, we started looking, hitting every thrift and antique shop we could find in Kalispell and the surrounding towns. By the end of the day, we had hit teh thrift shops and six antique stores. The further away from home I go and the longer I’m there, the bigger the risk I’m taking. Gas, food and lodging start to add up. At the same time, it takes stores time to re-stock, so my range has to expand with every trip.

The two antique malls in Kalispell, which I had been pinning a lot of my hopes on turned out to be complete busts, with not just no finds or purchases, but nothing of interest in any of the booths at all. I probably bought a few things in the thrifts against my better judgement to feel like I had found something. Not junk by any means, but things like late ’50s tweed jackets, which I love, but which there’s not much market for at any price online, and which probably won’t do much more than take up space. But at a couple dollars a piece, at least I can say I kept them from being turned into someone’s zombie Halloween costume.
My luck changed somewhat at some of the thrifts, where I ended up finding a few vintage ties here and a few vintage ties there, adding up by the end to a fair number. The real prizes were two ’40s suede leather whipstitched western Hollyvogues, with the original tags still on. I have a bit of a collection of those already, so we’ll see whether those end up being passed along or whether they’ll join the ones I already have. Alex, who usually comes away with a slew of vintage cameras, had about the same luck as I did, finding a fair number of 1970s Polaroids at steep prices, but nothing much of any real use or interest.

Lunch in Kalispell was a vintage treat. We ate at a place called Moose’s Saloon. It’s a bar from the ’40s or so, done up in 1959 to approximate an old west saloon. Sawdust on the floor, low lighting, peanuts on the tables, and two dollar draughts. In the years since it was done up in saloon style, it’s been heavily loved, with names carved into every tabletop, booth, bench and wall. The crowd was a nice mix of children and pensioners. It had a really nice family neighborhood dive atmosphere, great food and cold microbrews.

Alex and I always play a game when out hunting where we try to identify what we’ve seen an inordinate amount of in the shops that we’ve hardly ever seen anywhere else. This trip it was wetsuits. With all the cold mountain lakes, I suppose that makes sense. On a broader scale, this part of Montana has the most Quonset huts I have ever seen in my life, most of them still in use.

From Alex:
Kalispell turned out to be a haven for little treasures that filled our trip with “wait wait, we have to pull over”. Although we stopped and explored every little strange part of Kalispell and surrounding area that we found, I have a hunch there’s so much more that we missed. Two things that stood out to me as unique to Kalispell were the buffalo in a bullet proof case watching over a mobile home community, and the Moose’s Saloon, a dark, divey bar that screams “MONTANA” the minute you walk in. This Saloon wasn’t like any saloon I’ve ever been to. Maybe it was the sawdust that covered the floor, the sweetest elderly woman that took our order, or the delightfully chilled goblets that the beer was served in, but we were hooked on this place. The pizza was pretty good to boot. I regret not taking a peek in there gift shop, who’s sign read “Moostly Mooses”, which gave me a chuckle.

 photo edit alex.jpgThe other strangely wonderful part of Kalispell was the taxidermied buffalo that towered over a small mobile home community/hotel. Yes, that is in fact a /hotel. In the corner of the enclosed community was an Inn & Suites that looked not too shabby for where it was placed. But that’s beside the point. This buffalo looked like it had been there a while, judging from the shape of the glass and the general dirtiness of it. Nevertheless, I would stay at that Inn & Suites just for that buffalo. Overall Kalispell turned out to be a hoot, with strange “attractions”, if you could call it that, and bars full of character.
We went to Glacier National Park on Sunday. It’s my second time to Glacier and was Alex’s first. It’s post-season there, and all the lodges and gift shops have closed down until next summer. The huge numbers of visitors have subsided, so you can finally enjoy the beauty in relative peace and quiet. The trees were a riot of color, and as we ascended Going To The Sun Road toward Logan Pass, the temperatures dropped and yellow autumn leaves gave way to snow covered evergreens.

We took our time on the way back, stopping in all the small towns we came across, and to get a tire fixed after picking up a screw somewhere along the way. For a hundred miles, we had seen billboards for the “Miracle of America” museum outside Polson, Montana. It’s one of those classic roadside museums, with such a broad focus that you’re bound to find something you’re interested in, and if you’re like me, bound to like just about everything. Historic buildings, rare motorcycles, helicopters, airplanes, vintage clothes, rusty cars, alien autopsies. You name it, they probably had it somewhere in the collection. There were definitely some things in the collection I would have loved to get my hands on.

The haul. No big ticket items, but a decent amount of ’30s and ’40s ties, a pair of vintage hunting boots, a powder blue ’50s suit, a couple of late ’50s-early ’60s jackets and a Nomex flight jacket. With luck, I might just break even. A beautiful and fun trip nonetheless, and any moment of being in Glacier was worth the rest.

The jackets from this trip, photographed. Keep an eye out as I list them, and as I get around to finishing photographing and editing all the neckties, of which there are quite a few.
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Boucher’s Butte overcoat

http://www.ebay.com/itm/401000720480
This vintage overcoat was made in the late 1930s and was sold by M.H. Schwartz, successor to Boucher’s, located in uptown Butte, Montana. M.H. Schwartz took over Boucher’s c. 1939 and used the “successor to” tagline in 1939 and 1940. The coat is extremely heavy wool, with a wide double breasted closure, broad lapels and handwarmer pockets. Just the thing for those harsh Montana winters, walking up the hill to and from the mine. The coat is fully lined and bears an Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America union label. With the way it is stitched into the coat, I can’t tell if it is a 1936 or a 1939 variant. With the c.1939 dating from the retailer’s history, either is possible.

Chest (pit to pit): 25″ (doubled = 50″)
Shoulder to shoulder: 19″
Sleeve (shoulder to cuff): 26″
Length (Base of collar to hem): 45-1/2″

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Globe Clothing Company blue thin ribbon fedora

http://www.ebay.com/itm/400999202158
This vintage hat was made in the late 1930s-early 1940s and was sold in Helena, Montana by the Globe Clothing Company. It is a thin ribbon fedora style, in a vibrant shade of blue. It is made from lightweight fur felt, is unlined, and is a size 7-1/8.

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Globe Clothing Company blue fedora hat

http://www.ebay.com/itm/271993248399
This hat was made in the late 1930s-early 1940s and was sold by the Globe Clothing Company of Helena, Montana. It has a mid-with ribbon, wide brim binding, and distinctive blue green felt. It is made from lightweight fur felt, has a relatively flat flange to the brim which gives more of a flop than a snap, and is unlined. It is a 7-1/8.

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