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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Stetson One Hundred – Rands

http://www.ebay.com/itm/400998668620
This vintage hat was made by the John B. Stetson company in the 1960s. It is their Beaver One Hundred model, made from pure beaver felt, originally retailing for a hundred dollars. It has a lining from Rand’s of Billings, who probably did some cleaning or renovation at some point. It measures 21-1/2″ inside, about a 6-7/8″.

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On the Road – September 18 and 19

This week, Alex and I did as the song says, and headed west, young man. She’s been working on a photo series in Anaconda, Montana, and I came along to do what I thought would be a bit of casual vintage hunting on the way there and back. I had made a similar loop about two months ago with good results and didn’t expect to find more than beautiful scenery and a good time.   photo blog us.jpg

What a treat to have a blue, big sky country type of day for an outing. Last week was in the 90s, the week before was pouring rain, and the one before that there was smoke from forest fires so thick you could barely see a block in front of you. It’s just starting to be fall here, with shocks of yellow mixed into the pine forests and fresh show on the mountain peaks. Perfect weather for tweed jackets and windows down driving through the mountains.
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As always, there were a lot of interesting things along the way that I didn’t buy.  Every trip and every shop always seems to have a particular thing that shows up in unusual numbers.  This time it was pile lined tweed coats from the 1970s. It killed me to pass on the bow ties in the bottom right corner, probably a hundred of them, mostly from the 1970s, but with a couple 1940s and 1950s ones mixed in.  But as low as the asking price of ten bucks a pop is, with the amount of work that goes into photographing and listing them, and with their era, it’s just too much for someone in my position.
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On the hunt- photos by Alex DeLong. Montana is a goldmine for vintage ties.  Usually I’m finding them in thrift shops in small clusters, but every now and again I find a big cache tucked away somewhere. Well, to be more accurate, Alex found this cache, a big crate of ties, high up on a shelf in a back room I’ve never seen open before. It took a lot of sorting through, weeding out the ones that were too damaged, too new, too thin and too plain.  I ended up with about half of the ones in that pile, and found quite a few more in various thrift and secondhand stores.
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Photos by Alex DeLong.  Anaconda and Basin Montana. Basin’s been in decline since the mid 1920s. Where there were once thousands of residents, there are now 255. Bits and pieces from its mining glory days of the early 1900s still remain, mixed in with abandoned cars from the 1940s-1970s. In short, our kind of town.
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The Haul: Two 1940s fedoras, a Biltmore fedora, a MA-1 flight jacket, sheepskin ranch vest, two work jackets, a B-9 Parka, nearly 70 vintage neckties, a 1930s suit jacket, an early 1950s suit jacket, a 1960s tweed jacket, a 1940s overcoat, an early 1960s suit and a handfull of odds and ends.  Keep an eye out over the next couple of days as I get it photographed and listed.  Yet another good couple of days out on the road!

Until next trip,
Spencer
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On the Road in Billings, MT

One of the most common questions I get, right after, “how did you get into all this?”, is “where do you find all your stuff?”. It’s one of those questions that can be hard to answer. “Oh, you know, here and there” usually suffices and avoids the long story.  But the truth is, I drive a lot.

This weekend was a casual overnight excursion to Billings, Montana. For those of you not familiar with the area, the drive from Bozeman to Billings is just under 150 miles, and usually I make it as a day trip. So that’s a 300 mile round trip, hours on the road and a tank of gas, for the hope that maybe, just maybe, there will be some old ties or a couple of vintage hats waiting to be found. There are no guarantees in this business.

But I’ve had good luck in Billings in the past. There are a number of antique shops, thrift stores, secondhand stores and the like, and I usually get lucky at at least one or two.  This past weekend, one of the larger antique malls was having an outdoor antique fair, with its craigslist ad touting 70 vendors.  It was enough to hopefully tip the odds in my favor.

My girlfriend, Alex, and I drove out Friday night so that we could get an early start so we could be back in Bozeman before the sun started to set. We stayed at a charming 1950s motor court, the Dude Rancher Lodge. Neon, knotty pine and exposed beam ceilings combined with recent western themed carpets and brand wall hangings courtesy an appearance on “Hotel Impossible” several years ago, made for a charming place to stay. Full of character, it was way more fun than a chain motel, and just the right kind of place for vintage people like us.

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We made it to the fair a little later than we had hoped, it turned out that in Billings on a Saturday morning, everyone goes out for breakfast, and lined stretched out the door of everyplace good or interesting. I went against every fiber of my being and went to the practically deserted Denny’s for a generic breakfast. I think that might have cancelled out the “shop local” cred the Dude Rancher got me. Oh well.  There was a lot of re-purposed, re-painted, hand-made, shabby chic type of antiques at the fair, but also a few gems to be had. Afterward, we hit up the aforementioned antique shops in downtown Billings and a few of the thrifts. Here are a few of the neat things I spotted, but didn’t buy.  It seemed like I was tripping over vintage hats and vintage neckties at every step, but I have to be selective.  The market is really down on the more mundane patterns of 1940s ties, so even at the reasonable $6 a piece that one vendor was asking, there’s no way for me to make any money from that, so I let probably 30-some of them sit. Same with hats- below a certain size or a certain brim length, there’s such limited demand.
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Things survive in Billings. It’s a good town for lovers of vintage. Neon signs, ghost signs, architecture.
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After a long day of hunting, I managed to find a good sized cache of vintage hats, most of which were originally sold within a few miles of where I found them. But for me, the real treat was that leather jacket.  They’re all over the internet, but it’s getting harder and harder to find “out in the wild”. And this one’s a real beauty. Great patina and a rare model.  I’d love to know who wore it some 60 odd years ago, but I can say that it’s pretty likely they rode a Harley in Billings.
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Here’s the full haul all cleaned up and photographed. For those of you who are interested, you can check out the whole batch HERE
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1940s Hart Schaffner & Marx double breasted jacket

http://www.ebay.com/itm/400986670880
This jacket was made in the 1940s by Hart Schaffner & Marx for The Hub, Thisted’s, Great Falls, Montana.

Chest (pit to pit): 22-1/2″ (doubled = 45″)
Shoulder to shoulder: 18-3/4″
Sleeve (shoulder to cuff): 24-1/4″
Length (Base of collar to hem): 30″

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Rocky Mountain Hat Company custom cowboy hat

http://www.ebay.com/itm/271974908899
This hat was made by the high-end custom Rocky Mountain Hat Company of Bozeman, Montana for Dave Viers Jr. It is pure beaver and has a wide, curled brim, high crown and distinctive arrow point ribbon. A comparable hat from Rocky Mountain Hat co now would run in the range of $800, with an eight month wait time. It is a 7-1/4 and has a 4-7/8″ brim.

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Dali Necktie

This vintage tie was made in the late 1940s-early 1950s by Fashion Craft Cravats and was sold in Deer Lodge, Montana by The Toggery (Smith and Weber). The tie was designed by Salvador Dali and has an imprint of his signature on the tip. Dali’s tie designs were produced by several different tie makers during this era. This tie measures 4-1/4″ wide and 52″ long.

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