By Ron VandenBoom
Imagine having a job where you are on call 24 hours a day and you're never free to help coach youth baseball, go on picnics, or contribute to your community.
Such was the case with BNSF employees who were engineers, conductors, and brakemen that is until about 12 years ago when a small group of employees started the Pagers Club.
It was about 1988 when Jack Brady and a few of fellow trainmen hit on the idea of getting pagers that would allow them the freedom to be "on call" and still have a life that was involve in the community.
The cost of the pagers was reasonable and the fledgling organization decided to add a nominal fee to the clubs dues that would be above and beyond the cost of equipment and maintenance on the pager system.
Soon the money, and the number of members, began to grow and the pagers found they were not only free to participate in various community activities, but had funds that could be given to help youth activities.
"This was a way to give something back to the community," said Brady, who is now the president of the Pagers.
Over the years, the Pagers have contributed funds to numerous youth oriented clubs and organizations including: Havre Youth Baseball, Havre Youth Hockey, Havre Girls Softball, The Havre Boxing Club, The Lion's Swim Team, The Havre Wrestling Club, The Havre High School Rodeo Club, The Snow Dance Ski Association, area 4-H Clubs, and many other groups and organizations.
They also contribute funds annually to a drug and alcohol free senior class graduation.
Perhaps the most visible contribution the Pagers have made to the community is Pagers Campground in Beaver Creek Park.
"We wanted to give something that would last, Brady said.
The Pagers provided all of the labor and purchased the materials to construct a bridge across Beaver Creek and a large semi-enclosed pavilion.
The campground was given to the county after it was built and is free for the general public to use.
According to Brady, the facility is booked every weekend throughout the summer for weddings, family reunions, and company picnics.
"We only use it one weekend a year for our picnic," Brady said.
The cost of the campground was about $15,000, he said.
Brady said the Pagers hope to be able, at some point in the future, to construct a similar facility at Fresno Reservoir. The only difference would be that the Fresno facility will have a little less wood and a little more concrete.
Brady refers to the Pagers as a loose knit organization that because of its very nature has no regular meetings.
He explains that having jobs as railroad train crews they can be called out at any time and be gone for several days before catching the next shift back to Havre.
"You never know when you're going to be in town and when you're not," he said.
Organizing work parties to construct Pager's Campground reflected this unique aspect of railroading in that you never knew who was going to be able to show up and who wasn't.
"Sometimes you had an entirely different crew one week to the next," Brady said.
The Pagers feel good about the work they've done in the community and plan on continuing the effort for years to come.