By Robert Lucke
When I look back to my childhood in Havre in the 40's and 50's, this was a very different community. I think that isolation must have been one of the defining words of description. Remember, this was before television and personal computers, so Havre kids chose their own recreation, made it up, and usually it was with a gang of other kids.
My gang was the Second Avenue and Tenth Street kids. There were plenty of them in this pleasant after World War II world. Our parents would take us window shopping for entertainment in the stores that made up a huge business district. At least huge to a kid. Or we would just go and watch and trains come in. My grandfather would lay his ear on the railroad tracks and tell us all when a train was coming. Scary for me to see. And on Saturdays all us kids would head mostly to the Lyric Theater to take in a western and a serial for fourteen cents. We could go to the Orphum or the Havre Theaters, but they were not nearly as cheap as the Lyric.
Summer nights would be spent playing Cowboys and Indians around the buildings of the Northern campus. The east parapet at Donaldson Hall or the outdoor stage of Pershing Hall were our ranch "houses."
Or maybe we would play "Kick the Can" where one was "it" and others would hide and "it" would have to find them while not getting far enough away from the can to allow any of the hiding to come out and kick it. Simple, but it is amazing how many hours that game could while away in the alley between Second and Third in the ten hundred block.
But winter and Christmas were best of all. We all had our sleds and what hills to fly down all around the college. A few had toboggans, but most of all, we soon found that old pieces of cardboard worked best of all for getting down those hills with great speed. In those days Second Avenue ended up a long hill to some married students' apartments at Northern. We could slide down that hill, go all the way across Tenth Street, go down that block to Ninth Street and a tiny way up the Second Avenue hill before stopping. What a ride! Even more dangerous because we had to cross Tenth Street, which was then the highway to Great Falls. Speed was what it was all about. That and fun, no matter what the temperature was outdoors.
But the most fun of all was when various parents got rid of their Christmas trees. We kids quickly hauled them to the hills between Second Avenue and the College and made Christmas tree forts out of them. We had twelve to twenty rooms. Evergreens for walls, evergreens for ceilings, and hard trampled snow for floors. Oh, those tree forts were glorious! Some of the older boys would attach igloos to their forts, but my crew was happy for more rooms than we could count. And that smell of evergreen in those rooms. Never will I forget that!
In the summer it was secret caves all over that hillside. Maybe we all had read too many Hardy Boys mysteries, but it was important to have secret entrances and secret caves and secret societies. Some of the older boys even wore sheets and once in awhile attacked all us little kids by coming screaming down the hill in their sheets. That is until Mrs. Klubunde one day saw them and attacked them. They never bothered us again.
And some of the most daring of us during winter days, hitched our sleds onto the back of slow moving autos and "hitched rides" all the way downtown.
These days, our efficient city hauls the old Christmas trees away with great dispatch. I wonder if kids know what fun they are missing by not building tree forts and whiling away lazy summer hours with Kick the Can and Cowboys and Indians in Northern's bosky dells!