By Alan Sorensen
Cinco de Mayo. It came and went. I never imagined I would enjoy four hours of sitting around a table with a bunch of other old folk talking about the old days. As it turned out, I did enjoy the afternoon in the Havre-Hill County Library meeting room.
We had coffee and cookies. Everyone seemed so intent on exploring Havre's business past that only half the cookies and a third of the coffee were consumed.
None of us really knew what to expect when we got there. I was hoping we didn't attract more people than the room would hold. Turned out not to be a problem as only nine of us showed up, with the occasional appearance of a librarian or two.
They have a couple of really enjoyable videos about Havre's past at the library.
One is a collection of Havre Music Festival Days parades from the mid 1950s. The parades were shot by Wayne Suter and were comprised mostly of glimpses of baton twirlers (ever the proud father) marching up or down the 300 block of First Street. I'd forgotten that Lee's Tavern used to sport a giant 7UP sign on the outside wall facing Fourth Avenue.
The Havre Hotel sign made a couple of appearances, too.
Another of the videos was produced around 1957 and had the look of those old time Industry on Parade things we used to see at the show houses and early days of TV. It showed the new First National Bank building (now Bear Paw Credit Union) and the old Citizens Bank (now Flynn Realty) and the plans for the new Citizens Bank building (now Wells Fargo). It even showed the plywood barrier up around the construction site.
That video had professional looking segue boards and went through a gamut of Havre businesses and institutions: Dowen Bros.; somebody or other's cab; Valley Laundry; the old city hall (now the Park Hotel parking lot), including city council in chambers with Mayor Davey, Havre police officers gabbing, Havre firefighters gabbing; Havre High School; Northern Montana College; new Sunnyside School (with nothing but sage brush fields and distant hills to the south).
Then there was the 2-hour video of 1941 businesses and their locations today. Produced by Frank Derosa, the video contains comments from old timers, including soon-to-be 90 Bob Walen. It is fun but incomplete. Frank said it will be a while before he's done with it.
When it came to discussions, we poured over scrap books of old photos. The old high school building faced east until it was burned. Then the new building of the old school was added to the little bit that didn't burn and ended up facing north, the same direction it was facing when our old new school was built in time for the 1964-65 school year.
I learned that:
The first hospital in Havre was either upstairs facing Third Avenue where Wells Fargo parking lot is or in the huge house with the library-type lions across Fifth Street from Devlin.
Hoppe Coal Co. had its office at 533 Second St.
LaCroix Violin was located at the corner of First Street and Fifth Avenue LaCroix built violins and taught customers to play them.
U.S. Highway 2 was on First Street from the east until it reached Third Avenue. Then it turned left onto Third, traveled one block and turned right onto Second Street. That also was where U.S. Highway 87 tied in with U.S. 2 at the intersection of Third Avenue and Second Street. That, I was told, was why there were so many gas stations and grocery stores on Third Avenue to 10th Street.
That there were 28 service stations in Havre when Norm Gorder moved here in about 1938 and that Dan Heltne started his first station in Havre in 1936. He opened in his current location in July 1940.
And so much more.
We had all forgotten about referencing the Polk Directories, but Francine Brady made some of us at least check out their location in the library before leaving. I didn't know Havre had telephones in 1910, let alone telephone directories. As I understand it, the state didn't even get its first paved road until the 1920s.