By Robert Lucke
Arguably it could be said that Havre and the Hi-Line have not had any supermen since the days when H. Earl Clack and Frank Buttrey walked the streets.
Not true of superwomen. Havre has had not only one but two. And it has had them for many years. Not only that but each year these two continue to do more and more for their community.
They are Toni Hagener and Elinor Clack. And even now they are working each day at the Clack Museum to get the place in order. No one pays them to spend all that time working at the museum. It is just something they do. Something they have always done. And if asked to do something else, well, they will do that too. That is just the way these two are.
Both came to Havre about the same time, got to know each other and together developed history groups and finally the museum itself to showcase north-central Montana. There is little to do with history that these two have not done. Just name any group connected with the history of the area and one or both have been in it, is in it yet or helped to get it started.
Hagener came to Havre in 1949 along with her husband, Lou, and her children. He was a professor at Northern Montana College. She worked for Vita Rich Dairy, setting up their laboratory and being their lab technician for 15 years.
In 1964 she first began her stint heading up the museum.
"I was out of town so naturally they nominated me to head up the museum," Hagener said, laughing.
She ran the museum until 1981 when she ran for Hill County commissioner. She served seven years there before stepping down when her husband was gravely ill. Five years later she became a representative in the Montana Legislature, serving in the 1995, 1997 and 1999 sessions.
She continues with her museum work, and gives tours of the Bison jump, Beaver Creek Park and Havre Beneath the Streets as needed. With her husband she has authored several pamphlets and just finished reworking a history book about MSU-Northern.
She is the president of the Beaver Creek Park Foundation and the list goes on and on. Not from her though. About one eighth of the way through the list of her good works, she said, "Oh, that's enough." And went on to describe a class the museum had conducted just recently acquainting area children with beaver.
"I once cooked a beaver," chimed in Clack. "It just wasn't palatable at all."
"I cooked a beaver tail," responded Hagener. "It was terrible."
Is there anything these two have not done? The answer is no. Especially when it helps area folks to understand their history.
Hagener raised a family in Havre, worked on so many boards that she probably cannot remember all of them and is a hard worker at the Van Orsdel United Methodist Church.
Clack came to Havre in 1952, working at Northern as the dietitian and head of residence halls. She married Louis Clack and the two of them started an egg farm complete with a route in Havre and on the Hi-Line. That would be work enough for most, but she found time to raise a daughter and start the Clack Museum.
"The Jaycees wanted a tourist attraction here and I agreed to help with the displays," said Clack. "Then my term of office was finished and I was busy being a mama and cleaning eggs."
Clack was involved in getting the Montana Historical Society to help in the museum and has seen the museum grow from one large display area to a place of many collections not on display.
She tells a funny story about how she got involved with museum activities in the first place.
"I was the extension agent at Rocky Boy for 12 years and during that time there were many new homes being built at Rocky Boy but there was no furniture to put in the houses. So I arranged for a class in upholstery to be taught," she said. "But I didn't know where we were going to get the furniture in the first place until one lady told me to go to the city dump and I would find plenty. I made a trip to the dump and was amazed at how many valuable things having to do with our history were being thrown out. So I started finding a place to keep it."
Later, when Turner Clack died, he left money that was used to build an addition to the original museum building at the fairgrounds, which allowed the museum to store a collection.
Still there was no money for the museum so Elinor Clack formed the H. Earl and Margaret Turner Clack Memorial Museum Foundation. Many people in the Havre area going to grocery stores will remember that for years there was Elinor Clack pasting coupons on canned goods so people could donate the discount to the museum foundation.
And the stories go on and on. Only thing is they are not told by Clack and Hagener. Both are too modest for that.
Both are hard at work, volunteering to do more at the museum and a dozen other places.
Just then into the museum walked Elinor Clack with a huge basket of tumbleweeds she had just picked from the prairie for another display. Toni unlocked the museum gate and hauled in more goodies she had found, probably in her basement, for the museum.
When does it end with these two? It doesn't.