My Forty Years Scribblin's
Personal Memories
Old Diversions Never Die (They Just Fade Into Memories)

This piece was written in 1994 and published in the May-June 1994 issue of The Montana Journal. Arlee provided many amusements in the early 1900s. Compiled with the help and reminiscences of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Du Mountier.

In the early 1900s, Arlee was entertainment headquarters for the residents near the southern border of the Flathead Indian Reservation, providing dance halls, restaurants, and especially saloons. One of the latter, "The Wildcat," took its name when an Indian captured a bob cat kitten and sold it to Fred Gendrow, the proprietor. Gendrow kept the animal in a cage and displayed it as a drawing card… not that the unlovely old building needed a drawing card. It was doing thriving business despite a mandate forbidding the sale of liquor to the Indians. Besides liquid refreshments, The Wildcat afforded pool tables and restaurant space in the rear. Eventually the building fell into disuse, overshadowed by the advent of more modern businesses. The Wildcat was finally rescued and remodeled into an attractive and respectable dwelling. I wonder, does the clink of whiskey glasses and the thud of knock-downs and drag-outs sometimes echo within the walls in the dark of night?

Neither is the old Red Pool Hall remembered for its virtues. Not a place for the faint-hearted, it originally had been built for a store by Bob Holland, but after a change of business, it was aptly dubbed, The Bucket of Blood. Meals were served there also, and Ernest Buchanan's barber shop offered tonsorial services. Some of the proprietors were Fred Normandin, Pete Fisher, and Eneas Granjo, but eventually three black men got possession of the building and burned it down. They were subsequently invited to leave town.

John and Maggie Sing were proprietors of the Chinese restaurant, and Mrs. Fred DuMontier furnished the Sing's establishment with homemade butter. The business was later owned by the Grattan family and was often the scene of card parties, well attended by families throughout the Jocko Valley.

After Demers moved into their new store, about 1915, Harry Fitzgerald bought the old building and set up a movie house. "We sat on benches," Al DuMontier remembers. The building was also used as a dance hall.

As for me, I saw my first masquerade at Fitzgerald's Hall about 1919. Only costumed people were allowed inside the door, so my aunt and a neighbor put someone's corset on me and dressed me up as a nurse. I took one look at all those creatures from another world and fled.

The only ones I recognized and still remember were the Gold Dust Twins. "They sure shocked the populace!" my auntie declared.

At that time, ladies didn't go out in public dressed—or more to the point—undressed to that extent, black tights and a ruffle for a skirt!

The Arlee Pavilion and Theater was built in 1920.The Fitzgerald Hall burned, and another was built and operated by John Morkert in the early 1920s. The Arlee Pavilion and Theater was furnished with seats built in movable sections and stacked in the back of the building to accommodate dances and basketball games. John Dishman came down from St. Ignatius twice a week and put on shows featuring such stars as Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, and Charlie Chaplin; old silent thrillers, the antics of which brought deafening whistles and shrieks from the kids in the audience. When the films broke and had to be mended, we sat patiently waiting while Al Chauma filled in the gaps with music on the player piano. The building later burned along with the other businesses connected by a boardwalk, including the restaurant and Art Grochow's barber shop.