May 10 – On this day in Montana history in 1941 125 Italian prisoners of war from WWII arrived at Fort Missoula and were put to work. They were reportedly smiling and waving to the newspaper reporters and others who gathered for the arrival. The prisoners renamed the camp “Bella Vista” for its beautiful view. A lot better than facing American soldiers on the battlefield.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
May 9 – On this day in Montana history in 1889 a Montana horse won the Kentucky Derby, stunning the Kentucky and entire East Coast racing world. Spokane was born on the ranch of Noah Armstrong, who made a fortune mining in Butte and bought a ranch in the Beaverhead Valley. Proctor Knott was heavily favored to win the Derby, but Spokane beat him by a “whisker.” The race originally was a mile and a half, and Spokane still holds the record for the Derby at that distance.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
May 7 – On this day in Montana history in 1901 movie star and Montana native son Gary Cooper was born in Helena. His parents Alice and Charles called him Frank James Cooper – Gary came later. Late in his life he talked about how proud he was to be a Montanan and said he grew up in a family that loved the paintings of another famous Montanan, Charlie Russell. “My dad probably hoped that someday I’d turn out to be a pretty fair painter. I was a pretty fair caricaturist, but that was about all.” Yep, a man of few words.
Monday, May 6, 2013
May 6 – On this day in Montana History in 1885 separate fires did major damage in Livingston, Billings and Miles City. The fires were a coincidence, but show how serious and common the scourge of fire was in early Montana communities. The Billings Gazette said “The subject of protection from fire has been so often the theme of newspaper articles that it may become tiresome.” The paper called for fire hydrants, new equipment and a special tax levy because “the present is the time to act.”