Columbia Gardens, East Butte, McQueen, Meaderville
Those Were The Days Reunion

      The first lost neighborhoods’ reunion was the East Butte, Columbia Gardens and Elk Park.   This began as a Harrison School Reunion by a number of folks who were reminiscing and wondering about other class mates and families.   At that time, only those families who lived in these neighborhoods, and who attended the Harrison School or their children attended the Harrison School were invited.   Because of many requests to have another Reunion and to include McQueen & Meaderville, one will be held on Audust 13, 2011.

      Anyone who has ties or roots to any of the above 4 lost neighborhoods are invited to attend a festive gathering at the Maroon Activities Center (MAC) on the above date beginning at 2:00 P.M.   The Reunion will be an all day and evening event with dinner and entertainment provided.   The cost for an individual is $25 per person.   The reunion promises to produce many photographs, recollections, music, and memories.   Registrations must be sent in by Jul. 30, 2011 to Rose Marie Ralph, 163 Trail Creek Road, Butte MT 59701.   More information and a registration form can be obtained from our web site at

      Following are fond memories of these lost neighborhoods:

      Millie (Oreskovich) Roskilly made East Butte her home until her 1954 marriage.   Her fondest childhood memories were the great celebrations held in the neighborhood.   Oh, the parties my parents had," said Roskilly, whose mother and father both immigrated from Croatia.   "They'd be singing and having a good time."   Roskilly, childhood antics included "chasing the ice man for a bit of ice" and skiing on homemade skis her brother built from an old barrel, felt that it wasn't so much the neighborhood, but the people living there that made East Butte so special.   "People were so good," she said.

      JoAnn Krizman said there were 134 residences with 2 grocery stores (Chadonich’s and Jones’), a café and 2 service/gas stations (Weir’s Service Station which was moved from Hickory and Garfield streets to Fir St in 1945, and Sutey’s Service Station built between 1954 and 1956 that was later relocated on Continental Drive).   Butte’s first national chain drive-in, the A&W Rootbeer stand, was a hit for all of Butte’s residents.   It was later relocated to Continental Drive where the building still stands.   Around 1951, U.S. Highway 91 was built through East Butte to the Woodville Canyon. There were 2 bars , a saloon and Mike’s Boarding House.   The Harrison School had only four classrooms with two grades in each of those rooms.   A heavy highway contractor, Kiely’s Constructon Co. was also located there on Cherry St.   We also had 2 skating rinks and a dance hall called the Narodna Dom Dance Hall which was the Slovenic Lodge.   “Those were the days” JoAnn concluded.

      Edna (Johnson) Goodman was 3 years old when her families moved to East Butte.   Edna smiles as she recalls how the neighborhood children, whether it was summer or winter, played in the old ore dump.   "Of course," Goodman said, "all the kids played kick the can, too."

      Rose Marie (Rebich) Ralph says "It truly was a great place to grow up, and it was a safe haven.”   She recalls attending Butte's smallest elementary school, the Harrison, which was located on 2065 Fir St.   She boasted that her alma mater won a lot of school championships.   "We had no coaches," explained Ralph, "we just did our own thing."   She also reminisces about the many family gatherings at her parents and grandparents to include roasting a pig and dancing to accordion music.   That’s where I learned to polka.   It was also fun to sleigh ride down the creek and roast potatoes in a bon fire.   Being my Dad and Grandma were from McQueen, we attended all the McQueen parties and picnics.   Then, there were the frequent trips to Tipparari’s which was later known as Nettie’s Ice Cream Store.   During my younger years, I thought the only grocery store in town was Cesarini’s.

      Diane (Warnstrom) Faroni an East Butte native lived there until her marriage in 1959.   She described her old neighborhood as the last great place.   "It was a nice, safe place — we never had to lock our doors," she said.

      Not many can boast of having such a big backyard, but Jerry Bugni can.   He felt the same then as he does now, that he was one of the lucky few to be born and raised at the Columbia Gardens.   As a young boy he delivered both The Montana Standard and the Butte Daily Post in his neighborhood and as a teen and adult operated, among other things, the Gardens' roller coaster.   However, thanks to Ann Meehan, the Gardens' playground supervisor, young Bugni also had an additional non-paying job.   Because his family literally lived just a hop, skip and a jump from the playground, Meehan would bring kids to his house.   "I had to give lessons on how to use the playground equipment," he said.   With a smile, Jerry said “It was fun working there."   “All my life I had heard the ACM would close the Gardens," Bugni added. "I never believed it until it happened."   Jerry was also the janitor for the Anaconda Company’s Main office building until it closed.   Jerry kept a close eye on what was discarded as garbage by the company and kept anything historical and /or valuable.   His collection of the Columbia Gardens and Meaderville memorabilia are unbelievable.   He is a true historian.

      Alice Given , on the other hand, said that moving to the Gardens was a big adjustment.   She went from attending one of the largest public schools in Butte, Emerson, to going to the smallest, Harrison.   The family moved to the Gardens after her dad, while out walking, saw a "for sale" sign on a house at the Gardens.   "He came home and said `We're moving to the Gardens," Given laughingly said.   Looking back, Given noted that one of the biggest reasons she liked living at the Gardens was that it was a "tight-knit community."   But there are other memories Given has cherished, including playing at the skating rink in the winter, and on warm, summer nights, putting the phonograph on her window sill and turning it up real loud, as only a teenager

      Ann (Caddy) Bone liked having little or no traffic and the empty lots to play baseball and kick-the-can that was played by all the kids of that era.   Great times were had hiking the East Ridge without adult supervision and packing a lunch for the day.   It seems like yesterday, we were roller skating up and down Ash Street hooting and laughing with friends.   Those times are gone and how times have changed.

      Like Given, John Thompson can thank his father for growing up at the Gardens.   In the dead of winter, Thompson's father saw a picture of a home on the wall at Wulf Realty.   His father quickly purchased the home.   Thompson, who liked living in a small community, appreciated the fact that people at the Gardens looked after each other.

      Carolyn (Mayo) Harvey's family ran a fox farm at the Columbia Gardens and described her childhood neighborhood as a "nice, quiet place to live."   As a teen, she was the chief babysitter at the Gardens, charging 25 cents an hour.   She also worked at the ice cream parlor.   She recalled how music in the 1940's was definitely a big draw at the Gardens.   Bands such as Henry Busse and His Orchestra, Sully Mann and His Orchestra, Gus Arheim and His Orchestra, and Tommy Dorsey & His Record-Makin'-Record-Breakin' Orchestra performed at the Garden’s Pavilion.   The 1950s brought the music of Harry James and His Musicmakers, Sammy Kaye and His Music Makers, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians and the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.   Growing up in the Big Band era, Harvey was able to see a number of these musicians perform in the Gardens' spacious pavilion.   "I can still see Tommy Dorsey bouncing across the dance floor," Harvey recalled.

      Ralph “Wop” Barsanti recalled his dad sending him to Baldy’s Place, later known as the McQueen Club, every Sunday for a bucket of beer.   Being under age, all kids would go to the back door of Baldy's and bang on the door and hand him a lard bucket with a handle to be filled with beer.   In those days it was the procedure to wash out the lard bucket and use it for many purposes, in our case to pick up beer.
      Next, one of our favorite past times was going to Nick"s Place.   Not to drink, but to bowl in the one lane bowing alley.   We would pin set to make enough money to be able to bowl a game or two.
      Saturday nights was special.   We would go to East Butte to the Narodna Dom Dance Hall.   We would first start our drinking at the McQueen Club, from there we would go to Nick's for a few drinks.   Needless to say, by the time we reached East Butte, we were pretty well on our way to having more than we should have.   Also, we would go to Gergurich's Bar in East Butte for drinks and to another place that was run by Francie Spehar, a polular drinking place for us.   We mostly always walked to East Butte. We could ride the street car but I don't remember ever doing this.
      The only time we would ride the street car would be on Kids Day at the Columbia Gardens.   We would ride to East Butte, transfer to the street car going to the Gardens.   Hang out the windows and catch hell.   Coming home we would do the same thing.   There are so many fond memories about going to the Gardens.   Mostly to ride the air planes, the roller coaster, on some instances the merry-go-around.   And, of course, we would always eat there.   On days like the 4th of July, Labor Day, Miner's Union day all of our families would go there for picnics.  You could almost bet it would rain.   Just sprinkles, but that was common.   On Miner's Union days there were always events.   The one that comes to me is the men and there rope pulling contest.   Teams from different mines would compete against each other.   There were kid’s things too.   One was the potato sack race.   It was always funny to see kids racing and falling during the race.

      Georgene (Boksich) Cachola shared that McQueen may be just another “lost neighborhood” to those who didn’t know that community, but to her and others growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, it was our Shangri-La.
      The summers especially were glorious.   Often, on a beautiful sunny morning, we packed our lunch (bologna or peanut butter sandwiches and a jar of Kool-Ade) and headed toward Sunflower Hill (on the East Ridge of Butte).   After hours (it seemed) of hiking, we’d eat our warm lunch and hike back to McQueen.   We had to return by dinner, but that was the only restriction we had.
      A summer’s evening might find us playing Kick-the-Can, or Hide-and Go-Seek with lots of kids from the neighborhood.   Unless you could persuade your folks to allow you to sleep out in the yard in a tent or on your front porch, you had to be in the house by dark –whenever that was!
      I especially looked forward to the weekly summer movies that the McQueen Club organized for us kids.   I can still smell the popcorn, and see the old wooden benches all set up in the Club dance hall.   The movies -black and white- were thrilling!   Swiss Family Robinson, Roy Rogers, Heidi, Treasure Island, Our Gang, Lassie, - all the great ones.   Of course, there was a lot of noise, jostling, and flirting (among the “older” kids).   That just made the evening even more exciting.
      There were lots more summer activities – roller skating down Willow St. (where I lived), and hoping you could stop before you hit Garfield (one of the “busiest” streets in McQueen).   Also, we loved to dig (for what?) in the “prairie” across from our house.   My friends and I smelled like “stinkweed” for hours until we were forced to wash-up.
      And, of course, we had to make our daily trip to Nettie Pancrozzi’s Ice Cream Parlor (Nettie’s as we called it) on the corner of Leatherwood and Garfield.   Five or ten cents could get you a delicious ice cream cone, or a little brown bag of penny candy.   This was heaven!   Looking at the cases of soft, sugared watermelon slices, brown licorice, candy corns, malted milk balls, and fat jelly beans always made my mouth water.   And, who could forget the pack of imitation cigarettes – white with a little red food coloring on the tip of the cigarette.   Ah! – we could all pretend that we were grown-ups who smoked.   How politically incorrect!
      No plans were made on Thursdays during the summer.   Why?   That was Children’s Day at the Columbia Gardens.   We packed a lunch, and waited for the bus near our intersection.   (No fare was needed).   After we arrived uptown on the corner of Park and Main, we (and most of Butte’s children), waited for the next available bus going to the Columbia Gardens.   And, oh what fun waited for us there.   If we were really lucky, Jerry Bugni or his brother would give us a free ride on the roller coaster, and we could save that extra 15 cents for a cotton candy.   Of course, if you ran out of money, you could always look down the wooden slats of the sidewalks on the promenade and try to fish out a couple of lost coins.
      Fall and winter were nearly as great as summers when you lived in McQueen.   Halloween was huge as we kids could go anywhere in the community (without adults) and even down to Meaderville (We HAD to get a Truzzolino tamale for lunch the next day).   Most everyone knew us and our parents so it was a pretty safe and secure environment.   I remember my mom giving us a pillowcase for our goodies and a piece of Ivory soap (to soap the windows of those who didn’t answer the door).   Of course everyone had to stop at the Club to get one of those big, delicious Hershey bars.
      As soon as winter chilled our little community, the McQueen Volunteer Firemen were readying the skating rinks.   The one we used most was on Spruce Street.   It was flooded and carefully maintained.   We even had a roughly built change house, and there was always a well-fed bonfire to warm our cold toes.   Many a rough and tumble game of Pump-Pump-Pull-Away was played on that rink.   It seemed we spent almost every minute we could there when we weren’t at school.
      During the Christmas holidays the Club members put on a giant Christmas party.   I believe they were said to have distributed more than 500 bags of candy, fruit, and toys to all the area children, and even to those who didn’t live in McQueen.   The huge beautiful tree growing beside the Fire Hall would be lit, and sometimes we sang carols under its branches.
      Percy Trevenna was the designated Santa Clause. I, of course, didn’t know that for many years.   Percy was not your typical “Bohunk”; my father told me that Percy was a “Cousin Jack”, but obviously that was o.k.   Once, when I was about 8 years old, I called my friend Beth a “Cousin Ginny”, and I remember getting in a little trouble about that.   I found out those designations were derogatory names for the English people among us.
      Holy Savior Parish, headed by Father Pirnat, also was a big part of our lives (if we were Catholic).   The parish hosted the yearly carnival which was well-attended.   I remember my parents dragging me away from the Penny-Toss, after I had used my weekly allowance.   Once again it was a great time to socialize for all ages.   The weekly bingo games in the basement hall of the school were another weekly event that brought forth everyone from grandmas to toddlers.   I won a liquor basket as a door prize one week.   Strangely, there didn’t seem to be any problem with a 12 year old winning a liquor basket!
      The most fun, however, were the wedding and anniversary receptions in Holy Savior Hall.   It seemed everyone came to these gatherings. Plenty of sarmas (soured, stuffed cabbage rolls), klobase, and povitica were served, and the accordion music played on and on.   We all learned to do the polka.   Grandmas danced with grandmas, men danced with men, kids danced with anyone, and many a Croatians, Serbian, or Slovenian song filled the hall (as well as a few phrases we can’t repeat!).
      Reminiscing about McQueen conjures so many memories for me and many others.   Though I’m now a “middle-aged” woman of 64, I will always feel grateful that I grew-up in a special time where I played, felt safe, was loved, and lived in a magical place – my McQueen.

      Arlelne (Mazolo) Stephen recalls the annual McQueen picnics that were mostly held at the Shamrock Picnic area near Elk Park.   Then, there were those treats passed out by Santa Clause at the McQueen Club.   Fun was had by all at the Spruce Street skating rink that was kept clean by Mr. Marvin.   Netties Ice Cream Store was also a favorite of hers.

      These are just a few memories that were shared.   We know there are many more.
So, come join us on August 13th.

A group of Butte High School students from Chris Fisk’s class will participate,
record and video with the plan to place the results at the Butte Archives for historical purposes.
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Page created: Jun. 04, 2008 and modified: Feb. 18, 2011