Museum presents a Kalispell native’s underwater ordeal

The Northwest Montana History Museum recently received a donation of military memorabilia that includes a harrowing story from Harry Anderson, a Kalispell native and 1940 graduate of Flathead High School (he is at far right in the front row).

Anderson served in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service during World War II. Assigned to the USS Perch SS-313, Ensign Anderson and crew survived a grueling, two-hour depth charge attack in the Java Sea while on patrol in April 1945. Anderson recorded the 31 depth charges dropped on the submarine in real time with tick marks on a piece of paper (shown).

That faint and fragile paper, along with Ensign Anderson’s personal account of the two-hour attack, went on display May 10 at the museum as part of the exhibit The Silent Service: A WWII Diving Denizen of the Deep.

The exhibit includes Anderson’s gold dolphins pin (awarded to officers) and his combat pin of a successful patrol, along with other medals. Numerous photos enhance the exhibit: the crew of the Perch; Perch officers on deck with one holding Duchess, the submarine’s dog; and Duchess standing on a deck gun.

Were dogs allowed on board during tours of duty? Find out more about the dogs that went on patrol with their crew at the exhibit.

In addition to Ensign Anderson’s memorabilia, other submariner items are on display: a Vietnam era U.S. Navy Submariner Torpedoman’s dress uniform, a child’s sailor uniform from the 1940s, vintage sailor hats and other related submarine items.

Details: Regular museum hours run 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays from June through August

Northwest Montana History Museum, 124 Second Ave. E., Kalispell; 406-756-8381;

A classic cues up musical fantasy

Beautiful music. Dancing hippos, ostriches, elephants, and alligators. Waltzing flowers. Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s apprentice. All are memorable segments of the Disney classic Fantasia, which screens for Movie Night at the Museum at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 28. The 1940 production features eight animated segments set to classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski.

What began in 1938 as Walt Disney’s idea for a “Silly Symphony” cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse grew into a full-length animated feature film with Fantasound, a pioneer sound system developed by Disney and RCA that made Fantasia the first commercial film shown in stereo. For many Americans, the movie also was an introduction to classical music.

The film opened to critical acclaim but failed to make a profit, partly due to the loss of European distribution during World War II. Since 1942, the film has been reissued many times and is now ranked as the 58th greatest American film in the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 movies. It was also selected for preservation by the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

This is a rescheduled event from when technical difficulties got in the way of the previous scheduled screening.

Doors open 6:30 p.m. Admission and popcorn are free, but donations are gladly accepted to defray costs. Soda pop, water, beer, and wine are available for purchase. Seating is provided, but viewers can bring their own cushions or seating if they like.

Celebrating its 25-year anniversary in 2024, the Northwest Montana History Museum brings the past alive through exhibits, artifacts, educational programs, and events. Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at 124 Second Ave. E., Kalispell. Call 406-756-8381 or visit

Presidential visits continue

On the heels of a standing-room-only visit from President Abraham Lincoln in February (brought to us by Chuck Johnson), we have Theodore Roosevelt riding this way next week. Catch a presentation with him 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 24, followed by banter and Q&A with the audience and Flathead Valley Teddy Roosevelt buff (and former Montana secretary of state and senator) Bob Brown.

Bring a lunch (many fine downtown Kalispell restaurants nearby offer order-ahead and takeout service, such as Bonelli’s), then spend some time at the museum with a historical figure brought to life by Joe Wiegand. As Wiegand says, the program is “TR-iffic,” and we look forward to seeing you here.

Thank you to our friends at Rotary for making this event possible!

Get schooled in “school”

Have you heard this catchy tune written in 1907 by Will D. Cobb and Gus Edwards?

Rekindle memories of school days of yore, or explore what it was like for kids years ago, at a new temporary exhibit, Timeless Lessons at Central School 1894-1969, opening at the Northwest Montana History Museum. The exhibit celebrates 75 years of formal instruction at Kalispell’s Central School—now home to the museum—and features an array of classroom items that represent various time periods throughout those years. The exhibit through December 2024.

The classroom exhibit includes a teacher’s desk with a 1925 report card and a confiscated slingshot, a poster that adorned a Central School classroom in the 1930s (above), an 1897 ledger of school attendance and grades written in beautiful penmanship, a chalkboard eraser, 1937 poster artwork to supplement lesson assignments, vintage games played during indoor and outdoor recesses, a 46-star United States flag, and a 1950s microphone used by school choirs. In addition, the exhibit is enhanced by a display of vintage clothing worn by a teacher and students.

A hands-on area for children completes the exhibit. Among the activities are practicing cursive writing, viewing replicas of turn of the century 3D travel cards using a stereoscope and learning about different cultures through paper dolls.

The exhibit opens with free admission and refreshments 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, April 12.

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, April 12, 2024
Northwest Montana History Museum, 124 2nd Ave. E., Kalispell, MT 59901; 406-756-8381;

Demo days begin

Our oldest exhibit, Sand Monkeys, Tie Hacks, and River Pigs, is closed for renovation. Don’t worry: It will still focus on the timber industry when it reopens this summer, but now will include a model train layout that includes the Somers tie plant and 3D models of Kalispell landmarks!

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

All other exhibits remain open.

Above: Board members (from left) Rod Wallette, Bill Dakin, and Alex Berry as well as Casey Malmquist from SmartLam measure up the museum elevator in advance of the renovation of our “timber room,” now under way.

Come in and celebrate

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, April 12, all are invited to the museum to mark the 130th birthday of Kalispell’s oldest public building and also a milestone birthday of its tenant, the Northwest Montana History Museum, which turns 25 this year.

See the exhibits, hear live music, eat cake, and check out local history! Visitors will have a chance to contribute to the time capsule that will be sealed up for 25 years, and view other items also set to enter the time warp.

Look to the past and the future at the birthday bash of the century.

Some might wonder what’s the big deal with the Central School building. Carroll Van West, in his well-researched Montana’s Historic Landscapes blog, described the Central School:

Designed by William White of Great Falls, this impressive statement of town building by local residents was threatened with demolition in 1991–indeed its plight was one of the issues that awoke local citizens to the need for the National Register multiple property nomination.  Not only was this landmark preserved, its transformation into a museum met a heritage tourism need in the region, and also marks, in my mind, one of the most positive developments in historic preservation in the region in the last 30 years.”

Above: In 1915 on the steps of Central School, Kalispell businessman Ah, or Alfred, Hay gathered the baseball team he sponsored in Kalispell’s still-classic posing spot. Along with other ventures, entrepreneur Hay operated a string of restaurants and hotels along the Great Northern line from Essex, Mont., to Seattle.

Get ready to party like it’s 1894 – and 1999

It’s official! Next month (April) we honor a couple of local landmarks: Kalispell’s 130-year-old Central School and its current tenant, the Northwest Montana History Museum – a relative upstart at 25.

Look out for ways to celebrate, coming to your inbox and area bulletin boards soon.

What was Abraham Lincoln thinking? Find out Feb. 25

It’s November 18, 1863.

Tomorrow is a momentus day: The Gettysburg National Cemetery is being dedicated. Abraham Lincoln has been asked to make “a few appropriate remarks.” It’s bedtime, and his speech isn’t done. His bone-wearying day began in Washington and ended in Gettysburg.

“Abraham, you can’t afford tired, you need to finish!” he says to himself in his bedroom. He is “torn asunder” as he works on the speech. Racism, slavery, war carnage, and the deaths of two of his children tear at his soul.

The Night Before Gettysburg takes you inside the mind of Abraham Lincoln, as he asks himself, “What is slavery? Why is slavery? Why are men enslaved?” As he answers the questions, you see Lincoln the man, who he was, what he stood for, and the burdens he carried.

On Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Northwest Montana History Museum, Lincoln invites you to join him on a journey back to 1863. You’ll absorb history on your journey and learn about a man who worked hard to reunite America.

Playwright-actor Chuck Johnson of Minnesota comes to perform this unique piece of theater, which he has performed in Gettysburg, Penn., and at the recent occasion of the 160th anniversary of the address.

Please join us for this free special event! Limited seating; first come, first serve.

Doors open 3:30 p.m.; performance starts at 4 p.m.

Mel Brooks and David Lynch teamed up for a heart-wrencher

February’s feature for Movie Night at the Museum is The Elephant Man, starring Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt. The film screens 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Directed by David Lynch (and executive-produced by Mel Brooks), the 1980 film is based on the life of Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man living in 19th century London. When physician Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) discovers “John” (John Hurt) in a freak show, he brings him to the hospital for an examination. He learns that there’s much more to John than his outward appearance and begins to work with and eventually teach his challenging patient.

The film also stars Hannah Gordon, Anne Bancroft and John Gielgud. It received eight Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Doors open 6:30 p.m. Admission and popcorn are free, but donations are gladly accepted to help defray the costs of Movie Night. Soda pop, water, beer and wine are available for purchase. Seating is provided, but viewers can bring their own cushions or seating if they choose.

The Northwest Montana History Museum brings the past alive through exhibits, artifacts, educational programs, and events. Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at 124 Second Ave. East, Kalispell. For information call 406-756-8381.

Lensman captured Kalispell at a pivotal time

Raymond (“Ray”) Weaver (1892-1964) returned to Kalispell from World War I in 1919 with permanent lung damage from a mustard gas attack in the trenches of France.

On returning home, Weaver picked up a camera and seemingly never put it down. From the swimmers of Woodland Park to an auto accident downtown, or shoppers bustling along Main Street, Weaver documented with a sharp eye, strong sense of composition, and a feel for everyday life in a midcentury American town.

See a dozen images from a keen observer of the Kalispell scene over decades.