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;

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.

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.

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.

The urban-rural divide comes to heart

The first feature in 2024 for the Northwest Montana History Museum’s Movie Night at the Museum is the 1927 silent romantic drama Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. The film screens 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23.  The movie marked the American film debut of German director F.W. Murnau and stars George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor, and Margaret Livingston.  

Livingston plays a city woman vacationing in the country who meets and falls in love with a farmer (O’Brien). Torn between his love for his wife (Gaynor) and his new love who wants him to sell his farm and move with her to the city, O’Brien finds himself agreeing  to kill his wife so they can be together. But, as in life, all does not go according to plan in this story of love, loss, and redemption.    

Murnau was the first director to use the new Fox Movietone sound-on film system, making this one of the first feature films with a synchronized musical score and sound effects soundtrack.

At the first Academy Awards in 1929, the film won an Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Picture while Gaynor received Best Actress in a Leading Role. Critics have called Sunrise the greatest film of the silent era.  

Doors open 6:50 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.

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.

Shop Small on Nov. 25 for big impact

In honor of campaigns to bolster local economies during the holiday season, the Northwest Montana History Museum welcomes book lovers and shoppers from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25.

All books are discounted by 10 percent (that means 20 percent off for museum members) and many other items will be on sale. For more than two decades the bookstore and gift shop at the museum has served as a go-to for unique history- and Montana-themed titles and items.

In addition, from 10 a.m. to noon popular local author John Fraley will be on-site to sign books and catch up with his growing fan base. Fraley’s well-researched tales of early Montanans and their adventures–including his own as chronicled in his fifth, most recent book, My Wilderness Life–are always a hit with readers.

Stop by to browse, chat, and make a big impact by “shopping small” at your history museum.

2024 John White Series speakers ready to roll

For 22 years, the Northwest Montana History Museum has organized presentations on the many facets of Montana history for its John White Series.

Regularly selling out, the subjects of John White Series talks last year ranged from historic fire lookouts of Northwest Montana, Kalispell’s bustling vintage theater scene, and underwater shipwrecks in Flathead Lake. This year’s speakers delve into grizzlies, motorcycle adventuring, indigenous foods, and Meriwether Lewis’s mom.

“These talks go deep on aspects of Montana life and history that give reason to gather in winter with friends, family, and others who share curiosity for our state and its people,” museum director Margaret Davis said. “We always advise people to reserve spots early to avoid disappointment as we have had to turn people away for lack of space.”

2 p.m. Jan. 7 Ron Brevik: “Over 16 years and 70,000 miles I rode by motorcycle all of the county, state, and federal paved roads in the Treasure State”

2 p.m. Jan. 21 Kate Kendall: grizzly expert spent decades in Glacier National Park and throughout Montana

2 p.m. Feb. 4 Mary Jane Bradbury: storyteller and historic interpreter takes on Lucy Marks, mother of Corps of Discovery expeditioner Meriwether Lewis

2 p.m. Feb. 18 Mariah Gladstone: Blackfeet-Cherokee resident of Babb founded Indigikitchen ( to revitalize indigenous food knowledge

The John White Series pays tribute to longtime beloved staff members John White Sr. and Jr. of Central School. The 1894 schoolhouse is Kalispell’s oldest public building and home to the premier regional history museum, which draws thousands annually for exhibits and events year-round.

Details: 2 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 7 and 21 and Feb. 4 and 18, 2024; social time afterward

Northwest Montana History Museum, 124 2nd Ave. E., Kalispell, MT 59901; 406-756-8381;

Tickets for individual talks are $15 (members) or $20 (nonmembers). The series costs $40 (members) or $60 (nonmembers). Purchase online when links available or contact Elle Eberts-Robocker, Donna Buckalew, or Margaret Davis at the museum.

“They come closer every day, Pa”

The Northwest Montana History Museum’s Movie Night at the Museum will screen the 1965 film “Shenandoah” starring James Stewart at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28. The Civil War film also stars Doug McClure, Glenn Corbett, and Patrick Wayne with Katharine Ross and Rosemary Forsyth making their film debuts. Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, the movie soundtrack prominently features the familiar American folk song “Oh Shenandoah.”

In Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley in 1864, family patriarch Charlie Anderson (Stewart) only wants to be left alone to manage his farm along with his six sons, daughter Jennie (Forsyth), and daughter-in-law Ann (Ross). They are not slave owners, and Charlie is not concerned with the fight between North and South nor the skirmishes and battles being fought throughout the area. He only wants to be left in peace, to attend church on Sunday (to which his large family is always late) and work his farm. While some of his sons want to fight for the Confederacy, they respect their father’s wishes and stay on the farm. But after daughter Jennie marries a Confederate officer (McClure), events bring the war to his front door and his family into the conflict.

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.

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.

Santa’s sleigh is on the way

The Northwest Montana History Museum lays on the holiday spirit with an open house 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30.

Festive touches adorn every room, with highlighted history specific to each exhibit. In addition, carolers are welcome to join in as museum staffer and expert pianist Donna Buckalew takes to the keys for holiday standards in Hollensteiner-Stahl Hall.

Refreshments are on offer, including bags of goodies for the kids, other holiday treast, and hot spiced cider. The big guy in the red suit is scheduled to make an appearance for photos and any gift requests.

The late-1800s sleigh with modern props makes a perfect opportunity for pictures.

Come on out and load up on seasonal smiles and cheer.

Admission is free, and all are welcome!

Details: 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023
Northwest Montana History Museum, 406-756-8381 option 6; 124 Second Ave. E., Kalispell, MT 59901;