Monday, June 15, 2009

"Want A Walnetto?"

Ranked #10 among the next Great Adventure Towns in the Rockies in 2008 by National Geographic Adventure: Red Lodge, Montana.

"Set beside Yellowstone National Park in the wooded Beartooth Mountain foothills, Red Lodge is the toned-down Jackson (WY) alternative—complete with a smaller (and less intimidating) ski resort on its 9,416-foot signature peak. The town’s epic 71-mile Peaks to Prairie triathlon every April shows outsiders what they’re missing."

Hailed as the "Gateway to Yellowstone Park" via the beautiful Beartooth Highway, Red Lodge was established in 1884. Coal mining was the heart of the town's economy from 1887 to the Great Depression.

Not to be outwitted by the national economy of the 1930s, the good residents of Red Lodge came up with a worthwhile alternative to coal: Following the Depression, locally produced bootleg liquor – or “cough syrup” – replaced coal as the town’s lucrative export, supplying “patients” from the Midwest to the California coast.

During our brief walk around Red Lodge, we crossed paths again with two historical characters. John “Liver Eatin’” Johnston lived here in the 1880s. (Remember him from our travels through Cody, WY?) According to legend, Johnston earned his name by gouging out and consuming the livers of those who crossed him. (A reputation that surely served him well during his stint as the town’s deputy sheriff.) Johnston’s log cabin now stands next to the Red Lodge Visitor’s Center on the north end of town.

And again we walked where the Sundance Kid did. (Remember the Utah parks and Cody, WY, blogs?) In 1897, guests of The Pollard Hotel (left, renovated in 1994) witnessed the Sundance Kid rob the Red Lodge Bank (right) across the street.

Buffalo Bill Cody, William Jennings Bryan, Calamity Jane and Frederic Remington are among those on the hotel’s long and colorful guest register.

Our stop in town was all too brief. But when we four travelers (Chuck, cousin Mike, his wife Joanie, and Kate) came upon this marquee, we had to drop in for a visit. Walnettos (Remember Laugh In? Remember Arte Johnson’s character using Walnettos to try to pick up Ruth Buzzi’s character on the park bench with the line, “Want a Walnetto?”)

What greeted us were boxes and boxes of "candy you can't find anymore." Kate grabbed a bag and began loading up on Sassy Sours, B•B•Bats, Abba-Zabas, Bit-O-Honeys, and Slo-Pokes--among many others. There are some 800 candies from which to choose.

Just the taffy section provided enough choices to fill multiple bags.

Beyond the candies, there were items that could be the basis for a museum. I don't know if the items pictured in the next photos were for sale--they seemed to be the props for the old candies. The old dusty bicycle may fit the label of "prop," but I realize it's a gross mistatement to call this old Harley (below) a "prop," but crowded into this display with no attempt to highlight it minimized not only its historical (and emotional) significance but also the significance of the other items piled together.

Opening in 1991, The Montana Candy Emporium appears to be someone's attic, basement, or garage. Signs and license plates were all over the walls. Nesbitt orange soda 5¢, for example.

This display of lunch boxes seemed a bit out of place in that they were fairly new. Hopefully, the store will be around long enough for these to reach to age of "Do you remember Hannah Montana?"

As we left, we checked the other side of the marquee: "Try Black Jack and Clove Gum." We made a quick return trip.

No comments: