Welcome to Helena, Montana. (Pronounced Heh leh nah) Located about halfway between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone in the heart of Lewis and Clark country it is surrounded by low wide mountains and pristine lakes. Helena is the capital of Montana and a true Montana town. We will call it a town even though the historic and newer areas combined are home to almost 100,000 residents.
People are friendly, patient and laid back I discovered in my various interactions with the locals. For example, when I went to buy stamps in the supermarket (where they sell stamps-didnt you know?) I asked for stamps to mail my postcards to Canada and was told that she could only sell me stamps for the United States of America and she knows for sure that they are good for all of the United States but she does not know what to do about me sending my postcards to Canada. I told her to give me double the amount needed and I would put 2 on each one and she responded “That might work but I dont know Ma’am. I only sell stamps for the United States of America.”
On my visit to the museum at The Historical Society I learned that Helena’s gold mining history once made it the richest city in the world. Perhaps, when I stretched my imagination very far, it shows in its abundant turn of the century mansions and elegant architecture along Last Chance Gulch. Last Chance Street, Last Chance Restaurant, Last Chance Casino, Last Chance Bar, etc are all named for what locals thought was a last chance at finding gold and yet over the next 30 years those who came thinking it was almost gone were still striking it very rich.
One man named Thomas Cruise commissioned an entire cathedral modeled after those in Vienna and Cologne single handedly and it stands proud and tall right in town surrounded by the Montana terrain and high wide sky. It looked to me like it was picked up in Europe and dropped in Montana. Interesting cultural contrast.
From the capitol to the cathedral, it’s filled with hundred year old candy and ice-cream shops with soda fountains and jukeboxes, saloons with young cowboys (at least they look like cowboys with big hats and leather tooled boots) and low-key, down to earth and friendly Americans.
– Ruth Schonblum
Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/24736216@N07/4026599740/”>roger4336</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>