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Montana Fireball: The Wild Ride of Billings’ Mayor Willard Fraser
March 16, 2017 — Noon
by Darrell Ehrlick
Former Billings Mayor lost more elections than he ever won, and yet no mayor before or after probably did more to create a legacy Billings continues to enjoy. While most people knew Willard for a handful of eccentricities and stories, few have given him credit for what he achieved. And, though he made people mad in the moment, he died with virtually no enemies. Come find out about the man who prided himself on turning a jail into a museum, considered Billings city limits to extend 300 miles in all directions and who caned a fellow city council member for mocking him.
Holiday Greetings from the Western Heritage Center
By Kevin Kooistra; Thursday, December 15
Get ready to be filled with Christmas cheer! Enjoy a mix of modern holiday traditions, stories about Christmas in Montana, and a slide show of historic holiday greeting cards from the Western Heritage Center collection. Music will fill the air and the season’s greetings will bring you “a return home to the days of youthful happiness.”
Understanding the 1988 Yellowstone Fires
By John Clayton; Thursday, November 17
To many people in this area, the 1988 Yellowstone fires felt like a watershed event. In the 28 years since that memorable summer, we’ve learned a lot about fire ecology and wildfire management. But did the fires change the way people think about America’s iconic landscape and first national park? What did they mean for the culture at large? Journalist and historian John Clayton takes a look.
Briskly Venture, Briskly Roam: The Legend of Yellowstone Kelly
By Bill Cole; Thursday, September 15
After serving the Union in the Civil War, Luther Sage “Yellowstone” Kelly came out west to hunt, trap, and explore the Northern Plains. His knowledge of the indigenous peoples and the landscapes of eastern Montana prompted him into military service as an army scout during the end of the Indian Wars. The exhibit explores the cultural diversity of eastern Montana, key to understanding Kelly’s role as an Indian scout. At that time (1870s), he became a nationally recognized figure on the western frontier. Yellowstone Kelly’s restless spirit next led him to guiding in Colorado and Alaska, serving in the Philippine-American conflict, acting as Indian agent in Arizona, and retiring to a fruit farm in California. His last request was to be buried in Montana, the home to his fondest memories.
Profiles of African American Montanans
By Ellen Baumler; Thursday, August 18
African Americans, small in numbers in Montana, nevertheless have a rich and varied history that has been largely unexplored. This program introduces more than twenty African American families and individuals through historic photographs, headlines, art, and architecture. Focusing on personal stories, struggles and accomplishments, the program also touches upon the legacy of slavery, segregation and integration of schools, other laws relating to minorities, and social activities of this ethnic group. With her knack for storytelling and making history personal, Baumler offers a compelling introduction to this overlooked area of Montana history.
Houses of Ill Fame: A History of Prostitution in Billings, 1882-1940
By Kevin Kooistra; Thursday, June 16
The local parlors and cribs of Minnesota Avenue’s “Restricted District” gained notoriety as the focal point of prostitution in early Billings. The women and men of the sex trade often moved from town to town and usually were kept on the fringe of the local society making it difficult to find their stories. Using state-wide newspaper accounts, local court dockets, and scholarly works, this program provides a snapshot into the life of the women and men who lived and worked the 2300-2600 blocks of Minnesota Avenue before World War II.
Forgotten Pioneers: The Chinese in Montana 1862-1943
By Ellen Baumler; Thursday, April 21
Chinese pioneers have been neglected in Montana's written record, even though in 1870 they comprised 10 percent of the population. By the 1950s, very few remained. Chinese homes and businesses fell victim to urban renewal programs. Time erased their remote mining and railroad camps. Traces of their culture disappeared, and their stories have become obscured in myth and legend. What happened to these pioneers and where did they go? Historian and award-winning author Baumler explores Montana's urban and remote Chinese settlements through archaeological sites, artifacts, and rare remaining landmarks, recalling the contributions of Montana's Chinese residents and the cultural footprints they left behind.
Cities of the Dead: A History of Billings' Early Cemeteries
By Elisabeth DeGrenier; Thursday, March 17
Have you ever thought about why our cemeteries are located on the edge of town? Or where we bury those who can’t afford a burial plot? We’ll look at these questions and more while exploring the histories of our local Billings, Riverside, and Mountview cemeteries. With a focus on the period from 1882 to the 1920s, we’ll also examine how broad American movements, such as industrialization or the development of city parks, influenced the cemeteries’ designs and layouts.
Montana Inspiration Project: Designing Innovators
By David North; October 16, 2014