Monday, July 9, 2012

Day 24 - TRNP - North Unit, Walford City, ND to Glasgow, MT

So, Walford City, ND is a boom town.  Instead of a gold rush, they are experiencing an oil rush.  The Bakken oil field may end up being bigger than Prudoe Bay and the boom is on.    Lots of young workers have shown up in their pickups to work and the community is dealing with it as best they can by providing housing in the form of trailer/rv parks in numbers you can’t quite believe.  As we continued north towards Williston, ND, it only got worse.  More and more and more oil boom.  To be fair, we saw lots of signs of how it’s helping the community -- lovely new city parks with new playground equipment show clearly how the financial life of the whole community is being lifted up but the social changes must be quite a shock.  

Housing and services in North Dakota

New housing springing up all over the place -- some of it nicer than others; none of it substantial

Big signs about the "Housing" -- these are a bunch of small, white trailers

We were relieved to turn west and cross into Montana.  The boom hasn’t hit there (yet?) and we were back to quite ranchland and tiny ranch towns again. We were traveling on a Sunday and guess what . . . Nothing but nothing is open on a Sunday.  Even driveins and diners are usually closed on Sundays.  
We were so glad to find that Scoops Drivein in Culbertson, MT was open that we didn’t even mind waiting for a table and our food.  Everyone was there.  I know it’s the day of rest and all but the local restaurants are missing a bet . . . The few that are open clean up on Sundays!  
We drove through the Fort Peck Indian Reservation -- their biggest town is Wolf Point which is home to a famous rodeo . . . That my mom remembers going to back in the day!  It’s this coming weekend but, no, we aren’t staying around to watch it! 
We pulled in to Glasgow and checked out two of the three campgrounds in town.  We ended up choosing the Cottonwood Inn & RV Park because it had 50 amp service so we could run our air conditioning (it’s 98 during the day here) and it had a pool for the kids!  
We got settled, got the AC running, and headed out to explore town.  We couldn’t find the Penny’s where my mom glanced at the bank of TVs and learned about JFK’s assassination but we did enjoy the charming downtown.  Then, we headed north to where the Glasgow Air Force Base used to be.  
I was born in Glasgow, MT in March of 1964.  My father, Jack Donaldson, was stationed there with a fighter wing for about 3 years.  My mother, a young bride, had two kids, 17 months apart.  We left when I was around 3 and my dad was transferred to a base in England.  I don’t remember living in Glasgow but I’ve got images in my head from pictures that we saw.  
I didn’t know what to expect.  I’ve driven around the abandoned parts of Fort Ord near Monterey (here are some pictures I took there -- ) but I know the weather is much harsher in Montana than in Monterey!  We thought there was a decent chance that nothing would be there.  But, as we got close to where we thought it was, we saw some buildings and trees and sure enough, there it is.  A town in the middle of the prairie -- it’s been renamed St Marie, Montana and there are people living out there trying to make a go of it.  
I say trying because they aren’t completely successful.  Evidently, the developers who bought the buildings from the Air Force ran out of funding and a lot of the buildings are not lived in.  There are two homeowners associations and much of the property is well cared for but much of it is completely abandoned and falling to ruin.  We saw swallows flying into buildings with missing doors and zipping out of sight down hallways.  

Tower at former Glasgow AFB

This is the hospital where I was born in 1964

Love the post-modern detailing on the front door

Some of the houses are in better repair and many are being lived in

Avenue H - we lived on this street when I was born

Avenue H housing
We drove around for a while and then drove back to where we had cell service and I called my mom to find out if she could remember addresses . . . Just one street name.  We lived on Avenue H for awhile.  We did find that street and took some pictures but . . .  Who knows.  We found the hospital where I was born.  It’s abandoned and falling apart.  The runway, hangers, tower, and similar buildings are being used by Boeing as a research facility so they are in good repair.  

We found a resident who talked to us about it and was as nice as he could be.  He recommended a couple of restaurants in town and we ended up eating at Eugene’s Pizza which was established in 1962 -- wonder if I was ever there as a child.  The owners are really nice brothers who made me feel like an honored native daughter!  Everyone we’ve talked to here has been great.  

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