40 years ago
Ernie the orphan duckling returned to his natural habitat this week at Lake Five near Glacier National Park. The Bell family found the duckling near their campsite July 4, 1968. The duckling, it was determined, had been abandoned by his mother and was unable to fend for himself on his own. The Bells say they checked with park officials on what to do, but were dissatisfied by the responses they got. The Bells decided to take Ernie with them back to Alta Loma, Calif., for the winter. Ernie lived a pampered life in California, eating mostly dog food and being the star attraction in the neighborhood. It was decided that the only right thing to do was return Ernie to his home in Montana. Last week, the Bells, with a much larger Ernie, returned to Lake Five. It was soon discovered that Ernie had lost his attraction to being in the water. The Bells tried many things to get Ernie in the water. Twelve-year-old Shirley Bell tried going into the water and seeing if Ernie would follow, but he was happy on the land. After about an hour Ernie wanted back in the car where his dog food was stored.
The Bells felt they had no other options, so Ernie became a California duck. In this era, park rangers likely would have kept Ernie in the park and around his natural habitat rather letting private citizens take him for the winter. One park official expressed surprise that Ernie would survive in such a foreign environment.
35 years ago
For nearly a century, downtown Missoula's largest department store has been the Missoula Mercantile. The Merc, as it was known, sold everything imaginable from high fashion to livery supplies. For a long time the Merc had a substantial supply of scouting gear as well as an automotive department that included on-site car repairs. Now the Missoula Mercantile is officially a thing of the past. Allied Stores, based out of Kansas City, Kan., has purchased the rights and properties of the store. The first thing to change is the name, which will be the Allied Supply Co. Officials with Allied say it will be a while before they make significant changes in the appearance of the store. Employees speculate that Allied will likely consolidate what has become a large number of diverse departments in the hopes of better overall management.
Allied would own what had been the Mercantile for four years before selling out to the Bon Marche Corp. in 1978. Under the Bon management, housewares were phased out. In 1999 the store became Bon-Macy's and then, in 2005, it was rechristened Macy's.
30 years ago
Many western Montanans are preparing for the possibility that a portion of the Skylab space station might hit Montana. The 277-ton space station was supposed to self-destruct in space, but its orbit was altered and it appears likely to crash after re-entry in the Earth's orbit. Officials at NASA indicated that the most likely area for the Skylab's crash landing is near the Washington-British Columbia border, which would put the flight path over Montana with the potential of some debris landing in western Montana. Those most on alert are wildland firefighters because a chunk of burning space station could cause a devastating fire. Families are being encouraged to stock up on supplies in case power is knocked out. Police and the county sheriff have emergency evacuation plans just in case.
Skylab crashed to Earth in the Outback of Australia on July 16, 1979. Ironically, though, the emergency preparations done in anticipation of Skylab would come into play 10 months later when Mount St. Helens exploded near the Washington-Oregon border.
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