A walk down Nostalgia Lane

A couple of days ago, I took a walk down Nostalgia Lane to visit Winters’ Store in Roberts. Any time my mom stopped to visit Aunts Agnes and Julia in their adjoining homes back in the late 1940s, my brother Joe and I would cross the highway and the Northern Pacific tracks to head for Winters on Main Street. Winters was a small drug store, but that wasn’t what drew us to this small white building. We were looking for penny candy and probably a milkshake or a sundae. In the summer, we’d pick up ammunition for our cap pistols.

Before heading back across the tracks, Joe and I would always head to the drug store’s almost next-door neighbor (there was a vacant lot between them). This was Pete Howland’s store. Opened in 1920, Pete sold a variety of merchandise from the bib overalls Grandpa wore on his farm outside Roberts to the flour and sugar Grandma needed for her delicious cakes and pies. Our mission was to check out the comic book rack at the front of the store. Here we could pick up the latest adventures of one of our heroes for only a dime.

Which hero should we choose? Superman, Captain Marvel or Daffy Duck? It was a difficult decision that took a while for two young visitors from Red Lodge to decide who was worth the last dimes from our allowances. The doors to Winters’ Store and Pete Howland’s closed years ago and the railroad tracks are long gone, but memories reopened the doors while thumbing through “Trails, Tracks & Tributes,” a Roberts history book recently published through the efforts of many residents and former residents and finished just in time for the Roberts High School’s 2013 all-class reunion. The big push was made by Mary Allen, an energetic English teacher and Librarian at Roberts School, who put in 48-hour weeks the last year to finish the book in time for the reunion, then took time off for cancer surgery. It had been an eight-year project, starting at the 2003 all-class reunion. Mary is quick to pass off the credit. “Carol (Bernhardt) Willis started it,” Mary said. “It was her idea. She had done a lot of research already.” One of Mary’s classes also contributed to the research. “All the kids in the class had to go out and do an interview.” The kids and others spent hours in the Carbon County Historical Society’s museum. A grant from the Montana Historical Society provided a computer. And there were individuals helping, too many to name here. “It was very time-consuming for a lot of people,” Mary said. “It was a labor of love for everybody involved. It was very much a community project.”

The result was a handsome, 556-page hard-bound volume beginning with a history of the community and ending with an index, a handy research tool for looking up information. There are pictures of every graduating class in the history of Roberts High School as well as individual photos of residents or former residents who served their country in wars beginning with World War I. In addition, there is a list of all of the town’s veterans. The history begins with Jim Bridger’s description of passing through the area and tells of the Bozeman Trail’s influence on the early homesteaders who ended up in what would become Roberts, Mont. We learn about the importance of the arrival of the railroad and the grain elevators in turning Roberts into a thriving farming and ranching community.

The highlight of the book is the long section of family histories, leaving most of the language as written to maintain the authenticity. There are more than 300 pages of family histories. Look up your grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Read them and enjoy them. Alpha Printing of Billings provided 400 copies, most of them pre-sold, for the first edition. The book cost $60. A second edition of 100, which will include corrections, is scheduled. To order a copy, contact the Roberts Community Foundation. “Alpha Printing is willing to do 100 at a time,” Mary said. “That’s probably what we’ll do. If we have more demand, we’ll do more. We’re getting calls all the time.”