We get a lot of requests from other cities or states (even countries) for information about people who were born in Butte or lived here for a while and then moved on to other places. We also hear a lot of stories about people from Butte taking a trip and running into other people who either live in Butte now or have Butte connections.
One of our volunteers told me not long ago about a time he was sitting in a diner in New York City and a man he knew from Butte walked past the window. Of course, he hurried out to visit with the man because that is what Butte people do.
More recently, two of our volunteers ran into each other at a “Griz” bar in Scottsdale, Arizona during the March Madness game between the University of Montana and the University of Michigan. During that same trip, one of the volunteers met a young man who told him he knew people in Arizona who had relatives in Butte and that they may have some items they wished to donate to the Archives! The volunteer came back to Butte with a wonderful collection of family photographs and business ledgers that had belonged to a woman named Manila Murphy.
Manila Murphy was a businesswoman who owned and operated the Club 45 in Meaderville, and this collection was like the cherry on top of a banana split. About a year ago, one of the Archives Board members gave our director a coat that had once belonged to Manila Murphy. A few months later, a man e-mailed us seeking information about his uncle whose traveling band had performed often at the Copper Club and the Club 45 in Meaderville. Art Land and his Comedy Band performed in Butte often and had a scuffle after one performance at Manila Murphy’s night club because young men from Butte claimed that their material was too bawdy for the young women they were escorting (or maybe the band members had been a little too flirtatious)!
At the same time that we were researching the band, a group of volunteers was preparing a public presentation of Smithers photographs they were calling “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.” Manila Murphy’s name came up again. It turned out that the Archives has an oral history done by Ray Calkins with Manila Murphy in 1980. We could listen to her talk about the night life in Meaderville and the characters she knew. She talked about the fire that destroyed the original location of the Club 45 at 45 Main Street and the reopening of the bar at 1 Leatherwood Street, Meaderville. What a treat!
And then came the collection from Arizona. The Jewett family was so generous. Most of the people in the family photographs are identified. Some of the photographs were taken in the night club. The ledgers and date books are an interesting glance into the bar business in the 1950s, a time just before the Anaconda Company bought properties in Meaderville to expand the Berkeley Pit. We are so grateful for their generosity and hope friends and family members will come to see the photographs of her family and the bar.
Things like this seem to happen a lot around here because Butte people are everywhere!