The Days of Dance Tickets & Typing Champions

Kalispell's 1927 Typing Champion, Mabel Fisher, Remembers...

She might not remember the names of all of her boyfriends, but at 98 years old, Mabel Fisher remembers the favorite fashions from her youth. Going through old photo albums, she giggles over the exact details about certain favorites. Favorite coats, that is, not boyfriends. Or beaus as they were called back then.

  “If it wasn’t one it was another,” Mabel says of a boy whose name she can’t recall. “But that coat had a removable cape! It was very fashionable. That coat had a fur collar...” she exclaims and recalls, pausing over the picture. She even remembers the fabric—beige wool with a neutral plaid.

These were the more innocent days of dance tickets—when you didn’t want the gent who was a bad dancer to ask you to dance no matter how cute he was. 

“You didn’t want to dance with the same guy all the time either,” Mabel recalls, “That would be horrible.”  

  She has many fond memories of the Flathead of Kalispell, the place she called home for almost 100 years. It’s not all fashion, but to look through Mabel’s photo album, full of pictures of women with bobs, bangs, hats and high heeled Mary Jane’s, you’d swear everyone was a little more dressed up on a daily basis. 

 Maybe it was because it was the roaring twenties—but everyone wears carefree smiles as if they were on sale at the local mercantile store.

Mabel Fisher’s father was a Kalispell doctor that moved to Kalispell, Montana in 1900. Dr. A.T. Munro (that’s Alonzo Tullock in case you’re curious) was a general doctor and early surgeon (one of the few) for the hospital of the day—the Sisters of Mercy, whom Mabel remembers as the sisters with tall habits a la the Flying Nun.

Dr. Munro and his wife Maud Alberta Munro settled on Kalispell after a job seeking trip to Seattle. He had just finished medical school in Minnesota and thought Washington would be their new home, but after seeing Kalispell, they decided to settle.

            “They thought it was a good place,” Mabel explains matter of factly of the move.

            Within nine years of moving, Dr. Munro was established in town, with three young daughters to complete his family—Helen, Katheryn and Mabel. Their downtown home (“back then everyone built there own homes,” Mabel recalled) would be a town fixture for decades.

            From her house, the Kalispell Mercantile was walking distance, and she remembers making daily trips to the market with her mother. Back then, the mercantile was a town’s one-stop store—with groceries, hardware, clothing and a glass enclosed candy case where all the kids could see the sweet selections. Back then, most everything was purchased in bulk, and Mrs. Munro stocked up on sacks of flour for bread and everything else that would supplement the family’s sizable garden. During the Depression, Mabel remembers her mother plucking chickens—a common form of payment for doctors when times got tough.

            While women of the household, at least Mabel’s mother, were often home sewing clothes, cooking and generally keeping house, the kids were free to roam Kalispell. And while Mrs. Munro didn’t exactly encourage roaming, Mabel does remember spending lots of time at the skating pond at Woodland Park.

            “We wanted to go skating as soon as we could because it was so nice,” Mabel recalls of the pond that was flooded and scraped by the city. Such smooth skating was a luxury, because without such care ice skating could be a bumpy affair on local lakes.

            These were the days of fur muffs and dresses for schoolgirls, though Mabel doesn’t recall wearing a muff (“I wasn’t the type for that fashion”.) Ribbons, and tall ones at that, often topped a young girls ensemble—whether or not the girl approved.

“It didn’t matter if we liked them or not, we wore them,” Mabel recalls of the ribbons. Once school was over, girls were allowed to change into pants for outdoor play.

            Back then, Mabel remembers that winters were a little bit longer and a little bit colder, though she’s not complaining, these days “it stays nicer longer and gets nicer earlier.”

            In the summertime or at the school yard, while the boys played marbles, something girls were not allowed to do, Mabel and her friends played a variation of tag called “Run Sheep Run”. One person was “it” and while surrounded by a circle of “sheep”, they would try to tag another. Whether or not this game reflected the ranching of Kalispell at the time, Mabel does not exactly recall, though it was the dominant game of her childhood.

            Family time was spent camping in the North Fork or taking the automobile up to Polebridge—which even then boasted a mercantile and small community. Picnics lunches, packed by mom, were stocked with the standard fare—fried chicken and potato salad. These days, Mabel wonders if the huge initials “ATM” her father once carved on a tree near Polebridge still exist.

            By high school, Mabel was a whiz at typing, going on to be the 1926 Montana State Typing Champion and the editor of her high school newspaper, the Flathead Arrow. Back then girls didn’t participate in sports, although Mabel remembers organized ice skate racing at Woodland Park.

             Of course, after the all of the ice-skating and full dance tickets, there was one man who managed to capture Mabel’s heart and most of her memories—her husband, Maurice Fisher. An eastern accountant who preferred the west, together they raised three girls in Kalispell. He died after 18 years of marriage. But Mabel is glad they decided to raise a family in the Flathead.

            “Back then (Maurice) considered it one of the best places. And it still is.”


Power of the Pen, 2007