• Mary Gunstone has attended all but two Helena Brewers games in the past three decades. Photo courtesy of the Helena Independent Record

    Helena resident has become the ultimate minor league baseball fan

    By Gabriel Furshong

    Tickets were just a couple dollars when Mary Gunstone began attending Helena Brewers baseball games in 1985, but she got into her first game for free.

    It was Buttrey’s Food and Drug night at the ballpark and employees were given complimentary tickets. Gunstone was a baker at the store and also served as the staff photographer.

    She took her camera to that first game, started snapping photos of the players – and never stopped.

    In the three decades since, Gunstone has only missed two games: the first for her father’s funeral and the second for her 50th class reunion.

    “I told them they should have it at the ballpark, but they didn’t do that for me,” she said, with a touch of regret.

    • Learn more about the Helena Brewers’ Kindrick Legion field here

    Across the country, there are more than 200 minor league teams associated with Major League Baseball, from Los Angeles, California, to Danville, Virginia, and as the list of cities descends from large to small, there is a reverse correlation between the celebrity of the game and the intimacy of the experience.

    Helena lies at the bottom of that list, among the Top 10 smallest markets in all of professional baseball.

    To read the full story about Mary Gunstone, subscribe today. 

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      The Creamery Cafe ghost sign in Uptown Butte. Photo by George Everett

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      The Dry Climate Cigar ghost sign in Uptown Butte. Photo by George Everett

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      The Eddy's Bread ghost sign in downtown Helena. Photo by George Everett

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      The Sweet Caporal Cigarettes ghost sign in Uptown Butte. Photo by Walter Hinick

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      The "Butte Beer" ghost sign in Uptown Butte. Photo by Walter Hinick

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      A campaign sign for mayoral candidate Tom Morgan before restoration. Photo by George Everett

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      The restored Tom Morgan for Mayor ghost sign in Uptown Butte. Photo by George Everett

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      The Wah Chong ghost sign during restoration. Photo by George Everett

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      The restored Mai Wah/Wah Chong ghost sign in Uptown Butte. Photo by George Everett

    Ghost Sign Scrutiny: Butte grapples with how restore outside ads


    Many a ghost story has been written about Butte.

    The city’s metropolitan past is rich with colorful characters, drama and intrigue. But it was also an urban center where thousands of people lived their lives – and that made it a prime target for advertisers.

    Long before interstate highway billboards or other forms of modern media existed, there was only one way to reach potential customers on a daily basis outside of the newspapers.  Advertisers made use of the most readily available canvas at the time – buildings.

    Companies hired sign painters, called wall dogs, to travel the country and promote their products. These painters were a combination of salesmen, artists, engineers, chemists and daredevils, and Butte’s population made it an obvious place to advertise regional national brands such as Bull Durham Tobacco, Rex Flour, Sweet Caporal Cigarettes and Coca-Cola.

    That was long ago.

    Today, the remnants of the advertisements painted on walls are called ghost signs.

    To read the entire Ghost Sign Scrutiny story, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.

  • wo mountain lion kittens bump into one another as they try and walk through the tall grass at FWP's Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Helena.  Photo by Eliza Wiley

    Rescued mountain lion brothers headed to Ohio

    Powell, Ohio, is preparing to welcome two Montana natives to its zoo.

    Two rescued mountain lion kittens that were pulled from a wildfire zone several weeks ago are set to be delivered to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Wednesday.

    Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park officials say it’s the best option for the brothers, according to a story by the Helena Independent Record’s Alexander Deedy.

    The kittens are headed to the Columbus Zoo. Photo by Eliza Wiley

    The kittens are headed to the Columbus Zoo. Photo by Eliza Wiley

    Just 12 to 14 days old when they arrived at the Montana Wildlife Center in Helena, the pair didn’t have any teeth and couldn’t really use their eyes. Now four weeks old, they’ve doubled in size and are starting to exhibit predator traits.

    Rhodin said they’ve started to pounce, and one will drag around a blanket he plays with.

    Besides inhaling smoke and having water and fire retardant dropped on them, the kittens did not suffer any physical harm during the fire, she said.

    The kittens now have clear lungs, bright blue eyes and are perfectly healthy. Rhodin has been feeding them a formula similar to milk from a mother mountain lion.

    Throughout the process, FWP has been fielding interest from zoos accredited by the American Zoos Association that wanted to provide a home for the cats.

    “If you try to release them before they’re 3 years old, they probably won’t survive,” Rhodin said.

    The leading cause of mortality among young mountain lions is getting killed by older males, so without a mother, the two kittens would have no chance of survival in the wild.

    Wildland firefighters battling a blaze near Florence rescued the kittens after hearing their cries from underneath a log. The blackened kittens were taken to a rehabilitation center in Helena where they recovered.

    Deedy wrote: Once in Ohio, the kittens will be kept together while young, but Rhodin said it is up to the zoo whether to put them in separate exhibits when they are older. She did say she thinks the Columbus Zoo has plans to use the mountain lions as part of its conservation education program.

    “There’s really no better place for them to end up,” Tom Palmer said.


  • ‘Montana is Calling’ a beautiful poem about missing Montana

    A 1954 photo of Imogene and her husband Bruce Hansen, holding daughter, Susan Marie. Photo courtesy of Janet Fulkerson

    A 1954 photo of Imogene and her husband Bruce Hansen, holding daughter, Susan Marie. Photo courtesy of Janet Fulkerson

    Of all the emails, letters and phone calls we get about Montana Magazine each day, some always stand out. They’re the notes about the allure of Montana and the want of so many to come here, live here one day, or for the natives who’ve moved away, to come back one day.

    These notes are always great to read, and many are beautiful and poetic too.

    So we thought we’d start sharing some these notes, poems and stories in a section on MontanaMagazine.com called “Love Letters to Montana” (it’s under the More of Montana tab on the home page.)

    We’ve put several love letters up and will add more soon.

    One of my favorites came from Janet Fulkerson, who found writings by her mother Imogene Z. Hansen after Imogene passed away in 2013.

    Imogene lived and raised a family in Helena before poor health forced her to move to Indiana to live with Janet. The photo with this post is of  Imogene and her husband Bruce Hansen, and Janet’s sister, Susan Marie.

    Her poem, “Montana is Calling,” was written in 2012. The full poem is here and a snipped is listed below. It’s worth a read.

    Montana Is Calling

    By Imogene Hansen

    September 17, 2012

    My heart’s in Montana; my heart is not here.

    It’s in Big Sky Country so high, wide, and clear.

    From the mountains and prairies that I loved to roam

    Montana is calling, and I want to go home.

    I miss Montana which is far, far from here

    where the earth is too flat and the sky seldom clear.

    – Jenna

  • Stained-glass, sun create symphony of light and color inside Cathedral of St. Helena

    Even from a distance, it’s easy to recognize the beauty of the Cathedral of St. Helena.

    Finished a century ago to stand in Montana’s capitol city of Helena, the Cathedral is a gorgeous building made of Indian limestone. But as writer and photographer Gordon Sullivan told us in the March/April issue, when you step inside the cathedral you’ll be greeted by an incredibly stunning setting thanks to the building’s stained-glass windows.

    Asymphony of light and color-w600-h400s the sun moves through the sky, the colorful glass creates a symphony of light and color. It’s a show Sullivan says upstages all the other wonderful elements of beauty inside the cathedral.

    It’s no easy task to capture that show with a camera. Sullivan spent hours inside the cathedral to make the images he included in his photo essay in Montana Magazine.

    “…for me, as a professional photographer,” Sullivan wrote, “the most outstanding feature revolves around stained-glass light and the sublime tone it casts on marble, polished brass and carved oak. It is the technical challenge this type of light presents and the pleasure of seeing each image suddenly duplicated electronically for others to see.”

    What else does Sullivan love about the stained-glass inside the cathedral? He answered some questions for Montana Magazine about his work there.

    Do you have a favorite portion of stained glass inside the cathedral?

    I guess I have two favorite portions of stained glass inside the cathedral. The first is located on the southeast corner. Here low angle, morning light is particularly interesting.  The stained-glass panels featured in this section, from both the higher and lower levels, spread illumination across the interior in colorful bands. It lights up the east facing side of marble pillars and walls and sweeps nicely across the oak pews.

    Another of my favorites is the stained-glass panel behind the grated back-alter and crucifix. Here a mixture of brass and stained-glass is vibrant and provides a sense of texture, depth and physical dimension.  This panel however is best photographed in low light, allowing just enough illumination of accent color without getting bright enough to wash out detail. Both areas require long exposures, tight metering and a tripod.


    What is the best time of day for readers who visit the cathedral to see the splendor of the stained-glass?

    The best time of day to visit and witness the splendor of stained-glass light is when the sun’s outside angle is at its greatest, which means early to mid-morning or late afternoon. Morning light enters from the east and in afternoon it comes from the west. The sharper the angle, the better the reflections inside the church and the more possible it will be for the illumination to be contrasted by interior shadows.  Best time of year is autumn or early winter.

    Another very special “mind blowing” time to visit is the last hour before sunset when the exterior light is low, warm and angled. It is almost unbelievable what goes on inside the cathedral during a vivid sunset. The effect is quick but very impressive.

     Tell us about the time it takes to get shots like you did.

    Once I set my sights on photographing the stained glass light, I first needed to study the patterns and determine what time of day or year would best demonstrate the effect I was after. This took some time and several dry runs and more or less pointed to times when the outside light was at its greatest angle to the windows. Mid-morning and late afternoon seemed to be prime – especially for the visible bands of light falling on inside attractions like marble pillars, oak pews and high contrast walls.

    Working inside the Cathedral of St. Helena requires both patience and planning, simply because a few special shots appear only during certain times during the day and in some cases vanish at a moment’s notice. Some of the shots were planned very carefully while others seemed to appear out of nowhere.


  • Windy weather topples pine, crushes truck in Lincoln

    It’s been windy and wet around the entire state lately – gusts almost broke records in Billings and knocked over trains near Helena.

    The wind got the best of this huge pine the other day in Lincoln – that truck was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  This photo was taken right on Main Street by our friends Jaime and Lisa Johnson.

    Stay safe out there!