July 26, 2018

Bob Vine and the Anaconda Copper Mining Company of the 1960s

Kelly Burton
Film Archivist
Montana Historical Society

A tour group at an Anaconda facility, circa 1960s (PAc 2008-102)

In his 1986 interview for the Montana Historical Society’s oral history project ‘Metals in Montana: Industry and Community in the 20th Century,’ lifelong Montana resident Bob Vine discussed his relationship with the town of Anaconda and its namesake company: “I’ve been in Anaconda since 1950 when I got out of college. I taught art and English in the high school for seven years. And then joined the company in June of 1957 as an artist. Subsequently I went into communications and training. I was personnel director in Anaconda, personnel director in Butte. Then I became director of education and development for the entire Montana operations.” (OH 925, p. 2) Vine worked for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company and ARCO smelter in Anaconda from 1957 to 1983, and during that time he developed an enduring respect for the individual workers and the communities at large. In addition to providing MHS with two in-depth oral histories (OH 925 and OH 1676) on the mining industry after his retirement, Vine also produced a history of Anaconda’s first women smelter-workers at the Washoe Reduction Works of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company titled “Women of the Washoe” (978.687 V75W) and a centenary celebration of the town entitled “Anaconda Memories 1883-1983” (PAM 1567).

 Bob Vine’s most distinctive and voluminous contribution to the historical record of Montana exists not on the printed page, but rather within thirty-nine canisters of 16mm motion picture film. Donated to MHS by the Vine Family in 2008, this film collection (PAc 2008-102) adds up to approximately 10,000 feet – or five continuous hours – of regional moving image history about the mining industry. Most of the films created and collected by Vine were shot during the 1960s, and these color and black and white reels cover a wide range of activities related to Anaconda Copper during a turbulent decade for the company. Extensive notes on the original film canisters provide a wealth of detail regarding content, and the choice of subject matter throughout demonstrates Vine’s desire to temper his industrial images with more human scenes from the greater mining communities.

Blasting at the Berkeley Pit, circa 1960s (PAc 2008-102)

The footage created by Vine consists primarily of mining and smelting processes at various Anaconda sites, and the 1960s saw ACM trying to balance rising costs with diminishing profit margins. Bonner Lumber Mill, the Butte, Anaconda & Pacific Railway, and the Anaconda Reduction Department are just a few of the many subjects documented by Vine. Canister labels provide meticulous – and occasionally dramatic – program descriptions, as evidenced by this small section from a canister note about filmed Berkeley Pit activities in Butte: “changing truck tires with overhead crane; trucks being loaded; top rim of pit NE of viewing stand; pit from above; powder truck; overhead view of shovel; blasting crew; powder truck; BLAST!” The editing/splicing methodology employed by Vine is not always apparent, however – images from rugged outdoor locations such as the Berkeley Pit are occasionally and incongruously followed by bureaucratic scenes in departmental offices and sterile control rooms.

An Anaconda Company control room, circa 1960s (PAc 2008-102)

The Bob Vine film collection also covers some of the less routine aspects of working life at the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. Awards ceremonies, contests, training sessions, and stockholders’ meetings at the Washoe Theater on Anaconda’s Main Street are just a few of the events listed on the collection’s canister labels. Communications and education played a large role in Vine’s career with ACM, and we also find several commercials that were made to emphasize the more human side of the company. These commercials often used footage taken from community events sponsored by ACM, such as the Smeltermen’s Union Day at Washoe Park, Children’s Day at Butte’s Columbia Gardens, and public tours through the plants themselves.

Smeltermen's Union Day at Washoe Park in Anaconda, MT, circa 1960s (PAc 2008-102)

Eight films from the Bob Vine collection have recently been digitized by MHS in cooperation with the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center in Big Sky, Montana as part of an evolving multimedia project pertaining to Montana and its history. These films can now be found on the MHS Moving Image Archives YouTube playlist: MHS Moving Image Archive.

July 18, 2018

Making Happy Kampers: Documenting the History of KOA

by Jodie Foley, Montana Historical Society State Archivist

What does summer mean to you?  Hiking, swimming and picnics?  For most of us summer is the time to hit the road and explore as a family.  One of the most familiar sites folks see as they travel our highways is the big yellow and black KOA sign.
KOA signs have called to weary travelers since the 1960s, but many don’t know that the company behind the sign has its origins in Montana.
[Dave Drum, Life Magazine, September 29, 1972]
In 1962 Dave Drum, local business man and entrepreneur, noticing the high number of travelers heading for the Seattle World’s Fair, decided to set up a campground on his property just outside of Billings.  Following on that successful summer, Drum surveyed his visitors asking what they thought of the facilities, location and to give general impressions of the campground.  The enthusiastic responses encouraged Drum and his new partners to think bigger and by 1969 they had expanded Kampers of  America into a network of over 250 modern campgrounds across the county.
1967 KOA Directory
Unknown family at the Billings KOA, ca.1960s

In time KOA’s bright yellow logo became synonymous with America's modern ideas of camping—hot showers, concession stores, swimming pools, game rooms and other amenities meant to make camping accessible and attractive to a larger audience.

Today there are nearly five hundred KOA campgrounds, either corporate or franchises, in the United States and Canada.  
2016 KOA Directory
Much of the success of the company lies in its ability to promote both its services, its franchise model and its overall mission in bold color.
KOA promotional materials
With the donation of these records, researchers can now learn more about a company that has been dedicated to making “Happy Kampers” for over 50 years.  Come see this and many more collections that explore Montanans' love affair with the great outdoors!  A description of the collection can be found in our catalog at http://mhs.mt.gov/
"We're Happy Campers" coaster, no date

July 2, 2018

The Sun Gave Man The Power

by Kelly Burton, MHS Research Center Film Archivist

When the two-hundredth anniversary of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence was celebrated nationwide in 1976, the Montana Bicentennial Administration was charged with coordinating the event’s commemoration at a state level. Over three hundred projects were considered by the Bicentennial Administration in the years preceding the celebration, each with its own unique narrative and set of requirements. One of the few organizations to apply for motion picture funding was the Sun Foundation, a non-profit based in rural Washburn, Illinois. Formed in 1973, the Sun Foundation’s mission has been to “strengthen and advance the arts and environmental sciences in rural and urban communities by providing quality and innovative programs, services, publications, research, regranting financial support, and cooperative efforts for the general public, underserved groups, schools, Illinois artists, and local arts organizations.”[1] Founders Bob and Joan Root Ericksen approached the Bicentennial Administration at the end of 1974 with a film about the Piegans of northwestern Montana. Beginning as a slideshow with accompanying narration and oral history interviews, the Sun Foundation hoped to expand the project into a longer informational film about the Piegan tribe: “The purpose of this project is to produce a film of historical relevance and authenticity for educational use in curricular studies of American history, Native American culture, and environmental arts. The film would utilize oral histories given by elder members of the Pikuni-Blackfeet tribe of Montana, and present documentation of the historical and religious heritage of Blackfeet tribal life through the narrative of scholars.”[2]

Still image from The Sun Gave Man the Power (collection PAc 2018-16)

Still image from The Sun Gave Man the Power
(collection PAc 2018-16)
Produced with partial grant assistance from the Montana Bicentennial Administration, the Montana Arts Council, and the Illinois Bicentennial Commission, “The Sun Gave Man the Power” was completed in 1975. Promotional print materials described the 27-minute, 16mm film as “an oral history given by elder members of the Pikuni-Blackfeet Indian tribe,” one in which the “family structure of the Blackfeet, their use of materials and tools, gathering of food and medicines and ecological orientation” allows the viewer to witness the “intertwining of their spiritual beliefs into their daily lives.”[3] Expanding on ideas put forward in their original project, the Ericksens presented themes of ecology and tradition through a wider range photographs and artwork pertaining to several tribes across North America. In addition to the tribal histories and scholarly commentaries that provided audio for the slideshow, the filmmakers also introduced an overarching narration and commentary into the final edit of the motion picture.

Several notable figures lent their talents to the making of “The Sun Gave Man the Power.” The film was narrated by famed Chicago author and broadcaster Studs Terkel, with commentary by Salish Kootenai activist/anthropologist/educator D’Arcy McNickle and scientist Dr. James Breeling. Still photographs were the work of Walter McClintock and Edward Curtis, with paintings provided by such Native American artists as John Bear Medicine and Victor Pepion (Blackfoot), Doc Tate Nevaquaya (Comanche), White Buffalo (Kiowa), Dick West (Southern Cheyenne). Old West artists Charles M. Russell and O.C. Seltzer provided additional paintings, and the traditional music for the film was created by John Bear Medicine and Doc Tate Nevaquaya.[4]

Still image from The Sun Gave Man the Power (collection PAc 2018-16)
After the film was completed, the Sun Foundation presented “The Sun Gave Man the Power” to various scholars to evalute the appropriateness of the subject matter. D’Arcy McNickle was an obvious choice from the Native American community in Montana, as was Earl Barlow of the Blackfoot tribe. Barlow was serving as the Superintendent of Public Schools on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning and would go on to be the director of the Office of Indian Education for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. from 1979 to 1981. Father Peter Powell, founder and first director of St. Augustine’s Center for American Indians in Chicago would also serve on the evaluation committee. Superintendent of Glacier National Park, Mr. Phillip Iverson (1974-1980), and Mr. Ed Rothfuss, the Chief Naturalist at Glacier rounded out the list of scholars to review the film before its 1975 release.[5]

Film order form and proposal cover page (collection RS 142)

Over the course of its 45-year lifespan, the Sun Foundation has continued to “research, design, produce, and disseminate educational materials that advance and develop integrative and interdisciplinary studies between artists and scientists and the understanding thereof, to enable humankind to live in harmony with nature, by securing a quality environment for all life, thereby enriching the human condition.”[4] To learn more about the past and current endeavors of the Sun Foundation, please visit their website at http://sunfoundation.org/sun2/. The Montana Historical Society has recently digitized its excellent 16mm print of ”The Sun Gave Man the Power,” and the film can be found on our Moving Image Archives YouTube playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p67he6X_kqQ.

[1] The Sun Foundation website: http://sunfoundation.org/sun2/.
[2] Montana Bicentennial Administration papers. Montana Historical Society Archives, collection RS 142.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] The Sun Foundation website.