Monday, July 22, 2024

Six things may be Good enough

| September 10, 2023 12:00 AM

One of my favorite parts of the museum’s new walking tour of downtown Kalispell isn’t about the historic buildings — although I love those details, too — but about Henry and Alice Good, local movers and shakers of the 1920s and ’30s.

Or maybe they were just regular Northwest Montanans, judging from the activities of many current Kalispell residents.

Showing civic spirit and perhaps the similar understaffing of the day, the Goods served on many boards, including the First National Bank, Flathead County Purebred Livestock Association, Stillwater Land Company, State Liquor Control, Whitefish Land Company, the county fair and county commissions, Golf Club, Montana Highway Improvement Association, and motor clubs for Flathead and Lincoln counties. Singly, or as a couple, they were members of the Elks, Masons, Shriners, Rotary, Epworth Methodist Church, Order of the Eastern Star, Century Club, Toastmistress Club and Daughters of the Nile.

Is that all? No, actually. Henry Good worked as a farmer and logging contractor, and built the handsome “garage” at 402 First Ave. E. Alice Good was well-known for her musical talent.

When I moved here a couple of years ago, I noticed right away the faces and hands behind all the events, presentations, fundraisers, music groups, clubs and goings-on about town. Then I started to attach the names (I’m still terrible at names — it’s like white noise cues up in my head as soon as a person says, “My name is — ”).

Finally I realized: Everyone here does six things. We all can’t be the Goods, engaged in 20 causes.

That jives with a study that found Montanans give freely of their time, skills and energy. Earlier this year, the U.S. Census Bureau and AmeriCorps released their biannual report on volunteering. In it, Montanans ranked ninth in formal volunteering nationally, and first in “informal” volunteering. This might be fetching groceries for a neighbor, or pushing a car out of a snowdrift.

The report found that the groups that scored highest for volunteering included members of Generation X, baby boomers, veterans, kids 16 to 17 years old, and parents with kids under the age of 18.

Remoteness shapes life in our rumpled corner of the state. Distance, weather and terrain can take a toll and alternately indulge and ratchet up the isolation. We have to depend on each other, making volunteering less a choice but more the obvious golden rule. Helping seems baked into our regional DNA.

Once I heard a talk by paralegal-turned-activist Erin Brockovich. She famously crusaded against groundwater contamination in a case that was subject of the eponymous 2000 movie starring Julia Roberts. Brockovich’s warning to the crowd (also the title of her then forthcoming book): “Superman’s not coming.”

Superman is us.

Now, the Goods of early Kalispell were standouts with an average of 10 activities each. They also had their businesses, and probably kids, too. We can call them overachievers, and even Supermen.

At the museum, the vast majority of the hours worked are volunteer. Dozens pitch in to help share the stories of Kalispell and Northwest Montana. The museum is one of the volunteers’ six (or 10) things.

The other day I made note of a call for volunteer writing coaches. I need to step up my game.

Margaret E. Davis, executive director of the Northwest Montana History Museum, can be reached at