Museum salutes America

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If you’ve got company coming or haven’t been to the Miracle of America Museum in Polson in a while (or ever), it would be well worth a visit.

Co-founders Gil and Joanne Mangels started the museum 32 years ago. Gil continued to manage it after Joanne died and now his wife Helen helps with the daily operation.

Nicknamed “The Smithsonian of the West,” the museum has a large cache of military memorabilia as well as a panoply of vintage vehicles and Americana.

Zoe Lilja from Big Arm was there for Gil’s 75th birthday celebration and presentation in August and was fascinated with the way symbols and metaphors are incorporated into the displays.

An exhibit of historical documents, for instance, is juxtaposed with an array of antique scales representing the scales of justice; an exhibit on free enterprise is paired with a collection of mousetraps (as in how to build a better mousetrap); and a display showing photos of victims of drunken driving is placed between antique automobiles and old whiskey bottles.

“I could see wandering through there as if on a scavenger hunt,” Lilja said, “looking at every nook and cranny for the symbolism, the metaphor, or the play on words.

“It gave me a whole new way of looking at the curious collection of memorabilia and antiquities that fills every nook and cranny of the MoAM.”

Gil says his ultimate message is to teach visitors and schoolchildren about the real America.

“Freedom is what made America the greatest nation on earth,” he said. “So many came to America to fulfill their dreams, start a business. We try to bring out the good points about our country.”

He notes that this year the museum hosted visitors from 52 countries. Surely many return home to tell their families about their unique visit to the Miracle of America Museum in Polson, Montana.

Gil plans to continue managing the museum as long as he can and for it to continue after his own passing. Tax-deductible donations and contributions to the museum’s endowment fund are always welcome.

The museum is open year-round. Current hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Saturday. Call 406-883-6804 or visit www.miracleofamericamuseum.org for more information.

Thanks, Gil, for keeping the one-of-a-kind MoAM going all these years.

A RECENT letter from Glasgow highlights the bounty of this harvest season and how sharing it with others is an even greater gift.

Barbara Hansen had been out picking crab apples at her neighbor’s in her hometown on the Hi-Line when a couple of people stopped to see what she was harvesting.

The fellow was from Kalispell and his sister was from Michigan.

“Conversation ensued and we had a good visit,” Hansen wrote. Then the gentleman asked Hansen if she could use some huckleberries.

“He didn’t have to offer twice!” Hansen said. “What a lucky day — a neighbor invites me to harvest their fruit, and then a guy from the mountains gives me huckleberries — I was ecstatic!”

Hansen thanked him but never got his name; however, she did put to good use his generous gift and is hoping he reads this so he knows that the huckleberries have been transformed into two batches of jam.

“This was such a wonderful gift to me since I am no longer in a position to just take off and go berry-picking in the mountains,” Hansen said.

And those of us who can get out to pick hucks know what a precious commodity indeed the “fruit of the forest” is not just in flavor, but also the time it takes to fill a bucket.

Community editor Carol Marino can be reached at 758-4440 or cmarino@dailyinterlake.com.

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