Right now everyone is into Montana’s traveling season with rodeos and fairs in full swing (my old residence of Helena is having Last Chance Stampede this weekend). So I thought that a rather straightforward but fun look at signs along two Hi-Line counties was in order.
Let’s begin with Joplin, in Liberty County. In 1984 it had one of my favorites in the state, a relic of old fashioned early twentieth century boosterism with its motto–“Joplin: Biggest little town on Earth”
The sign still exists, located north of the highway, closer to the railroad tracks (passengers of the Empire Builder see it daily). Joplin’s highway sign, however, is more modern and sleek–and symbolic with the grain elevator and wheat motifs. This 21st century type of metal, CAD-drawn sign is found all along U.S. 2.
For instance, Chester, the seat of government for Liberty County, has a newer metal sign, suggesting a bit of streamlined Deco with its quotation of a classic passenger train engine.
Kremlin, in Hill County, wishes to make clear its allegiances, complete with an American flag.
Hingham, in Hill County, uses a metal screen to proclaim its existence, along with identifying community landmarks of importance. When compared to the standardized green rectangular state sign, “Entering Hingham,” there can be no doubt why town signs still matter. To officialdom, the small railroad towns are relics, hardly worth a glance, or slowing down. For residents, the signs say: hey we are here; we’re home.
Rudyard, also in Hill County, is even willing to air its dirty laundry-an admission that in true Montana style, a resident took as the slogan for their business along the town’s main street.
Let’s end with Hill County’s Gildford–for no particular reason except that this town has a sign always found when bragging rights can be asserted–especially when it involves high school sports. When I come back to this topic in other parts of the state we will see many more examples of signs that not only identify but also celebrate the town’s most precious assets: their high schools.