On the corner of 12th and Broadway lies the Red Lodge Antique Mall and Gun Room. Inside features an almost overwhelming amount of historic antiques and collector items–from big ticket items to handmade signs to small coins from brothels found and collected from around the US. The store is a must see for anyone that collects antiques.
At the front of the store I met local David Thompson, who works in the antique section and makes a lot of the custom signs that are also sold there.
In the back of the Antique Mall is the second part of the store, The Gun Room. Rifles line the walls as well as old photographs that tell stories of the West and Red Lodge’s history. There I met Dave Hurtt, or “Gun Cave Dave”. Dave is somewhat of a walking encyclopedia for all things related to Montana, Red Lodge, and western movies. He had no shortage of stories to share about Red Lodge’s past, including tales of bank robbery, rodeo stars, production of bootleg liquor during prohibition, and the town’s first Sheriff, John “Liver Eatin Johnston”. His grandmother’s cousin was Charles Sterrat–an actor in hundreds of western movies. Dave has Sterrat as his middle name and keeps his spirit alive by dressing in an old western fashion (or in his words: “a gay Custer”).
When prompted, “Red Lodge, Montana” could bring up a variety of connotations. A small mining area, a ski resort town, a summer tourism hot spot, a stop off the Beartooth Highway, a gateway to Yellowstone…but there is a bigger picture. Red Lodge is a community with a very rich and interesting history. Upon exploring it and talking with some of the residents there for the first time, it seemed as though there was something new and exciting around every corner. The local stores are packed with interesting artifacts and imagery, and the people that work in them have colorful personalities as well as an investment in the town they live in as well as its history.
A town that has fluctuated in its main industries and population since its founding in circa 1882, Red Lodge seems to be a place that is constantly changing. It is an important town to the state of Montana, facilitating a growing tourism and skiing industry, built upon its rich historic past.