By Jim Harmon/Missoula Current

Happy New Year! As we all hope 2024 will be a better year than 2023, we look back at similar hopes 100 years ago.

The editor of The Madisonian newspaper (Virginia City) at the end of 1923 wrote:

“The old year fades away and the God of time ushers in the infant of 1924. The years come, and they go, and are seen no more, but they leave a heritage that even time itself can not efface.”

The Madisonian, December 28, 1923
The Madisonian, December 28, 1923
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“In past years the approach of a presidential election has meant uncertainty, unrest, a considerable degree of commercial and financial apprehension, if not stagnation. The coming election has produced no jolt or jar. It seems to have had no appreciable effect, except to convince the public that our system of government is so sound it approaches the unshakable — a Rock of Gibralter among the nations of the earth.”

“Legislation is required to relieve certain classes of .our citizens from apparent injustice, but that is a matter that will undoubtedly be regulated by the new congress. Everything considered, the outlook is bright - very bright. Be an, optimist, and its brightness will not be dimmed.”

That same editor (The Madisonian, January 04, 1924) followed up with advice for his readers in the coming year.

“Help yourself,” he wrote. “Do you expect to see the end of 1924? You may, and then you may not. But if you are as wise as others give you credit for being you will take ordinary precautions in your efforts to live out another year of life.”

The Madisonian, January 04, 1924
The Madisonian, January 04, 1924
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“Get the habit of deep breathing. Exercise for half an hour each day, and take a brisk walk before breakfast. Take plenty of sleep, and keep a window open. Fresh air at night is as necessary as food in the day time.”

“There is nothing difficult in any of these. but they will make a different person of you if you give them a chance. Do something for yourself and don't expect the Lord to do it all. You don't want to leave us, and we don't want to be shedding tears over your remains in 1924.”

Meanwhile, Missoulians danced their way into 1924, “with three events in three different parts of the city.”

As reported by The Missoulian newspaper, “At Elite Hall, dancing began at 2 o’clock in the afternoon … with the hall crowded until the midnight hour. At Union Hall, record crowds attended the carnival event.”

Many party goers “were armed with small whistles, which added to the holiday din.”

“At the Elks temple on Pattee Street (there were) 200 couples on the floor at their formal event. Many private parties throughout the city paid honor to the opening day of the year.”

Martin J. Hutchens, the editor and publisher of The Daily Missoulian, wrote, “This part of the state may feel especially grateful for economic stability in contrast to conditions elsewhere. If we remain as industrious and as conservative and still as progressive as in the past we shall inevitably and invariably remain prosperous.”

Weather conditions, however, were anything but delightful one hundred years ago.

A snowstorm, originating in Alaska, accompanied by severe cold, dropped down across the northwestern U.S., extending all the way to Chicago.

On the final day of 1923, everyone in western Montana shivered in sub-zero temperatures ranging from 10 to 30 degrees below zero. The wind chills must have been awful. The gale force winds through the Hellgate Canyon were described as “penetrating.”

By comparison, we are downright balmy in 2023. Forecasts indicate dry weather and highs in the 30s (even 40s in some spots) over the week ahead.

So we wish you a happy and mild New Year, as you dance the old year away followed by wonderful night’s sleep. Remember, keep a window open. “Fresh air at night is as necessary as food in the day time.”

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at fuzzyfossil187@gmail.com. His best-selling book, “The Sneakin’est Man That Ever Was,” a collection of 46 vignettes of Western Montana history, is available at harmonshistories.com.

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