Bruce Lee

Originator of Montana Gold and Evening in Missoula teas, Bruce was the original owner of Butterfly Herbs (est. 1972), located in the basement of the building on S. Higgins that also housed Rishashay and the Crystal Theater, on the same block as the Joint Effort and Hansen’s Ice Cream Factory.  There, Bruce began his passion for blending unique teas. When downtown downturned in the early ’80s owing to the advent of Southgate Mall, he moved the store to its present location, selling it to Scott Laisy and Virginia in 1984.  He continued the blending and wholesaling of teas as Montana Tea and Spice company until 2004, when Missoula lost a quiet, kind man to death.

The Bijou Theater


All the buildings here depicted (north side of the 100 block of W. Main) are gone now save for the white building at the far end of the block, now a bank. In their place is a city owned parking building built in the 1980s.

Unfortunately, we have not thus far been able to find a contemporaneous photo of the Bijou Theater.  (This picture appears to have been taken about 1950, long after the demise of the Bijou.)   The Bijou was located until at least 1921 at 110 W. Main, which is the white building just to the left of the “New Mint” bar in the photo above.

The Bijou, which showed motion pictures with live musical accompaniment, is notable for the fact that its owner was charged in 1909 with operating a theater on Sunday.  Found guilty in district court, the owner appealed, and in 1910 the Montana Supreme Court reversed his conviction.  The court held that, regardless of whether a movie house is referred to as a “theater”, the showing of a motion picture is not of the same class of performance as that sought to be prohibited by a statute barring theaters from opening on Sundays.  State v. Penny, 42 Mont. 118 (1910).  It is interesting to note that the court references in its opinion an advertisement for the Harnois Theater in the Missoulian wherein Charles Harnois states that “he was the proprietor of and had the only theater in Missoula.”

Here for your enjoyment and edification is an excerpt from the opinion, which contains graphic descriptions of the actions with which Mr. Penny was charged:

The Fox Theater (1949-1990)

The Fox Theatre opened on December 8th, 1949 with the movie “Everybody Does It”.  Designed by architect Charles D. Strong, the building was located at the corner of Front and Orange, just outside Missoula’s main business section. It was a deluxe first run house with many special features.

The stone brick and stainless steel facade was topped by a neon-lit tower with the name “Fox” in giant neon letters. Glass doors led into a lobby carpeted in green and red with indirect lighting.  Before reaching the foyer, patrons passed through a large outer lounge where striking metal refreshment stands were located. Illuminated animal murals adorned the back walls, while decoration in the 1050 seat auditorium had a Native American theme.

Fox Interior









Killed by the multiplex, the theater was demolished in 1990.   The Fox neon sign however could still be seen as recently as 2010 laying by the side of road at the bottom of Evaro Hill.


Hansen’s Ice Cream Parlor

Hansen's (center) in the early '60s before this part of South Higgins became the "Hippie Strip."

Hansen’s (center) in the early ’60s before this part of South Higgins became the “Hippie Strip.” The Crystal Theater, along with Rishashay in front, Butterfly Herbs in the basement and The Gilded Lily upstairs, would occupy the building next door (Walford Electric) after 1972.  In 1976, The Joint Effort would move into the neighborhood two doors down Higgins in the other direction.

Back in the 1970s, after watching an obscure film at the Crystal Theater, say “The Valley Obscured by Clouds,” or perhaps Bogart in “Casablanca” together with a Betty Boop cartoon like “Snow White, ” one would ALWAYS have a terrible case of the munchies.   Well, no problem, rIght next door was the remedy.  Founded in 1951 by Doug Hansen, the former owner of a dairy in Deer Lodge, Hansen’s Ice Cream Parlor was owned and run by the Hansen family until 1981.  Hansen’s made its own ice cream, and Mr. Hansen, a tall, slim white-haired man in a red and white striped shirt, was, it seemed, always there, serving up wonderfully satisfying frozen desserts late into the evening.

The advent of cheap-food casinos in the ’80s wiped many mom & pop businesses out.  Nevertheless, after Mr. Hansen sold the place, a succession of different owners tried to sustain Hansen’s.  The menu was expanded, so a person could also get burgers, fries and other non-frozen treats (provided one got there early, before the grill was turned off).  By the early ’90s, the place had become a bit of a hang-out for caffeine fiends, and there always seemed to be a chess game going on in the back room. But try as those owners might to keep it going, it seems in the end Hansen’s was no exception to the rule.  By the turn of the millennium, the venerable institution was gone.