Thursday, October 14, 2021

Honoring Sacagawea's starring role in the Lewis and Clark expedition

The Sacajawea Inn in Three Forks, Montana, honors one of the most revered women in the history
of the United States. Whether spelled with a "j" or a "g," dozens of parks, museums, halls and mountains are named after the famous guide, interpreter and friend of Lewis and Clark.

The structures of Fort Clatsop were simple. Two large
buildings were surrounded by large walls. Most of
the men lived in one structure, while Lewis, Clark,
, her husband Toussaint Charbonneau,
and their son, Jean Baptiste, stayed in the other



THE DARING AND bravery of the Lewis and Clark Expedition live on in the West, 216 years after the Corps of Discovery explored the rugged terrain between St. Louis and the Pacific Ocean. While these two smart and daring men deserve accolades -- along with President Jefferson who engineered the trip -- the true hero of the long and arduous journey was the multi-lingual Shoshone woman. For it was she who  helped chart the trail, making invaluable inroads with native people encountered along the way.

The lobby of the Sacajawea Hotel (spelled with a "j") in
Three Forks offers western hospitality in understated elegance.
SACAGAWEA -- a member of the Lemhi Shoshone tribe --was only 16 when drafted into service.  She proved herself an able guide, interpreter, peace maker and medicine woman, gathering important documents, tools, and medicines, while taking care of an infant son. During negotiations with the Shoshones for horses, she was reunited with her brother.
WERE IT NOT for her finesse, quick thinking and multiple talents in  wilderness survival, historians believe the expedition might have failed.  Surely, she kept it from disaster, advising Lewis and Clark on the route, introducing the explorers to native people, advising on the best places to camp. Her knowledge helped the expedition navigate mountain passes in the vast Louisiana Territory. Her prowess as a guide and interpretor complimented her diplomacy in encountering people along the way.  Her contributions altered the course of history in this daring search for a route over the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean.
The Sacajawea Interpretive Center tells the story
of the Corps of Discovery and stresses the
important role that Sacajawea played.

To recognize her importance, dozens of parks, museums, mountains and even a posh Montana inn are named after the skillful and multi-talented woman.  In Montana, the historic Sacajawea Hotel (spelled with a "j" not a "g") offers history and old-fashioned charm accented by contemporary amenities, fine dining and luxurious accommodations.
Front desk clerk and amiable
concierge Alex Kyser keeps
everythig running smoothly
at the Sacajawea Hotel
We met guests from Vermont, Florida, Arizona and Italy during our two-day visit capping an  American Cruise Lines journey on the Lewis and Clark trail.  
WE SIPPED welcome champagne in the elegant lobby, which offers understated western ambiance. An attentive concierge, Alex, manned  the front desk, and gave us the menu to contemplate our dinner choices at the excellent restaurant.
For more than a century, the Three Forks, Montana, inn has welcomed travelers from around the globe. The hotel is a major downtown attraction. Tourists use it as a base to explore nearby Lewis and Clark Caverns and the "three forks" of the rivers.  Here the Jefferson, Gallatin and Madison rivers join to form the great Missouri.

The skills and diplomacy of Sacagawea
likely saved the expedition from disaster.
 Our 10-day Lewis and Clark odyssey ended at "the Sac," as it is affectionately known. The imposing hotel attracts history aficianados, outdoorsmen and travelers accustomed to comfort and pampering, including morning coffee and homemade banana bread.
A young "Pomp"
carried by his
now famous mother
HOW TO PRONOUNCE and spell that famous name? Is it Sacajawea or Sacagawea? The latter is the most widely used spelling, pronounced with a hard "g" sound. Most of us grew up spelling and pronouncing it with a soft "g" or "j" sound. Both spellings and pronunciations are recognized. Lewis and Clark's  journals mention Sacagawea by name seventeen times but spelled in eight different ways.
 SACAJAWEA HISTORICAL State Park and the Pasco, Washington, ("j" spelling here) offers a wonderful interpretive center  honoring the woman whose quiet, peaceful ways helped establish the explorers as friends, not foes coming to conquer.
  Her presence as a woman helped dispel notions to the Native tribes that the company intended to capture or harm, and confirmed the peacefulness of their mission. Her young son, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, became America's youngest explorer. "Pomp" was cared for and educated by Clark after his mother's untimely death following the birth of her daughter.  She was only 25. 
Trapeze artistry is at its finest in the Santos Family, a high-
flying quartet of gifted women who thrill the audience.
 Welcome to the Big Top as we visit the Zoppe Italian Family Circus, on tour in the United States and in residence now at Redwood City, California.  Clowns, contortionists, acrobats, dancing dogs and more await sell-out audiences in a spectacular, old-fashioned circus show.   Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh look at travel, the arts, cruising, families, nature, pets and life on the road. We appreciate sharing the links and telling friends and like-minded people about 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Columbia, Snake river cruise yields small-town surprises, pleasures

American Cruise Lines' vessels come close to land for beautiful scenery and fascinating ports.


We could see and soon touch the locks from our balcony aboard American
Pride on the trail of explorers Lewis and Clark. Great educational fun



THE PLEASURES of river cruising are many.  First, you're close to shore. Because of your ship's size, you easily tie up at surprisingly beautiful -- even enchanting -- places.
Instead of waiting in line to get off the ship, you walk in minutes from your stateroom to your shore adventure. In a few quick strides, you're embarking on a leisurely independent stroll or a fascinating land excursion. Your transportation awaits, a smiling guide greets you and the day is yours to explore historic venues, museums, parks, to begin a new experience.
YOU MIGHT be docked in the center of historic towns and places, as we were on our recent Columbia and Snake rivers cruise on the Lewis and Clark trail.
We had to pull ourselves away from the changing landscape of our river sojourn. Yet we enjoyed the equally interesting land tours. We scarcely wanted to leave our balcony for the wonders we witnessed there. Coffee or cocktail in hand, we were "up close" to locks and lighthouses, dams and lavish private homes, farms and parks. Each  
Cookie played a xylophone, a
feature of several Oregon parks

turn of the river offered changing landscape, bird life, deer, cattle, even a fox. There they were --  right off our balcony stateroom, our home for a week aboard American Cruise Lines' American Pride. On land, we discovered surprises aplenty: lavish gardens, museums, water sportsmen, intriguing architecture, even a xylophone for music-minded me to play at an Oregon riverfront park. 

American Cruise Lines offers unique side trips to historic
 venues such as this 1913 streetcar in Astoria, Oregon. 

WE ENJOYED and appreciated the homegrown aspect that personifies ACL.  The fleet is American made and American staffed. Workers are trained to reflect that spirit of confidence and pride.  ACL's are the largest riverboat  staterooms  afloat.  While many lines are just recovering from the purgatory of the pandemic, ACL with its variety of domestic cruising options has been back in business for months, specializing in sophisticated cruising and intriguing activities to enjoy on land.
The variety of locks adds interest and
photo opportunities on ACL river trips.
This "guillotine lock" is on the Snake
     Our options included a chance to hop aboard Astoria's Riverfront Trolley, a delightful 1913 heritage streetcar using former freight railroad tracks near the south bank of the Columbia River.
Transiting the dams and locks is fun on a small ship, too. We joined fellow travelers to touch the moist side walls as we passed through. We transited through several kinds of locks including the aptly named "Guillotine," which -- like the French execution implement -- lifts up, then comes down.  We could feel the drips of the water! Fascinating way to climb and descend as we travel, explore and learn.
EACH AMERICAN Cruise Line itinerary tailors its stops and lectures to life on the specific river.  In the South, there are trips to plantations and the food reflects the locale -- barbecue in Memphis, gumbo in New Orleans. New England voyages may feature fall foliage.  Mississippi River cruises feature Cajun cuisine, Civil war battles, wildlife, jazz, etc. So there is a river cruise for every taste -- and one can be as busy or as laid back as one wishes.  Repeat cruisers like to sit on their balconies and admire the scenery, while others prefer to get some exercise -- walk into the various towns, or hop aboard conveniently located transportation for tours or museum visits.
Bruce Keller steps inside a tule mat lodge,
a replica of ones used by native people. 
We witnessed the same raw beauty the explorers saw on our 350-mile transit. But instead of building forts in the rain and sleet, we toured a lovely museum and stepped inside the "tule mat" lodges, clever, tightly woven structures which protected the native people from cold in the winter and kept them cool in summer.
Small boats can anchor near land, and welcoming
committees often greet, as in The Dalles, Oregon.

NEW FRIENDS were excited to be heading to a recently introduced ACL itinerary, "Music Cities," a few days after our Pacific Northwest adventure. They, too, are music lovers, eager to learn more about the variety of musical genres explored on the "bluegrass to jazz" itinerary.
View from the gorge: Bruce Keller and Christene
Cookie Meyers enjoy Maryhill Museum of Art
If you're a Mark Twain buff, you can satisfy your yearning for the history, art, folklore and literature spawned on the Mississippi -- enjoying a one-man show by an actor impersonating Samuel Clemens.  The boat stops north of St. Lewis in in Hannibal, Mark Twain's boyhood home so cruisers can tour a fascinating museum in his honor.
Keller, Cookie and driver-guide  Mike became
friends during the couple's week on the rivers.

As art and history buffs, we never miss an museum jaunt. The Maryhill Museum of Art, a beautifully designed, small museum with an eclectic collection, offers a stunning room of Rodin sculptures plus artifacts from Queen Marie of Romania, Orthodox icons and unique chess sets
Who'd expect to find these treasure in rural Klickitat County, Washington? But there they are.  We enjoyed the museum's"thrones" on a bluff atop the east end of the Columbia River Gorge.
   MEETING CHEERFUL drivers, who double as knowledgeable guides, is another benefit of traveling with ACL.  These history-minded native sons and daughters know the territory and share their knowledge and stories because they follow the ship. We had the same lovely guide, Mike, all week, and developed a friendship with him -- enjoying his anecdotes as we retraced parts of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition 216 years later. We enjoyed superb accommodations and comforts of modern day cruising, while learning of the hardships faced by the daring explorers who shaped western expansion so long ago. or 1 800 981-9149

A painting at Sacajawea State Park
Interpretive Center in Pasco, Wash

UP NEXT:  So remarkable a contribution did Sacajawea make to the 1805 Lewis and Clark expedition that she is remembered and revered today throughout the West.  We hopped on and off American Pride to visit several sights paying homage to the brilliant guide, interpreter, lay doctor and linguist, with a side-trip to a luxury inn named after her, the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks, Montana. The influence of Sacajawea is felt today, nearly 220 years after the journey, in museums, parks, and the hotel we visited is one of many places to honor Sacajawea throughout the west. We pay homage to her and enjoy the hotel, reminding readers to explore, learn and live, and catch us weekly for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family and more:

Thursday, September 30, 2021

American Cruise Lines offers close-to-home cruising in stylish safety


The new, streamlined ships of American Cruise Lines are luxurious and beautifully designed to
 accommodate small passenger loads, allowing for navigation into small ports and harbors. Here,
American Melody explores ten states on a leisurely Mississippi River trip -- New Orleans to St. Paul.


New ACL ships, like American Melody, 
below right, offer state-of-the-art design,
small-ship comfort with the feel of a 
contemporary ocean-going luxury vessel. 

Editor's Note: Today we begin a three-part series on rivers and exploration. First, we focus on myriad appealing itineraries aboard the enticing modern riverboats of American Cruise Lines. Then we board a charming ACL vessel, American Pride, to follow the Lewis and Clark trail, visiting intriguing small towns and ports along the Columbia and Snake rivers. Finally, we pay tribute to Sacajawea, the remarkable native American guide who played a major role in the legendary1805 expedition to open the West. The museums, parks, inns and historic buildings she inspired live on.

and courtesy American Cruise Lines

NOW MORE than ever, it's wise to play it safe and travel close to home.
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
about to board ACL's American Pride for a
week on the trail of Lewis and Clark.
If you're travel junkies, like the two of us are, you know how essential it is to have a ticket in the drawer. For us, cruising means adventure, exploration, the thrill of the new. It's mental health on the water with side-trips to fascinating ports and villages to visit museums, concert halls, parks and restaurants. It's a marvelous opportunity to see how other folks live, to discover and share their cultural riches.
UNTIL WE get a handle on the pandemic, exotic foreign travel is not in the cards for us.
So we're exploring fascinating corners of our own country. We were recently wooed to travel close-to-home, after studying American Cruise Lines attractive vessels and a string of engaging itineraries exploring home turf in the U.S.A. 
Eye-catching scenery enticed us to our stateroom balcony for
the view of Washington's Ice Harbor Dam on Snake River.
American Cruise Lines' ships offer "up close" viewing. 
Aboard American Pride, with only 190 passengers, we quickly met fellow cruisers. While tracing the Lewis and Clark trail on the Columbia and Snake rivers, we dined and toured with new, curious friends from Texas, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Jersey.  Some were back for their 8th and 9th ACL cruise, proud of their Eagle Society membership, which honors return cruisers with special parties, discounts and other courtesies.
ACL'S NEW, sleek riverboats offer the amenities, glamour and prestige of the best of larger cruise ships. Its vessels create  inviting close-to-home options for cruise lovers who don't prefer large-ship cruising. Design is carefully thought out, offering close-up looks at ever-changing landscape -- locks and dams on our recent trip where bird's eye views abound. Some of the line's newer ships offer multi-story atriums, popular in ocean-going vessels for their panoramic views.
The line's stately paddle heelers offer distinctive charms of their own: whimsical artwork, cozy nooks to read or enjoy a beverage, and turn-of-century velvet and wood accoutrements. A multi-million dollar update is planned for these much loved slightly older vessels, honoring ACL's reputation for premium, contemporary comfort. Private balconies are an ACL trademark; we enjoyed ours all day and evening.

American Melody's roomy, comfy
staterooms offer a large balcony
for viewing passing wonders
A school teacher in period dress
   gives insight into the trail-blazing
journey of Lewis and Clark.

THE NEWER ships -- the first modern riverboats in the U.S. --  are attractive for their modern design, appealing to comfort seekers with spacious bathrooms and staterooms the size of small apartments.  In ships such as the new American Melody and American Jazz. cruisers enjoy luxury on the Mississippi River.  One couple we met followed the call of Mark Twain and riverboat travel of yore, raving about their "complete Mississippi" three-week cruise. It transited 10 states from New Orleans to St. Paul and they said they "lived on our balcony."  Intriguing.
IF YOU WANDER the ship, you'll find the all-American crew to be helpful, amiable,  and well informed about ports, shipboard activities and schedules. Workers are also proud that their ships are "made in the U.S.A." 
WE APPRECIATED the learning opportunties during our Lewis and Clark week as we traversed territory explored by these two ground-breaking explorers in the early 1800s. While immersing ourselves in their challenges -- bitter winter wind and cold, relentless rain, struggles to scale mountain passes, language barriers and back-breaking building of forts and canoes -- we returned to our comfy ship.  Within walking distance, we enjoyed the journey's modern-day museums, galleries, shops and  
Oregon's fine Maryhill Museum offers pleasures,
treasures in an ACL sidetrip from The Dalles

homes, a pleasant contrast with the travails and hardships of the long-ago journey.   ACL specializes in historic destinations, carefully choosing guides, on-board lecturers and historians to enhance the journey. In our voyage's delightful river towns, we observed the lifestyle of today's contemporary American westerners, a bonus. 
Part of the thrill of the small boats is watching the ship rise
in the canal locks from a bird's eye perch on the open deck.
ACL chefs design meals to enhance
  ports and cities visited, here a po boy.
THE NEW ships also cater to the foodie, with pretty meals served in a formal dining room or a casual "Back Porch Cafe," option, proving hugely popular. Lovely lounges entice cocktail gatherings or morning coffee, all with close-up views of passing scenery. A yoga studio and fitness center help keep the figure trim for one shouldn't pass on the meals. ACL chefs design menus inspired by destinations, so leaving New Orleans, you might choose jambalaya, bananas foster or a po boy sandwich. We enjoyed fresh seafood on our near-Pacific sojourn. The food is tops, presentation artful and service refined.
A VARIETY OF choices await both veteran and novice cruiser aboard ACL. We shared tables with many repeat ACL customers, veteran cruisers devoted to the "close up" views of the land ACL's fleet offers.  We are considering Alaska, Puget Sound, New England, the Ohio River and an alluring "Historic south, golden isles" trip from Charleston to Savannah and on to Amelia Island. A week-long Mississippi trip attracts us, too. An east coast inland passage trip also appeals, with kayaking, dolphins, carriage rides and Fort Sumter history. 
Nashville's charms unfold aboard American Jazz,
with large staterooms and small passenger loads.

ONE ACL CRUISE we've not yet taken -- and eagerly await -- is a music-themed cruise from Nashville to Memphis. This trip appeals to us because with 127 cruises under our life jackets, we're always looking for something new.  This sounds terrific, with its leisurely trek up the Mississippi, Cumberland and Ohio rivers, into colorful small villages and middle-sized towns. Throw in a Grand Ole Opry visit in Nasvhille and a plate of Memphis barbecue, with nightly performances of jazz and blues. What could be better for a pair of cruisers, foodies and musicians?
For more on ACL's three dozen itineraries in 30 states, call 1 800 814-6880 or go to ACL's website:

UP NEXT:  We continue our "close to home" cruise series with a look at towns along the rivers explored by Lewis and Clark.  Side trips from American Cruise Lines' American Pride give insight into the pair's remarkable journey west from St. Louis. With state-of-the art decor and all the comforts of large-ship cruising, ACL visits ports of call not accessible by ship, except on small vessels.  Our week-long Columbia and Snake Rivers cruise sheds new light on the daring and bravery of Lewis and Clark. We take time to enjoy shipboard amenities, too, with gourmet meals, music of the period and lively lectures on the two intrepid explorers and a wise and talented woman who played a key role in the journey.  Sacajawea was important to the success of the mission, the dream of President Thomas Jefferson.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for fresh insights into travel, nature, the arts, family and more. Please share the links:

Photo left: Sacajawea State Park and Interpretive Center near Pasco, Washington, includes a wonderful small museum, detailing the contributions of the remarkable guide, interpreter and healer.                                                                                              American Cruise Lines specializes in historic ports and lively learning. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Yellowstone in autumn: spendid, serene, spellbinding time

A group of elk saunters across the highway leading to Mammoth Hot Springs.


A horseback ride in the crisp autumn air hits the spot.

WE ARE LUCKY to live within a few hours of one of our nation's most beautiful places.
An annual autumn trip through Yellowstone National Park is a tradition we honor and enjoy.
On this year's trek, we took along a California friend.  Phyllis had never visited Yellowstone and although we didn't have time to give her a complete "immersion," we shared a few favorite nooks and crannies of this  magnificent wilderness recreation area.
Yellowstone is set atop a still active volcanic hot spot.
Bruce Keller and Phyllis Broker admire the scenery from a spot
framing the Lower Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
The smells of sulfur and steam from the hot pots and geysers can be appreciated without leaving the car. But we always make a pilgrimage on foot to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, as viewed from the Lower Falls. That was a big hit with Phyllis, who lived much of her life in New England where nature offers hills, not craggy canyons and towering mountains and rivers.
PHYLLIS WAS amazed and pleased that with limited time and a long driving day, we could view bison and elk from the road. 
Twice, in fact, they pranced across the highway, stopping traffic.
The 3,500 square-mile wonder is mostly in Wyoming, but we Montanans claim Yellowstone, too, since three of the five entrances are in our state.
Bison and steaming geysers catch the eye.

The park also spreads into Idaho, near West Yellowstone. "Our park" features dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful. It's also home to hundreds of animal species, including the ones we saw last week.
We've found through the years that our autumn treks are perfectly timed. With thinning crowds and colorful foliage, fall is a spectacular time to visit Yellowstone.  Many of the park’s iconic animals tend to be more visible in the autumn, when cooler temperatures prompt them to move about more.
DAWN AND DUSK are the best times for spotting wildlife, but with autumn days growing shorter one doesn't need to get up as early, or stay out as late
Bears are more elusive, but can be seen. This
grizzly bear was not far from the East Entrance.
 to take advantage of these prime times. We witnessed several careless activities with wildlife: one family attempting to photograph a child in the same frame as a bison. Bad idea.
Rangers advise maintaining a distance of at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards from all other wildlife. Remember, too, that they are on the move to lower elevations as winter draws nearer.
IF YOU'RE looking for lodging, know that guest facilities and services gradually start to close in the fall. Prices also drop a bit in autumn, and there are appealing fall lodging packages. Check the park’s website for the fall closing schedule, weather and road updates. 
IF YOU GO: Individuals hiking, biking, skiing etc. pay $20 per person; an annual pass, $70; motorcycles or snowmobiles pay $30 and private vehicles are $35. A lifetime senior pass to the parks is $80. 

American Cruise Lines offers a variety of domestic cruises
across the U.S., from the Columbia River to New England.
Here, the fleet's sleek new riverboats cruise close to shore.
  Why not cruise close to home, in the U.S.A while we're waiting out the pandemic? American Cruise Lines offers enlightening, safe options to foreign travel. We recently spent a week in the Pacific Northwest aboard American Pride, one of a fleet of American's unique boats.  Attentive service, luxurious large staterooms, small passenger loads, top hygiene and Covid enforcements provide a comfortable, pampering "domestic way" to travel, enjoying our vast and varied land. In a three-part series on domestic cruising, we explore the Lewis and Clark trail on the Columbia and Snake rivers, offer options for traversing the Mississippi, Great Lakes, New England and contemplate the Sacajawea legacy, including a lovely Montana inn in Three Forks, named after her. All aboard American Cruise Lines' vessels. Remember to explore, learn, live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts, nature, family, travel and more:

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Fox now ABT celebrates 90 years with grand re-opening this weekend


Finishing touches are complete as the Alberta Bair Theater, formerly the Fox Theatre, opens its doors
 once again. The 1931 building celebrates its 90th birthday with a grand reopening and gala concert.

The Fox Theater, after the first renovation,
circa 1990, and before the most recent "redo."


PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER, and courtesy ABT, 20th Century Fox, archives of CM

HISTORY IS made this week with the grand “reopening” of the Alberta Bair Theater in downtown Billings, Montana. The $13.6 million renovation salutes the building's 90-year history. Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth headlines a gala  concert in an evening of nostalgia and celebration.

Kristin Chenoweth will sing
at a gala concert at the ABT. 
For me and thousands of others, the ABT will always be “the Fox.” For here as a wide-eyed youngster, I heard many of the great artists of the 20th Century. 
In this 1931 building – and the slightly older Babcock -- I developed my love of the performing arts. As a child, I was spellbound at cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, violinist Yascha Heifetz, singers Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson. Community Concerts hosted a string of Metropolitan Opera stars, dancers, singers, jazz greats Tony Bennett, Harry James and Mel Torme.
  AS A YOUNG reporter and arts reviewer,  I interviewed legions of these performers in the shabby basement green room: Virgil Fox, Robert Merrill, Alvin Ailey, Bella Lewitzsky, Martha Graham, Arthur Fiedler, so many more.  
The all-male Les Ballets Trockadero de
Monte Carlo sold out a pair of performances.
 I GREW UP with "our Fox," one of hundreds of movie palaces named for film mogul William Fox, whose empire numbered into hundreds nationwide.
WHEN I launched the campaign to save the building in 1976, I recruited many of my newspaper sources -- museum and library heads, professors, actors,  ranchers, bankers. We were fortunate to woo talented director Skip Lundby as manager and artistic director during my 10-year tenure as president of Fox Committee. 

The 1931 Fox Theater, above, and below left.

Skip Lundby's passion for
the arts and the building
helped save it for posterity.

 We were all sentimental about the venerable old building  and wanted to save it from the wrecker's ball.  My artistic tastes were sharpened here and my Fox Committee shared my passion. Not a single person declined to join and quickly, initial opponents of the project were clamoring to join the board. It had become a "fashionable" cause. The Fox Committee took over utilities at the building which Carisch Theaters was still running as a movie house. We struggled to book a regular "imported"
season, and did so, including two sold-out shows
of  Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Our first big locally produced show was in 1977, the charming "I Do! I Do!" for which 
I played pit piano, enticing my old friend and violin teacher Jim O'Brien, to conduct. My late husband Bruce Meyers and Cathy Hansen played the leads.
Our wonderful orchestra included then Billings Symphony concertmaster Eloise Kirk and 
with our own private funds, Bruce and I offered a small stipend. I charmed the
musicians and they loved the musical's storyline. Once again, no one said no to me. 
Christene "Cookie" Meyers
and Bruce Meyers in period
garb for "Our Town."
Alberta Bair wanted to name the
building Bair Family Theater but
we convinced her to honor herself. 
WE SOLD OUT a three-night run, followed by "Promises, Promises," "The Fantasticks," "Man of La Mancha," "Our Town," and many other shows. All featured respected local actors and musicians, always including Bruce. I conducted, did  musical arranging, played piano and beat the drum at the Gazette to encourage support.
IN 1979, I approached two of the smartest people I knew -- Hewes Agnes and Ray Hart -- to lead a  fundraising charge. Our now non-profit Fox organization had an abundance of artistic acumen but needed business direction to raise $5.6 to renovate the building. (That was less than half the cost of this latest renovation but a daunting sum 42 years ago with the economy in a serious slump.)
Proud 80-year history 
Christene "Cookie" Meyers was honored by
Dana Gioia and the National Endowment
for the Arts for her tireless efforts to "save
the Fox." (Gioia was NEA chairman.)
Hewes and Ray came aboard, recruited Larry Martin and other bright minds, and formed the Fox Corporation, later naming it after Alberta Bair. That same summer, Bruce and I took out a second mortgage on our home, via friend Bob Waller at then Midland Bank.
Jazz great Dave Brubeck played the Fox Theater
helping turn the fundraising corner in 1979

We needed $25,000 to secure Dave Brubeck and The American Conservatory Theatre of San Francisco. It was a gamble, but Bob believed in our cause. On four warm days, summer of 1979, we sold out three ACT performances and Brubeck’s packed one-night run.
THE ACT WON a Tony that fall for best regional theater and its director William Ball thanked Billings, Montana, and the Fox, for the warm hospitality. Brubeck was still in his prime, soon to be awarded a Kennedy Center honor. When I interviewed him during intermission in the seedy Fox dressing room I wore two hats: concert reviewer and president of Save the Fox. I asked him to plug the campaign and when he came back on stage, he gave a rousing plea, "You must save this theater," which was greeted with thunderous applause, cheers, whistles. The next week Skip and I opened the mail to several thousand dollars in donations. (Badly needed because our AC had just failed and in winter, we wore our coats for lobby meetings because we couldn't afford the heat bill.)
LUNDBY WAS living on a shoestring inside the theater, a modern day phantom of the
opera, warming hot dogs and TV dinners on the stage footlights and sleeping bundled up in the light booth, the warmest corner of the drafty old 1931 building.
I was one proud Cookie in 1987 at the first gala reopening. Later, Dana Gioia visited as head of the National Endowment for the Arts, joining opera friend Doug Nagel and a packed house in honoring me. I treasure that evening and await this latest party.
So come celebrate with me. Long live the arts. Long live the ABT. Long live “the Fox."

Photographer Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
cap an autumn drive through lovely Yellowstone Park.
:  Yellowstone National Park in autumn. Right now is our favorite time to visit the nation's first national park.  The air is crisp and clean, the sun shines brightly but is not too warm, and critters are on the move. Consider driving through at least part of this national treasure. And if you're too far away, pull up a seat as a time-honored armchair traveler.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, family and more:

Thursday, September 9, 2021

One World Trade Center celebrates America's endurance, optimism on solemn 20th anniversary of 9/11


The sound and sight of running water provide comfort and reminder to family, friends and
visitors at the new Tower One memorial in New York's financial district. Each of the nearly
3,000 victims of the 9-11 terrorist attack is remembered with a rose on his or her birthday.   

The new tower stands proudly where the Twin Towers were.


Bruce Keller pays his respects at the stone slab
monuments in the 9/11 Memorial Glade.



THE HORRORS of September 11, 2001, will never vanish. But the beautiful new tower, sturdy stone slabs, soothing water and engraved names of victims help ease the pain of atrocities committed by terrorists on that sunny autumn day 20 years ago. 

We've twice visited the new One World Trade Center and are moved by the reverence people pay as they view the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan, New York City. 
One WTC is the tallest building in the United States, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the sixth-tallest in the world. Its 104 stories tower a symbolic 1,776 feet above sea level, providing a symbol of hope for many U.S. citizens and people around the world.
ONE WORLD Trade Center (nicknamed 1WTC) stands for the unwavering optimism of our country, which continues to look forward and dream big. The stone slab monuments, named the 9/11 Memorial Glade, recognize "the health impact of 9/11 that caused cancer, death and disabilities." Many have perished or are still suffering from their contact with smoke and toxic debris.
Earlier visit recalled
As a reminder of the horror: On a perfect autumn morning, September 11, 2001, members of the Islamic extremist group Al Qaeda coordinated four attacks using hijacked commercial airliners in the United States. Four planes crashed, killing scores of innocent people going about their normal lives.

One World Trade Center stands a symbolic
1,776 feet high, representing American spirit.
Family and friends of the martyred
victims take photos or shoot film.
First, the two iconic towers fell. The Pentagon sustained major damage from a third plane. A fourth plane went down in Pennsylvania, diverted by a heroic group of passengers.  Nearly 3,000 victims lost their lives. Countless more suffered immediate injuries and long-term health issues.
Memorials sprung up and lasted for months
 on the streets of New York. Visitors to the new
monument also leave flowers and notes which
are archived for the nearby museum. 

ON OUR SECOND visit a few weeks ago, we paid our respects in preparation for this week's solemn 20th anniversary of the attacks. We saw parents, children, spouses and friends gently touching the beautiful granite engravings, surrounded by flowing water. Many wiped tears. According to architect Michael Arad, the pools represent “absence made visible.” Although water flows into the voids, he said, "They can never be filled." The sound of the cascading water makes the pools a place of tranquility and contemplation separate from the bustling noises of the city. Names of the 2,983 people killed in the 2001 and 1993 terrorist attacks are inscribed on bronze parapets edging the pools. Nearby, the 9/11 Memorial Museum's permanent collection extends the moving experience.  One sees an unsettling repository of material evidence, primary testimony, and historical records. Again, many people were weeping.
THE 9/11 attacks changed America, and the world, forever. May we long remember.

The Fox Theater may not look quite like it did
in 1931, but the Billings, Montana, landmark
is celebrating an expensive renovation.
UP NEXT: When the Fox Theater was built in 1931 in Billings, Montana, it was one of the last of the great art-deco Fox theaters built in the United States. It has undergone another transformation -- with more than $13 million behind the project.  This weekend, lovers of live performance celebrate the remodeling and the building's 80th birthday with a grand, gala "reopening." Headlining the show is Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, with a street party following. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh spin on travel, nature, family, the arts and more: Share the link.