In 1922 or 1923,
a new business began in Forsyth. The entrepreneur of this enterprise
was a fellow by the name of Dick Wright.
He was well known
and liked, and a great sportsman. He was, among other things, a
horse race starter at the Rosebud County Fair and an avid prize
This new business
was a man’s place and was, as well as I can remember, first located
in a small frame building at the west corner of the present V Store
Trading Post. (Hong Kong Restaurant)
Many years ago
(before I can remember), it housed a saloon called the Nickel Dump,
probably because a shot of booze cost 5 cents.
It is utterly
impossible for present generations to imagine the lifestyle of the
long-ago days and how inflation has driven up the price of all
merchandise. It is also difficult to imagine that ladies did not
frequent saloons and other types of “men’s places” in those
I don’t remember
the Nickel Dump, it was that long ago. A picture of its interior,
the bartender John Wangen and customers Sieverson and Spilde (not
Gene) presently hangs on the wall of the Howdy Bar.
The first I
remember of this building in 1920 it was the Cash & Carry Grocery
and was owned
by two men, one named Crowder. This was where Dick Wright began his
It was named
Dick’s Place — sometimes called the Wright (Right) Place. Since I
began this story, I learned some more of the Nickel Dump.
Dennis DeSocio of
Colstrip is interested in the history of Forsyth, unusual for a
young person and probably because his parents’ families are pioneers
of this area.
Dennis sent me a
picture of the Nickel Dump. This picture is of the front of the
building with the bartender and seven customers standing on the
Dougie Taylor and Dom Ross identified Danny Boyle. There are several
signs on the window, one being the Scandi Bar, another the
Scandinavian Bar and another John Wangen’s Place.
latter sign gave Wright his idea of naming his place Dick’s Place.
In still another
place is a large mug of beer with a large “5 cents” below. Hence,
the Nickel Dump, nickname of the Wangen Place.
merchandise at Dick’s included cigars, cigarettes, fine tobacco,
roll-your-own cigarette tobacco, chewing tobacco and all types of
Bulwer, RoiTan, and Chancellor — to name a few. Cigarettes included
Camel, Lucky Strike, Chesterfield, Fatima, Murad, Pall Mall, Spud,
Listerine and Johnny Walker.
These sold for 15
cents a pack, and, for a time, two packs for a quarter. Quite a difference
compared to today’s prices.
Some time later,
other cigarettes were Wings, Twenty Grands, Head Play, Dominoes and
a couple more for 10 cents a pack.
tobacco was Bull Durham, Golden Grain and Dukes Mixture for a nickel
a sack. Chewing tobacco was Star, Spark Plug, Horse Shoe, Tiger
Beach Nut and more.
Dick also sold
candy bars and chewing gum, peanuts, popcorn, Cracker Jack and
Snuff (snoose) was 10 cents a can and now sells at the bars for
$1.45 a can.
conversation, the main pastime of Dick’s Place was two-bit (25
cents) Rummy card games for Trade Chips, and Ten and One Half, a
card game for cigars and other merchandise. Free if the customer won
and double if he lost.
In 1925 or 1926,
one of Dick’s Place’s customers, I. M. Blakesley, better known as
Ike, became a clerk for Dick. He replaced Charley Delano, who
In 1927, the
business moved to the corner of the 900 block where the present
Alexander Bar (Iron Horse) is now located. This building or space in
1917 housed the American National Bank.
While in this
location, Wright decided to sell out to Ike Blakesley and Jack
Mason. Mason was a ranch hand and sheep herder, an exception to the
rule who led the good life and had money in the bank.
I don’t remember
the sale price of the establishment, but it seems to me it was $500.
A good sum of money in those days and an individual with that amount
of money in the bank was comfortably well fixed.
With the purchase
of Dick’s Place by Blakesley and Mason, the business became known as
Blakesley & Mason for a short time; then was named The Club Cigar
In 1928 or 1929,
the business moved to a location now occupied by the Finishing Touch
dress shop. My earliest recollection of this location was Katzie’s
News Stand and Confectionary Store, owned by Ed Katsenstein.
Not long after
the move, Blakesley determined that he and Mason were not compatible
as business partners. Mason wished to
make fast money in the Club Cigar by having a sideline known as a
“blind pig.” A place where customers could go to the back room and
buy a shot of bootleg booze.
against such an operation. He had a variety of customers, one of
whom was George Chapin (former sheriff of Rosebud County), a liquor
enforcement officer and one of the regular – and enthusiastic
and One Half players.
included C. S. Patterson, sheriff, his deputy Francis Nertney; chief
of police Billy Straw, and later Floyd Whitey Dowlin, Mayor Lou
Paine and bankers R.C. Mountain, Bob Ross and L.A. Jacobson.
In January 1930
Blakesley advised Mason that he would sell out to Mason, or he would
buy Mason out. Mason decided to sell out and the Club Cigar became
Blakesley's Cigar Store.
I have often
wondered what conditions would have been if Mason had taken over. I
do not recall the price of the transaction.
In January and
March of 1930, Glen and Max Blakesley became clerks in the Club
Cigar Store, a family business that was to last for 56 1/2 years.
Probably not an all-time record, but certainly some kind of a record
for at least one family member (most of the time two members,
sometimes three) to be associated with and directly in control of
Shortly after the
Club Cigar Store was purchased, April 7, 1930, Blakesley decided to
expand the business and installed a soda fountain (price $1,200;
payments were $30 a month), hamburger grill, bun warmer and such.
Items for sale
included all types of sandwiches, ice cream sundaes, milk shakes,
malted milks and pastries.
Card games, in
addition to rummy, pitch and ten and one half, were penny ante and
nickel ante poker games. Also various types of punch boards, pull
boards and nickel, dime and quarter slot machines.
In the poker
games, it wasn’t unusual for a penny ante player, if he won, to move
over to the “big” game. There, if he lost, he moved back to the
penny ante game.
In early 1933,
the “Bootleg Days” ended and 3.2 beer became legal. Hard liquor
(whiskey) was legalized and was available for sale in 1934.
Blakesley’s had beer in 1933 but did not secure a hard liquor
license until sometime after 1938.
Once again, I’d
like to mention that Blakesley’s was family-operated for 56 1/2
years. My dad, as part owner and clerk, was there longer than that
by a few years.
Also, I wouldn’t
feel right if I didn’t mention that my mother, Mamie Blakesley, and
my sister-in-law (Glen’s wife), Dorothy, had much to do with the
success of Blakesley’s with their homemade goodies, pies, cookies,
doughnuts and especially that famous homemade horseradish mustard
which I’ll always believe could have been sold commercially.
One of our
competitors used to buy (or we gave it to them) small portions of it
which we thought was for their personal use. When we discovered they
were using it for sandwiches they were selling, the transactions
I also think I
should mention that two other Blakesleys worked for a short time at
the store — Ray Blakesley, a cousin, and Glen’s son Noel before
moving to Oregon.
I don’t recall
Bruce’s working there except to help with the cleaning and arranging
of fixtures. The grandchildren also helped with the cleaning.
departed the store Aug. 6, 1938. Glen was there continuously, except
for two years in the Army during World War II.
I have probably
missed mentioning someone, unintentionally, as this story could have
been much longer. No doubt something has been missed.
Ike passed away
in August 1948, Mamie in September 1949 and Dorothy in 1971.
overburdened with sentiment from the time he was a small boy, just
could not part with Blakesley’s Cigar Store. He was working there
when he was going with his wife, Dorothy Larson of Harvey, N.D. They
were married in Harvey in 1930. His sons were both born in Forsyth
while he was working at the store.
So it was in May
1986 that he turned the key in Blakesley’s Cigar Store for the last
time, and walked away never to return. He passed away on Jan. 24,
1988, the birth anniversary of his mother, Mamie. Truly the end of