‘Mystery’ solved: Nucleus arch came down in 1975

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Ron Bond works in a flower garden at the Columbia Falls arch in 1975 (Mel Ruder photo).

As the ribbon was cut on new monuments to Nucleus Avenue last week, many folks in town were wondering when the old arch that used to span Nucleus Avenue came down.

The answer is September 1975.

Reader Steve Melby pointed out the arch went down the same night that the girls basketball team played Missoula Sentinel and won — a big accomplishment for the young program that was chronicled in the Columbia Falls High School Yearbook that year, with the headline, “We blew them out of town.”

A strong windstorm broke the sign in two, the photo caption in the Sept. 11, 1975 Hungry Horse News noted.

“Both poles were badly rotted.” The caption under the photo of the broken arch said. “Fortunately no cars or people were near when the sign came down. Mayor Ray Barnhart and Don Lunsford, street and water superintendent, had the debris pushed aside within a half hour.”

A story in the Hungry Horse News from the early 2000s quoted Jack Therrien, who owned a pharmacy and liquor store on Nucleus Avenue, as recalling it came down in 1981, when Nucleus Avenue was rebuilt.

That was incorrect. The traffic light at Sixth and Nucleus came down that year during reconstruction of the highway.

The old light still works and hangs in city hall.

Editor’s note: We’re still researching when, exactly, the arch went up. We’ve spoken to people who worked on it in the early 1960s, but so far haven’t found the exact date. If anyone knows, contact us at editor@hungryhorsenews.com

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