On the surface, it seems not so different from a thousand other hamlets across the West. Founded in 1883 by copper king Marcus Daly, Anaconda, Montana is a sleepy mining town of just over 10,000 souls, located some 27 miles northwest of Butte. Snuggled in the shadows of Mount Haggin in the Pintlar Wilderness area, Anaconda is home to 19 churches, 35 bars, two bowling alleys, countless poker and keno machines, and one handwriting analyst. It's the town's lone movie theatre, however, that sets Anaconda apart.
The Washoe, listed on the National Register, offers moviegoers a glimpse of a grander era. While most vintage theatres require a certain amount of imagination to envision them in their days and nights of glory, the Washoe looks now much as it did the night it opened in 1936. The first viewing of the Washoe's 1930s interiorwith its plush, multicolored curtains, ornate molded ceiling, and lavish balconyis a revelation.
Do the locals appreciate what they have? "Oh, I think most of them just think of us as the local bijou," says theatre manager Jerry Lussy with a chuckle. "They don't really have anything to compare us to." Certainly the people who were seated around me during my visit there seemed to have little sense of wonder about the place, but out-of-townersafter years of patronizing cookie-cutter multiplexes in the local malllikely won't be so blasé.
The theatre's prices haven't changed much in 60 years either. Adult admission is only four dollars (it drops to two bucks Sundays through Wednesdays), and a small popcorn, large soda, and big box of candy comes in at less than three dollars. It's an awfully reasonable fare for a journey that takes you six decades back in time.
Road Signs One of Anaconda's two bowling alleys, Cedar Park Lanes, won the 1995 Best Renovation award from Bowler's Journal magazine. ♦ The Old Works golf course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, sits on the former site of a copper smelter. ♦ Just a half hour's drive away, in Butte, are the Copper Kings, a Pioneer (rookie league) baseball team. ♦ Anaconda boasts new fewer than 35 bars and taverns. That's one watering hole for every 286 people. Cheers.