Monday, January 23, 2012

Oldtimers Of Ghost Town

In honor of the upcoming "Talk-Like-A-Grizzled-Prospector-Day" on Tuesday, January 24. I'm posting a picture of a group of "Oldtimers" from Ghost Town. I had made a copy of this picture from a negative I found in a drawer in the old Pitchur Gallery darkroom, when I was a Assistant Supervisor of Ghost Town Merchanidse back in 1979-1980.

From left to right is Roy Bryant, "Fiddlin" Charlie Ware, "Chief Red Feather" Jim Brady, Virgil "Blackie" Dillion and this last one I'm not 100% sure of but I believe it's... Bill Higdon.

For this post I'm going to focus on "Blackie" the second from the right in the above picture.

Blackie was the "Old Prospector" that I remember from when I was young and attending the Farm. Also, I remember him from my first couple of years sweeping the streets of Ghost Town. Blackie lived on the property in a little shack that was located back by the railroad tracks that run along Western Ave. near the corner of La Palma Ave.

The above picture is from the cover of the Fall 1971 The Knotty Post. The caption on the inside  reads:

On our front cover are two pals of the old west, "Blackie" Dillion and his faithful friend , "Pappoose". While the prospector was all important in the building of the West, he would have been pretty helpless without the help of his constant companion, the burro.

There Blackie is again on the cover of The Knotty Post one year later, Fall 1972. The caption for this cover photo reads:

Seated beneath Paul V. Kleiben's painting of Kit Carson, a group of Ghost Town citizens enjoy a friendly dinner in the Steak House. From the expressions they  display the meal must be enjoyable.
In the photo taken by Gary Gabler of Ghost Town, L to R are Aunt Hattie Bilbrey, Ghost Towns spinning lady; Chief White Eagle; Charlene "Charlie" Boursier from Ghost Town's younger set and Gold Miner Blackie Dillion.

The next three photos are from a Camera Day at Knott's and photography contest.

The following copy is the obituary that ran in the August 15, 1975 issue of "The Nugget" the employee newsletter back then.

A Tribute to Blackie Dillion 

      Blackie Dillion is gone but he will never be forgotten.
      A Knott's personality for nearly a decade, he will live on in the memories of those who knew and loved him. And his bewhiskered, sun-weathered face will be seen and remembered by countless others who will see one of the thousands of photographs taken of him over the years.
      Virgil "Blackie" Dillion died suddenly August 5 in Cutbank, Montana, where he had gone to retire at the end of last month. He was 67.
      Knott's is saddened by his death.
      Blackie came to Knott's in 1966, and after working a year for the stagecoach, he became the miner at the Arasta near the entrance to the Gold Mining tunnel. Blackie and his burros were a familiar figure as thousands of tourists stopped to have their pictures taken with him.
      Blackie loved animals, especially his burros. He lived on the Farm near the stagecoach barns since coming to Knott's, and kept several cats and a dog.
      A veteran of World War II, Blackie had been a prospector and guide for Glacier National Park.
      He was one of Knott's most photogenic personalities. Photographs of Blackie have won many awards, including the sweepstakes prize in this year's Knott's Camera Day contest.
      His trademarks were his beard, of which he was very proud, his corncob pipe, vest, cowboy boots and hat. He was never without all of them.
      As Blackie was leaving Knott's to return to Montana, he told his friends, "I'm going where the sky is blue and the air is clear." No doubt he has.

Here is another photo from the Camera Day contest in the "Darkroom Magic" catagory and a fitting end to this post.


  1. Thank ye kindly, young feller! I knowd I could count on ye!

  2. By the way, the feller on the right in the topmost photo is ol'
    "Tumbleweed Harris," not Bill Higdon of Butterfield Stagecoach fame.
    Tumbleweed started workin' at Knott's in 1966.

    Other notable "grizzled" Knott's characters who aren't shown here but who deserve a mention are Ed Strouse, "The Old Timer" (sometimes referenced as being the non-cartoon version of "Whittles"), and J. Y.
    "Dad" Lewis.

  3. Wow, that last shot of Blackie is so nice. I remember having some great conversations with him around 1970.

    Great post.

  4. Come across a picture card of Fiddlin' Charlie with his autograph across it. Didn't know much about him.

  5. Dear poster, my name is kali dick. I am the relative of bill higdon and was wondering if there were any photos of him that could possibly be shared. I have been trying to develop my family history and would love to have photos of him

  6. Dear poster, my name is kali dick. I am the relative of bill higdon and was wondering if there were any photos of him that could possibly be shared. I have been trying to develop my family history and would love to have photos of him

  7. Great Photos of an old bunkmate. During the summer of 1965 we were wranglers for the Rocky Mountain Outfitters in Glacier National Park. Blackie was without a doubt the most popular wrangler with the tourists.

  8. Blackie was my Uncle. One of the best people in the world !

    1. Just found a photo of when he came to spend Christmas with us in 1966 in Pasadena Ca. He would send us a Big Basket from Knotts every Christmas until the day he retired. These pictures in this blog just fill my heart with some of the best memories in my life !