Do You Know This Montana Love Song Or The History Behind It?
Over the years, there have been many songs written about Montana.
There's "Wild Montana Skies," "Meet Me in Montana," "Montana Cowgirl," "Midnight in Missoula," "Livingston Saturday Night," and "My Home's In Montana," just to name a few. However, recently I had the chance to hear the "Ballad of Willie and Millie" for the first time and instantly fell in love with the song.
The Ballad of Willie and Millie was written by Walkin' Jim Stoltz and is a favorite among many Montanans. The song tells of a love story for the ages between Willie and Millie from Butte and their mutual love of Columbia Gardens.
Columbia Gardens was a popular attraction in Butte. The "Gardens," as the locals called it, was built in 1899 and would grow to become a beloved amusement park that entertained thousands of Montanans until Labor Day of 1973. Admission was free, and folks would pay for concessions and tickets for rides.
In the Ballad of Willie and Millie, we hear the story of not only the couple's love for the "Gardens," but their children's love for it as well. One of the lyrics states:
"The years they rolled by, but not all were kind,
Our love kept us warm from the chill.
And the first thing I know, the kids were all grown,
And gone to dancin' out on the hill."
So why did the Columbia Gardens close if it was so popular?
According to southwestmontana.com, the reason for the closing and destruction of Columbia Gardens came down to business. The place Columbia Gardens once stood became a mining pit. Of course, it's been almost 50 years now since its closing, and for many Montanans, it's just a distant memory.
However, there are still remnants around Butte from the old amusement park and of course, the Ballad of Willie and Millie, which reminds all of us that any summer night under a Montanan moon, is a good night for some dancin' and romancin'.