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Miracle of America

2010 July 27
by shana

When he was just three years old, Gil Mangels found an interesting shaped stone and took it home to show his mother. It turned out to be an arrowhead and he has been collecting things ever since. His collection, as well as donated pieces from many different people and places, can be seen at the Miracle of America Museum at 36094 Memory Lane in Polson, Montana.


I had planned on leaving Missoula around noon, then two, then four… I finally was on the road right at five on a Friday afternoon. Not the best timing traffic-wise, but at least I was on the road! My first destination was only a couple hours away, so I was not stressed about my later than planned departure.

I had passed a museum with a big boat on several previous occasions where I had said to myself, “someday I am going to have to stop there.” A photographer friend of mine had told me not too long ago that I had to go to the Miracle of America. I asked him what it was exactly. He responded that it was magical… and different for everyone, that I would just have to go. Well, as it turns out they were one in the same place.

I pulled into the museum and walked up to check to see if the hours were posted: open until 8pm and cameras welcome. Well then… it was not quite 7 o’clock so I thought I would pop in and check it out quickly. I grabbed my camera and $5 for the admission fee and headed in. Gil’s wife Joanne was at the front desk. She told me that her and her husband were the original founders.

Oh boy. I walked out of there approximately an hour and a half and 250 pictures later. I could have spent more time… maybe even an entire afternoon… or even an entire day, and taken at least twice as many pictures. But I happen to love old machinery, and paint peeling off rusty metal, and things that used to be… so I had a fine old time. It was 8:30pm when I left, but I had run into Gil right before 8 and he had said I could take a little more time since they were waiting on someone to come by that evening. Good thing too… I would have missed half the yard had I stopped at 8pm.

I visited very briefly with Gil as I was leaving. I asked him how he came to start up a museum like this and start collecting. He told me the story of the arrowhead. He told me he is a 3rd generation Montanan. He offered to let me camp in the parking lot, and offered me a Miracle of America bumper sticker for my camper if I were the type to sticker my bumper. He said he could go on for awhile about the museum and collecting, and I wished I didn’t need to keep rolling down the highway so I could hear more. But, I wanted to make it to Lake Mary Ronan State Park before dark, so I had to go. Maybe on my next trip through Polson, I will be able to stop for a bit longer.

As I drove away I thought how fitting it was to start off my trip to see more of the country by taking a glimpse at its past. And just like this trip: we have come a long way to get here but still have a long way to go.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. Donna permalink
    July 31, 2010

    Sounds like you are off to a good start.

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  1. Lake Mary Ronan & Camp Tuffit | The Road Taken Project

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