Social Life in Butte
rambler, I'm a gambler, I'm a long way from home
And if you don't like me, well, leave me alone
I'll eat when I'm hungry, I'll drink when I'm dry
And the moonshine don't kill me, I'll live 'til I die."
|As a diversion to the drudgery of daily life, the
sought out any and every sort of entertainment when the day’s work was
done. Butte was the scene of more bars than almost any city in the United
States, with such colourful establishments as The Alley Cat, Bucket of
Blood, the Cesspool, the Graveyard, and Pay Day, all beckoning the thirsty
miner is search of a good time. Many workers believed that the “standard
boilermaker”, a shot of whiskey and glass of beer, helped clean and
relax lungs full of smelter gases and smoke. Henry’s son Malachy remembers
his father’s exciting tales of time spent in the ‘Bucket of Blood’
saloon which dispensed "buckets o' booze" until the saloon was
reeling with inebriates. Unlike the rest of Montana, Butte's bars stayed
open 24 hours a day to satisfy miners with cash to spend. Many a miner
lost a day's wages over a game of chance. In fact the modern game of Keno
was invented to service the gambling fraternity. Luckily for Henry J. he
was never a gambling man and although not puritanical in character was not
averse to hearing playing cards referred to as “The Devils Calling Cards”.
J. was also an active member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). The
order had been established in Butte in 1880 with another lodge The
Anaconda formed in 1885. Today the organisation still celebrates St.
Patrick’s Day, throughout the World, with colourful pageantry. In
Ireland, no trace remains of Henry J’s branch in Kilkeel (Upper Mourne)
but in neighbouring Glassdrummond (Lower Mourne) the lodge with its
community hall flourishes and has of course much in its history linking it
with the Miners of Butte.
early AOH in America often provided a monetary stipend to immigrants who
arrived as members in good standing from the Irish Order, and also
assistance in obtaining jobs and social services. It is likely that Henry
J. and others from Mourne benefited from this service.
Hibernian Hall will have provided a meeting place for Henry J. and his
compatriots to enjoy traditional Irish music and dance. Irish interests
and politics were fostered and preserved in the AOH Hall, providing for
many a home away from home.
Church was also an important meeting place for Irish miners and provided a
social outlet for many. Buttes churches were often paid for by donations
from the hard-earned miners’ wages. The Irish brought their fervent Irish
Catholicism with them to Butte and wore it proudly, even referring to
waste rock as "Protestant ore".