I know many of us have been there when we were young: I can’t wait to leave my hometown! I remember being a young teenager thinking that Great Falls was boring. However, when I turned sixteen, I discovered hunting and fishing—or generally speaking: the outdoors. Suddenly, Great Falls wasn’t so bad. I remember the best part of being in Great Falls was all the recreation that was outside of it. That is still what I consider the most powerful selling point that the Electric City still has: it’s abundance of rural recreation quite literally five minutes out of town.
However, as much as I love hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and just breathing in the fresh air of prairie or the morning dew in the Highwoods, this isn’t about the outdoors. This is about how I, as a young person, had to decide which was more important to myself and the family that I would have. The outdoors; or a future? As a disclaimer, I would like to state that I don’t always agree with the methods of E-City Beat, and have a few critical critiques. However, I find that E-City Beat has become an effective platform to freely speak the opinions of the public without worrying about offending city government or some other bureaucrat.
I grew up in Great Falls. I remember being six years old when I moved to Stockett, and then seven when we relocated to 2nd Avenue South and ninth in 2003. Back then, I remember playing outside very close to downtown, next to arguably one of the busiest streets in town, and nothing bad really ever happening. Maybe it was because I was eight at the time, but I don’t remember seeing any people tweaking out walking down the street, or dangerous thefts (I’m sure they happened), or any general fear for my life. Again, maybe that was just me being young, but I had pretty protective parents. They didn’t seem too worried, either.
I even remember growing up two blocks from Parkdale and right across the street from Longfellow; an area many consider to be low-income or higher in crime, nowadays. Now, I remember most of my peers not living with both parents (or even no parents), a lot of broken homes, and I remember being bullied quite a bit (mind you, I was a pretty intense Star Wars nerd and even admittedly kind of awkward). While I remember those problems, I don’t remember ever feeling scared for my life or anything out of the ordinary happen.
When I went into middle school, a neighbor just two houses away had their house burn down (the rumor was that it was a meth lab). All I remember is seeing the house burnt, and a bunch of cops in the area with yellow police tape. I remember in middle school discovering who in the neighborhood was dealing meth and who had marijuana. These houses were often times a block away (or even across the street) from Longfellow.
“I remember in middle school discovering who in the neighborhood was dealing meth and who had marijuana. These houses were often times a block away (or even across the street) from Longfellow.”
In High School, I remember seeing a lot more problems. It started getting to where going down the street even at nine at night was a guarantee that we would see drunk people or people sleeping on the street. When I turned eighteen, I was still in my senior year of high school, and my friends and I often stayed out late into the night (as is common in your teens). I remember crime getting progressively worse by the month, it seemed.
One time I had the opportunity to do a drive-along with a GFPD officer. I can’t believe how busy they are during the day. The number of calls they go on made the day fly by. The officer I was with intervened on someone about to jump off the Central Avenue bridge, a stolen cell phone, two goose-chases trying to find people with warrants, several traffic stops, and even a domestic disturbance involving someone tweaking on meth. This is the stuff they dealt with in under ten hours—and that was the day shift in the middle of the week. I can’t imagine what it’s like for them now; not even three years later.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Miller’s essay.