Chill the Caboose fund to benefit Helena landmark
By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist
To anyone visiting The Caboose in the summer months, it is obvious that central heating and air conditioning was not part of the plan for this icon that now serves as Welcome Station and Chamber of Commerce for Helena.
Ron Holly, known around town as Major Dundee, since opening Major Dundee’s 1890s Mercantile in Old Town in 1998, has kept The Caboose open to visitors and locals alike almost daily, come sleet or snow or scorching summers.
He does this without remuneration for the satisfaction of making Helena.
Another related connection is that for 33 1/2 years, to be exact, Holly worked as a yard switchman for the L&N Railroad.
During 20 years concurrent with this day job, he was also a sheriff’s department volunteer.
The Caboose needed both an exterior paint job and the a/c unit addressed, but the city could only afford one of these at the time.
“I wanted the exterior to look its best for the sake of the community and all it represents,” said Holly.
Back in 2013, the bids received for the a/c project came in between $4,000 and $5,000, Holly said.
Rios Bar & Grill and proprietor Crystal Hamrick are known for the many fund-raisers they have held for good causes since 2012.
They recently dedicated their Tuesday Bingo Night proceedings to Chill the Caboose. This weekly event will continue through Helena Founder’s Day in April.
One bingo card is free, and a $5 donation will you get you an extra card and chance at the fun prizes Hamrick surprises her customers with weekly.
That $5 goes to the Chill the Caboose fund.
On Mardi Gras evening, prizes included a varied assortment of green, gold and purple souvenirs—tinsel wreaths, masks, traditional Fat Tuesday beads in all colors plus some adorned with gator or cow motifs.
Many in the crowd that evening came adorned in their own celebratory garb, such as the glitter derby and light-up bow tie (somewhat) modestly modeled by Jim Parks.
There is also a donation box at the Caboose, and Chill the Caboose supporters are expected to have a presence at First Friday in April.