A Neighborhood Market West of Helena
Scene of a Robbery and Killing in 1939
OF SCOTT NELSON THE
a 2008 photo of what remains of the Broadwater Grocery. From
1935 to 1967, it was a handy stop at the Highway 12 & Williams
St. intersection west of Helena, supplying groceries, beer and,
for a time in its earlier years, gasoline. Only the rear residence
part of the building remains, the rustic front retail section
having been removed when the highway was widened in the 1960s.
Thanks to Scott Nelson for this photo!
has long been a lively one. It was across the road from the
Broadwater Hotel and Natatorium, and a mile from Fort Harrison
-- which made it a handy R&R stop for military men. Two
raucus roadhouses, several service stations and two restaurants
operated near the crossroads over the decades. Like almost everywhere
in Montana before the 1940s, gambling was a staple in these
1955 aerial photo superimposed on a recent
admits to a nostalgic fondness for the Broadwater Grocery, having
grown up in the neighborhood from 1950 to 1969. When I was first
aware of the store, around 1954, it was owned by Tom and Lucille
Root; it was always a treat when my dad would say, "Let's
go see Tom", because I knew that cold pop, candy or maybe
even fireworks were in the offing. The store was the favorite
destination of every neighborhood boy I knew, and we spent a
lot of silver there during our growing-up years.
sold out in 1955 to Tony and Jane Schultz, who operated it until
1967, when the widening of the highway forced them to close.
The front of the store was removed, but I believe the Schultzs
continued to live in the residence for some time.
of the enterprise, Fred "Scotty" Palmer, retired in
1943, selling to Alberto and Gladys Whitney. They sold to Herman
and Vi Rupp in 1950, who in turn sold to Tom Root in 1952. At
least that's as close as I can track it.
has photos of the Broadwater Grocery, please
the exciting part...
BUILDER OF THE BROADWATER GROCERY SHOOTS AND KILLS ROBBER - 1939
THE ARCHIVES OF THE HELENA INDEPENDENT
March 11 1939, three experienced slot-machine hijackers from
Butte, Montana drove to Helena in a Dodge coupe, looking for
places to rob. William Foster (1910-1939), Elwood Burton Crawford
(1910-1966), and Edward "Babe" Netterberg (1906-1973)
cruised the area for hours, until about 10:00 pm, when they
stopped at the Broadwater store.
inside, bought a pack of cigarettes from owner Fred "Scotty"
Palmer (1876-1969) and loitered for a few minutes, casing the
place. Foster decided that the Broadwater Grocery and filling
station looked like an easy target.
decided to wait until the following morning to hit the store,
intending to surprise Palmer when he opened up. To kill time,
the boys spent the night driving to East Helena, then to Townsend
and back, looking for future holdup opportunities.
to Broadwater around 6:00 am on Sunday morning, and parked on
"an upper road and about a quarter mile east of the gas
station" (presumably Hauser Blvd., which at that time went
through to the highway) and waited for the owner Fred "Scotty"
Palmer to open up. When they saw the store lights come on, they
remained in the car as the getaway driver, while Foster led
the way into the store with Crawford close behind him. Foster
thrust his hand into the pocket of his dark blue overcoat, in
which was a loaded .38 revolver, and told Palmer, ""This
is a stickup! These slot machines have to go, Dad." To
which Palmer replied, "O. K.".
kept his revolver trained on Palmer, Crawford took the nickel
machine and loaded it into the Dodge. He came back, picked up
the dime machine, and took it outside.
turned away from Palmer momentarily to grab the cash drawer.
Palmer backed away from Foster, toward a bedroom at the rear
of the store (the part of the structure existing today). Palmer
reached around a door sill and grabbed a 12-gauge Remington
automatic shotgun which was leaning against the wall. When Foster
turned around holding the cash drawer, Palmer fired. He was
less than 12 feet away from Foster when he pulled the trigger.
The blast of shot ripped away part of Foster's left sleeve,
blew a four-inch-wide hole in the front of his overcoat, and
entered his body just under the heart.
Foster cried, dropping the cash drawer to the floor, scattering
the $10 in change that it held. He fell to the floor, got up,
staggered out the door, and fell again. Crawford, outside with
the dime slot machine, dropped it and ran north toward Ten Mile
Creek. Netterberg exited the car and hid, crouching next to
outside with his shotgun and confronted Netterberg, who pleaded
with Palmer not to shoot him. Palmer marched Netterberg across
the highway to the Pepperbox (now the Corner Bar), where bartender
Leonard Floydell called the Sheriff and ambulance, and held
Netterberg until the Sheriff arrived.
taken by ambulance to St. John's Hospital, where he died less
than four hours later of shock and hemorrhage.
hid in an outhouse near Ten Mile Creek, but was found a short
time later by Sheriff Brian O'Connell.
In the Dodge
were found several homemade blackjacks, and wiring which authorities
said was similar to that used in blowing open safes.
jury found that Palmer's shooting of Foster was justifiable.
Crawford and Netterberg were each sentenced to three years in
the state penitentiary. Foster was buried in Butte's Holy Cross
sorry this thing had to happen," Palmer said in The
Helena Independent. "But when this fellow pointed a
gun at me and was trying to steal my money there was only one
thing I could doand that was protect my property. I knew
he meant business. The way he told me it was a stuck-up was
without any sign of nervousness. And when he took my cash drawer,
with money I worked hard to earn, I Just bad to do something
about protecting myself."