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September 26, 2019

Sanders County Historical Society Photo

AN OLD ADVERTISEMENT depicts the Hot Springs Mercantile when LaRues owned it. It is now Buck's Grocery.



By Lenora Brown

An era is coming to an end. Fifty years ago Nobel and Mary Lou LaRue sold their store in Tuscor and moved their family of two sons, Harold and Donald, and Baby daughter, Helen, to Hot Springs. Here was a store being run by Fred Symes. LaRue purchased it and Saturday will celebrate a half century of ownership.

The LaRues moved to Tuscor in March of 1921. There they operated a store and post office, N.G. LaRue was also a depot agent for the Northern Pacific Railroad. In 1930 the family moved to Hot Springs where they operated the Hot Springs Mercantile for 50 years. Tuscor was a station on the Northern Pacific down the valley and west of old Trout Creek (Larchwood). In 1921 the entire town consisted of a combination store and post office, which operated 1914-56.The tiny town of Tuscor was inundated with water when the Noxon Rapids Dam was built in the 1950s.

He hadn't had the store long when a fire hit Main St. The store was where the Park and Eat Café now stands. Holt's Garage was where the Post Office is and Mrs. MacMullen's hotel and dining room were on the corner where the mercantile is now. There was a high wooden sidewalk the full length of Main St.

Suddenly in the middle of the night the fire was burning fiercely. The next morning everything lay in ashes. However, LaRue in time purchased the entire block. With his son, Harold and daughter-in-law, Betty, the store has enlarged from a grocery store to include dry goods, clothing and a hardware store also.

Now, another generation has come to the fore. James and Kelli LaRue have returned from being sergeants in the Air Force to take their place in the store. They have leased the store. Harold has stated that he and Betty will continue to help them; but hope to take it a little easier.

Harold, Donald and Helen were all educated in the Hot Springs school as were Betty Ratcliff LaRue and their daughter, Carol, and son, Jim.

Harold, Betty and Donald all attended the University of Missoula. World War II found Harold a captain in the Transportation Corps. He and Betty were married in 1943. She remained in Missoula and worked at the University.

Donald died in 1941.

When the war was over Harold and Betty returned to Hot Springs. Harold became a partner with his father and has been in charge of the hardware. Betty is the director of the dry goods.

Mrs. LaRue took an active part in the community and rearing her family until poor health caught up with her. She works a great deal in her flowers and her home.

The store hasn't been the only thing that Nobel LaRue has been busy with. He has a ranch on the outskirts of town where he always kept cattle. He also was the owner of a motel, which he recently sold to Mr. and Mrs. Ray Flesch. He has also owned the Park and Eat Café and all other things he has rented there; as well as the Post Office. Both Nobel and Harold have taken their turns as directors of the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. Kelli LaRue is now a 1979 director. Nobel is also a past mayor of the town.

This reporter found out when she served as president of the Chamber of Commerce, if you wanted help, wanted to really get a lot of good understanding on something you were trying to put forth, all you had to do was find time for Nobel and Harold to give you an audience and tell them what you were trying to do, get their support, and you really had good help! We shall miss you both; but we are glad you aren't moving away completely just deciding to take it easier. Hot Springs wouldn't be right without you. Good Luck!


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