It’s Here!


St. Peter’s Health and PureView Health Center are holding vaccination clinics at the fairgrounds  with the Moderna vaccine against COVID-19. Inoculations will continue Wednesday, January 6, 2021. 

We are now in Phase 1A of the vaccination efforts, which includes medical providers who have direct contact with patients, all local medical and support staff and long-term care facility staff and residents. Statewide, Phase 1A will continue until Jan. 15 and involves nearly 60,000 Montanans.

Phase 1B, which will run Jan. 15-March 15, will affect nearly 90,000 Montanans and includes people 75 and older, those who live in congregate care and correctional facilities, American Indians and others of color who may be at higher risk, front-line essential workers, first responders, grocery workers, critical infrastructure workers, postal workers and public transit workers.  

Phase 1C, which runs March 15-July 15, impacts nearly 171,000 Montanans and includes people 65 and older; people working in food services, shelter, housing and construction; and folks working in finance, legal, public safety, essential government services and media fields.  

Phase 2 includes all remaining Montanans 16 and older. Officials said they hope to get 70% of Lewis and Clark County residents vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, in which people are protected from a virus if a threshold of vaccinations are reached.


















The COVID-19 pandemic is extraordinarily disruptive everywhere in the world. Yet people have historically always found ways of coping. Prickly Pear Junction invites everyone to participate in sharing their stories and experiences dealing with COVID-19. Anything you want to share. Prickly Pear Junction will post results as they become available. Just hit the “Tell Us Your Story!” button and fill the short form. All are welcome, not just East Helena residents.

Click on the photo to read Charley Pride’s full history, including in East Helena (Wikipedia)

East Helena Branch

Call: 406.227.5750
(Currently open for Holds Pickup only)

Lewis & Clark Library is sponsoring a National Endowment for the Arts “Big Read” and will focus on “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea on January 28 at 7 p.m.


Victoria Curtis
Photography Instructor

CLICK on an image to view full size.

A taste of East Helena High School through our student’s eyes.
This is not your typical high school experience but our students are making the most of their time in our new high school building. Here are some photos taken by EHHS Photography students and their thoughts about the space in the photo.

The track and football field, I remember going to the homecoming football game and having so much fun. That is definitely a good memory in my freshman year. The snow I love because skiing is one of the sports I love to do. I also enjoy running the track for warm up during my cross country season. All of those things are sentimental or important to me, so that’s why I took a picture of the field and track. -Abi Eckerson

Culinary Class is one of my favorite classes. The teacher Mrs. Corcoran is really good at teaching you how to cook and learn more about healthy eating and nutrition. I thought this class was very fun because we get to cook food and eat it all day long. The information we also learn is very useful for everyday living as well. You can tell the teacher is very passionate about teaching this class and it makes the students want to learn. Overall culinary is a very useful class and I think this teacher does a great job at getting kids involved in the kitchen and wanting to learn more about food nutrition. – Jaclyn Lukus

This is Miss Munn. She is the counselor at East Helena High School. She works very hard and
helps a tremendous amount of kids each and every day. – Aneea Williams

The library has been closed for some time now due to COVID-19. The library itself has been closed off and you can’t check out books in the library itself. Luckily you can check out library books online and the library teacher will deliver the book to you class. – Kelton Gardner

Our school has already grown so much this year and is such a great community. I am very excited to see what this highschool will bring us over these next few years of me going here. -Morgan Lorenz

When I first got here and saw this part of the building I thought that this was just like the high school from high school musical where they did the cafeteria dancing and singing scene. – Lizzie Sturges

This is a picture of the EHHS band. We are proud of our band and the great music they make. They have been practicing since 6th grade. They are a great group of individuals. – Bella Guccione

This is my favorite place to be in and out of school because in weightlifting class you play games which are fun, and before school I go to open gym here,
and after school this is where we have basketball practice and so this is what makes this the best place to be for me pretty much anytime of the day or night. -Kobe Mergenthaler

I decided to take a picture of these books in the library because I love to read. This past year, I have been reading more books before bed and when I get home from school. I mostly like to read historical fiction books because I can learn from them. My favorite book does not exist because I love most all books.- Faith Jennin

The conference room is one of my favorite places in the school. I love working there and sharing ideas and learning from others when we work together. The conference room brings out many good conversations not only about school but getting to know people better. This is a good place where I have made many new friends and gotten a lot of work done in school this year. I am looking forward to many more years in this school and using the same conference rooms to make the same memories. – Morgan Lorenz

The snow outside on the tables is traditional for this time of year, but it has been less prevalent this year. Although I do not like the snow, when it melts and freezes again and again or is mostly slush, my favorite when all of the snow is fresh. The first snowfall of the year is indeed my favorite experience of the winter season. Since this year lacked snow through the main winter
months, there was not a chance to do regular winter activities, which was disappointing. I like the first snow, almost more than the warmth and sunshine of summer, but once the snow turns to slush I would rather be in summer. – Morgan Schweyen

Help is right here!

Times are tough but nobody should go hungry or be left out in the cold! On this page are some resources to help you and your family:

Dept. of Public Health and Human Services: administers SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Call: 1.888.706.1535

Salvation ArmyEmergency food, clothing, shelter, and utility assistance. Call: 406.442.8244

God’s LoveProvides food, shelter, clothing, and any other basic necessities for transients and families. Call: 406.442.7000

LIEAP – Low Income Energy Assistance Program: pays part of winter energy bills for those eligible. Can also help in emergencies if your power is cut off for non payment. Call: 406.447.1625

If you know a family in need, please share this information with them.

East Helena Pantry Is Currently Open!

Our East Helena pantry is open with curbside service. Helena Food Share is providing grab and go food support at the pantries in Helena and East Helena. If you are in need of food support, come see us. We have food for all who need it, and all you have to do is bring a form of ID and give the number of people in your household.

Curbside Service:
50 Prickly Pear Avenue N.
East Helena, MT 59635
(406) 443-3663

Monday 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Thursday 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

* * * * * * * * * 

In August 2019, the Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG) received the 2019 Excellence in Site Reuse Award from EPA Region 8 for successful work at the East Helena Superfund Site. The award celebrated the transformation of the East Helena Site through the work and dedication of the Custodial Trust and many federal, state, and local partners. The ceremony was held at Prickly Pear Elementary School, which opened in 2018 on land that METG donated to East Helena Public Schools. Read more about the award here.


This immense, gray/black slag pile in East Helena was formed by more than a hundred years of smelting lead, zinc, and other metals at the former ASARCO facility. METG (Montana Environmental Trust Group) is currently doing something about it. They plan to have Metallica Commodities Corp. transport 2,000,000 tons of unfumed slag by rail to the Port of Longview, Washington,  then by ship to South Korea for re-processing. Unfumed slag is material that did not originally  go to the zinc plant, so it has recoverable zinc. 


They expect to begin removal in April, 2021 and will continue for five years at a rate of 20,000 tons a month in 2021, then 30,000 tons a month in 2022. The intent is to have the project completed in five years. The planned removal of 2,000,000 tons represents the most contaminated portion of the (estimated) 14,000,000 ton slag pile. 


Finally, after the slag removal project is complete, METG will work to build a cap over the remaining slag pile. The cap will prevent stormwater from coming into contact with contamination and spreading any contaminated material from the slag.


This drawing (courtesy Sanderson Stewart) shows one proposed solution to the traffic problems that exist on Montana Avenue/Valley Drive. Now that Prickly Pear Elementary School and East Helena High School are fully functioning and the development of Highland Meadows Subdivision (315 single-family-homes,) is in full development, East Helena’s main road is hopelessly inadequate. On school days traffic is almost unbearable. Local residents expect and deserve to have a timely response to this situation. So where’s our road?


         In 1993, Gary Thomas bought a building on Main Street in downtown East Helena, Montana for a practical reason: it was the closest commercial space to his house that he could afford. His plan was to change the nature of his business from retail to mail-order and do away with most of his products to concentrate on making sheepskin slippers. It turned out to be a great decision because of something he didn’t initially expect – East Helena is a truly great place to run and operate a business. It’s a small town that should brag about itself more often than it does. Downtown may only be a couple of blocks long, but it has filled up with incredible business owners who are all in it for the long haul. It’s a quiet place in good country.

            There are several reasons for why East Helena works out so well for an independent business. The commercial real estate is reasonably priced yet still easily accessible to the nearby population of the Helena area. Bank access, postal service and City Hall are a few things that are just down the street. The primary element that makes East Helena such a great location is its abundance of amazing neighbors – both in the business community and residents of the town. One of those neighbors that we would like to single out is our incredible local Post Office. We are a mail-order business, and we ship out over 2,000 packages each year. The East Helena Post Office is a local partner that we could hardly do without. Everyone on staff really goes out of their way to streamline the process and get our goods into the postal stream as effortlessly as possible. We owe those folks a tremendous amount of gratitude.

Our Founding
         High Plains Sheepskin was started in the cold and windy basins of southern Wyoming (hence the name “High Plains”) in 1975. Gary’s first shop was in Laramie, WY. After nine years, he moved to Last Chance Gulch in Helena, MT. Then, in 1993, Gary moved one final time to our current location at 5 West Main Street (formally known as Prickly Pear Junction) in East Helena, MT. We are right across the street from Dave and Annie’s restaurant, Main Street Easts (best breakfast around!), and next door to Stacks Clothing CO. & Antiques. This is our factory, warehouse, shipping center and retail outlet all rolled into one.

         Prior to starting High Plains, Gary had several years of experience in the tanning and industrial sheepskin industry. In the tannery, he worked as a sheepskin finisher and grader. As an apprentice under an old school Czech craftsman, Gary made sheepskin paint rollers, industrial applicators, and saddle pads. His passion for doing what he loved led him to work for himself, building High Plains Sheepskin from the ground up. Gary employed many ambition and talented people throughout the years who helped him build and sell his slippers, mittens, and hats. Spencer Haire was his final trusted employee and worked alongside him until Gary made his last pair of slippers. Gary Thomas tragically passed away in August of 2019 leaving Spencer and his wife Casey Sasek to purchase High Plains and continue providing his beloved sheepskin slippers to tens of thousands of customers around the country. They make a good team. Spencer manages the shop and makes all of the products while Casey’s background in banking allows her to handle the books and marketing. In 2020, they welcomed their first son, Jackson, to the wonderful world of sheepskin slippers.

         The new management of High Plains has also hired their first employee, Trevor Held, who is an East Helena native and part of the first graduating class of East Helena High School. Go Vigilantes!

         High Plains Sheepskin has always been a small business. We work all year to make thousands of slippers, mittens, and other products that we then ship to all 50 states, Canada and overseas. We enjoy what we do and love being a part of East Helena’s small but growing community. 

~ Prickly Pear Junction Welcomes Missouri River Brewing Company To East Helena ~

This is the final image in the series for the photo-essay:
Prickly Pear Elementary Construction
started on June 1, 2017

Heritage Food Store invites all senior citizens or people with a compromised immune system to join us from 7-8am every Monday and Friday to shop.

109 South Lane Ave, East Helena ~ Phone: 406.227.5304

East Helena City Hall  (Photo from 2020)

The East Helena City Hall building has a rich history starting in the early 1900s. For many years it was the East Helena Public School. The photos below are from many different eras. The larger buildings (with the spire) are before the 1935 earthquake.


(Click this image to see full size)

Now Open!

PureView East Helena Clinic opened on May 20, 2019 and provides East Helena residents easier access to medical, dental and behavioral health services. The Clinic is a partnership between PureView Health Center, Intermountain and East Helena Public Schools and is located on the grounds of Prickley Pear Elementary School at 250 Academic Street.

The PureView Pharmacy will make daily deliveries to the East Helena Clinic, meaning less travel time for you and your family.  

All forms of insurance are accepted and a sliding fee scale is available for those who qualify.

The Clinic is open Monday-Friday,
9:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

For quality, affordable care in East Helena, look no further than the PureView East Helena Clinic.

For appointments: 
Call 406.457.8880 or 406.457.0000.

We look forward to serving you.

You can pick up your medication at the PureView East Helena Clinic or have it delivered to your door.  Delivery service is free within a 20 mile radius of PureView Health Center located at 1930 9th Avenue in Helena.  This service covers the entire city of East Helena!

Making your voice heard in East Helena!

J4 Automotive
Visit J4 Automotive Website

Kit and Vi Johnson started J4 Automotive over 22 years ago in 1994 with an SBA loan, some help from family members and a lot of prayers. Fast forward to today and we find the shop doing close to 1 million dollars in gross sales and still family owned and operated. The second generation of Johnson’s are now working in the business, with Kit and Vi’s daughter Nikita and her husband Chris carrying on the strong tradition of outstanding automotive repair and service and giving back to our community. The third generation of Johnson’s (the grand kids shown sitting with Viola) are growing up in the shop just like their mothers did and will most likely continue the family tradition well into the future.

J4 Automotive’s mission statement stresses community service, which they do a lot of. The yellow veterans ribbons, the kids activity tent in the Christmas stroll, sponsor of the spring school clean-up, the Halloween movie in the park and Frite-night are but some of the events Kit and Vi and the J4 Crew organize and participate in. Their experienced staff of seven, including three Master Mechanics, fix all makes and models of vehicles and are the recipient of many awards. The National Technician of the Year, and the Helena Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year are just a few examples of their commitment to excellence.

J4 Automotive is a Better Business Bureau A+ rated member, AAA Top Shop and NAPA AutoCare center that enjoys a 5 star Google and Yelp rating. Give them a call next time you need advice or maintenance and repair on your vehicle and use their convenient pick-up service while you work! 227-8622 or make an appointment on line at j4

Our helpful service advisors, Chris Pratt and Gena Berry will take care of you and your auto needs!

Sales of my artwork and art books on the ETSY Art/Craft website help support
Prickly Pear Junction “CLOUD”.
Click HERE to visit my ETSY Shop!

contact us: email  ~  ~  phone  ~  406.431.6026

“KNOWN BUT TO GOD” The four graves in the East Helena Cemetery were marked with a brass star and four small plaques identifying those buried there only as “Unknown Soldier.” But this is now changed – in part because of misguided acts of some vandals. The East Helena VFW Post had a monument made in their honor which now marks the soldiers’ final resting place. The soldiers will no longer be buried in near obscurity, but they will remain a mystery. The star is marked with GAR and they could have fought in the Civil War or in the West’s Indian wars. The cemetery’s records do not go past beyond the 1920’s. So on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1996 a very impressive “Unknown Soldier Dedication” was held to honor these veterans.”