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I always wondered about those Wal-Mart greeters

I’ve always been curious about those “Wal-Mart Greeters”. I mean, who are they, where do they come from, did they used to work, why would ANYONE in their right mind want to stand at the front doors and greet the “Walmartians” as they enter the store. Believe me, I’ve seen my share of “Walmartians” on e-mail “forwards” and it’s looks like a pretty strange neighborhood to me. Last evening, I was reading Montana History at the Heritage Center here in Shelby. The book we’re currently enjoying is entitled “The Big Sky, By and By”, True Tales, Real People and Strange Times in the Heart of Montana. Ed Kemmick, the “City Lights” columnist at the Billings Gazette, is the author and it’s a really fun romp. There’s close to 40 or 50 tales in Ed’s book about various characters here in the Treasure State, both living and dead. Last evening I was reading the story of Maryona Johnson from Miles City. Maryona Johnson was the only child of a prim and proper schoolteacher, reared on a ranch north of the Milk River on the Canadian line. Back in 1976, Maryone and her “significant other” decided to build a bar together 8 miles out of Miles City, just off the interstate. They had live music during the first year of operation but then decided to expand the range of entertainment, based on a fact of life which I don’t want to get into on my Puffman Blog. First, she draped the bandstand in red velvet and then “went around to rummage sales and bought every red velvet curtain and bedspread in town” and started bringing in exotic dancers which is a nicer way of saying “strippers”. Next up, needless to say, the transition to the next level of entrepreneurship was a natural, what with all the young men on hand, and the booze, and the girls parading around. I call it “Capitalism”, she claims it was her “significant others'” brainstorm. It started with a trailer house and before it was all over, there was the Gold Room, the Blue Room and the Red Room. A later addition was known as “The Sheepherder’s Delight”. What it was…was a sheep wagon from the ranch Maryona lived in with her first husband. She claims that even the former governor from Minnesota, Jesse Venture, stopped in one evening. A spokesman for Ventura’s press office said he wouldn’t bother asking the former governor about the purported incident. The spokesman is quoted as saying, “I doubt he’s going to take time away from governing to talk about that” so there’s no real way of confirming this story. End of the story is that the business lasted 17 years until in February of 1992, the Montana Liquor Division of the Revenue Department pulled the club’s license. They said this woman “wasn’t fit to own a liquor license because of the ladies she employed there”. The rest of the story…The IRS seized everything, even her antiques and personal belongs. So where is she today? Maryona’s was hired on as one of the first “people greeters”when Miles City’s Wal-Mart store first opened a few years back. When she got the gig, she didn’t list any former employers on her resume, but she told the Wal-Mart people that she’d been “self-employed for years and had hired and fired hundreds of people”. This 77 year old grandmother finally had respectable employment. How did my story go over at the Heritage Center? I think okay, they’ll either ask me not to come back next week or my reading group will either be larger or smaller depending on…

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