4th of July Parade Grand Marshal
Posted by Gene Larson (+273) 9 years ago
(The folowing information was compiled by Mary Elizabeth Irion):

The Grand Marshal for this year's Parade is Jim Michels, who has lived in Miles city for 62 years. He married in 1944 and raised three children in Miles City, Jerry who is retired from Xerox in Billings, Kirk, who's an architect in Livingston, and Stephanie, a court reporter in Billings.

Shortly after marrying, Michels enlisted in the Air Force for three years during World War II. He flew B24 airplanes into Europe, flying 24 missions over Germany. According to Michels the B24 was the most-manufactured airplane during that time, 18,300 of them being built. He added: "It was said that the B24 did the work and the B17 got the credit. B17 flyers kidded us that we were flying the crate the B17 came in."

Michels graduated from MSU-Bozeman in 1949 with a degree in agricultural education. In 1950 he began working as a supervisor for the "Veterans on the Farm" on-the-job-training located within the Custer County High School. This program helped Veterans get started in farming. The High School lent their Vocational Agicultural Shop to this program. The Veterans program out of Helena had their own teachers, which Michels supervised. He covered one-third of the state, encompassing Hysham to Alzada, Broadus, Sidney, Scobey, Peerless, Frasier, Glasgow, Bainville, Jordan, Forsyth, Ashland, Baker and Miles City.

Then in 1953 Michels was hired to teach its Vocational Agriculture program at Custer County high school. He retired in 1980 after a run of 27 years. During this time, Miles City's FFA (Future Farmers of America) Chapter experienced one of their members being elected State President of the FFA eight times during the state convention, held each spring at MSU-Bozeman. According to Michels, Miles City's FFA Chapter became known as, "The Home of the Presidents."

The locomotive float, which was built in 1978 while Michels was teaching at Custer County High School, was entered into this year's Bucking Horse Sale Parade. A special feature of the locomotive is the tractor cab used for it. He and T.J. Muggli, a senior at CCDHS, worked to get it parade-ready. After Muggli replaced the radiator and put on newer tires, they took it to Jack's Auto Body, which then replaced the exhaust system on it.

Michels began teaching dancing in Miles City in 1955. As he put it he: "buckled down on technique" and began introducing kids to the art of dancing. Generations of Miles City's population learned how to dance the cowboy two-step, polka, waltz, foxtrot, and jitterbug. Michels stated that every once in awhile he will be somewhere and someone wil say: "Boy, I'm glad you made us dance!" (Mary Elizabeth has had some pointers from him on dancing, also.) His teaching continues, he would like a polka party started in Miles City!

Jim moonlighted in other areas to provide for his family. In the 1950's he built a six-plex located at Tompy and Custer, working in the evenings from 6:00pm to 11:00pm, and on weekends.

In 1960 he started a custom COMBINING business and had it until 1975. He had several combines and all the cutting was done in Montana, from Broadus to Glasgow to Plentywood. The reason he began his business was to give his sons, and others on the job training, a way to help pay for their college educations.

In 1973 he purchased twenty-three acres, now known as the Michels Addition, and has worked on the Addition for 38 years. He built three of the homes, including his own. He provides irrigation water from the Tongue River to about 12 homeowners for their lawns, trees and gardens.

He purchased a 1959 Piper Super Cub to fly from his landing strip he'd built on his property. He used it to search for old tractors
for several years and for hunting for coyotes; he was pilot-in-command, while the person flying in the seat behind him would do the shooting.

Acording to Michels: "I bought my first tractor in 1960 and the FFA boys began driving it, and others, in the parades." He still owns between 10 and 15 tractors, ranging in times from 1913 to 1976. One of his favorite tractors is his 80HP Case Steam Engine. Another is the Waterloo Boy, which he said: "....put John Deere into the tractor manufacturing business."

Jim Michels, this year's PEOPLE'S PARADE Grand Marshal!