MONTANA COWBOY HALL OF FAME & WESTERN HERITAGE
Kitty Ann (Quigley) Taaler
Kitty Ann Quigley was born a ‘Fourth Generation Montanan’ on May 11, 1944, the daughter of John R. Quigley and Marguerite (Kirwan) Quigley. She is the Great Granddaughter of Montana pioneer, John R. Quigley Sr. who came to Montana Territory to open a store in Blackfoot City located within present day Powell County. Kitty Ann was named after her paternal grandmother Katherine “Kitti” (Manley) Quigley and her maternal grandmother Anna Kirwan.
Kitty Ann lived with her parents and her two brothers, Peter and Jack, at “Lost Cabin”, a dude ranch and ski resort located out of Avon, until she was three years old at which time her parents divorced. Kitty Ann laughingly tells that she was dismissed from nursery school in Helena due to her curious and impish behavior. Marguerite and Anna together decided that Deer Lodge might be a better location for Kitty Ann to grow up under the strict but loving guidance of her grandmother, Anna. She attended St. Mary’s Academy and Powell County High School.
In 1947 Kitty Ann’s father began constructing his dream of “Frontier Town” created with logs and boulders. When she was six years old, she began working summers at Frontier Town and came to a complete understanding of what she called a “good days work”. Her first job was to lie on her belly in the hollowed-out log under the carved road sign of an animated dog and bear and push a button that would play a recording of the dog barking; drawing attention to a carload of travelers, driving over McDonald Pass, to pull into The Fort. She advanced to swamper, window washer, and coin seller. She did it all. Kitty Ann was blessed with a singing voice at an early age and upon that discovery from others she was soon required to “get up and sing” for special occasions celebrated in the dining room – scared as she was.
Kitty Ann lightheartedly remarks “During my school years in Deer Lodge I was fortunate to win numerous talent contests.” She was just 17 years old, when in 1961, she took the honors of Miss Last Chance Stampede at Helena’s first rodeo. Kitty Ann went on to win the Runner-up to the Miss Rodeo Montana title that fall.
She graduated from Powell County High School in the spring of 1963 and attended the University of Montana in Missoula that fall. Kitty Ann was an applied voice major and had the privilege of studying under renowned voice professor John Lester. In 1963 she won the “Miss Missoula Centennial” contest and in winning there she went on to gain the title of “Miss Big Sky Country” in 1964. Bonnie Jo Robinson won “Miss Montana Centennial” and soon thereafter two happy girls left college and headed for New York City and the adventure of a lifetime.
The celebration of Montana’s Territorial Centennial was held in 1964. The Montana Centennial Train of twenty-five rail cars left Billings on April 5th of that year on its way through sixteen states with three-day stops to promote Montana tourism. “Miss Big Sky Country” was on the train to promote Montana and also attended the Montana Exhibition at the New York World’s Fair. Kitty Ann brought a lot of publicity to the state with her act of shooting off a pistol during her performance of “Annie Get Your Gun” at the Sheraton Hotel in Washington DC. This performance created quite the calamity as the performance followed the alarming assassination of President John F. Kennedy and newly sworn President Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as the Secret Service happened to be in the building at the same time. While driving a full mount buffalo around the Unisphere of the New York World’s Fair, intended to draw attention and bring visitors to the centennial train parked on the tracks away from the main activity, Miss Quigley was issued a speeding ticket by the Pinkerton Police.
Another saga in the Wild West tales of Kitty Ann’s journey as “Miss Big Sky Country” occurred in Chicago, Illinois. There was a great plan brewing to drum up additional publicity along the route of the Centennial Train. When Montana cowboy Corkey Morehead, Miss Quigley and Montana’s famous cartoonist, Stan Lynde, walked into the newsroom of the Chicago Tribune, an area about the size of a grand ballroom, they found all the news people with their heads down busily typing. Miss Quigley proceeded to blow off her 32-20 Bisley Colt and immediately all the employees hit the floor. Needless to say, there was great coverage in the Tribune the next day.
From 1965 through 1966 Kitty Ann was employed by KCAP Radio in Helena, Montana writing 60-second commercials, recording advertising, running the sound system, and spot weather reports She later worked for Riley Johnson, Director of the Public Information Department with the State of Montana.
In 1967 Kitty Ann was offered the opportunity to work for the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She was elected as the Associate Director of the Calgary Stampede, served on the Rodeo Committee, and the Public Information Committee. Kitty Ann was the Stampede’s official entertainer for thirteen years. During her tenure she was the City of Calgary’s Media Liaison and hosted a radio show “This is Your City”.
Kitty Ann met Aavo Taaler from Telkwa, British Columbia, who worked for the British Columbia Power and Hydro Company. They were married on August 24, 1979, in The Chapel at Frontier Town. In 1981 their daughter, Taegan, was born in Smithers, British Columbia joining Aavo’s two girls Amy and Sarah.
Kitty Ann moved home to Montana in 1981 with her family and she and Aavo leased “Frontier Town” from Sue Quigley. They managed the enterprise successfully for eight years, before they moved to Nebraska where Aavo was the General Manager for the Wheatbelt Public Power Company. They returned to Montana in 2008, locating in Helena and are now retired.
In a recent interview Kitty Ann stated, “I love Montana and its history. The mainframe of my life has been spent extolling and promoting “Frontier Town” as well as the great state of Montana.” Kitty Ann is following in her father’s notable footsteps with her artistic talent in creating works in oils and watercolors.
The descriptive words of singer, dancer, entertainer, performer, comedian, artist, and whistler – do not begin to describe the infectious personality that Kitty Ann possesses. To experience that Irish sparkle in her eyes, her hearty laughter and her amazing opera quality voice are a joy to behold. She is indeed a Montana personality.