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The Hangar Hangout: Good times roll in 'Jack's Hangar'

From the outside, 'Jack's Hangar' in Lewistown, Mont., looks like what is — an airplane hangar. Inside, though, is a shrine to all things fun and '50s, from the 1950s soda fountain, to the vintage standard filling station, to the trucks, tractors, planes and old cars that share space on its shiny floors.
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The last thing Jack Morgenstern probably figured he’d be worried about when he decided to build his own airplane hangar a few years back was the formula in his authentic 1950s soda fountain. The second-to-last thing he probably figured he’d worry about is space.

But funny things happen when you have room to play, plenty of friends and an open-door policy, and Morgenstern certainly has all three at “Jack’s Hangar,” a funhouse for meetings, fund-raisers and just about any good cause that comes along. The building is located at the Lewistown, Mont., Municipal Airport, and it’s turned into a much more happening place than Morgenstern bargained for more when he decided to put up his own building, “because I had three aircraft kind of scattered all over the public airport.”

Morgenstern, the founder of Century Construction, a successful paving and construction business, decided a 100-by-100-foot building would be plenty big enough for his three planes and maybe a little garage area to service his cars. That was before he brought in the 11-stool soda counter that he bought unexpectedly at an auction, the 30-by-45-foot filling station that he picked up in Lewistown, and a myriad of other 1950s doo-dads, tractors and other wheeled contraptions that have turned the building into a bit of a 1950s shrine.

What started out as place for his own convenience and amusement has quickly grown into a unique public meeting hall and car and plane guy destination spot. “That’s the part that has caught me blindsided,” Morgenstern said. “I had no idea it would escalate to this kind of usage and be this much fun. A lot of people have helped me and contributed, it’s not just me. There are a lot of people that have a lot of effort in the building.”

Morgenstern has appointed himself “head soda jerk” and regularly fixes up soda fountain drinks for friends and group events. “But I do have some deputy soda jerks, too,” he said. “There is no charge for anything at all. The construction company I own furnishes the ice cream, and I furnish the soda. It costs nobody anything … but we are working on a paper mache pig that people can put money in and contribute to and when it fills up we’ll take it down to a local charity and make another one.

“It amazes me, but every two weeks on the money the place fills up for some event. There are always catering trucks out there backing right up to the building. We have a staff of people that work on things, and it’s gotten to the point where everything flows smoothly and functions just happen. For me, it’s really just a way to contribute to the community. As long as what we’re doing doesn’t compete with anybody in the community, why, we’ll keep doing it.”

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Along with Bob Brown’s 1949 Ford (see story in the March 11 issue of Old Cars Weekly) that is on display, Jack’s Hangar is also home to a 1927 Ford Model T, an unrestored 1955 Cadillac, 1947 Ford flatbed truck, 1951 Jeep pickup, 1954 Chevrolet pickup, 1958 Ford retractable and 1966 Pontiac LeMans convertible. Several tractors and motorcycles also live in the hangar.

“It’s 10,000 square feet, but of course now we need another 20 feet,” Morgenstern laughed. “We’re gonna run out of room, doggone it! There are too many ideas for what we can do.”

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