Back in the mid-90s a friend had recently moved to Great Falls and he and I and Mr. Malaprop had the discussion about vanity license plates. Having moved from SD, he had to switch. Or maybe it was right after he bought his new Tacoma truck? Anyway, my husband and I lived in Helena then and had opted not to be vain, as it were. But as we chatted we realized we had all noticed that in MT it seemed like every other car had some name or phrase on the plates. We surmised that it must've not been too expensive to have them personalized, because it was so popular. (Well, expensive is a relative term, isn't it? I think it used to cost about $50 or $100. I don't know what it is now.) We spent part of a pleasant afternoon kicking around ideas for our friend and his spiff new truck. I don't recall if he actually got the vanity plates, but as it was around the time of the Unibomber (or maybe the Freemen? when were those standoffs?) we did decide that putting his nickname, G-man, on his plates might not be the best idea.
Vanity plates are still popular in this state, as are the plates with the different backgrounds. Have you seen those? Time was, you could tell which state the car was from by looking at the design or picture on the plate. Bucking bronco rider? Wyoming. Red, white and blue stripes? South Dakota. But now it seems anything goes. The design no longer signifies the state, but the charity or institution. Never mind the light blue silhouette of the Rocky Mountains on our boring regular state plates, what about a wildflower meadow for Save Wild Places, or a field with a bugling elk for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation? Or even a purple and yellow plate for Carroll College. You have to actually read the plate to see where a car is from, if they will slow down that long, and with the clever little sayings there's no telling which county they live in, either. Or whether they just don't know how to spell or if they're being clever or what. I presume it was a golfer driving O21PUTT. But tell me, was it a gardener or an anti-war activist driving PRAY4PS?
I'm sorry to say I've lost the list the kids were helping me make. If I come across it, I'll post more.