Franks has a big professional-looking microphone which hangs over his
24-inch iMac computer screen. It’s hard to miss even in the midst of a
host of electronic equipment spread around the backroom at Passage
So, the obvious question was posed. “Oh, I sang in college. I didn’t have a REAL job. I was in an a capella group (named Selah) at Oklahoma Christian University (in Oklahoma City). We sang Sacred Music.”
There were five in the group. Chad Knappier and Ty wrote all their songs. The group even recorded CDs. “But, that was a long time ago. Chad and I still get together to sing once in a while.” Chad is now a minister at Crosstown Church of Christ in Tulsa, OK.
Mrs. Franks expresses the obvious, “Ty is very talented at a lot of things.”
Krista, who grew up in California and followed her sister to college, remembers, “I was down there as a fan. That’s where we met (at Oklahoma Christian).” Krista got her Bachelor’s degree in Family Life (Day Care Administration) and Ty took his in Fine Arts.
Krista says, “I thought I might run a daycare center some day. But, I had children instead.” The Franks have two boys, Noah and Jake.
The Franks are known in Harlowton neither for singing nor for daycare work. But for their new embroidery and silkscreening business and for the physical fitness programs they provide young and older citizens.
Using the old Paintin’ Place as a studio, Ty teaches Karate to 28 students (karataka). Interestingly, they are not all boys. Franks has eight female students. The bigger space has opened the doors for larger classes.
Ty says the benefits of Karate are “balance, coordination, body control, and mental strength.” Classes are held from 6 to 8:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Are students encouraged to practice at home? “They are. But . . . We’re all pretty busy.”
Ty Franks grew up in Wilsall. “I saw my first demonstration of Karate when I was in the first grade. I was hooked, even then. But, I didn’t get to start training until I was 15. My father (school superintendent) found a teacher. We had up to 20 students there in Wilsall at one time.”
Franks relates that Karate was the first martial art to be taught at an American university (BYU). American Kenpo Karate came out of Chinese Kempo Karate and was originated in the US by Ed Parker. Ty’s teacher was another Parker, Gene. “Getting a black belt is like getting a college degree. It takes four years.”
So, Franks was a first degree black belt in Kenpo Karate before he was 20. He started teaching in Harlowton shortly after the Franks family moved here, seven years ago. “I just wanted to teach. I had taught in Big Timber. But, we have really done well here. Anything over twelve students in a town this size is amazing.”
“Everything I teach is strictly for self defense and avoidance. If a student, uses his Karate skills other than for self dense, he is done.”
“We go to the Big Sky State Games every year and compete in mixed styles. Josh Barnhart has won the brick breaking competition four years in a row. Almost all my students win at least one medal.”
After taking a group fitness training course, Krista Franks began teaching aerobics about a year now. “Kiran Tyabah got me started. She told me, ‘We have people who want to do a class.’”
Krista began her own fitness training 25 years ago. She and her sister began by watching Jack LaLanne on TV. Krista has tried a number of programs along the way from Pilates to Callinetics. She recently took a yoga class with Shannon Jones.
“I’ve during fitness programs off and on over the years. But, I always try to walk wherever I am.”
Aerobics meets at the Paintin’ Place on Mondays and Thursdays from 5 to 6. “I like variety and put that into my classes. If you do the same thing over and over, it gets old. I try to make the class fun so students want to keep coming back.”
Krista has eight to ten students and usually four or five show up for a class. Are they all women? “Ty comes, sometimes.”
Ty adds, “The (Karate) kids are all going to do it before tournaments this year.”
Aerobics is always done to music - oldies, eighties, country, etc. It has to have a beat to keep the group moving and their heart rates to a certain level. The program also involves strength training (weights) and stretching routines. Ty says, “You feel great when you’re done. Even better in her class than mine.”
“It would be great if we had a fitness facility here. A place for all kinds of exercise programs and activities.”
The Franks lived in Big Timber for five years where Ty was a machinist for Ironhorse, maker of specialty fasteners for motorcycles and gun parts. “I designed parts and did lots of reverse engineering. I was production manager and had a range of responsibilities.”
Their family moved in stages to Harlowton with Ty commuting for the last several years. “We were in the market for a house and found one here at a reasonable price. And, Harlowton had a good grade school.”
Passage Creek Design has been open for six months with main business lines of custom embroidery and silkscreening. Their shop was first across from the Post Office and now in their bright and friendly shop next to Snowy Mountain Coffee.
(Passage Creek is a stream located between Livingston and Paradise Valley. That locale was also the site Ty’s ancestors built a homestead, many years ago. The business was named as a tribute to them.)
Ty decided to leave Ironhorse when the Wildlife Art business came up for sale. “I was tired of traveling back and forth. This came up at the right time. Ironhorse Products was moving to Reedpoint and I didn’t want to go.”
It might have been a big jump from iron to fabric work, but, “It helped having an art background. I had worked for Big Sky Carving. I’m a professional carver, paint and draw. I also do a lot of design work for Wildlife Art and other businesses outside the area.”