We are hopped up on 5 cent coffee after spending a leisurely couple hours today at Wall Drug in Wall, SD. Dan, Hope and I are on Day 3 of vacation. After reading the billboards for miles (we lost count after about 50) we had to stop. Wall Drug seems pretty much the same as when we pulled in there 13 years ago and probably is just more of the same from when I went there as a kid in the 70s. It is a kitschy Americana pleasure.
A clerk gave me a little history and Dan conveyed more from the brochure he picked up: Ted and Dorothy Hustead opened the drug store 85 years ago and were about to throw in the towel because of lack of business when Dorothy got the idea in 1936 to post road signs for free ice water. Mount Rushmore was in the works and oodles of tourists were trekking past Wall. Dorothy’s clever signs worked and daily crowds showed up, drank water and bought ice cream and coffee and everything else the Husteads put out. Today the family still owns the place which now stretches across a city block. Ted and Dorothy’s grandson Rick runs the business with his daughter Sarah. I’m glad they haven’t changed the things. We enjoyed looking around, got ice cream, found some souvenirs and tried our hand-eye at the shooting range. Hope enjoyed the piano-playing animated Gorilla and Tabor liked the water. The biggest surprise for us today was that the 5 cent coffee is actually quite good and they still sell over-the-counter and prescription medications along with excellent homemade donuts, t-shirts, fudge, western wear, books and trinkets of all types. They have quite a Western art collection, too. Be sure to check out Wall Drug if you are traveling on I-90 in South Dakota.
Earlier today we stopped at the Akta Lakota Sioux Museum and St. Joseph’s School in Chamberlain which we thought was interesting and had quite a bit of Sioux history. The school operates as a boarding school for 230 Native American kids from throughout the state. In Chamberlain, which is nestled along the Missouri River, there are several nice antique shops – we especially liked Fabulous Finds. Dan is ready to go back for walleye fishing in the Missouri River.
Yesterday we stopped near Brookings to see an old friend from Illinois. Deb and her husband Barry moved to South Dakota in 1983 as newlyweds. They raised their four daughters in the big brick farm house they bought shortly after they got there. We loved hearing about their life and Tabor enjoyed their three dogs. The farm is in slough country and Dan learned some nuggets about duck and geese hunting. Barry even gave him a duck call.
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