On to Mount Rushmore
The sign in the front window of Walls Drug Store, S.D., said, “Cowboy Orchestra, will play for parties, dances, mixers, clam bakes, shotgun weddings and political rallies.
The boys and I really enjoyed watching this coin operated mechanical cowboy orchestra play. Miles and miles of roadside signs hyping the drugstore weren’t overstated, we enjoyed the stop.
The history of this store is interesting. Business had been slow when new owners took over in 1931. Dorothy, the owner’s wife, had the idea to advertise free ice water to parched travelers heading to the newly opened Mount Rushmore monument 60 miles to the west. We stayed to enjoy breakfast before heading back to the road. Being from Pennsylvania, we were used to those tree covered, soft mountains in the east, and this view of massive mountains out west was awe-inspiring.
Then, suddenly going around a curve, there before our eyes in full view was Mount Rushmore. I just wasn’t about to have the boys miss this fantastic monument without stopping for a closer view. This was part of the history of our country and coming from Philadelphia where it all began; my children had been taught to love and understand all that monuments like this were part of who and what we are.
It is hard to imagine how anyone could conceive and then engineer such a tremendous undertaking. We stayed a little too long, but you just can’t help yourself looking at those stone faces. But finally it was time to go on. The winding roads continued, and all of a sudden in front of the VW was a herd of buffalo.
Wow, we all thought, real, honest to goodness buffalo. My son Doug just had to stop, something one of the herd didn’t like and it decided to visit us. That huge beast came right up and nosed against the side of the car, and I think we all froze. All I remember is that suddenly Doug had that car in gear, and we were off and running, leaving Mr. Buffalo in the dust.
By evening we made it to what turned out for me, at least, to be my favorite stop. Changing plans instead of going through the northern part of Wyoming, we stopped in Casper. Looking back I don’t know why we didn’t stop just outside of town in a motel, but ended up right in the middle of downtown. There, on one of those four corner city blocks was an old-fashioned hotel. I went inside thinking that “here we go again with high prices.”
Up at the desk was a nice young man and I asked how much it would be for a room with two beds and a cot. He said it might be a little expensive, and smiled. The cost was a great big $10. I was amazed. A bargain and I said we would take it. There we settled into a room on a corner of the fourth or fifth floor.
It had many big windows and in the bathroom one of those old-fashioned bathtubs like we had in Ambler, Pa. Everybody got a bath, and we were ready to go out and have dinner. On the way out, I asked that same nice young man where was a good place to eat, and he sent me to a family type restaurant just a block away.
Dinner was great, inexpensive and filling. As we left, the owner, a nice older lady, gave each of the boys a large candy bar free. Don Jr. then spied a bowling alley. I agreed to let the boys play a game or two because they really needed a little fun. You’d have to know my son Dean to understand what happened at the alley.
Dean has almost white hair and is noticed immediately. There he was, this 8-year-old boy trying to throw a huge bowling ball down that alley. Off it went, slowly rolling down the center of the lane and he got a strike. The whole place exploded in applause.
Yes, right then I wanted to settle in Casper, but again it was time to move on.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer.