Did You Say Go West? (5) I Need Water!

“Water is the driving force of all nature”-Leonardo da Vinci

Westward bound 545

As you travel endless lanes of highway, looking to the left and then the right, you’ll find plenty of barren land, ranches and cattle. Every now and then you’ll find signs with catchy phrases touting the need to stop at Wall Drug. Who and what, you may ask, is Wall Drug?

In December of 1931, just as the Great Depression was at its start, Dorothy and Ted Hustead used an inheritance from his father of 3,000 dollars to purchase a drugstore. It would be the only one in a small, isolated town in the South Dakota Badlands. By the summer of 1936, the business remained stagnate and the Husteads five-year business plan was crumbling away like the town. Cars traveling on Route 16A whizzed past Wall like a fly in search of food.

One day, during a hot, miserable July Sunday, Dorothy got a brilliant idea. She thought of all the traffic that traveled on Route 16A and how dusty and thirsty they had to have been. She suggested to her husband to put up signs along the freeway akin to the Burma Shave ads that people were familiar with. Their ads would tell people to stop at Wall Drug for Free Ice Water. This simple idea made Wall Drug one of the most successful attractions in the United States.

The Husteads discovered a simple logic. “No matter where you are, you can succeed if you offer people good humor, great service and attractive pricing.”

While traveling along I-90, east of Rapid City, look for the colorful and zany Wall ads that come at you with such regularity that you have no choice but to stop in the town of Wall, population 843 as of a 2012 census. When you pull into the center of 510 Main Street, don’t be surprised if you find a crowd and the parking lots are full. (Don’t fear, they have enough parking to accommodate three hundred cars)

At Wall Drug’s you can find what you want and more. The outer buildings gives one the impression of the old frontier with the structures made of timber and old brick. The walkway is constructed of Cheyenne River Rock. Beautiful Western art and illustrations are just a start of what you find inside. The mall delights with clothing, candy, toys, souvenirs, books, etc. There is one main restaurant with four dining rooms that can accommodate up to 520 people. And if you need a moment to give thanks, there is a chapel for praying.

So, the next time you find yourself on I-90 and a sign beckons you to grab a bite, cool your heels or simply get a fresh drink of water, stop in at Wall Drugs. You’ll be glad you did.

 

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