Wall Drug

It was time to leave Salem, SD, and head west. Before leaving Dakota Sunset RV Park, the owners told Jack to be sure to stop at the rest area in Chamberlain, SD. It was one of the most beautiful rest areas I’ve ever stopped at. The view of the Missouri River was fantastic as high up as we were. Plus there was a gorgeous sculpture of an Indian woman. We were so happy we made that suggested stop!

We arrived in Wall, South Dakota early Sunday afternoon. It was a good thing that we left as early as we did, too. The winds had picked up to around 20 mph (NOT good when driving an RV!) and a strong storm cell was headed our way. Oh, great…more rain. Ugh!

The wind blew pretty hard all night. When we woke up, it was really foggy and it was drizzling. Another rainy, dreary day. Oh, well, I did have some plans for us anyway.

Six years ago I gave my dad a “father-daughter” trip to Mount Rushmore for his birthday. All along Interstate 90 dad and I kept seeing these signs that said “Wall Drug.” We could not figure out what it was, so we decided to make a stop there. It impressed dad and me so much that I just knew I had to take Jack there.

A little history about Wall Drug: A young Ted Hustead and his wife, Dorothy, purchased the drug store in Wall and moved there in December of 1931. They had a four year old son, Billy. This little prairie town only had 326 people and most of them were poor farmers who had been wiped out by the Depression or drought. They lived in the drug store in their “apartment” which was a room they created by hanging a blanket across the back of the store.

Months went by and business still had not improve. Ted was getting discouraged, but his wife told him that they could make this place work. Dorothy’s optimism lifted Ted spirits some, and he told her he wanted to give this store five good years. If it didn’t work by then he was prepared to sell and move on. However, Dorothy told him they would make it work. She also told him that the Mount Rushmore monument would be completed soon, and then there would be an endless stream of people going by. She was sure they would visit the drug store.

By the time the summer of 1936 came around, the business still hadn’t grown much and the end of the five year trial would be up in December. Their son Billy was nine years old, and they now had a one month old daughter, Mary Elizabeth. It was a hot Sunday afternoon and there was no one coming into the drug store. Dorothy told Ted she was going to go home and put Billy and Mary down for a nap and maybe take one herself.

An hour later Dorothy came back. Ted asked her if it was too hot to sleep. She said no, that it was all the noisey jalopies going by on Route 16A that shook the house and kept her awake. Hearing those cars go by caused Dorothy to have an idea about how to get all those travelers to come to the store.

Dorothy asked Ted what all those travelers would really want after driving across the hot prairie. She thought they would be hot, tired, and thirsty for water. Ice cold water! She said they have plenty of ice and water and that they should put signs up along the highway. She told him she had already made up a few lines to put on the signs: “Get a soda…Get root beer…Turn next corner…Just as near…To Highway 16 & 14…Free Ice Water…Wall Drug.”

The next few days Dorothy and a high school boy put together some signs. Each sign was a 12 by 36 inch board. Each little phrase of Dorothy’s poem would go on one board. They would space the boards out so that people could read them as they drove.

The next weekend both of them went out to the highway to put up the signs. Dorothy felt silly doing that, but by the time she got back to the store, people had already begun showing up for their ice water.

They were busy ALL afternoon that day. People told them that this was a great idea. They filled glasses and even filled up their travel jugs. A salesman told them that this free ice water was a great idea, and then he asked Ted, “How about selling me an ice cream cone?” The next summer they had to hire eight girls to help them. And, as they say, “The rest is history!”

The Husteads Today: Dorothy, the lady with the FREE ICE WATER IDEA, passed away in November, 1995. Her husband, Ted passed away in January 1999, and their son Bill died the following October after a two year battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Bill’s wife, Marjorie, is still active in the operation of the drug store today and is carrying on the legacy along with their son, Rick, who is Chairman, his wife Pat, and their daughter Sarah Hustead.

This place has grown over the years. There is now a Wall Drug Mall and a just opened area called The New Back Yard! There are SO many sections of stores and displays such as Buckboard Clothing Store, Boots and Western Clothing Store, Jane’s Jewelry Emporium, Jack-A-Lope Souvenir Department, Western Sculpture Dining Room, Western Art Gallery Dining Room, Western Art Gallery Cafe, over 1500 Historical Photos, and sooooo much more!

I couldn’t even begin to take pictures of each room. This place is unbelievable! Here are a few photos.

There were SO many sculptures all around Wall Drug. This one is just a mere $22,0000!

Of course, we had to have some ice cream before we left Wall Drug.

If you are headed to Mount Rushmore or anywhere near Wall, South Dakota, you absolutely MUST stop by Wall Drug!

So, for now ….. “On the Road Again!”

Betty

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