Monday, September 04, 2006

The other Wall

There's another famous Wall here ... Wall Drug in Wall, S.D. It wasn't your top pick, but I had to stop anyway. Couldn't resist.

Wall is a moment of Americana snapped in the Depression years of the early 1930s. The owners wanted visitors to stop in, so they put up a series of billboards offering "Free Ice Water'' to travelers ... and Wall Drug became a mecca.

The billboards aren't as numerous or obnoxious as those that plastered the roadways hawking Yeehaw Junction before the last series of hurricanes did them in. Still, only a sleeping person could miss them.

Wall Drug has expanded from a small shop to a one-store tourism industry, selling Stetsons (the hat, not my husband Stetson, who is at home where he belongs), cowboy boots, artwork, the best homemade donuts you've tasted in a few thousand miles, and -- oh yes -- toiletries. Even if you don't buy there's plenty to see, including taxidermied wildlife, silly statues of cowboys and girls, and an animatronic dinosaur. Great play area for kids.

The store also sparked a town industry, and now three blocks are lined with souvenir shops and cafes. Tacky, but charming, and definitely American.

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