In the midst of haystacks, and the emptiness of the South Dakotan fields, there’s a protusion of tacky billboard signs priming you for two of the silliest and yet true to character sites in the midwest – the Corn Palace and Wall Drug. Not related in any way, they are both located along the barren stretch from Sioux Falls to Rapid City.
Home to Mitchell, an hour west of Sioux Falls, Corn Palace, a large, kitschy and Moorish-style monstrosity is decorated with 275,000 ears of corn, which is replenished annually. There are so many signs drawing you to the palace that you can’t help but wonder – “could this be the Taj Mahal of the midwest?” Your attention is only shared by the hundreds of signs every five miles for Wall Drug, which infest the road for hours along the interstate. We were disappointed to discover that despite our craving for corn on the cob, there was no corn on the cob to be found – in fact, you couldn’t find anything to eat with “corn in it.”
It’s hard to say which site was tackier – a large palace dressed with thousands of corn or block-long Wall Drug (population 818), which touts 5 cents cofee, 1970s Wild West toys, Black Hills gold, moccasins, fudge, leather, singing cowboy machines, big gorillas and ice cream.
A little bit of interesting history about the name. The Badlands area not only has chiseled spires, ragged ridges, and rugged canyons but also prairie land. The upper and lower prairie is separated by a wall that stands between the two, serving as a barrier to travel north and south. “The Wall” is a rugged strip a half mile to three miles wide, a succession of tinted spires and ridges with twisting gullies. And, from “The Wall,” the town of Wall gets its name.
The style of this article was amusing, basic and very typical of the “flavor” of the area. Can you believe this was published somewhere?
Taken from Ravellette Publications, Inc. – Philip Wall, Kadoka, SD
A Fortune in Ice Water
On a hot summer day, a glass of ice water can be the summit of a man’s desire. But whoever heard of making a fortune of it? Ted and Dorothy did just that. The Husteads bought a little Drug Store in Wall, South Dakota (populatioin 800) on a shoestring back in 1931. Ted, just out of the University of Nebraska School of Pharmacy was 28 at the time. The first of their four children had already arrived. They banged smack into the Depression.
One stifling Sunday in the summer of 1936, Dorothy Hustead got to thinking about the tourists who motored through Wall by the hundreds bound for the Black Hills and points west. If only there were some way of persuading them to stop. Suddenly she had an idea. It sounded fine to Ted. So he had a bunch of signs made up and posted them along the highway. FREE ICE WATER WALL DRUG STORE.
Druggists have been giving away ice water for years, but none thought of advertising the fact. To tourists, the Hustead’s sign provided first a hearty laugh and then a welcome invitation.
In 2004, the Husteads are still dispensing water, sometimes at a rate of 20,000 glasses a day. Their signs are all over the map, even in Europe and Greenland. People who have spotted the signs in strange places often drive hundreds of miles out of their way to meet the Husteads. And of course, they sell everything from postcards to petrified wood.