What started as a roadside gimmick to get people to stop in at a small South Dakota drug store has evolved into an international wonder. Wall Drug has been in the Hustead family since Ted bought the store in 1931. He and his wife Dorothy set up in a small, drought-stricken town of more than 300 people, in hopes of making it as a pharmacist.
Ted told Dorothy they’d give it five years there. If it didn’t work out, they would move on. Well, in their final months of their fifth year, Dorothy came up with a great idea that summer – offer travelers free ice and water. She suggested posting signs on then Highway 16. It was a last chance to make things work.
The signs went up…and the people started stopping by for their free water. Then, they started buying ice cream cones. Then more. And they haven’t stopped since. About 2 million take the exit off of Interstate 90 now and visit for the iced water and more. The drug store has grown into an international attraction. People from around the world will stop in on their way to the Black Hills or elsewhere.
Wall Drug has added a lot of attractions for people to check out during their visits. The pharmacy is there, with a gift shop to boot. We picked up some postcards and a pen (Lisa loves postcards and I love pens).
We also checked out what else they had to offer. Souvenirs include mugs, magnets, candles, spoons, shorts, sweats and a lot more.
I saw toys from my childhood that jumped out and said hi to me – holsters and pistols, rifles, hats, etc.
The café was between customer rushes during our visit. We ate there during our first visit, and liked it.
We had fun checking out a western store. I liked the variety of hats. Lisa looked at some purses and other “girl” things.
The fun part of the visit were the side attractions. Lisa “rode” a jackalope. The courtyard had several other attractions – a piano-playing gorilla, a miniature Mount Rushmore, stage coach and a few other things.
Inside the next section of Wall Drug, we checked out dinosaur skull molds in the mining store. The store featured trinkets, stones and minerals among its inventory.
As we walked down the hall, we caught a card game going on. It appeared things weren’t going to end well for “Wild Bill” Hickok. He drew the Dead Man’s hand – aces and eights of the black suits.
Up for a prehistoric adventure? A T-Rex roars and attempts to break through a “Jurassic Park”-style gate.
Well, after that scare, I needed a rest. As I sat down, luck would have it was next to a bar maid. What are the odds? I’m not sure Lisa approved. Sadly, she has documented proof for the lawyer, should it ever come to that. LOL.
As we continued our trek through Wall Drug, we saw lots of wooden carvings of famous plains and western personalities – Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill Cody, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.
We even had two chances to have our futures read for us, by Zoltar and Lisa’s dad, err Pappy.
We had a fun time spending an hour or so at Wall Drug. It was a refreshing way to spend time off the interstate.
As Wall Drug has grown, so have other businesses in town. We stopped in a Harley Davidson store, as well as another gift shop. There are restaurants, bars and hotels/motels in town.
Wall remains a small town. Did you know it got its name from the nearby Badlands? The Badlands were called a wall because of the steep spires and rock formations.
Oh, and the signs that Ted and Dorothy first put up in 1936? They still appear alongside the interstate, from the east end of South Dakota to the western border. It’s nearly impossible to drive from Sioux Falls to Rapid City without seeing the Wall Drug signs.
We recommend you pull off the road and check out Wall Drug. You’ll find something fun to do there. Or, at least get a free drink of water.
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