In my last post, I mentioned some of the unique (“cheesy”) attractions of Wall, SD. Wall is known for two things… one for being at the west entrance to the Badlands National Park. In fact the name Wall is from the Wall of rock at the edge of the Badlands.
Perhaps more people know of Wall though because of the famous Wall Drug Store.
If you haven’t heard of it before nearing Wall, the billboards along the highway will certainly make you aware of the store.
In 1931, Dorothy and Ted Hustead bought the only drugstore in Wall, and moved into the back of the store. 326 people, suffering from the Depression, populated the town. Mount Rushmore was not even finished. Their family was skeptical about their moving to that “Godforsaken place”.
The store was not prospering until the summer of 1936 when Dorothy came up with the idea of offering free ice water to hot, thirsty travelers.
The first signs were modeled after the Burma Shave signs, and read
Get a soda
…Get root beer
……Turn next corner
………Just as near
…………To Highway 16 & 14
……………Free Ice Water
and people started showing up for their water before Ted and his son could return from putting up the signs. For hours that day, the family hustled to hand out ice water (ice had to be shaved from a large block), and sold quite a few ice cream cones along with the free water. And so the idea was born that saved the store. Ted’s moral: “There’s absolutely no place on God’s earth that’s Godforsaken. No matter where you live, you can succeed, because wherever you are, you can reach out to other people with something that they need!”
Today, the large store, although it still contains a small drugstore section, is actually a conglomeration of small stores, a large restaurant (seats 530 – breakfast with fresh baked monkey bread and donuts was great), many novelty displays (such as the animated cowboy orchestra)
And the free ice water??? Ted and Dorothy are both gone now, but the store, under the operation of Ted’s grandsons, now gives away more than 5,000 glasses of ice water every day throughout the summer!
Who knows, perhaps we’ll find a place for our sign in Yuma?If you would like to read more about Wall Drug, including the full story by Ted that appeared in Guideposts Magazine in 1982, click on the store map below: