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« American Masculinity Redeemed | Main | Geriatric Road Warriors »

September 15, 2009

Illustration Art in the Middle of Nowhere

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I'm drafting this in Rapid City, South Dakota. Yesterday we checked out the Badlands and, of course, visited world-famous Wall Drug in the town of Wall which is located near the main western entrance to Badlands National Park.

Wall Drug is basically a tourist attraction these days, but originated as a tiny drug store in a small town in the early years of the Great Depression. After a few years of struggle, the druggist and his wife came up the the idea of posting road signs offering free ice water for parched travelers. Business improved immediately. After World War 2, their son aggressively expanded the facility to include food service and sales of all sorts of apparel, trinkets of all kinds and food. Today a visitor still gets his free water and can buy a cup of coffee for five cents!

Wall Drug is now a block long and thronged with travelers and stuffed with things to buy. I think it's kinda neat, in its oddball way.

Something I didn't notice that last time I was there (in the mid-1970s) was a collection of Western (cowboy and Indian) paintings. It's spread through the various dining areas and includes works by famous illustrators along with paintings by genre specialists and a number of items that seem rather amateurish at first glance. There might be more to the latter than meets the eye -- biographical info about the artist or perhaps some historical significance in the painting's creation.

For illustration fans, I noticed original illustration artwork by the following artists, among others: N.C. Wyeth, Harvey Dunn (a South Dakota native son), James Avati, George Rozen (pulp covers) and Harold von Schmidt.

Ah, the serendipity of travel!



posted by Donald at September 15, 2009


Reminds me on my holidays in Italy, where also get free water in the streets.

Posted by: AndyG on September 16, 2009 7:02 AM


Posted by: Siv on September 16, 2009 9:20 AM

Speaking of Americana,I hope you are planning to visit the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

Posted by: Brian on September 16, 2009 12:45 PM

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