The man in front of me in the checkout lane examined the contents of his wallet and shook his head. He glanced up at his cohort, another guy about his age. “I may have to get another job if Paul (name changed to protect the innocent) keeps asking for money. Twice now, he wanted $70 to take his girlfriend to some fancy restaurant in Omaha.”
The gentleman next to him chuckled. “Don’t feel bad. Every weekend my kid asks for money to go out with friends. I don’t even know if they talk while they’re eating. I think they stare at their phones the whole time! It’s not like when we were young.”
My unintentional eavesdropping ushered in thoughts of the years when my siblings and I grew up in rural South Dakota. Farm life offered plenty of opportunities for things to do. (We definitely knew better than to mention the word “bored.”) As we reached the teen years, we wanted to hang out with friends. In typical teenage tradition, we longed to fit in, but being cool allowed different activities back then.
Nearly every summer weekend, a ride to a nearby town (average gas price was 31 cents per gallon) and a dollar to cover admission and snacks provided an evening of excitement. Baseball! From the sound system in the crow’s nest, the announcer gave spectators a powerful play-by-play of the game. Car horns blared at amazing outfield catches and ninth inning grand slams. Our cheers carried on far longer when the super star happened to be our brother or friend.
The smooth cement floor of the De Smet Armory invited wheels—roller wheels. For a fifty cent (or less) admission and a quarter for skate rental, skaters of all ages circled the rink to music. If a cute boy (it was the boy’s job to do the asking) asked me to skate, I declared silently that I would never wash my sweaty hand again and began looking forward to next week’s skating time.
During December the Ritz Theater in De Smet offered free Saturday matinees for youngsters. Every year, Delmer and I took in at least one. Gene Autry starred in a classic western, “Valley of Fire.” Captain Sinbad saved a dangling damsel in distress several times in his “Seventh Journey.” It seemed to me that we saw the same old movies year after year, but we never turned down the chance to go.
The theater also provided entertainment for weekend nights. Dad told Delmer and me to have a good time as he handed us each a couple dollars for the movie. The enticing aroma of buttery popcorn followed us to our fold-down seats. Sometimes, we bought popcorn or Milk Duds. Though Dad never ordered us to bring back the change, we did. I clearly remember coming home from a movie and proudly depositing leftover change into Dad’s hand. He chuckled softly and handed it back. “You go put that in your piggy bank.”
Dorothy and her friends viewed the latest Elvis movies “Viva Las Vegas” and “Beach Blanket Bingo” on the silver screen. Mom and Dad took me to see “The Sound of Music,” which was highly recommended by my piano teacher.
Teen Town was a popular hangout in De Smet for a few years. Delmer recalls listening to big name rock and roll bands at the youth center. The Cavaliers, a group from the Arlington and Lake Preston area, and Myron Lee and the Caddies performed at Teen Town on their way to fame.
The entertainment we chose didn’t cost a lot back then. Sometimes, it was free. On warm Sunday afternoons, my sisters challenged peers to a friendly battle of croquet on the front lawn. The good-natured banter through the game likely turned to triumphant teasing, for almost always, the girls won. On Friday evenings friends gathered around the kitchen table for a few rounds of ping pong. Some games got rather intense. The longer the ball stayed in play, the louder the hoots of triumph and the groans of defeat. The losing player immediately demanded a consolation game.
Always, there was fun. Always, there was laughter. Decades later, we remember. Now THAT’S entertainment!
Kruempel’s newest book, Once Upon a Midwest Sunset, as well as her 5-book series, Promises to Keep, are available on Amazon.com. Once Upon a Midwest Sunset (an excellent gift of memories) is a compilation of the stories from her NOOKS AND CRANNIES column, which was published in five newspapers in 2020-21. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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