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Anno Domini: A random walk down memory lane
September 29, 2011 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
When I look out the front window of the Citizen offices, what one city council member derisively called “that newspaper downtown,” one of the familiar landmarks across the street is the old city hall, again vacant for the umpteenth time.

I ran across an old picture of when it was the Swan Hotel, but as a teenager, it was always Gering’s city hall. The electric department was on the second floor. It had a big room that was also used for dances – with real, live bands that had names like the Majestics, the Premiers, and of course, the Dynamics.

That’s where I got my introduction to playing loud, rock ‘n roll music. I think it was also the place where I started working on the case of tinnitus that’s still a minor annoyance.

Playing in bands in the mid-1960s was intriguing in itself. Looking back on it, I realize that most of the people I made music with through high school were complete jerks. (Not me, of course!)

Today, I can only hope they’ve gained a modicum of maturity and grace as they approach old age, wherever they may be.

Many high schools still had live bands for homecoming back then. I remember playing at Banner County School. And at our home school, the principal would usually call us down to the office sometime during the week to warn us about playing too loud at the after game dance on Friday night. He’d also remind us our hair was getting too long for school policy. It was a different world back then.

Anyway, a couple of months ago, I got a call from a friend who moved to North Carolina from his native Philadelphia. I met him when he was a student at Hiram Scott College.

Louie asked about the town and what had changed. He asked about the A&W Root Beer stand, about Dairy Queen, Vic’s Pizza and the Woodshed, where a lot of “Scotties” went to get sloshed. I must admit, the place made a very good Tom Collins.

And he asked if people were still “dragging main.” I wouldn’t know, as I don’t get downtown at night very often.

That call got me thinking about the ghosts of part of my childhood, about how much has changed – and why I didn’t pay closer attention.
When my family first moved back here from California, I remember the Fairmont Dairy still delivered milk. Whatever happened with that?
After a few years at Longfellow Elementary, it was on to Scottsbluff Junior High, located in the old high school building. It’s still in use today, although it’s called Middle School.

For many of us junior high kids, we’d duck out at lunch and go across the street to Crown Lanes for greasy French fries and burgers. And it only cost 10 cents a game to play the pinball machine.

Then it was on to high school. Drug use wasn’t very prevalent back then, as only a few of the kids were potheads. Most of us thought they were weird. No, the entertainment of choice was still a six-pack of Budweiser on a Friday night.

And during breaks between classes, a few of the kids sneaked out the east end of the building for a quick smoke before some faculty member noticed. Overall, we were a pretty strange bunch, back when big hair seemed to be the fashion for the girls.

On weeknights during high school, a few of us would occasionally visit Midwest Billiards, in the basement of the Midwest Theater, to shoot a game of snooker. The sign above the stairs read “No one under 18 allowed,” but no one paid attention. And the manager rarely enforced the rule.

Speaking of that, the manager was a guy called Sliver. I guess that was his nickname because he was about as big around as a pool cue. Someone recently told me his name was Gus Simmons, but I’ve been unable to uncover much about the guy. Maybe this is where someone out in our readership can help me out with anything they might know about him. If so, let me know. And I thank you in advance.

The food served at the various area restaurants was something else that I remember with fondness. There was Vic’s Pizza, sliced in the traditional Chicago box cut. And I sure can’t forget about the Dash Inn, where they had salty, not sweet, onion rings. They also served a local favorite called the Wagon Wheel. For drinks, there was Rumba and Hot-‘n- Tot Cokes and a lime phosphate concoction called a Green River. Great stuff.

For standard, good ole home cooking, there was the Eagle Café in downtown Scottsbluff. And for the adventurous, one of the few oriental restaurants was downtown, the King Fong Café.

The area’s oldest Mexican food place, Taco Town, was always there. It was the only place where peas were part of the ingredient list for the tacos.

Big John’s BBQ Pit was out on East Overland before it burned down and later moved. And after high school games, everyone would head to King’s for Cheese Frenchees. I sure could use a big order of all of those about now.

The culinary landscape has changed dramatically over the years. Even locally, it was mostly overrun by the fast food places, where the same bland food tastes the same across the country.

It is good to know that, at least in a small part, the area’s gastronomic palate has expanded to where fewer people are turning up their noses at dishes outside the ubiquitous “meat ‘n taters” paradigm. And yet, some of them would still turn nauseous if I pointed out that calamari is squid.

Gone are the Cheese Frenchees and the Dash Inn onion rings. Along with so many of our customs and rituals, they’ve been relegated to memory and to local history. But they’re part of the threadwork that makes up this grand tapestry we call our Americana, our cultural history. And because it’s my undeclared major, I think that culture is worth preserving for future generations.
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