GALLOPIN’ GRANDMA: The Best Baloney

By on March 15, 2017

This is the only known photo of the Ponca Nebraska Symphony Orchestra. In 1929, it was chosen the Best Symphony Orchestra on the west side of town. No information about what was on the east side of town, or if there was an east side of town.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – I ran across one of those articles about the “best” of stuff, like the best place to live, the best colleges, the best place to get drunk and fall down, that kind of stuff. Actually, I think that “best” is very personal. My best is probably your worst, and that’s the way it should be. Sometimes it also is the same thing. If someone had to choose between the plague, typhoid or a hangnail, a lot would depend on how the day was going and what options were available and could something worse happen to someone else.

I got to thinking about what was best in my hometown of Corn Cob, Iowa, and while it was probably not a lot, I did remember a few things.

What was the best restaurant? There was the hotel, but that was also the bus depot. Then there was the Coffee Cup Café; it was infested with a horde of old Norwegian bachelors, retired layabouts and social leftovers. They clogged up the place, sucked up all the coffee, ate all the donuts and annoyed everyone. You could also eat lunch at the drugstore, but the lunch counter had a resident cockroach who was delighted to sit on your sandwich and dine with you.

Should you desire more elegant dining, there was the Skunk River Supper Club. There you could eat, sneak in booze, and dance to Homer Hopwood and his Merry Men. Homer’s mother played the trombone and if she had to work at 7-Eleven on Friday nights, Homer’s cousin, Ilka, played her magic accordion and whistled requests from the diners.

I think the best event of the year was the county fair at nearby Silo City. All the Corn Cob girls would hop in their cars and race to the fair in hopes of picking up the Silo City boys and making out under the grandstand. My friend LaWanda came home one year with a selection of hickies and a terminal rash on her fanny, probably the result of poison ivy and cooties. I never did anything like that because unfortunately, I wasn’t that kind of girl. (If you have pimples and wear Girl Scout oxfords, you aren’t that kind of girl.)

I think everyone thinks their high school class is the best; ours was OK, but “best class” has to go to the class behind mine. The class president became a notorious serial killer. Next best class? The one in which one of the boys grew up to be a congressman, then a crook (some people think it’s the same thing). Then he became the father-in-law of a president’s daughter. He’s now out of prison, but he’s in hiding and still owes his mother-in-law $100,000.

The best thing I ever knew was that palace of delight, the dime store. I can still smell the cheap candy, the little bottles of colored toilet water, the paper dolls and the dresser sets. I just couldn’t leave the place alone and I had to touch everything again, and again. Sadly, delight fades and nothing stays the same. Woolworths became Woolco, Kresge’s became K-Mart; a salesman visited a Ben Franklin store in Minnesota, liked it, and went home and coughed up Wal-Mart. Sadly, our Minneapolis Dayton’s, where Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat in the air, is gone. It disappeared a long time ago and was replaced by square buildings decorated with red targets. There is a lesson here: that wonderful things like good parents can give birth to lousy kids. PJH

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