Ever wonder how roadside attractions got to be, well, roadside attractions?  Where exactly did they gain their popularity?  When will I stop asking you questions and start giving you answers?  Right now, my faithful friends!  And we’ll start at the beginning:  Wall Drug, in the town of Wall, South Dakota.

Beginning as a small pharmacy in a small town (the town population at the store’s founding in 1931 was 231), the wife of the store’s owner had what was, at the time, a revolutionary idea.  The store would capitalize on the new tourist rush towards Mt. Rushmore and offer travelers free ice water.  Without the benefit of coolers or bottled water, this stroke of genius caught on with travelers, and the store’s popularity grew exponentially.

Not being shy of self-promotion, Wall Drug placed billboards -both large and small- for hundreds of miles in either direction throughout South Dakota and its neigbo(u)ring states.

The popularity of these signs grew to the point where people would ask for copies of them to take home.  Eventually, signs promoting Wall Drug started to appear in Europe.  These signs are now scattered throughout the world.  Even at the South Pole; where, frankly, I find it hard to believe they really need ice water.  But I suppose you never really know when you’ll get a craving for it in non-snow form.

Today, Wall Drug is a dizzying shopping cent(r)er occupying several blocks of space.  Still serving up free ice water and coffee for a nickle, it also boasts many tacky souvenir shops, amusement park like games, a splash park, 400 seat restaurant (where you can order Buffalo and something delicious called Sour Cream and Raisin pie), a chapel where weary travelers can worship, and a six foot jackalope.*

The first roadside attraction is always the best!

*A jackalope is a fierce mythical creature in North American legend.  It is half jackrabbit, half antelope, and all man!  Which is probably why, if they did exist, they all died out.