A Norman Rockwell Kind of Place

May 9. A friend had just finished reading my last blog about Greenburg and our soda jerk Dick Huckriede, when she saw him being interviewed on television. She said he looked fine and promised to open the soda fountain again. What a relief. Looks like we’ll have to find our way back to Greenburg in a couple of years: I think I’ll have a plain chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream, and take another picture of Dick. I’ll be sure and print up the pictures of the old place for him.

I’m not one of those people who would want to rebuild in Greenburg or New Orleans. The world is full of places I could be happy. The idea you can recreate a way of life seems overly optimistic to me. Perhaps people want to rebuild because the idea of starting anew, among strangers, is even more daunting.

I’m not sure I understand their pride in the big hole in the ground they call their tourist attraction. We leaned Zippy against the big well, looked past the protective mesh, saw a glint of light from the sky, and … that was it, a big round hole in the ground.

Now Dick’s soda fountain was a worthy attraction, a Norman Rockwell tableau where kids stopped in after school to order a suicide, dangle their legs off the stool, maybe stick their worn out chewing gum under the bar.

Greenburg Kansas Connection

May 5, 2007 We are still in Southeast Arizona, but our hearts are in Greenburg, Kansas today.
Several years ago, Claire and I took a Zippy tour (our tandem) of Southern Kansas, seeking out traditional drug store soda fountains: you gotta have some kind of excuse to take a bicycle loaded with 80 pounds of gear and ride in an obscure corner of the great plains. One afternoon, we leaned Zippy against the window of Hunter Drug in Greenburg, drawn by rumor of a great old-fashioned soda fountain. What we found was our favorite of the scores of traditional fountains we visited across Mid America. All the fixtures were original, the cabinets all had original rippled glass, the booths backed by rippled mirrors, and the soda jerk could make every possible ice cream and soda delight popular over the past 50 years or more.

Hunter Drug, 121 S Main St., Greenburg, Kansas, Summer 2003

Dick Huckriede had been the soda jerk at Hunter Drug for 50 years. That’s right 50 years. We felt honored just to be served by him. He shared secrets of a great Green River and the proper wrist action to “jerk” the soda handle, just right, into the tapered glasses. We spend an hour or so with Dick. He was a quiet man, but his eyes twinkled, and a smile found the corner of his mouth, when he figured out that our interest was genuine, our enthusiasm real.

We rode off, full bellies, heads filled with new soda jerk knowledge and our love of soda fountains deepened. Claire has published several stories on soda fountains and several of them have used one of my photos of Dick.

May 6. I guess Greenburg was 95% destroyed. We have been trying to call Hunter Drug for two days; got a busy signal all day yesterday, it rang today, but no answer or machine. Who knows? Those soda fountain pictures might be precious to that town one of these days. If anyone can help me get through the chaos, I’d appreciate it. I think they might like copies one of these days.