Recently my wife and I traveled by car through the fly-over country, from central Indiana through Illinois and Iowa and up the side of South Dakota to Sioux Falls. It may take longer by car, but you get a feel for not only what the country is like, but what people are alike. Our conclusion is that while the small towns may have changed some, the people are still hard-working, down-to-earth Midwesterners, wherever you go.
In South Dakota we needed to stop for lunch. We could go on toward Sioux Falls, the biggest city in South Dakota, maybe the size of Ft. Wayne, or stop at a smaller town before we got there. A billboard for 'Edgar's Drugs' which featured an old-time soda fountain caught our attention.
The town was so big it even had two exits. Actually, I think one was for another town – Elk Point, S.D., looked about the size of Linton, Ind.
South Dakota is famous for Wall Drug, and while Edgar's Drugs may not have the same draw, it did feature an authentic soda fountain which the store claimed to be the 'best in the state.' We sorted through a few trinkets, figured out you could really get prescription drugs on the other side of the store, but then found out they didn't serve food.
Next door, however, was a small place that said Pace's Restaurant on the door, and claimed it featured steaks and such. It's the kind of place I won't go into unless somebody takes me there. On the way in the door, three guys came out. They assured us the food was done.
We were two of a handful of customers. It was at their lunch hour. A slight older, but friendly lady laid down menus and told us about the special of the day. One side of the menu said pizza.
"Oh, don't order that stuff," she says." We don't really serve pizzas."
What they did serve was a ham steak special for Carla and roast beef special for me with hand-mashed potatoes and all the fixings. While we ate, a guy at the counter talked about where he could get rid of old tires at a cheap price with the waitress, and someone else talked about where he got his deer processed – the kind of talk you here in a small town.
I noticed the name on the menu said Flannery's.
"Oh, they haven't got around to changing the name on the outside yet. Flannerys bought it," the waitress noted. Turns out at noon she was also the cook and bus lady.
"I've worked here and cooked 28 years next month," she says. "I eat here too. The food is good for you."
It was good, too. And outside the town looked like a scene from Hoosiers, virtually untouched by the last few decades. It reminded me of quaint Indiana towns, each with their own heritage, like Otterbein.
Recently someone not familiar with Otterbein, where they double park in the middle of the street and eat at a small Pizza King somewhat like the Pace/Flannery Lounge, asked, "Why do they let you park in the middle of the street here?"
A native answered, "It's just what they do. They've always done it."
That's the way small towns are. Isn't it good to know a part of our heritage remains?