Late 1931. Dorothy and Ted Hustead along with four-year-old Bill bought the only drugstore in Wall, South Dakota located on the edge of the Badlands. Business was bad due to the Depression and droughts and the 326 poor residents could not support the store. The Hustead’s gave the business 5 years to recover.
Ted graduated from pharmacy school in 1929, and Dorothy was a teacher. However they wanted their own store and thanks to a $3000,00 legacy from his father, Ted found this one in Wall. The Hustead’s were on a trip in their Model T when they saw the store. Because there was a Catholic Church nearby, it looked like a good place to settle down – even if it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. Their extended family thought they had ‘lost it’ but after lengthy prayer everyone decided it was a good move.
Near the 5-year business mark, Dorothy awoke from an extremely hot Sunday afternoon nap with a super idea. She exclaimed that the drivers on the highway must be hot and dusty, so why not put up signs offering ‘Free Ice Water”. It was frustrating to see all the cars by-passing their store en route to Mount Rushmore.
Before the signs were up, business was booming – for the Free water but also for sales of ice cream and other items. Obviously the signs worked because the rush continued for many hours. At days end in the summer twilight, Wall looked radiant – a perfect place to call home.
“Get a soda . . . Get a root beer . . . turn next corner . . . Just as near . . . To Highway 16 & 14. . . Free Ice Water. . . Wall Drug.”
To this day Wall Drugs gives away Free ice water, but now they have an enormous 76000 square foot western wonderland store, a huge restaurant, gift shops etc.; 20,000 people stop to visit on a hot summer day. Pictures and more of the story