Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This Blog Has Been to WALL DRUG

Ted Hustead could be considered the father of "viral marketing," although it certainly wasn't called that in 1936 when he put up signs advertising free ice water to bring in customers to his drug store in remote Wall, SD.

Driving through South Dakota today, there is a Wall Drug billboard every 5 miles or so. Signs and billboards advertising Wall Drug have been observed in such varied locales as Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya, and the North and South Poles. The friendly folks at Wall Drug are happy to hand out free bumper stickers so you too can join in the ad campaign.

It works. I have been seeing Wall Drug bumper stickers since I moved to the Northwest, so of course we had to stop today to see what it was all about. Growing up on the East Coast, I was familiar with the concept. South of the Border, in Dillon, SC, is a giant third world village of a tourist trap designed to separate Florida-bound tourists from their dollars.

We also stopped in Mitchell, SD, home of the "world's only Corn Palace" and Sturgis, SD, site of the infamous biker rally. The Black Hills area of South Dakota is very scenic. It reminds me a bit of the Palouse Range.

Speaking of the Palouse, the West technically begins at the Mississipi, but it really starts when you cross the Missouri. The vast treeless vistas, the tiny remote towns, the tree-covered rocky buttes, and the death-defying aerobatics of cropdusters we saw after crossing the Missouri are all very familiar sights to me now, much more familiar than the East Coast from whence I once hailed and where my daughter is just now coming from. She has been coming to Pullman since she was 11, but she is very anxious to start exploring on her own now as an adult. She has been very impressed so far with the beauty of the West.

Looking at the Missouri from the stern of a recreated Lewis and Clark keelboat.

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