Soapsuds Hollow: City property includes memories
June 11. 2013 4:04PM
The Tribune recently reported that the Dell Rapids City Council is considering the option of selling some of its property. One of the properties mentioned is the land and buildings along the river, across from Rickeman Field to the north.
The City once had a "gas plant" there, and the City provided natural gas to local businesses and residents. That building is long gone now, but a large storage building remains, as well as the "warming house."
Back in the 1970's, the high school classes spent a great deal of time and effort building floats for the homecoming parade. A garage would be located for the flatbed hay wagon, and work would begin each evening. Chicken wire would be attached as a skirting, and then stuffed with napkins and adorned with colorful lettering and signs. The top would then be decorated to reflect the theme of the parade. Each class would build a float, and it was important to find a garage which could be locked to safeguard the float from sabotage.
Our class used the old gas plant one year, as it contained a large shop with a garage door. I distinctly remember this particular year because I put a staple through one of my fingertips with a staple gun as I was attaching the chicken wire to the flatbed. I believe it was Dan Wildermuth who quickly came to my rescue, yanking the staple free. As Coach Mike Stadem would say, "It's a long way from your heart."
The stone building on the riverbank at this property was used as a "warming house" for ice skaters. In those days, skaters used the frozen Big Sioux River, and the City would clear the snow from the ice. Herman Kroger worked inside the warming house, assisting kids with lacing up their skates, and he also kept an old stove stoked with coal and wood to keep us warm. If there wasn't much snow on the ice outside of the cleared area, one could skate all the way to the old bath house at the east end of the City Park. As a grade school kid who was lucky to navigate without breaking a bone, it amazed me to see the older kids show off their talents. Kathy Fields and Roxie Unger could skate backwards, which left us awestruck.
Prior to the days of electric refrigerators, ice was cut from the river for use in ice boxes. Before it was the "warming house," that little quartzite building was used for ice storage. The ice would be cut with large, long saws, and then packed into the building with straw, insulating the ice so that it could last into the summer months. When Mike and Jeannine Park bought their house on 5th Street, the small access door outside on the kitchen wall still remained, ready to accept the ice delivery.
Things have certainly changed. Today, kids have to be older than 16 before they can use a knife on the job at a restaurant, and probably cannot use a staple gun, either. The high school kids are allowed one or two days to build their float for the homecoming parade, and ice skating is done at your own risk on the river. Refrigerators are equipped with ice makers, and also dispense cold water.
When I see the City employees mowing the grass in the park, I think of Herman and his old tractor with the belly mower and umbrella. I wonder how many skates he laced in his lifetime.