Soapsuds Hollow: Colorful characters aplenty in Dell Rapids
May 06. 2014 2:08PM
Dell Rapids has a glorious past when it comes to interesting people.
Over the decades, there have always been colorful, quirky, and charismatic characters with whom our daily lives were shared in front of the quartzite facades.
Men and women who called Dell Rapids their home have graced us with their presence.
My memories include the Boyer Brothers thumbing out change, Tom Townley with his bow tie, and Ken "Toby" Tobin tossing pizza in the front window.
Stub Leum was a craftsman who once repaired the front wall at the Rock Garden. The Rock Garden is kitty-corner from Smokey's, and who could forget Smokey Graves? Hazel Joneson was the proprietor of the Dells Hotel after she acquired it from Mayor Harry Tiesen. You might have seen Hazel at Toby's with Tom Townley.
K.T. "Ken" Faris was a local jeweler who also coached basketball. Dad called him "Sarge." Gene Marcher was also called "Sarge," and was also the Mayor. My uncle, Nick Schwebach, Jr., was Mayor, too. He and Gertie once managed the Dells Theatre for John Underwood, once ran the bowling alley in the basement of the former Lewis Drug store building, owned the Laundromat, and ran the electric shop after Grandpa died. Nick had a purple nose, literally, above that moustache.
The Dells Hotel was home to Sonny Neuman, a Korean War veteran who worked at the elevator, served as a volunteer fireman, and was a member of the American Legion. Art Tokheim could let the ash on his cigarette grow to over an inch as he sat at the counter in the Dells Café - while it was in his mouth and as he visited with Walt and Bernice Shelquist. If Art wasn't talking, that ash could reach two inches.
Russell Paulson could always be seen with the newspaper sticking out of his back pocket, and he was always smiling. When we would caravan our bicycles to the Dime Store for baseball cards, Russell would always greet us kindly. He had a unique stroll when he walked, and it is said that he could swim like a fish. Rumor has it that he dove off one of our local bridges once, and didn't come up. As they were dragging the river, he walked up behind them. Some say it was at the trestle, while others claim it was in the Park.
Beth Vogt was our Easter Bunny. I think she was the Easter Bunny for several families in town. Each year, a large basket full of candy would be delivered to our house by that kind soul. She was eccentric, perhaps, but very generous to many people during her lifetime. She sat on the Library Board for years, while her husband, Bill, practiced law downtown. She once pulled up to the pumps at TCOP and beeped her horn at the attendant inside as she sat in her car. A call went out to Mike. "I think some lady wants me to pump her gas," explained the attendant to the owner. Policy is to pump your own gas at the Other Place. "What's she driving?" asked the boss. "An Audi," came the response. "Pump it," directed Mr. Park. He knew whose car it was.
There is one guy who is seen almost daily around town today, and that is Loren Fjellanger. Loren is a nice guy, a hard worker, and I just don't know if the Methodist Church could get along without him. He used to help Shorty Wyland at the horse barn, and Loren likes to follow the cattle market.
One night at Smokey's, when Paul Wildermuth and Tim Wilke were in charge, the thought came to mind of a party in honor of our local characters. It would be a "Come As Your Favorite Dell Rapids Character Party." There was only one catch---the character would have to be deceased. Fair enough, we thought. We haven't had the party yet.
And so, my friends, be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck may be somebody's mother.