60PLUS // OPENER
N THIS EDITION of 60PLUS in Omaha Magazine,
we continue the issue’s adventure theme.
For those who don’t know, I was married to Mr. Adventure—Raymond Lemke. He sometimes lived on the edge. Or he just flew over it. In fact, he flew a paraplane (which looks sort of like a riding lawnmower with a parachute sail) out of the old South Omaha Airport. Raymond and some friends owned a single-engine airplane. He later built his own airplane, which he started in the finished basement of our home. Before it became too big, he had to move it to the detached two-car garage and eventually the driveway. Once, in the ’70s, the two of us were flying in his single-engine plane to a meeting when we encountered a lightning storm. The bad weather forced our landing in a Kansas cornfield. The farmer told us we could leave the plane there and recommended a boardinghouse in town (there were no hotels). He gave us a ride to town and we spent the night. The next morning, we got a ride to the plane and flew onward. And, of course, there were plenty of road trips. He and his closest male friends would fly their plane or drive on these excursions. All of them were type-A personalities, and I can imagine the butting of heads. I did hear one story of one of the friends driving too slow: Everyone in the car was complaining, so he stopped, got out of the car, and gave the keys to someone else. Every summer, Raymond took our sons on an adventure “guys-only” trip. Their stories are now legendary in the family. He once took the three oldest boys, ranging in age from 10 to 13 years old (our fourth was a toddler), to the Canadian wilderness on a backwoods canoe trip in 1970. In my memory, the boys’ backpacks were bigger than they were. Yet they were portaging their own canoe and camping far from civilization. The youngest of these Lemke explorers was in charge of defending supplies from bears when the others were transporting the canoe—and a bear appeared. Needless to say, being the mother for such a rambunctious bunch was an adventure in itself.
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ACTIVE LIVING // STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROD HOWE // DESIGN BY MATT WIECZOREK
A Guide to Cycling [and Drinking]
Across Central Nebraska I
T BEGAN AS a simple adventure concocted
by four bicycling buddies to explore local byways on two wheels and sample good beer from the state’s burgeoning craft brewery landscape. Four days later, they dubbed their adventure the First Annual Beermuda Triangle ride. On a Thursday in mid-October, a pickup truck drove the thirsty explorers to their first destination—Bootleg Brewers—on a rambling Sandhills road eight miles northwest of Taylor, Nebraska. Behind the wheel was retired Union Pacific railroad engineer George Evans, 66, hauling retired USDA appraisal specialist Randy Darling, 67 (both of North Platte), Holdrege hairdresser Tim Rehm, 58, Grand Island CPA Mike Swanson, 57, and their four bicycles in the back of the truck. Rest assured, drinking and driving (or riding) was not on the agenda. These veterans of Bike Ride Across Nebraska, The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, and myriad other long-haul trips have more than 20 years of experience responsibly sharing back roads and highway shoulders with automotive traffic. Once the bikes are parked and secured, another story unfolds. Ensuing evenings of mug curling have more than once resulted in a slow start to the morning-after ride. “The idea came from Mike and I, not sure when,” Rehm says. “I guess we had both been to at least Scratchtown [Brewery] and Kinkaider [Brewery] and got to thinking originally about a self-contained trip [where bicyclists do not require a support team and carry their own camping gear, if necessary], but chose to do a credit card tour with lodging each night. At times we talked about including Kearney [Thunderhead Brewery] and Grand Island [Prairie Pride Brewery], but time and calendar constraints eventually determined how many breweries.”
Thus, the first leg of their craft beer tasting began at Bootleg Brewery’s idyllic setting. Imagine a brewery ranch materializing in the middle of the grasslands—a beer oasis. Conveniently, the cyclists reserved one of several cabins situated on the premises to crash.
“I am not sure how many organized tours we have done together, but several BRANs, RAGBRAIs, and Pedaler’s Jamboree in Missouri,” Darling says. “We have also done several self-organized rides, which I actually enjoy more.”
“Bootlegger was good because of the on-site cabins, so over-indulgence was not a problem,” Darling says. “We also enjoyed their patio at the end of the tour.”
On day three, a 49-mile ride against fierce headwinds through roller-coaster hills took them to the Kinkaider Brewery Co. just north of Broken Bow.
Owners Ron and Dodie Worm were very accommodating.
“On the third day we encountered some strong winds between Ord and Broken Bow, which challenged this aging group,” Rehm says.
“Ron was a good guy,” Swanson says. “He allowed me to ride my fat tire bike in the pasture, plus he found my water bottle that bounced off the bike. The quiet in that pasture was amazing.” On day two, a 39-mile ride through the rolling hills took them to Scratchtown Brewery in downtown Ord. The cyclists took time off their saddles to explore the town square on foot. “We had a fun, extended happy hour with some of the locals who invited us to join them in the street-side beer garden,” Rehm says. “We toured the Standard station with some members of the local hot rod club, and before we knew it they were treating us to pizza as well. Some late-night shenanigans resulted in a visit from the Valley County sheriff; some of us were glad to get out of Valley County Saturday morning.” Shenanigans, scenic rides, and opportunistic acquisitions have accompanied this fearsome foursome for many years.
On day four, the fearsome foursome closed the loop 47 miles later, returning to Bootleg Brewers’ patio for a trip-ending happy hour. Of the hundreds of bike trips Darling has embarked on with these friends and others, he ranks the Beermuda Triangle Tour near the top. “I would rate our Beermuda Triangle Tour as one of our most fun,” he says. “We had good weather, good roads, moderate mileage, and good beer.” Swanson also enjoyed the experience: “Our timing was incredible,” he says. “Despite being windy, the temperature for October was great. Microbreweries make a great finish to a day’s journey. As the industry grows in Nebraska, I hope the communities that are home to the breweries reach out to travelers of all kinds to enjoy. Our next trip visiting breweries could take us to eastern Nebraska in an urban setting or even here in central Nebraska. Who knows? Anyone can do a tour. Just pick a few destinations and peddle on.”
Darling, whose cyclist handle is “Ranger,” has been riding the highways for “at least 30 years” with Evans, 10 to 15 years with Rehm, and on several occasions over the years with Swanson.
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// ACTIVE LIVING //
From left: Randy Darling, George Evans, Mike Swanson, and Tim Rehm
These veterans of countless BRANs, RAGRAIs, and a myriad other long-haul trips have more than 20 years of experience responsibly sharing back roads and highway shoulders with automotive traffic.
Brewery Highlights Bootleg Brewers, Sandhills Brewing Co. Rehm: “I got lost on my way and missed my turn on [Highway] 183 and ended up in Loup City, so I had to do a little gravel travel to catch up to the boys. Although the others had a head start, there was still a lot of fun to be had. I think by night’s end, Mike had his bike in the taproom. I was amazed at the considerable investment made at Bootleggers; it’s a beautiful spot.”
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Scratchtown Brewing Co. Kinkaider Brewing Co. Darling: “Scratchtown was a pleasant surprise for me. They are a small brewery, and the beer exceeded my expectations. The locals were friendly. We nearly had too much fun and narrowly avoided trouble with the county sheriff.” Swanson: “The locals we shared beer with and the stop at the high school football game were memorable.”
Darling: “Broken Bow is a pleasant rural town with all the services we needed in addition to Kinkaider Brewing. The Arrow Hotel provided a nice evening meal.” Rehm: “It’s always fun to be there as we have gotten acquainted with the ownership in previous stops. It was probably our shortest happy hour of the trip as it had been a long, windy day. We had a great meal at the Bonfire Grill in the historic Arrow Hotel in downtown Broken Bow.”
A windmill stands near the road to Bootleg Brewers on the brewery property.
// ACTIVE LIVING //
Bootleg Brewers, Sandhills Brewing Co. 45145 829th Road, Taylor, NE 68879 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tues.-Sun. (winter hours vary) 308.942.3440 bootlegbrewers.com Nestled on 40 acres of ranchland in the Sandhills, Bootleg Brewers is a small brewery that fulfills a dream of longtime home brewer Ron Worm. In fact, its flagship beer, “Cling On,” was born in his basement 17 years ago. As the brewery’s website details in its background story: “Out of this passion for brewing, Ron created an all-grain brew system in the basement of their home out of common household items. With a little ingenuity, he went on to work on creating a session beer he loved. From that hard work, Cling On was created. Cling On got its name because of the large amount of grains required to make this tasty brew, which also increases the ABV to about 7%. Easy drinking and high in alcohol can sneak up on you and before you know it, you are looking for something or someone to ‘Cling On’ to. Sorry, Star Trek fans, no relation here.” The brewmaster garnered a reputation for sharing beer and advice with fellow homebrewers. In turn, he started his own brew club in 2001 called Bootleg Brewers. Finally, on May 17, 2016, Bootleg Brewers became a licensed brewery, the first to be officially established in Nebraska’s picturesque Sandhills region. Owners: The family-owned brewery is operated by Ron and Dodie Worm (husband and wife) with support from daughter Jody Worm. Ron is head brewer and Dodie cooks and manages the kitchen staff. Other family members manage the bar and sales. Facilities: The brewery features a two-tiered beer garden; full kitchen with extensive menu; main taproom; cabins (four eight-person cabins at $175 per night and one six-person cabin at $150 per night). Beers on tap (as of March 2018): • Cling On (session wheat), ABV 6% • Sandhills Ale (cream style), ABV 4.7% • Ass Blaster (jalapeño spiced/herbed), ABV 5.9% • Horned Hereford (Irish red ale), ABV 4.4% • Hoppy Homesteader (IPA), ABV 5.4% • Naked Orange Stinger (spiced/herbed), ABV 5.4% • Muddy Duck (English brown ale), ABV 5.7% • I.E. Oatmeal Stout (stout), ABV 6.5% • 2nd Run (amber wheat ale), ABV 6.8% • Toasted Wheat (wheat ale), ABV 5.3% // 94 //
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Scratchtown Brewing Co.
Kinkaider Brewing Co.
141 South 16th St., Ord, NE 68862 4-10 p.m. Thurs. and Fri.; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat. 308.728.5050 scratchtown.beer
43860 Paulsen Road, Broken Bow, NE 68822 4-10 p.m. Tues.-Thurs.; 4-11 p.m. Fri.; and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat. 308.872.8348 kinkaiderbrewing.com
Located in the heart of downtown Ord, Scratchtown has made this quaint village a craft beer destination from its start in 2013. Its American imperial porter, called “Black Eye,” claimed the gold medal at the U.S. Beer Open Championship in 2015. Scratchtown derives its name from the town namesake, Gen. Edward Ord, who remarked that swarms of mosquitos irritated his crew, prompting a lot of “scratching.” The brewery boasts that its beers are made with the purest water in the United States, drawing from the Ogallala Aquifer. Although the owners initially founded the brewery on the notion that they could draw tourists in from nearby lakes and rivers, Jade Stunkel, one of the owners, was pleasantly surprised at the number of customers who are making the trek to Ord simply to drink good craft brew. “The other day, a busload of 40 to 50 people came in from Grand Island,” he says. “They were stopping at two or three breweries and sampling a lot of beer. In November we are expecting another group.” Plain and simple, craft brew lovers know their way to Scratchtown. Owners: Mike Klimek, Caleb Pollard, Jade Stunkel, and Shay Reilly. Facilities: Taproom, bar, and beer garden. Events: Scratchtoberfest in October, The Darkest Day in winter, and other seasonal events (often to benefit philanthropic causes). The Darkest Day event is held the Saturday closest to Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, and features 10 to 11 of their dark brews. Beers on tap (as of March 2018): • Sideburns’ (milk stout), ABV 4.3% • MMR (brown ale), ABV 5.5% • Wonder Twins (double IPA), ABV 7.9% • I Don’t Get It (honey blonde ale), ABV 5.4% • Big Joe (Pilsner), ABV 4.7% • Nugglehead (Nebraska pale ale), ABV 5.2% • (Bottle only) Barrel-Aged Lord of Ord (imperial oatmeal stout), ABV 12.9% • (Bottle only) Barrel-Aged Shay’s Calling (doppelbock), ABV 9.2%
Located one mile north of Broken Bow, the brewery is named after the Kinkaid Act of 1904, legislation that increased the 160-acre land allotment of the Homestead Act to 640 acres in 37 northwestern Nebraska counties. The brewery sits on Fox Farms’ land, owned by Barry Fox. Kinkaider Brewery opened its doors in 2014. Highlights for Kinkaider include being the first brewery in Nebraska to offer crowlers (32-ounce, fill-at-the-bar aluminum cans) and local ingredients, such as pumpkins, honey, apples, and jalapeños grown on the farm. Crossover beers—some people call them “entry-level” or “gateway” beers for novice craft brew drinkers—are a hit with Kinkaider customers. Big sellers in this category are “Dan the Wiser Kolsch” and “Herd Law Honey Wheat.” “Dan the Wiser [named for the brewmaster Dan Hodges] is their introductory beer,” says Thomas Cooper, assistant brewmaster. “Noncraft beer drinkers are like, ‘Oh, that’s pretty good.’ There was a lady in here the other day who asked for Bud Light, and I believe Cody told her we only serve American beers here. She was like, ‘What do you mean?’ We told her Busch is now owned by InBev, a Belgium company. She was absolutely floored. She walked out with a case of Dan the Wiser.” Kinkaider has bottled a dozen or so of its beers. The brewery always has 12 craft brews on tap. Owners: Nate Bell, Cody Schmick, Dan Hodges, and Barry Fox. Facilities: Taproom, bar, restaurant, beer garden patio, and indoor event center. Beers on tap (as of March 2018): • Dan the Wiser (Kölsch), ABV 4.3% • Hiram’s Bones (porter), ABV 4.5% • Herd Law Honey Wheat (American wheat pale ale), ABV 4.8% • Stick’em (altbier), ABV 5.8% • 4-County Pale Ale (American pale ale), ABV 5.5% • Hopalong Cassidy (American pale ale), ABV 4.8%
• Smoked Alt (smoked beer), ABV 6.4% • Story Horse Irish Red (Irish red ale), ABV 5.2% • Nitro Oatmeal Stout (oatmeal stout), ABV 6.3% • Snozzberry (sour), ABV 5.9% • Snow Beast Winter Ale (winter ale), ABV 7% • Devil’s Gap Jalapeño (spiced/herbed), ABV 4.7% • Claimstaker (Irish stout), ABV 5.4% • KBC Champion (cream ale), ABV 4.2%
About the author: Rod Howe, 63, taught journalism at Westside High School for 23 years in Omaha. He retired in 2013. Although not a bicycle rider, he loves craft beer and country roads. In the summer of 2016, at a weekend gathering in North Platte at the home of Randy Darling (his brother-inlaw), Howe became intrigued by the friends’ plans to embark on the brewery and bicycle ride in the fall. Thus, he conspired with the riders to follow them via automobile with camera, notebook, and tape recorder in October 2016. Cyclist ages noted in the article reflect ages at the time of the ride.
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PASSION // STORY BY DAISY HUTZELL-RODMAN // PHOTOGRAPHY BY BILL SITZMANN // DESIGN BY MATT WIECZOREK
The Rambling and Rhyming , of Frank O’Neal RANK S. O’NEAL published his first
book of poetry in 2010 at age 62. In 2017, the Nebraska Arts Council exhibited his surrealist poetry video (a collaboration between the scribe and cinematographer Jason Fischer) for O’Neal’s poem “I Do Not Use The N-Word.” The African-American wordsmith uses his craft to actualize activism as a historian and North Omaha resident. The versifier is also a voyager: “Had I not traveled, I would not be able to write,” O’Neal says. He started globetrotting in 1968 when he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. He trained in the medical field and traveled with the Icebreaker Support Section. The seafarer sailed across the North Pole and the South Pole. During the return journey from his cruise to the Antarctic, he and his fellow Coast Guard members were pleased to learn that they would be coming through Rio de Janeiro during the famed Carnival—but Lady Luck was not on their side that night. “We had to wait,” O’Neal says. “The last night of Carnival, we were sitting there, in Rio, waiting on a ship. By the time we got ashore—it was over. We got them back, though. My commander had us stay there three extra days.” After his discharge from the Coast Guard in 1974, he worked for Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as an industrial paramedic driving an ambulance from the work sites when an injury or accident was reported. O’Neal relocated to Omaha in 1978, but not for long. In 1980, he traveled with his thengirlfriend to Dallas, Texas. “I figured it was a good opportunity,” the lighthearted lyricist says. He found a job with a hospital, and in 1983, he switched careers and began to work in communications installation for Motorola.
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He also began to rework himself into a rhapsodist. At age 35, O’Neal began to write as a way to reflect on his experiences. He’d been in and out of relationships, of homes, of cities, and he saw a world that engaged and perplexed him. “I think he’s a talented writer. He writes with honesty, authenticity, and courage,” says Lisa Pelto, president of Concierge Marketing Inc., the company that has published his books. In 1990 O’Neal switched from a salaried employee to a contract position at Motorola. After the corporation secured a contract to provide a mobile-communications network in Kuwait, O’Neal joined the team arriving in Kuwait City one week after the U.S.-led military liberation of the Persian Gulf state in early 1991. “We went through Kuwait…seeing all the broke-down cars, all the tanks, fires,” O’Neal says with a shake of his head. “I thought I was in hell.” In a scrapbook filled with mementos, a fiery mushroom cloud rises over an oil field on the first page. Other photos in the book show the newly liberated city at its worst…and best. “That was an experience I needed to have as far as the circle of life,” O’Neal says. “The beauty of working overseas was being able to hear stories from people in other countries.” During his time in Kuwait, he toiled 12-hour days, setting up the infrastructure to put in a computerized communications system for oil wells. It was a grueling job, but one O’Neal worked with his signature confidence, and not much sleep. O’Neal’s time in Kuwait enabled him to float further. In 1993, he traveled to Jamaica to be part of the crew creating the infrastructure for a new communications system. He waxes poetic about embracing the culture, and he picked up the Jamaican patois language within a couple of months.
“It was beautiful being on the island for that long,” O’Neal says. “You can take seeds of any kind, and within the germination period the plant will grow. I’ve never seen soil so fertile.” He now considers Jamaica his second home. He contentedly adventured through the U.S. on communications assignments until 2006, when he returned to Omaha to help his ailing parents. He spent time with his father, Frank Seavron O’Neal, in the last three weeks of his father’s life gathering family history, listening to stories he never heard before…and garnering advice that would impact his life. “Frank Sandy, finish it,” he says, recalling his father’s advice (both men had the middle initial “S.”). O’Neal had shown his father a collection of poems that would eventually appear in his first book of poetry. He took his father’s advice. Three years later, O’Neal’s first book came out in print, and he began reading at poetry engagements, meandering the Omaha metro. He has assembled four anthologies, is regularly petitioned to perform, and he could not be happier. “He has a voice that is worth listening to,” says Pelto, his publisher who is white. “Initially, when I read the poems, I thought it was a good peek into the life of a black man.” Each step of O’Neal’s story reads like a chapter in a book. “This has been a beautiful journey,” he says. “I enjoy my life to the fullest, because every bit of my life has had a purpose and a meaning to it.” Visit Frank O’Neal’s Facebook page, @franksoneal, for more information.
e r d i n n gs a w
of a Wordsmith
FAITH // STORY BY NATALIE SCHNEIDER BROOKS // PHOTOGRAPHY BY BILL SITZMANN // DESIGN BY MATT WIECZOREK
LEPROSY, COMMUNIST REVOLUTIONARIES, AND A GUN TO HER BACK Barbara Entz’s Missionary Path to Africa and Back
Entz’s family moved to Omaha after a blind evangelist from the city, J.J. Esau, told her father to become a minister. Esau was in public relations with the nondenominational Grace Bible Institute when he inspired the Entz family to relocate from New Port, Washington. N 1948, BARBARA
After the attack, in 1976, the Entz family left Ethiopia. Paul and Barbara moved first to Nigeria and then to Kenya (in 1979) to create radio programs, broadcasting the Bible back to Ethiopia. The married missionaries had five children, several of whom were born in Africa. In 1992, they returned to a more stable Ethiopia before finally retiring to Omaha in 1996.
After graduating from Central High School, Barbara attended what would later become Grace University, where she met her husband, Paul. Their shared calling to the missionary field propelled them across the ocean to Ethiopia in September 1957. Education was important for Barbara during her time in Africa. She educated local women at her home, and she taught at an elementary school. Shortly after arriving in Ethiopia, Paul and Barbara were placed in charge of a leprosarium. Barbara explains, “When we came, we said, ‘There’s no need for some of these to be here a lifetime. Let’s make a two-year program.’” During the two years of the program designed by the young couple, patients would work and receive an education before returning to their communities. The former leprosy patients were no longer outcasts; their education transformed them into respected teachers.
trouble.” As she pushed the gun away, it went off, and 33 shotgun pellets found their way into Barbara’s back. Miraculously, none of them hit her spinal column or any organs.
I saw these men with the guns right in my face. Two thoughts came to my mind: get that gun out of my face and let somebody know you’re in trouble.
However, not everyone was receptive to outsiders. The communist movement in Ethiopia soon took advantage of widespread famine to spark outrage against the government and foreign visitors. “That’s when they began talking about Americans,” Barbara explains, “[They were saying] ‘Yankees go home!’ And teachers [at] the schools were being accused of things.”
Because of the rising tensions, the Entzes moved to another town to help with famine relief efforts. Even then, they weren’t safe. Emperor Haile Selassie was assassinated and the transition to a communist government began. One night, Barbara went outside with her two daughters. She remembers vividly, “I saw these men with the guns right in my face. Two thoughts came to my mind: get that gun out of my face and let somebody know you’re in
In Omaha, Barbara remains dedicated to improving the community around her. She’s helped immigrants learn English and founded the International Women’s Club to create a new community for foreign women. Hadeel Haidar (originally from Iraq) describes the support the club provides: “One of the ladies here, she’s from Egypt, and she was delivering a baby. Two of those ladies went to the hospital and spent the night with her because she doesn’t have a family.” Barbara doesn’t seek praise or recognition to motivate her community work. “I don’t need an article about me to give me selfworth; I have that in my status with God. I have such a great family and their love, and so many friends of all nationalities—I am content and happy with my life.”
Her living room is a museum of items showcasing her past: metal crosses on the wall, photo albums, carved wooden statues of African animals, and mugs printed with religious art and Ethiopia’s Amharic alphabet. She may have left Africa, but her lifelong mission to help others remains active. Omaha International Women’s Club meets every other Thursday, usually at The Bible Church (9001 Q St.), 9:30 a.m. to noon. The organization also maintains a Facebook page.
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My Summer Adventure of ‘72...
// NOSTALGIA // STORY BY RONALD AHRENS PHOTOGRAPHY PROVIDED BY DURHAM MUSEUM // DESIGN & ILLUSTRATION BY MATT WIECZOREK
GUEST-STARRING AT OMAHA’S FIRST DRIVE-IN 60PLUS
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of 1972, I discovered the power of a f lashlight with an orange wand. N THE SUMMER
Nobody had ever paid attention to me—an undersized 16-year-old—until I worked at the 76th & West Dodge Drive-In and accepted that mighty Eveready-powered scepter. Cars went where I pointed. Sneakins crawling out of trunks trembled in the beam and then marched to the box office to buy tickets. The wallop of authority was mine, at $1.35 per hour, ushering at Omaha’s first drive-in theater. The manager, Gil, and assistant, Sam (fresh from the Navy in San Diego and owner of a new Nova), ran the joint. It had opened in 1948. That was 15 years after the first drivein theater opened in Camden, New Jersey. The enticement for Omahans (as a local newspaper ad claimed) was privacy and comfort. “Smoke, talk, take refreshments, all without disturbing others!” Adults paid 60 cents, kiddos were free, and no need to rub against all those germy people in a proper theater. Other drive-ins would follow: the Sky View near 72nd Street and Military Avenue, the Golden Spike at 114th Street and West Dodge Road, and the Q Twin at 108th and Q streets. Besides the glory of receiving my first paychecks, it was a summer of warm nights and hot snack-bar girls. I was smitten with the shy blonde from Papillion. As I remember, she was the projectionist’s daughter. He toiled with those reels as a second job, getting by on little sleep. The box office ladies were earning a little extra for their families, too. The brunette who completed the snack bar staff returned with her boyfriend on a night off, and their Pinto hatchback with wide rear glass let them display their passions.
I reported for work at 6 p.m. Right away one evening, still new at the job, I was asked to replace the bulb in one of the tower flood lamps. The screen tower had its own self-supporting internal structure and was enclosed, providing shelter for the many pigeons that roosted inside, coming and going through an unknown opening. Carrying a large new bulb during the long climb up the internal ladder, I emerged through a hatch onto the narrow roof and had the unprecedented experience of being untethered and confident above the city. When a couple of early-arriving patrons honked in acknowledgment, it was my first starring role. Catching sneak-ins before showtime was important and returned several times my hourly pay. Obscured by a tree limb, I sat waiting atop the back fence. Cars drove right up to that point; the driver got out and opened the trunk; and one, two, or three people climbed out. Before they could even take a step, I vaulted off the fence, shook my scepter, and exclaimed, “You’re gonna have to pay!” Seeing grown-ups quiver was gratifying. One Carter Lake motorcycle gang-type wasn’t impressed, though. He snatched away my scepter and chucked it, the beam rotating on its own axis, clear to the snack bar’s roof. Then he walked through the theater and got into a car four rows from the front, near the lot’s exit. Gil called the cops, but the subjects drove away too soon. One night my friend John Fulmer was visiting to see how I ruled over the place. After dark, we got some action when two kids came flying over the east fence. I chased them back over, and with no firm plan in mind, pursued full speed beyond the property into an open field until one of the pursued turned midstride and delivered a shot
of pepper spray. For some reason, before fumbling them, I’d been holding onto the keys to John’s blue Malibu. I made it back to the snack bar, where sympathetic Gil oversaw my eye-washing. Meanwhile, John put on his X-ray specs and found the keys. The B-movies shown that summer were instructive. Reflecting Sartre’s ill effect on cinema, Vanishing Point gave us existential hero Kowalski in a cross-country chase movie. Star actor Barry Newman was a second-rate Steve McQueen, but the Dodge Challenger excelled in its role. And making for an even better movie, a naked hippie girl rode a Honda! The chase ended when Kowalski crashed the Challenger into a Nevada roadblock, and the audience understood that life is meaningless. The plot creaked like the screen tower’s structure in the wind. No matter, though, the movie achieved masterpiece status by holding over a second big week. Popcorn sales kept the snack-bar girls humming. At my hiring, no one had mentioned cleanup duties. After getting home around 2 a.m. on weekend triple-feature nights, I was expected back at 8 a.m. to poke around with a steel spike on a long shaft and fill trash bags. Patrons left everything on the ground but their acne. Besides snack bar purchases, they dumped ashtrays, beer cans, diapers, and to limit future diapers, family planning measures. Old South Omaha Joe, the wizened authority of theater cleanup, soloed on weekdays. Come the weekend, three of us split up the lot. In his 70s—I couldn’t believe such a fossil could still work— Joe and his spiked-stick covered about three or four times my territory. Sunday mornings were the worst, and the closer to noon, the more putrid it all was.
NOBODY HAD EVER PAID ATTENTION TO ME... UNTIL I... ACCEPTED THAT MIGHTY EVEREADY-POWERED SCEPTER. 60PLUS
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The 76th & West Dodge Drive-In in the 1960s
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For every tree-worth of paper we use printing OMAHA MAGAZINE.
IN THE NEXT YEAR ALONE, THIS INTERNATIONAL PrintReleaf certified partner. PROGRAM WILL ALLOW US TO BE RESPONSIBLE Please recycle your used magazines. FOR THE PLANTING OF ALMOST 11,096 SAPLINGS AROUND THE GLOBE.
When we took a fresh-air break inside the snack bar, indefatigable Joe capered around to the tunes of the Big Joe Polka Show.
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CFC# 81534 // 102 //
60PLUS • MAY/JUNE 2018
Changing the marquee was a Thursdaynight ritual. Our big sign sat on a steel structure near the street. Two of us climbed up with boxes of plastic letters that snapped into metal tracks, and we concentrated on our spelling despite the din of honking horns. Besides Vanishing Point, Omahans had a taste for material that derived from another French writer, de Sade. In their service came my introduction to porn. Women-in-prison films—“Soft young girls behind hard prison bars”—were nearly mainstream in those days. I thought about reminding Gil that I wasn’t old enough to see R-rated movies, then got a grip and entered the sordid world of Roger Corman, starring Pam Grier. My parents had no idea! Gil and Sam had been awfully nice, so I felt bad about putting down my scepter and going back to school. The lessons from that summer—handling large mowers, directing traffic, kicking ass, and not being a glutton
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for free popcorn—stayed with me. I can say that I never misused my authority, getting too bossy or smart when marching detainees to the box office or pranking patrons by faking police sirens in their moment of ecstasy.
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The 76th & West Dodge Drive-In closed in 1983, and retail space occupied the site. Until the other day, I thought drive-in theaters were passé. Then Elon Musk said he wants one at a Tesla charging location in Los Angeles. The outdoor screen would display “a highlight reel of the best scenes in movie history,” Musk tweeted. I presume that among them we would not find any from Women in Cages. But Musk should think hard about the likelihood of Tesla owners being the only people on earth who don’t litter. Just wait. They’ll open their gull-wing doors and throw out herbal tea bags and energy bar wrappers like other humans. And another point: providential managers like Gil and Sam, hot snackbar girls like the Papio Blonde, and a quick man with a stick like South Omaha Joe are hard to find. An usher with some attitude is good to have around, too.
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SHORT-TERM REHABILITATION | SKILLED NURSING
SECTION // NAMES
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Always Local, Always Beautiful // 104 //
60PLUS • MAY/JUNE 2018
The Beermuda Triangle. The Rambling and Rhyming of Frank O'Neal. Leprosy, Communist Revolutionaries, and Gun to her back - Barbara Entz. Sum...
Published on Apr 17, 2018
The Beermuda Triangle. The Rambling and Rhyming of Frank O'Neal. Leprosy, Communist Revolutionaries, and Gun to her back - Barbara Entz. Sum...