Whenever I’m out and about, people ask how my old Keloland News sidekick, Steve Hemmingsen, is doing these days. Well, Steve popped over to the house the other day for a visit. We talked and laughed for a couple hours; mostly about the perils of obesity, our latest travels, (a lot of which involve trips back and forth to the doctor’s office) the news of the day and how its reported and old friends who are dead or dying. Of course, I always encourage Steve to write more and today he sent me a sample of his always interesting prose. He didn’t say I couldn’t or shouldn’t share it with you so for the first time, Lund at Large will have a guest blogger. Take it away, Steve.
I figured it would come to this, the end of an institution.
Sid’s Crown Liquors in downtown Sioux Falls is closing. Sid’s marks the end of an egalitarian era in Sioux Falls when it was s city with no real class distinctions. It was a melting pot. You would see bankers elbow to elbow with street people. People buying cigarettes searching their pockets for that last desperate penny, a coin the same color as the nicotine halo on their fingers. The clerk and the line patiently waiting. Sid himself greeting customers and bouncing some evil doers before they even got through the door, throwing them out on a first name basis.
Sid was one of those World War II army radio school leftovers who found a local girl, Judee, and stayed after the war, this man of the world from New Jersey or someplace. That radio school in its time was quite an attraction, thanks to the WWII draft. Even Phil Graham who later ran the Washington Post and was a confidant of LBJ passed through when duty called. Sid Epstein was, of course, Jewish which didn’t matter a lot in those days. He hit the till for every charity that came along, Jewish or Christian, probably even Muslim. Once during one of those Middle East flare-ups, Sid told me: “We should just stay out of it. It’s a fight among cousins.” You have to add a New Jersey accent to that to get the effect. He was probably right, but what world power listens to the wisdom of a guy who owns a liquor store.
What brought people to Sid’s was…money. He had the cheapest prices in town, maybe the world. You could always get 10 percent off if you bought a case of wine or whiskey. I was practically a rum runner for friends at the lake. He used to sell side brand beer for less than pop. One of my favorites was something called “Nude Beer.” If you scratched the label, the lady lost her clothing. I never had to pick up one of those bottles on the lawn.
One of my favorite episodes was a Friday night. There used to be a gay bar up Phillips Avenue a block or so from KELO, across the street from the one that’s there now…last I heard, anyway…right across a parking lot from Sid’s. One Friday night after the news I’m stocking up for the lake, waiting in the usual eclectic line. There’s a guy at the front of the line in full drag. The guy next to me says: “Hey, I used to go to school with him…her!” Today, who would notice? Sid’s son-in-law has been running the place since Sid died five years ago, pretty much run out of business by a liquor store on every corner and in every supermarket.
Thanks, Steve. By the way, Steve is returning to his first love, Radio. Well, sort of. He’s started a pod cast on the internet in which he’ll be doing interviews and commentary on a variety of subjects mostly having to do with people and events in and around his beloved Hendricks, Minnesota but I have little doubt he’ll be able to resist the temptation to offer observations and critiques from just about anywhere. The link to his website and first interview is here.
Next week..the story of a Woonsocket, South Dakota farm girl I found out about who became a corporal in the Army during World War II and played a significant role in the D-Day invasion.