written by (Uncle) Dave Engel, LHS 1963, SWCHC Director Emeritus
When I left town, I thought it was for good.
Late summer 50 years ago, in 1967, I abandoned the Rapids paper mill beater room to motor west from River City in a twin-finned baby blue ’59 Pontiac that could easily cruise at 120 mph. Most likely, I was smoking Salems, drinking Coke and lunching on meat loaf sandwiches from Mom.
Pretty much every time I stopped, whether at a relic gas station on old U.S. 30 or at a truck stop on a completed section of Interstate 80, I bought a picture postcard. Images of Rockford, Des Moines and Omaha were sent like homing pigeons back to from where I came, messaging that I was moving alone across the massive mid-American terrain toward a quasi-academic future I hoped would not include Viet Nam. If the front of the postcard bore the image of the state capitol and “Greetings from Iowa,” the reverse carried my sentiments, “Goodbye forever.”
I may have slept an hour or two at a wayside. I know I steamed late the next day into a ramshackle service station on the outskirts of Sidney, Neb., where a kindly mechanic not much older than myself somehow found a water pump and installed it by sunset.
Somewhere in the middle of that night, I descended Medicine Bow pass into a dusty former frontier outpost a long ways from the green, green grass of home. The front of the last card from 50-years-ago pictures Wyoming’s Ragtime Cowboy Joe and is inscribed, “Greetings from Laramie.” You know what the back says.
Uncle Dave’s “50 years ago” timeline appeared in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, beginning in 1989 to commemorate 1939’s World War II.