Since becoming the publisher of the Moore County News-Press, I’ve tried to take a little time each week to unclutter our building a little. It’s amazing how much stuff is accumulated when you’ve been in business for 90-plus years. I’ve come across a lot of things that end up in good old “File 13” while other things receive a much different fate.
Whether it is contacting someone I recognize in an old photo so they can preserve a memory or simply digging through an old box in the closet to see what stays and what goes to the trash… it is a way of giving my mind a brief break from the continuous cycle of thoughts and actions associated with managing your community newspaper.
Just a couple weeks ago, as I sat in a chair in front of the paper shredder mindlessly dropping in a few handfuls of paper, I paused when I came across a thick sheet of glossy paper. Having been in this business long enough to remember the days of “paste up” publishing, I knew it was old advertising material… but this was much more special. It included the original picture used to produce the advertising. I recognized the individual in the photo and reached out to a family member to see if he would like to have it. Of course, he did. It’s a picture of his mother… possibly one he’s never seen before. Maybe he will remember it. Maybe it will be new to him. Either way, it is a keepsake.
Then came a discovery last Friday that sent my mind back in time to my childhood, giving me an opportunity to recall family vacations to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Specifically, it took me back to Flintstones Bedrock City in Custer, South Dakota sometime in the 1980s.
Never in a millions years would I have imagined uncovering something tucked away in a box in a circulation closet at the Moore County News-Press that would bring back such wonderful memories. But I did.
Most people will look at the old red, blue and white pencil cup and wonder why I didn’t throw it away. It’s faded and a little scuffed up. There is an ink stain in one of the corners, but those black and gold stickers on all four sides… they are in great shape. One side features a sticker with Dino. Another has Fred and Wilma Flintstone. The third features Barney Rubble, and the fourth includes Fred, Wilma and their daughter, Pebbles.
I don’t exactly know how old the pencil cup is, but it’s old. The price tag is still attached to the bottom and it reads $1.25. It has to be old, right? Nothing from any tourist attraction in the last two or three decades has been a mere $1.25.
My guess is that it is from around the same time I visited Flintstones Bedrock City as a child. That’s why it is so special. I can still see the 30-acre theme park complete with Fred and Wilma’s house, Barney and Betty’s house. Mr. Slate’s house was also featured, as was the KROK radio station. There was a bank, butcher shop and a real Flinstones car you could take a ride in. Not to mention, there was a giant statue of Dino at the park’s entrance.
Oh, the memories… I truly did have a "Yabba Dabba Doo Time".
It’s a shame the park closed in 2015 and was bulldozed in 2019.
That pencil cup made me think not only about Bedrock City, but about other memories from my South Dakota vacations over the years. There was Reptile Gardens and, my favorite, Marline Life Aquarium, both in Rapid City, South Dakota. Marine Life, like Flintstones Bedrock City, has fallen victim to changing times. It closed in 1997.
Seems like the only things left from my memories of the Black Hills is Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse monument and Reptile Gardens. I remember vividly the faces on Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse being etched into another mountain's face.
Prior to my first visit to South Dakota, I recall hearing my parents saying something was "older than Methuselah". I didn't really know what that meant, but I assumed it was really old. Then, in Rapid City at Reptile Gardens, I met Methuselah. In fact, Methuselah was witness to all three of my visits to Reptile Gardens — two as a child in the 1980s and one as an adult in the early 2000s.
Methuselah, you see, was an old turtle… more appropriately, he was a giant Galapagos Tortoise born on the Galapagos Islands in 1881. By the time he came to South Dakota in December of 1954, he was already an "old man" by human standards. However, he lived to the ripe old age of 130, passing away on July 9, 2011.
It saddens me to think about how parents and grandparents today do not have the same opportunities to visit these great roadside attractions with their kids and grandkids. These places provide the opportunity to create memories that last a lifetime. Just ask the 47-year-old man can't help but smile when he looks at that old red, blue and white pencil box from Flintstones Bedrock City and when he thinks about his old friend, Methuselah.