Be alive at 5 in DickinsonIn the summertime, Saturday night was a big night in my little hometown located a stone’s throw from the Montana and Canadian borders.
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
In the summertime, Saturday night was a big night in my little hometown located a stone’s throw from the Montana and Canadian borders. Everyone behind every hill, rock and tumbleweed came to town and parked along Main Street, filled up grocery bags for the week, washed down some dust with sodas or suds, and kicked up their heels at the local dance hall.
By 10 or 11 p.m. the kids were home in bed, except for those dozing in backseats whose parents were stuck to bar stools and most parents would rise early to shine their kid’s shoes because few, if anyone, ever missed church. It was a great time with a real “downtown” focus and apparently a lot of towns in North Dakota were like that, including Dickinson.
I’ve been told of the “good old days” here too when folks got dressed up to go downtown, to the post office and to the store so the entire family could get a new outfit and then go to the Esquire Club, when it was a swanky supper club, or to the Ivanhoe to feast on “the best” lunch buffet with good fresh bread and shop at Woolworths, the Fad, the Shoe Le or Seiferts.
Then malls sprung up everywhere like Canadian thistle in a wheat field and the next thing you know downtowns and that downtown spirit disappeared like the fizz in a popped open bottle of Coke and now so many downtowns are dead. But they don’t have to be.
You see, years ago I lived in Boulder, Colo., and it made their downtown area into an open-air mall by bricking off east/west-running Pearl Street and allowing traffic to flow through on the north/south avenues. It was a brilliant idea and now the people of Boulder hang out there all of the time, day and night all year around and especially on weekends.
I moved from there to Pasadena, Calif., and they essentially had two downtowns with one being a very downtrodden “Old Town Pasadena.” They too rebuilt “Old Town” and tons of retailers and eating places moved in and now there is not a more exciting place to be on almost any day or night but especially on New Year’s Eve, the night before the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football game.
What did it take to do that? Just foresight and elbow grease and Dickinson can do the same thing and there is no better time to start than right now.
By the end of the summer, the jewel and granddaddy of downtown, the Elks Building, will be completed. The American Bank Center, across the street from it, is also a jewel and those two buildings are planting the seed and setting a tempo for development.
You see, it’s important for a city to have a place to come together and to be one. To meet each other, enjoy each other, discuss community issues, tell jokes and laugh.
That’s why a group of people, spearheaded by the Odd Fellows Lodge, have created something called Alive @ 5, a Thursday evening street gathering/get-together that’ll last throughout the summer from 5-7:30 p.m. on First Avenue West, between First Street and Villard.
This get-together, which starts tomorrow, will feature free music, scrumptious food, fine wines and sudsy brews and yet, more importantly, it’ll draw attention to downtown Dickinson and give “them” an opportunity to meet you and me.
And who are “them?” Well, in case you haven’t heard, Dickinson is supposed to double in population in the next decade which means that you are going to have a whole basket full of new neighbors and this kind of thing might be a real opportunity to get to know a few of them because we’re all going to be sharing a community and working together.
Plus Alive @ 5 is a nonprofit idea whose beneficiaries in the end — in addition to you and me — may be students with scholarship support or funds for others who need money if there are a few coins left over.
So get downtown on Thursday night because, as Henry Ford, the creator of Ford Motor Co. said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress and working together is success.”
Holten is a freelance columnist and cartoonist from Dickinson.