A Trip Down Memory Lane in Sheridan plus Buffalo and Two Mountain Passes
By Bill Sniffin
As readers of this column know, I am no fan of the “new” JC Penney Company.
It is my contention that old James Cash Penney (whose first store was right here in Wyoming, in Kemmerer), is spinning in his grave as how his successors have managed to ruin that company.
But I loved the old Penney’s and I took a trip down memory lane at that company’s long-time store on Main Street of Sheridan recently. There, smack in the heart of the town, is an old-fashioned Penney Store, complete with a basement, a half upstairs and, well, the only edifices missing were the pneumatic tubes sending sales tickets flying around the store.
My first Penney store experience was in Oelwein, Iowa, and it was a scene right out of the movie, A Christmas Story. And that store 60 years ago looked just like the one there in Sheridan today.
Here in Lander, when I first came to work at the Journal, one of our biggest advertisers was the JC Penney Store, again, right in the heart of our downtown. And yes, it had a half upstairs and it had a basement. I think tubes were still there which would whistle sales tickets from the various cash registers back to the bookkeeping department. Even by today’s standards, these tubes were space age. Amazing. They provided a way to quickly move information around prior to the age of computers.
On this trip, we took two different scenic drives on our way to and from Sheridan.
First, we traveled to Greybull so we could take US 16 up Shell Canyon and over the mountain. The weather was beautiful and we even stopped and checked out the Dinosaur tracks outside of Shell. Also, took a photo of the canyons there at the Big Horn Mountains that seem to form a “W” and a “Y” — is that there or was I just imagining it?
Near Burgess Junction I ran into Ed Kingston at the Elk View Inn. First met Ed 15 years ago. He has done well and aged better than me. The lodge is beautiful. It and Bear Lodge plus a few other lodges make that area a snowmobile and ATV mecca.
We encountered terrible fog descending into Dayton and on our way to Sheridan and settled into a rainy trip.
Bob Grammens and Kim Love had me on the radio for a couple of mornings and that was sure fun. Radio appears to be struggling in some communities, but not Sheridan. Lots going on in that area. Don’t touch that dial!
Although energy is a big deal in the Sheridan area, you would not notice it by how the Main Street feels. It is certainly lively including a new store started by a 13-year old boy. Amazing. His name is Luke Knudsen and he started a store called The Old General Store, which features antiques.
Another neat store is the Best Out West store owned by Christy Love, Kim’s sister.
The remodeled Sheridan Inn is a real treat. The old strucure originally built by Buffalo Bill Cody is now a true modern classic.
One of the premier craft breweries in the state is the Black Tooth establishment, which exists in an old auto garage. Great beer and a great location.
Our trip was designed as loop drive so we headed south to Buffalo and were impressed by how busy the Sports Lure store was there in the main business district. Small towns are lucky to have local-owned stores like it and the Office to cater to local needs.
It is hard not to love Buffalo’s Occidental Hotel. What a beautiful job its owners have done to restore it.
This is the heart of Longmire country but despite looking for them, none of the characters were to be seen on this day. Longmire is the name of a popular TV series based on books by Craig Johnson of Ucross.
While in Buffalo, I also looked for the infamous “Bench Sitters,” made popular by the Sagebrush Sven columns in the Buffalo Bulletin. It was the wrong time of day to see them, too, I guess.
Heading home, we headed up into the cloudy Big Horn Mountains over Tensleep Pass. Ran into fog, rain, slush, snow and wind but got through it. Lots of highway construction on the very top. The flag people were dressed like Eskimos.
Worland and Thermopolis were both quiet on this wet Friday evening, although it was sure tempting to take a dip into a hot thermal pool on a cold, wet shivery night. But we kept on going.
Got home just as the sun was going down, which was our goal. Hate that driving at night in a storm.
What a great loop drive it was, though. The passes were full of amazing color. I am sure the rain and snow pretty much wiped out most of those pretty leaves, which impressed us at the time. This all occurred during the fall solstice, which here in Wyoming, truly marks a real change of seasons.