The late summer heat has been hovering over the Great Plains like a vulture slowly circling its prey. Triple digit temperatures have dominated the forecast and I think you can actually see humidity rise up off the cornfields. I took shelter in the Dairy Queen the other afternoon to order myself a frozen treat. Little has changed inside the place since I was a kid. It was here that I would stop for a Mister Misty after those long days swimming at the public pool. On other hot summer days, Grandpa Rager would bring my brother and me here for an ice cream cone after helping him with chores. Standing there in line, I found comfort in the idea that I can still experience those moments again because this landmark of my youth continues to thrive…

dairy queen building 

Being back in Nebraska, I am constantly reminded of the history I share with my little rural community. With every corner I turn, there is a person or a place that triggers some memory from my past. I recently read an article on NET News about a trio from Omaha that are designing an app that will connect people with their community in an interesting way. Their project is called “Personal History Tours” and they are creating a “simple mobile application that utilizes audio, photography, and geography to guide users on city tours based on the lives and unique experiences of fellow citizens.”

That got me thinking about my community and the many stories it has to tell. This old pioneer town was built along the railroad with nothing more than hard work and a stubborn Swedish sensibility. The town thrived due to agriculture and commerce and it’s easy to bump into an elderly citizen who will remind you of that fact. 

With a Dilly Bar in hand, I set out on my own tour of Holdrege and wondered what other landmarks might trigger a sense memory. I had barely made it a few blocks when I stopped in front of the Holdrege City Auditorium…


auditorium sign

 On cold winter weekends, my mom would drop me off for an afternoon of roller skating. The skate rental wasn’t more than the few quarters I had in my pocket and at the snack bar I would buy a Dr. Pepper and a pack of cherry Nibs that would fuel my energy for the day. It was here on the glistening waxed pine floors that I perfected my “backwards skate”, rocked the “limbo” and got sweaty palms every time the manager would announce on the PA system, “Couples Only. Girl’s choice.”

I proceeded north through the downtown and passed all the storefronts that were an integral part of my youth. I ended up at the Holdrege Public Library and stepped inside to see how much it had changed…


library sign2

It was within these walls that I learned to love words. As a kid I would check out books way beyond my reading level and take them home to copy the words in my Big Chief notepad, in hopes that it might expedite my writing skills. Not too long ago, in a box of things from my childhood I unearthed the first chapter of Danielle Steel’s 1983 novel, A Perfect Stranger scribbled down in my novice handwriting. I wonder what the librarians thought of my selection at the time of checkout. I probably said it was for my mom. I often threw her under the bus when I sought to do something not viewed as traditional.

I left the library and drove through Holdrege, passing by so many icons from my childhood: our yellow house on Blaine Street, the bowling alley on the edge of town, the elementary school I attended that is now slated to be demolished. I drove into the North Park, a brilliant green space that is a hub in our community…

north park statue


north park lake

I spent a lot of time here as a kid fishing with my brother, taking full advantage of the “Tornado Slide” and begging my grandpa to push me on the swings. There was also a defining moment in high school that took place at this park.

It was my junior year and I was asked to attend the Sadie Hawkins dance by a girl in my class. I had never been on a date and when she asked me, I recall my response resembled something from a slapstick sitcom as I looked over both shoulders presuming she was asking someone behind me. Turns out she really did want to go with me. I was over the moon. But I couldn’t have just been a normal kid and gone to the dance. I had to make it unnecessarily awkward. On the night of the dance, I picked up my date in my periwinkle blue Saab and told her I had a surprise. I drove her up to the North Park and had planned what I thought to be a very romantic gesture. The fall air was crisp that night and it was perfect weather to execute my plan. In my tape deck I had the cassingle of the 90’s hair band Mr. Big synced to play the song “Wild World”. I asked my date if she wanted our first dance to be at the park, before we got to the commons area of the high school. Like most people do, she looked at me like I was crazy. However, she was a good sport and we danced together in the headlights of the Saab on that chilly harvest night at the North Park.

Perhaps if this sign would have also outlawed dancing…

north park lake sign

I would have had more than that one date in high school.

After my brief tour, I was amazed at how our memories can be shaped by our environment. I realized my hometown is like a living scrapbook of my youth. The team at “Personal History Tours” has their finger on the pulse of how people relate to a city; whether it’s a person’s home or a stranger visiting. The stories we collect as we live our lives not only define us but they also define the places that surround us.

I am just one person with my own stories. What stories would you tell?

Check out the story on NET News about “Personal History Tour”


Scott Rager

Robert Scott Rager is a Nebraska native who returned home to start a boutique business called "County Seat Living". His personal goal for "County Seat" is to translate the lifestyle design he was creating in Los Angeles for the past twelve years and apply it to the sensibility of the Great Plains. Whether he's writing about decorating, homemade ice cream, floral creations, event planning or product design, he wants the personality and style of Nebraska to shine bright.