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My folks live way out in the outer boondocks of northwestern Nebraska and have been Neighbors of Note since about 1973, when they first bought the “new” Dunlap store.

Back when my folks were newbies to the neighborhood, they were “those California hippies who bought Dunlap.”   I think a lot of people were expecting the place to be overrun with big, hairy bikers and sex crazed dope fiends, but business continued pretty much as usual, with my folks selling burgers as quick as they could grill them, cold beers, snacks, fishin’ bait, and gasoline.  The “new” Dunlap store was part gas station, part burger joint, and part bar, and they ran the place from 1973 to 1979 when my younger sister Audrey was born.  In case you’re wondering, it’s New Dunlap because Old Dunlap was a township about two-and-a-half miles to the East along the Niobrara river, where there used to be a grist mill, a general store, a post office, and a handful of houses, though last I knew all that was left was the general store building which has been empty since the 1930s, when the place my folks now own was built alongside Highway 385.  The ruins of the old mill were still standing when I was a little kid, but that’s since been pulled down for a good 25 years.

Anyway, some years after my folks closed Dunlap, my dad started working on Volkswagen beetles.  It started small, circa 1982, when Dad bought a secondhand beetle as a commuter car – more efficient and driveable than his 1951 Ford 1-ton pickup, or the 1950 Ford panel-truck and more weather-friendly than a motorcycle.  The old ’65 came to him in pretty rough shape and soon required an engine rebuild.  I seem to remember that first rebuild being an affair that generated pretty significant drama from the garage regions, but soon Dad was familiar with all of the quirks and intricacies of an old air-cooled VW engine, and stories of the reliability of his car began to get around.

Other Volkswagen owners in the area wondered who worked on his car, and when he admitted that he kept it up himself, he started getting inquiries from other VW owners wondering if he could figure out for them what was ailing their aging cars.

By the time I was in junior high (late 1980s) my family’s place was something of a local curiosity.  My friends grumbled that their brothers and sisters broke out into violent games of “Slug Bug” when their families drove past the place.  Whenever my parents had to give directions to their place, invariably the line “right off 385, the place where all the Volkswagens are” would wind up the conversation.  During the summertime, I’d hang around the garage with my dad, earning pocket money by stripping down old engines or sorting and examining parts for re-usability.  Sometimes I’d work out there on my own during the day when Dad was occupied at his full-time job as a machinist for Burlington Northern railroad.

People at the height of tourist season would stop to see what was the deal with all of the old Volkswagens.  Some folks thought we were running a museum, others inquired as to whether any of the cars were for sale.  Pretty much anybody who owned a VW knew of the place and probably had a car in once or twice.  Folks who had owned VWs in the past seemed to consider it a great nostalgia stop and would talk your ear off about the adventures they had in their old Bugs.

Because the place has so long been a bit of a landmark and a local curiosity, it’s been in the local news a few times.  Dad’s been on TV at least once and in a couple of the local papers.  In fact, he was once again a “local interest” story in the Scottsbluff Star Herald.

I think they did an awfully nice write-up, and it made my day today to read it.  Dad had mentioned that he’d been interviewed the last time I talked to him, so I figured I’d search the online edition of the paper and see if they’d run the story yet.  They have, and so I’m linking it for your reading pleasure.  Here it is!

2 Responses to “Neat-O! My dad has been written up in the local paper – again!”

  1. Beth says:

    Hey, that’s awesome! I enjoyed the article. Say “hi” to The Bug Man for me!

  2. meetzorp says:

    Thanks for the note, and thanks for taking the time to read the article from the paper.

    I’ll do that! 🙂

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