A Walk Across Dodge County

  • It’s a Large Town, But With a Small-Town Atmosphere

    At 10:15 a.m. I parked my red truck in the parking lot at Christensen Field on the west side of town.

    Fremont is the largest community in Dodge County with its approximate 25,000 residents. No other town in the county even comes close to it in size; this offers a challenge to walk from one side to the other.

    Choices like what route to take or where to stop bothered me. I knew it would not be possible to go everywhere.

    Man walking dog in Fremont, NebraskaIn 1967 my family moved to Fremont into a house on Lincoln Avenue. Here I grew up while attending the public schools. As a youngster, I biked all over town and even have memories of peddling out to the Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area to go fishing. This is my hometown.

    Train horns from the Union Pacific railroad blared as I stepped through the doors of the Fremont Friendship Center, formerly known as the Senior Center at Christensen Field.

    Inside I found of people sitting around tables preparing to play poker bingo.

    “Can I play?” I asked.

    “No, you would be winning all the time,” said Marcela Prokop with a smile.

    Kathy Struck talked about moving to Fremont to escape the hurricanes that kept striking Florida.

    “I love Fremont because it’s a small town and people are friendly,” Kathy said.

    Esther Cline, who grew up two miles from the Colorado border in western Nebraska, followed Kathy’s comment with, “Fremont’s a little big for me; I’m used to a smaller town.”

    I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

    As I prepared to walk out the door, Mel Armstrong approached me and said, “I’m the original Mel from Mel’s Bar in Scribner. I saw the photo from your Scribner column and just wanted to say hello.”

    “That’s cool,” I thought to myself, “the original Mel.”

    I started walking east past Ridge Cemetery with some gratitude for the fact that Fremont is flat.

    As I approached Victory Marine Service, I found Corey Perry working on a red ski boat.

    “I like Fremont for its smalltown atmosphere. It’s a place where you don’t have all the hustle and bustle of a town like Omaha,” Corey said when asked about Fremont.

    Next, I found Bill Schuler smoking ribs and brisket in the smoker outside Baby Huey’s restaurant on Military Avenue.

    “Fremont has offered a chance to build relationships over a lifetime,” Bill said. He concluded with, “I know a lot of people in town and appreciate a familiar face when they walk in the door.”

    I continued walking east on Military and poked my head into Robin’s Barber Shop with its familiar red and white barber pole.

    “People in Fremont are honest and down to earth. We all are going through the same thing in these tough times, but we will get through it together,” said owner Robin Hostetler.

    As lunchtime approached I made a beeline to Marcie’s Cafe in downtown Fremont. Waitresses Glenna Zaugg and Michelle Paulson greeted most customers by their first names as they visited and took noon specials.

    “Do you have your regulars?” I asked.

    “They’re all regulars,” replied Michelle with a smile.

    Customer Greg Spevak added to the conversation when asked about Fremont.

    “It’s large enough to have a little bit of everything, and you can be anywhere in town in 10 to 15 minutes,” Greg said.

    After a hardy lunch special of pasta, I felt rejuvenated to continue my walk across town.

    Over the viaduct I headed south on Broad Street. Below me were the railroad tracks that supplied much of the growth to Fremont in the early years. I then doubled back over to Main Street.

    Walking north on, Main I turned right on Sixth Street. I then walked past the post office until I came to Barnard Park. There I met Gary Osborn walking his dog, Scruffy.

    When asked about Fremont Gary said: “Once I drive over the viaduct that comes into town, I feel like we are going back in time. My wife and I have lived here for three years after retiring from the Union Pacific. I like hearing the train horns in town; it tells me my retirement fund is just fine,” Gary said with a grin.

    Walking east, I made a brief stop at the Sweete Shoppe for a Coke. This used to be a regular stop on my way home when I was in junior high. While drinking my Coke, I had a flashback memory of my longest walk in Fremont. It was the day I walked home in a blizzard from junior high to our house on Lincoln.

    Grant Elementary School was the next stop. Here I started kindergarten.

    On the playground during recess I met Izibel Marine, 7, playing foursquare with other students.

    When asked about Fremont Izibel said, “I like the Splash Station and the slides at the pool. They’re really fun.”

    I proceeded east across the large green playground. It seemed strange to be walking a route that I had strolled many times, but not since I left grade school. I felt like a kid in a big person’s body walking home as I looked for shortcuts that had long disappeared.

    I walked east and a little north past the drainage ditch and came to Dave’s Drive-In Liquor, a Fremont establishment since 1967. Inside employee Teresa Walling said, “Fremont is small, but not too small. Our family really enjoys the city parks.”

    My steady pace finally brought me to the steps of the Fremont Middle School on the east side of town.

    As school ended for the day, I met Mallory McQuister, 11.

    “My favorite part of Fremont is the Fremont State Lakes. I just like the outdoors,” Mallory said.

    I went a couple more blocks east to take a photo of the Fremont Clock Tower along U.S. Highway 275. I glanced at my watch; it read 3:44 p.m.

    In the five hours it took me to walk across town, only eight of the countless drivers who passed me waved. Two honked because they knew me.

    As my feet ached, for a moment I missed the smaller towns of Dodge County. Then a white pickup pulled up beside me.

    Fremont Middle School Principal Gale Hamilton asked, “Do you need a ride home?”

    “I’m already here,” I thought to myself.

    Fremont Tribune

Copyright © Dean Jacobs 2019. All Rights Reserved.