A Walk Across Dodge County
North Bend Residents Share What They Love About Their Community
Gray skies over North Bend warned of impending rain as I parked my red truck on the west end of town.
I chuckled as I glanced at the corner street sign, Seventh Street and Dean Avenue. Like the famous Marg Helgenberger from North Bend who had a street named after her, I had my own avenue in town.
North Bend with its 1,213 population sits along the major lifelines of the Union Pacific Railroad, U.S. Highway 30, Nebraska Highway 79 and the Platte River.
The town gets its name as the Platte River arcs north for a stretch. To this day, these rail lines are the busiest in the United States, moving endless cars of coal to the east.
Looking at my watch, it read 9:45 a.m. as I started heading east into town. Morning doves cooed and cardinals sang as the hum of the Highway 30 traffic raced about a block away.
The smell of fall filled the air as the leaves changing color began to hint of the approaching season. By the time I reached the east side of town, it was 10:35 a.m. and six out of 11 drivers and people on the street waved or said good morning.
“What are you taking photos of?” asked Brad Martindale while standing in his driveway. “Are you that Jacobs?”
“Busted,” I thought to myself with a smile and answered, “Yes.”
We talked about living in North Bend for a moment.
“I asked my wife several times if she wants to move to Fremont. She just keeps saying no way, we like North Bend and its people,” Brad said.
Passing through downtown on Main Street, I poked my head into Shear Design and asked hairstylist Carry Gerke where morning coffee was.
“The Corner Cafe; is where all that happens,” Carry responded. “They also have a noon special, it’s spaghetti today.”
“Make sure you stop by the Senior Center today,” piped in customer Jean Groff. “They are having a big pitch tournament.”
With my lunch plans secured, I continued walking east past well-kept homes and churches until I came to the North Bend City Park. There I found Mrs. Shirley Johnsen’s elementary class having recess and fun on playground equipment.
Student Joslyn Reker, 5, said she liked North Bend because “it has a water slide and monkey bars in the park.”
“You should really move here,” said classmate Luther, “you could live with us.”
After thanking Luther for his generous offer, I continued walking east past streets with names like Hickory, Box Elder and Catalpa. Once I reached the edge of town, I doubled back to the Senior Center.
Inside the Senior Center I found card players, just as Jean Groff described, rotating from table to table. The first Friday of every month, the North Bend Senior Center hosts a pitch tournament.
“So you’ve come to play with all the old people,” said Dick Jurgens with a laugh. “North Bend is a place where you can have a good time, and my definition of a good time is family.”
“I have a long commute to the Senior Center; I live across the street,” he said with another laugh.
“I know your mom and knew your dad,” Anne House said. “You once brought your mom to bingo and your little dog, Brandi, came inside.”
“Wow, that was a couple of years ago,” I thought to myself. People really pay attention.
Wishing them success with their pitch game, I waved goodbye and headed down Main Street.
Downtown North Bend has life to it. A pharmacy, a massage therapist, a bowling center, a couple of bars, a butcher shop, a newspaper office, an auto parts store, VFW, city auditorium and more. It’s a town that has a sense of thriving.
In Shear Design, customer Jean Groff had said, “This is a town that once it makes up its mind, it gets it done.”
This seems to be the case, with a golf course, a new Senior Center, a new pool, a new elementary school and the next project, a new library.
Stepping into the Corner Cafe, I saddled up to the counter and ordered the noon special, spaghetti.
The cafe was filled with men wearing ball caps with seed corn logos and belts with a holder for pliers.
“Here’s an order,” said Mary Ritenour loudly through the small window to the kitchen. Thick white plates of noon specials, or hamburgers and fries, slid into the hands of waitresses before being whisked off to hunger customers.
Sitting next to me was Carry Gerke.
“Every day I call the restaurant to see what their special is; not for me. It’s because all my customers who come to my beauty shop want to know,” Carry said.
“I’ve always said you know when you are in a small town when you dial the wrong number but you still know who answers. I like that feeling,” Carry said.
“You have to come back one day to the Rawhide Steakhouse. They are constantly packed, all by word of mouth advertising,” Carry concluded.
My waitress, Gin Renard added, “We moved here five years ago and love it. Everyone knows what my kids are doing, so I know what they’re doing. Its one big family.”
After lunch, I stopped by Bob’s Custom Meats. Inside Bob and Mary Shanahan talked about how they ship meat all over the country.
“People move away, but they know what good meat is. I guess they like to have a little bit of the hometown shipped to them,” Bob said.
“Good idea,” I thought as I picked up a couple of steaks to take home with me.