Column: Long ago, it was common to go bananasWORTHINGTON — Schaap Moving & Storage has painted that big, brick warehouse at 1224 Second Ave. — the corner of Second Avenue and 13th Street. There is a coat of beige paint over every square-half-inch of every brick. I suppose some people judge that building to be unremarkable.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Schaap Moving & Storage has painted that big, brick warehouse at 1224 Second Ave. — the corner of Second Avenue and 13th Street. There is a coat of beige paint over every square-half-inch of every brick.
I suppose some people judge that building to be unremarkable. It would fit well in the warehouse districts of Sioux Falls or Sioux City. The thing is, that good building at 1224 Second Ave. is largely the beginning and the end of Worthington’s warehouse district. There came to be a couple of other, smaller buildings. Concrete block buildings. The Second Avenue building is a classic, American turn-of-20th century warehouse.
The still-sturdy building is (about) 90 years old. It was built by Dixon Fruit Co. of Sioux City.
In the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s every town in the local region had at least one grocery store — there was a grocery at Dundee and Kinbrae and Round Lake and Reading — Kenneth and Brewster and Heron Lake. The grocery stores did not stock heaps of fresh vegetables.
Few carrots or cauliflowers. People grew their own. There was a demand for fresh fruit, however. Dixon Fruit, with its warehouse at Worthington, came to the rescue.
By the late 1920s there were many miles of gravel roads and mud roads, but nonetheless roads, that made it possible for trucks to roll from Sioux City to Worthington with wooden crates of peaches and pears, watermelons and cantaloupe. Shipments of fruit also were sent by train. The fruit was downloaded at Dixon’s new brick warehouse on Second Avenue where smaller trucks went out to supply grocery stores through all the local region.
There are questions I would like to pose to most of Worthington’s pioneers. I have a question for the great Rezeau B. Plotts, the U.S. Navy officer who spent a part of the Civil War in captive New Orleans:
“Rezeau, did you ever taste a banana before you came to Worthington?”
Bananas were unknown to our main flow of pioneers, our immigrants and Civil War veterans. Bananas still were an exotic fruit in the 1920s.
Good Carl Salstrom, Worthington grocer, remembered bananas from that era:
“The bananas always came in whole bunches — dozens of bananas on a stem…”
“There was always a piece of rope in the end of the banana stem. We had a pulley in the ceiling and a rope going through the pulley. There was a catch on the end of the rope. We would snap the whole bunch of bananas on the rope and they would hang there from the ceiling.
“Then we had a banana knife to cut them off when people wanted some. We always sold bananas by the dozen.”
Bananas from Dixon Fruit and the Worthington warehouse. Dixon trucks rolled to most area grocery stores with those big stems of bananas and grocers hung the stems from their ceilings.
Everyone was getting to know bananas. There was excitement for them. Nearly all of America was going bananas.
Ice cream parlors began cutting bananas in half, lengthwise, and covering them with two and three dips of ice cream, plus two or three flavors of toppings. Banana splits. You could get a banana split at Casareto’s in the grand Hotel Thompson on Worthington’s 10th Street.
At home, Ma was slicing bananas into Jell-O, and covering the Jell-O with whipped cream. Another sensation. Jell-O with bananas was a dessert fine enough for church suppers and funeral luncheons. Even better, Ma was slicing bananas onto pie crusts and covering the bananas with a cream filling and a meringue. Banana cream pie. You still can say, “Banana cream pie,” if someone challenges you, “Name something exotic.”
Bananas became movie stars. Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Oliver Hardy all took turns at slipping and flipping on banana peels.
Americans chuckled and sang, “Yes, We Have No Bananas…”
There is no record that hints when residents of our region first tasted bananas. That’s what brings Rezeau Plotts to mind. In New Orleans, where ships from South America were coming and going, it might have been possible to find bananas at an early date.
In our region, people went bananas after trucks began rolling from Dixon Fruit on Second Avenue.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.