Monday, June 13, 2011

Omaha, NE to Lincoln, NE on US Route 6

Omaha, NE to Lincoln, NE

The West side of Omaha is Big Box Central.  It’s also U of Nebraska’s Omaha Campus, which means only one thing; Buffalo Wild Wings and the like. Malls, Plazas, Hospitals and Office Centers make up the bulk of this part of town.  Route 6 here is a 6 lane divided highway, fast and furious.

Solid Ball of Stamps
Boys Town
Omaha, NE

But there’s one exit you must take – to Boy’s Town. This is a can’t miss treat for the heart.  Start at the Visitor’s Center (there are plenty of signs), where you can pick up a CD Tour Guide for your car ($5 suggested donation).  But first, ask to see the 32” solid ball of stamps (4, 655,000 in all – and of course in Ripley’s Believe it or Not) made by students in the 1950’s.  A work of art.

Boy's Town Hall of History Exhibit
Omaha, NE
You’ll drive around the campus that now houses 550 at-risk boys AND girls in 71 family-style homes.  There’s a Middle School, High School, Voc Ed School, Field House, Police Station, two churches – a whole self-contained village started modestly in 1917 by Irish born Father Edward Flanagan.  The 1938 movie, starring Spencer Tracey as Father Flanagan and Mickey Rooney as a derelict kid turned sweetheart, (along with many actual residents as extras) catapulted Boys Town into the national consciousness.  When Tracey won the Academy Award that year, he presented the Oscar statue to Father Flanagan who kept it on his desk for years.  Mickey Rooney was installed as “Honorary Mayor For Life.”  All this information is included in a wonderful Hall of History Museum which features an early newspaper clipping explaining the origins of Boys Town; local Jewish attorney and Flanagan’s friend, Henry Monsky, was one of its first benefactors. 

Statue of Father Flanagan at his home in Boys Town
Omaha, NE
Flanagan’s mantra – “I’ve never found a boy who wanted to be bad,” lives on in this hopeful place.  Inscribed bricks outside the 1927 Father Flanagan House (also worthwhile to tour) from alumni indicate the extent of the nurturing that residents received at Boys Town.  Mark Luepnitz, class of ’82 – ’89 wrote; Thank you for a second life. These days kids ages 10-17, most who are victims of abuse or neglect, stay an average of two years.  As I drove around I saw a few doing yard work.  The whole campus is immaculate.  Figure on spending at least an hour to 1 ½ hours here.

I passed Gretna on “the new” Route 6, which has a suburban feel, a cool anachronistic lighthouse (what the??) – the Linoma Beach Lighthouse , and then turned right at the 1930’s brick Arts and Crafts Styled Farmers Merchants Bank (on Historic Register) into Ashland – home of the Camp Ashland Nebraska National Guard Base.

Willow Point Gallery and Museum
Ashland, NE
Willow Point Art Gallery and Museum
Ashland, NE
Ashland is also home to Roger Bratt who was all over me with “come to the great town of Ashland” emails for months and months.  He’d built the place up so much, I was expecting a brass band to greet me.  Instead, a surprisingly friendly, artistic, pretty, open-minded, proud, wonderful small town unfolded before me.  I walked into the Willow Point Art Gallery and Museum, which features a “Four Season” taxidermy’d woodland animal diorama, with a big polar bear as a popular draw.  Owned by Mary Roncka and her artist-husband Gene, soothing music and a small waterfall gives the shop a spa-ish feel.  There, I met Roger, feisty Marti Fritzen (sporting a Route 6 Cycle Salvage and Accessories T-Shirt; her daughter’s and son-in-law’s motorcycle parts business located guess where), and elegant Peg Lutton; officers in the Ashland Historical Society.   I learned about local golden boy, astronaut Clayton Anderson, and the fact that Ashland has six buildings on the National Historic Register.  The town is on the Ox Bow Trail –a limestone ledge on the Salt Creek River where Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail wagons could cross and not sink into the muck. Ashland has a worldly crossroads character, in spite of its small size.

Cheri O'Kelly, owner, Cheri-O's
Ashland, NE
Roger Bratt at Cheri-O's
Ashland, NE
Kim Cooper, artist, Cooper's Art Gallery
Ashland, NE

Glacial Till Winery Tasting Room
Ashland, NE

Marti Fritzen and Peg Lutton
Ashland Historical Society
Ashland, NE
 Downtown is small but surprisingly sophisticated.  Cheri-O’s Coffee House and Ice Cream Parlor, owned by a fun-loving Cheri O’Kelly since 1999 has earned quite a following with tasty sandwiches and shakes in an adorably whimsical room. "It's a great place for grandparents to share a malted with their grandkids and teach them about the good ole days," Cheri told me.

On just one main street, there are several art galleries; Willow Point is one and Cooper Studio and Gallery in a former old Grocery Store is another.  There,  I met artist Kim Cooper and fell in love with one of his acrylic nature pieces, so I just had to buy it.

Right across the street, The Glacial Till Winery Tasting Room enticed me with its name alone.  I was even more impressed when I walked into a swanky, streamlined bistro ($5 for 3-5 tastings) with ANOTHER art gallery upstairs; seemingly out-of-place, again, in small-town Nebraska. Like Rex Brandsatter in Coralville, IA, Roger Bratt is a die-hard OLD Route 6 fanatic. And like Coralville and many of these small towns, Route 6 used to go right through storefront main streets.  Now, Route 6 bypasses downtown Ashland, but the route used to take drivers directly to where I was ogling the galleries and eateries.  To get the full Ashland experience, have a sandwich at Cheri-O’s, a taste of vino at Glacial Till, peruse the art at Willow Point and Coopers and walk slowly down Silver St.

Baker's Candy Factory Outlet
Greenwood, Ne

From Ashland, it’s only 30 minutes to Lincoln on Route 6, but before you get there, be sure to stop at Baker’s Candy Factory Outlet.  It’s a Bbare-bones warehouse, but hard to resist chocolate patties for just 80 cents each.  Dangerous.

Tomorrow – my impressions of Nebraska’s State Capitol.


  1. I love Lincoln & Nebraska! Can't wait to read what you have to say about it and I hope you'll include some video, too.

  2. Awesome story. Of course I might be bias since I grew up in Ashland and my artwork was in the Glacial Till Winery when you were there. Now I'll have to back track through the blog to take the "trip".

  3. Great history. I am looking for what was once The Lone Oak on Route 6. It says on the 'menu' cover from 1943: Five And One Half Miles West of The Lone Oak (and below the name The Lone Oak is: Lincoln, Neb. on U.S. Route No. 6.

    My parents picture with three other diners is stapled inside the three-fold menu covering over Dinners (which is the middle page) i.e., Broiled Sirloin Dinner For Two- - - - -$3.50.

    Is this structure/restaurant still standing or rather what could be in its place now. I have done research and unable to uncover its history.

    Can anyone help.

    Bev Thompson

    1. Just googled Lone Oak Inn and saw your post. I lived in the Lone Oak Inn growing up. It is a big house on the corner in Emerald, NE. Aout 5 miles west of Lincoln. My Mother still lives there and I know she would love to have a copy of that menu. Would it be at all possible that you could email me a copy at What questions do you have? Maybe we can fill in some of the blanks. The big oak tree is still there! Thank you!! LeeAnn Lauenroth

  4. Hi Bev- I'm unfamiliar with the Lone Oak, but you can try contacting the Nebraska Historical Society - - they might have some information or at least where to go to look for more.
    Thanks for reading my blog!


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