Johnny Carson hosting a show on WOW-TV in 1950 called The Squirrel’s Nest. The Omaha show was the television debut for the Nebraska native who went on to national stardom as a late-night TV host. Remember when Carson took a microphone onto the ledge of the county courthouse to interview the pigeons? He wanted to give their side of the controversy surrounding pigeon’s loitering on the ledges.
You followed your nose to South Omaha. The neighborhood was malodorous because of nearby stockyards. Some neighbors referred to it as “the smell of money.” Nicknamed “The Magic City” in the 1890s, South Omaha is an historical and culturally diverse area with eclectic neighborhoods like Little Italy and Little Bohemia. Each year Cinco De Mayo adds fun and music to the streets.
The Omar Baking Company near 43rd and Nicholas streets filled the neighborhood with sniff-worthy aroma by delivering bread door to door. You may remember the jingle: “I’m the Omar man, (tap, tap, tap). Knocking at your door (rappa tap tap). When you taste my bread (mmmm boy!), you’re gonna want more (rappa tap tap).” The building is now used for offices and events.
Perhaps your brush with fame was graduating from Westside High School in 1959 with actor Nick Nolte, eventually named People Magazine’s 1992 Sexiest Man Alive. Or living nearby when Jane and Peter Fonda resided with their aunt on Izard Street. You may have gone to UNO with Peter or cruised Dodge Street with Jane.
You might have tasted the world’s first TV dinner (98 cents each) in the 1950s, introduced by Omaha brothers Gilbert and W. Clarke Swanson. The package was designed to look like a TV set at a time when only 20 percent of American homes had a television. The TV dinner’s aluminum tray ended up in the Smithsonian Institute in 1986 as an American cultural milestone.The Swanson name lives on in Omaha on W. Clarke Swanson Public Library, Swanson Elementary School, Creighton’s W. Clarke Swanson Hall, and Durham Museum’s Swanson Gallery.
The Orpheum, a movie theater built in 1927 as a burlesque theater, closed in 1971. Maybe you were there in January 17, 1975, for the renovated theater’s grand reopening. We know you weren’t there in 1971 for the last movie shown; the theater was empty.
The Indian Hills movie theater built in 1961 near 84th and Dodge streets was called “the hat box” because of its shape. Perhaps you were among the people who tried to save the wide-screen Super-Cinerama theater building before it was torn down in 2001.
The Cooper theater near 15th and Douglas streets, a former “bastion of bump” (burlesque) when its name was The Moon, was a place to see movies until it was demolished in 1975.