Tag Archives: vintage

1992 First Annual Best of Omaha Award Winners

July 10, 2018 by and

Below are the results of the first ever Best of Omaha Survey contest. 100,000 ballots were distributed, and winners were selected in 56 categories. The results are reproduced here as published in the March/April 1992 edition of Omaha Magazine.

The 2019 contest winners will be announced at the Best of Omaha Soiree on November 8. Get your tickets here: https://localstubs.com/events/best-of-omaha-soiree.

Best Family Restaurant

1. The Garden Cafe
2. Grandmother’s Restaurant and Lounge
3. Old Country Buffet
3. Valentino’s

Best Salon

1. Salon Tino
2. Garbo’s
3. Haircrafters

Best Omaha Tradition

1. River City Roundup
2. College World Series
3. Mannheim Steamroller

Best Annual Event

1. River City Roundup
2. College World Series
3. Septemberfest

Best Travel Agency

1. Travel & Transport Inc.
2. AAA Travel Agency
3. Pegasus Travel Center
3. Younkers Travel Service

Best Bakery

1. The Garden Cafe
2. Gerda’s Bakery
3. Hy-Vee Bakery

Best Yogurt

1. TCBY Yogurt
2. I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt
3. Dannon

Best Nursery

1. Earl May Nursery & Garden Center
2. Mulhall’s Nursery
3. The Yard Co.

Best People Watching

1. Malls
2. Old Market
3. Airport

Best Place to Buy CDs and Tapes

1. Homer’s Record Store
2. Pickles Records & Tapes
3. Best Buy

Best Buffet

1. Old Country Buffet
2. Valentino’s
3. The Choice Smorgasbord

Best Happy Hour

1. Arthur’s
2. 3 Cheers
3. Grandmother’s
3. Mickey Finn’s
3. Sports Cafe

Best Financial Institution

1. First National Bank of Omaha
2. Norwest Bank Nebraska NA
3. FirsTier Bank

Best Live Music

1. Ranch Bowl
2. Orpheum Theater
3. Arthur’s

Best Sporting Event

1. College World Series
2. Lancer Hockey
3. Nebraska Football

Best Place to Dance

1. Arthur’s
2. Ranch Bowl
3. Peony Park

Best Place to Take Kids

1. The Henry Doorly Zoo
2. Omaha Childrens Museum
3. Showbiz Pizza Place
3. Peony Park

Best Free Entertainment

1. Jazz on the Green
2. Shakespeare on the Green
3. Music in the Park
3. Old Market

Best Picnic Spot 

1. Elmwood Park
2. Dam Site 16
3. Central Park Mall

Best Men’s Clothing Store

1. Landon’s
2. Dillard
2. Jerry Ryan
2. Younkers
3. Montage

Best Steak House

1. Ross’ Steak House
2. Gorat’s Steak House
3. Johnny’s Cafe

Best Not on Ballot

1. KKCD Radio
2. University of Nebraska at Omaha
3. Baker’s

Best Local Band

1. High Heel & the Sneekers
2. The Rumbles
3. Johnny Ray Gomez

Best Tourist Attraction

1. The Henry Doorly Zoo
2. Old Market
3. Boys Town

Best Deli

1. Spirit World
2. Baker’s
3. Little King

Best Mexican Food

1. Julio’s
2. Romeo’s
3. El Aguila Restaurant

Best Italian Restaurant

1. Grisanti’s Causal Italian Restaurant
2. The Olive Garden
3. Caniglia’s Venice Inn

Best Shopping Center/Mall

1. Crossroads
2. Westroads
3. Oakview Mall

Best Place to Meet Singles

1. Paradise Lounge
2. Grocery Store
3. Arthurs Church

Best Real Estate Company

1. CBS Real Estate
2. Home Real Estate
3. NP Dodge Co.


This article was printed in the March/April 1992 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Her Fountain of Youth

July 11, 2017 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

Few visitors who sneak a peak at Betty Davis’ treasure trove of soda fountain collectibles can appreciate their impact on generations of Americans who grew up before the 1950s.

The ice cream molds, dippers, five-headed malt mixers, banana bowls, trays, tall glasses, tin Coca-Cola signs, and a 12-foot-long counter with a gray marble top and marble frontage—stored in Davis’ spacious Council Bluffs home and garage—recall a more innocent age: a time when a boy and girl slipped two straws into one ice cream float and sipped as they leaned toward each other, and when soda jerks, in their white jackets and bow ties, had more swagger than Tom Cruise’s character in the movie Cocktail.

“The soda jerks were what bartenders are today,” says Davis, retired executive director of the Douglas County Historical Society in Omaha. “They knew everybody, they listened, they gave everyone personal service—mixing the concoction in front of you. They were the biggest big shots in town,” she says with a laugh.

From the early 1900s through the soda fountain’s heyday in the Depression-era 1930s, most jerks were men (no kidding!), until women filled in during World War II. “They got the name when they jerked the pull handles of the carbonated water in two different directions to regulate the flow into the flavored syrups,” she explains.

An unabashed romantic about the era, Davis grew up across the river listening to stories about how her parents “courted at the soda fountain” at Oard’s Drug Store, now Oard-Ross, on 16th Avenue in Council Bluffs. And she vividly remembers holding the hand of her “tall, Danish” grandfather as they walked to the drug store to get ice cream.

Years later, in the late 1980s, while volunteering at the old Western Heritage Museum in what is now Omaha’s Durham Museum, those memories came flooding back when a group of former “fizzicians” from the region gathered for a reunion around the museum’s established soda fountain.

“Over 500 people showed,” she marvels. “I discovered that the soda fountain was implanted in people’s memories. The public came just to look at the soda jerks and talk to them. It was magic.”

The overwhelming success of that first reunion led Davis in 1990 to found the National Association of Soda Jerks. The association grew quickly, swelling to more than 1,000 members in less than two years. “I got a personal letter postmarked Washington, D.C., from a former soda jerk. It was from [former U.S. Senator from Kansas] Bob Dole. He’s a member.”

But age has caught up with the dwindling ranks of soda jerks, as it has with Betty Davis. Now 83 and experiencing mobility difficulties, she realizes the window of opportunity to open a soda fountain museum showcasing her happy hobby has closed. “This is of no value to me locked in a garage,” she reasons quietly.

After months of searching for a “worthy” home for her collection, Davis heard about a multi-pronged, ambitious nonprofit headquartered just a few blocks north of the Historical Society, where she worked for many years.

The mission of No More Empty Pots, located on North 30th Street in the historic Florence neighborhood of north Omaha, revolves around food. The organization not only provides access to locally grown, affordable, nutritious food, it offers culinary arts training in one of two commercial-grade kitchens, located in the labyrinthine basement of the renovated turn-of-the-20th-century row of buildings.

Another component of this food hub, the Community Café at 8503 N. 30th St., slated to open to the public in the fall, caught Davis’ attention on many levels because of its parallels to the soda fountains.

“Betty told us how drug stores started selling sodas and ice cream to draw people into the store