15 Things You Might Not Know About Nebraska

istock
istock

1. The Reuben sandwich, which sticks no small sum of corned beef, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut between two slices of rye bread, is most prominently associated with the cuisine of New York City. But Nebraskans insist that the hefty deli item traces its roots to Omaha, where it was created by Lithuanian-born local Reuben Kulakofsky. The neighborhood grocer was a regular at Blackstone Hotel’s weekly poker games in the 1920s and ‘30s, earning enough acclaim for his makeshift sandwich to land it a spot on the establishment’s menu and, in 1956, a place in a national sandwich competition courtesy of Blackstone waitress Fern Snider.

2. Another famous recipe that dates back to 1920s Nebraska: Kool-Aid. Edwin Perkins, son of Hendley, Nebraska’s general store proprietor, is responsible for a few interesting concoctions, including the fruit drink Fruit-Smack and the tobacco addiction remedy Nix-o-Tine. But Perkins’ most successful innovation came to life in his mother’s kitchen in Hastings around 1927—the dry powder drink mix he’d dub Kool-Ade (renamed “Kool-Aid” in 1934).

3. The very first Arbor Day was celebrated on April 10, 1872, in Nebraska, after journalist and environmentalist J. Sterling Morton proposed the holiday, on which observers would plant trees, to the State Board of Agriculture. Other states caught wind of the practice throughout the 1870s; by ’82, Arbor Day had become a nationwide annual tradition.

4. Considering these roots, it is apropos that Nebraska claims a couple of ecological superlatives. Its Nebraska National Forest is the largest hand-planted forest in America, covering 141,159 acres of land. Additionally, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium boasts the largest indoor rainforest in the country; the Lied Jungle, which opened its doors in 1992, covers one and a half acres of land within an eight-story building and features flora and fauna from the rainforests of Africa, Asia, and South America.

5. Another impressive wildlife exhibit makes its home on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. The school’s Elephant Hall, a component of the University of Nebraska State Museum, features the largest mammoth fossil showcased anywhere on the planet. The piece, nicknamed “Archie,” was discovered in Lincoln County in 1922, has been identified as the remains of a Columbian mammoth, and reigns as Nebraska’s official state fossil. Archie is just one element of the world’s largest collection of elephant skeletons on display.

6. Forestry and fossils are not particularly unusual subject matter for the focus of museums, but some of Nebraska’s scholarly institutions are dedicated to more esoteric fields of study. For instance, the Museum of the Fur Trade is an exact recreation of James Bordeaux’s 1840s trading post in Chadron. Another example is Elm Creek’s own Chevyland USA Auto Museum, the only museum in the country devoted to a single line of automobile. But the best of the lot is the National Liars Hall of Fame, located in Dannebrog, which celebrates the art of dishonesty via an extensive library as well as live presentations and exhibits.

7. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln holds one more heavy distinction among its academic brethren: its 30,000-square-foot West Stadium Strength Complex is the largest weight room on any college campus in America. 

8. Nebraska hardly seems like a celebrity hotspot, but the state was actually home to Marlon Brando (widely considered the world’s greatest actor), Johnny Carson (widely considered the world’s greatest talk show host), and Fred Astaire (widely considered the world’s greatest tap dancer).

9. The Leon Myers Stamp Center in Omaha attempts to spread the joy of philately (that is, stamp collecting) to its young visitors. The museum’s main attraction is the World’s Largest Ball of Stamps, a 600-pound heap of adhesive postage. In 1953, the Boys Town Stamp Collecting Club set to work on this masterpiece, wrangling 4,655,000 discontinued stamps in the process.

10. Nebraska made sociopolitical history in 1986 when it became the first state in American history to feature a gubernatorial race that faced two women against one another. On May 13, the Democratic and Republican Primaries chose Lincoln Mayor Helen Boosalis and State Treasurer Kay Orr, respectively, to pursue the governor position. The seat ultimately went to Orr, who served one term. 

11. In 1910, the city of Waterloo passed an ordinance that barbers could not consume onions (at least between the hours of 7 a.m. and noon), a humanitarian effort to spare barbershop patrons the fate of up-close-and-personal onion breath.

12. The city of Arthur prides itself on a unique house of worship. The Pilgrim Holiness Church, built in 1928, is composed almost entirely of hay … though a rather impressive stucco job would have you believe otherwise.

13. With six Academy Award nominations, Alexander Payne’s 2013 film Nebraska ties Mississippi Burning for most Oscar nods for any film named after a state.

14. Nebraska may not be especially notable for its EDM scene, but the world of club music owes the state a debt of gratitude. Fremont-born Harold Eugene “Doc” Edgerton invented the strobe light in 1931. The MIT professor developed a stroboscope mechanism in the interest of abetting the study and documentation of moving objects (though we’d wager that he’d be perfectly satisfied knowing that his invention’s primary application is making it more fun to dance to Tiesto).

15. The crime rate must have been mighty low in Arthur County in the early 1900s, as there was barely room for a trial in the diminutive courthouse and jail. The entire building measured a meager 26-by-28 feet, thus making for a particularly uncomfortable ordeal if you happened to land in the slammer on a busy night. Today, the building stands as a museum recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. 

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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10 Great Gifts for Teens

Fjallraven/Polaroid
Fjallraven/Polaroid

If it’s been a few years since you were a teenager, you might be feeling at a loss when it comes to finding the perfect gift for the teen in your life. But you don’t have to worry—we’ve culled the internet to figure out what’s cool these days, and we found 10 items to suit any teen (and any price point).

1. Fjällräven Kånken Mini Classic Backpack for Everyday; $70

Fjällräven/Amazon

Fjällräven’s Kånken backpack was originally introduced in 1978 as an affordable and comfortable bag for Swedish schoolchildren, but it recently took off as a trend among American high schoolers and college students. With 43 different color options, chances are you’ll be able to find the perfect trendy backpack for the teen in your life.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Hydro Flask Standard-Mouth Water Bottle; $30–$35

Hydro Flask/Amazon

Hydro Flasks aren’t only trendy, they’re sturdy and environmentally friendly. Plus, they keep hot drinks warm and icy drinks cool for an absurdly long amount of time. The standard-mouth water bottle is currently available on Amazon in 17 different colors, but the brand also offers tumbler cups and coffee mugs depending on your niece/nephew/cousin/friend/child’s preference.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Polaroid Originals OneStep+ Bluetooth-Connected Instant Film Camera; $140

Polaroid Originals/Amazon

Teens can kick it back old school with this Polaroid camera that hides some surprisingly contemporary features. Using a special app, users can fine-tune their camera settings to suit their personal tastes. Plus, this camera makes it possible to capture two scenes in a single frame, so it's that much easier to create uniquely artsy Polaroid pics.

Buy it: Amazon

4. 4th-Generation Echo Dot with Clock; $60

Amazon

Tech-wise, the fourth-generation Echo Dot is almost identical to its third-generation predecessor. But the updated spherical design seems poised to make the Echo Dot a worthy contender for traditional alarm clocks—the speaker face shows the time and it even includes a tap-to-snooze function for drowsy sleepers.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Bubble Tea Kit; $38

Uncommon Goods

Part of the reason bubble tea is so popular is that it’s customizable—and what could be more customizable than making it yourself? This kit, made by an Atlanta-based couple, comes with two reusable straws and enough supplies to make up to eight servings.

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

6. Mixtape Card Game; $20

Uncommon Goods

This party game challenges players to find the perfect songs to suit specific prompts. Some cards might prompt players to use Spotify or Youtube to search for the songs with the best guitar solos, while other cards call for participants to play their “favorite slow dance love jam from junior high.” This game is sure to be a hit at any high school sleepover or house party—or, in true 2020 style, at any digital hangout or Zoom meeting.

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

7. Giant Flour Tortilla Throw Blanket; $18-$35

Mermaker/Amazon

This goofy double-sided blanket turns any human into a giant-size burrito, and it comes in four different sizes to suit any height. One reviewer even went so far as to say that “once you wrap yourself in it, you will be convinced that you are a burrito.”

Buy it: Amazon

8. The Cup of Destiny; $22

Shelter Harbor Press/Amazon

Here’s a prediction: Your hunt for the perfect gift is almost over. This kit is ideal for the teenager who is fascinated by the supernatural and loves exploring new ideas. Included, you’ll find a 96-page illustrated instruction book along with a cup and a saucer marked with patterns and symbols.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Wreck This Journal: Now in Color; $9

Penguin Books/Amazon

This journal is not intended to be pretty. It’s made for messiness and exploration and a little bit of chaos. Artistic-minded teens will love filling out pages that prompt them to catalog various stains or poke holes through the paper. Reviewers say it’s not only a source of creative inspiration, though—it’s also a stress reliever. And considering that the middle-school and high-school years aren’t exactly known for being relaxing, this journal could be a welcome reprieve from the daily pressure of managing homework and a social life.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Therapy Dough; $15

Uncommon Goods

Some teens focus better and relax more easily when they have something to fidget with. If the teen in your life fits that description, this therapy dough may be the perfect gift for them. Each 4.5-ounce container is infused with essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, orange, or pine, making relaxation smell delicious (and all natural!).

Buy it: Uncommon Goods

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