The town was named for Erastus Benson who founded it in 1887. It was annexed by the city of Omaha in 1917.
Benson is known as a “City in a City.” When my grandfather bought his first home in the Benson area in the 1945, he said that the city limits were 66th Street. In Benson, one can visit a salon, invest money, dine, create your own art or take yoga lessons. Treasures await those who have an eye for vintage and antique items. If you need to send a package, there is a Post Office right in the district where my uncle and neighbor both worked many years as a mail carriers. In addition, medical needs can be met at doctor’s offices, dentist offices, podiatrists, and therapists in the business district.
There is a variety of dining choices and bars in Benson. The Pizza Shoppe, which has a zesty something that I sometimes crave, has been the site of my families’ parties. It is a venue for local entertainers to perform and holds writers’ workshops. In April and May, they are hosting brunches to raise funds for the restoration of the historical Benson Theatre building where my mom viewed movies on the big screen. An area diner, Leo’s, has hamburgers that are true Americana. Espana is a restaurant brings the traditions of Spain right to Benson as it serves appetizers. Beercade is the new bar on the block and features pin ball machines and retro video games.
In addition to the banks in the area where my parents and I have accounts at now, there is also Metropolitan Building & Loan where you can earn interest on your savings. When my mom was a youth, she and the neighborhood children took the profits from their small carnival to purchase a Money Order made out to their charity of choice. At the time, the owner and founder, Leroy Brown worked at the bank with his son Ralph Brown. Now Ralph Brown who is in his 80’s works there with his son Skip Brown. Saving money there comes with personal service and a friendly conversation if you like. Using old fashioned registers and writing down customers’ records by hands are touches that I really appreciate. When tax season comes around, I trust them with my work. Real Estate and Estate Law are other services provided here.
Another place where my family never feels like a number is Jane’s Health Market. Every few to several months, I may make an outing with my parents to Benson, but I am a beneficiary every day that I partake of the vitamins and other items purchased at Jane’s Health Market. In addition to wide aisles of health products, there is also a Deli where you can purchase fresh items. It is such a lovely place as they restored the molded tin ceilings and use the floor space to be very inviting for gathering with tables near the deli and a sitting area in another section. If you time it right, you may be able to get fresh from the oven bread, which is baked in a building connected to their store.
Perhaps no place is steeped with as much history for my family as the Benson Branch Library. Checking out books as a child improved my mom’s literacy. When I was a child, 10 books over the summer in your reading level could earn me a little celebrity status when a certificate was delivered to my grade school wrapped in a ribbon. The basement is where my mom took baton lessons as a child. There are two people that I really associate with the library. My Aunt Anne Rickels who worked as a librarian at the Benson Branch before I was born. Through the years she patronized the library and from what I was told was never late in returning a book. Knowing how circulation at a library is important, she would have books brought from other libraries there for her to borrow rather than get them sooner by going directly to the source. When another new library in town was built, she said it should have been money used to enhance the Benson library, which she called the “step sister.” When Hal Daub, a graduate of Benson High School, was Mayor the library was enlarged keeping the integrity of the original building and matching the brick façade outside to the original. My aunt was said to have tears of joy when she witnessed this expansion.
Charlotte Hauser showed how much one citizen can do when they put their mind and heart into it. She may have read every book she get her hands on as a child and today children’s hands still wrap around books bought with funds she raised for the effort. She raised money with Garden Walks where people paid a few to see the greenery and blooms.
In addition, to individual gardens, Benson now has a community garden where citizens can volunteer. The Benson area will be even more “green” with upcoming landscape additions to this urban area that will include more plants, trees, improved traffic flow, and better pedestrian accessibility.
Given the fact that the town of Benson in its inception supplied the needs of farmers in surrounding areas, it is fitting that there is now a Farmer’s Market right in Benson with fresh produce that changes as different crops come in season in our area.
The Benson Business District, Benson Neighborhood Association, students at Benson High and area Churches sometimes team together for open houses, parades and other socials. Going back to childhood, I liked going with my family to meet cousins at the Benson Sidewalk Sale on a hot day in July close to my Birthday. In addition to the usual traditions, there will be even more fun and celebration as Benson celebrates its 125th. The festivities kicked off in March. The weekend of July 27th will be filled with concerts in fireworks in Benson Park. Other activities include a pancake breakfast, interfaith Church service at Gallagher Park, and a Benson Days Festival with a Kids Zone area.
Several years ago, I kept erasing my thoughts about the changing face of Benson on an essay test, which was part of the English section of a standardized test because I really wanted to convey my feelings. There is so much more I would love to say and my description is by no means complete. I am continually finding something new and wonderful in Benson as we pass through the area. In this area so rich in history, one needs to bring a sense of discovery as he or she explores the “city in a city.”
-population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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