Working for the Dillons at Riversbanks Orchard had some out-of-the-ordinary adventures, said Earl Polk, whose family was involved with the orchard for more than 50 years.
For instance, Polk said, in 1958, the Dillons stores bought a semi-load of buffalo, but the animals didn’t pass Food and Drug Administration inspections.
“We brought them out here and fattened them up over the winter and spring,” said Polk. “That was an experience.”
Then there was Jimmy.
Jimmy lived at the orchard for a time. Jimmy was a bear. The Dillons brought him back after a hunting trip in Canada.
“I think the story was they found an orphan bear, and they just brought it back to Kansas,” Polk said.
Jimmy loved grapes and cinnamon rolls. Ray Dillon, the owner of the orchard and president of Dillons, would bring day-old cinnamon rolls and grapes from the Dillons warehouse, Polk said. Jimmy also knew how to play tag.
“We’d touch him and then we’d run,” he said, adding his grandmother was the only one to get hurt by Jimmy. “One day we were playing tag and he thought Grandma was playing and he clawed her knee a little bit.”
Eventually, they donated Jimmy to the Lee Richardson Zoo. The Polk and Stoughton families would stop and visit him on their way to Colorado.
Butch Dillon said his grandfather, Ray, had horses and would take them sleigh riding and sledding. Meanwhile, Dan Garber, with Garber Surveying, said he was on the property in the late 1990s when the Dillon family was considering developing it into a residentail area.
On a tour, Dick Dillon pointed to an old oak tree on the property.
He told Garber his family had received it as a gift from a prince.