Boots & Badges
Letterwerks Sign City
"Where Fillmore County News Comes First"
Online Edition
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
Volume ∞ Issue ∞

Tales of the White Front - Part Two

By Yvonne Nyenhuis

Fri, Aug 9th, 2013
Posted in All Commentary

By Yvonne Nyenhuis

Dear Mike,

News from the “White front café”? There isn’t any. Time stops in Lanesboro!

The bluffs rising like a wall behind us are white. Each time it snows it grows deeper as another layer is added. The few tourists who have found us burst through the door with their eyes shining, cheeks ruddy pink, and extolling the beauty of the Trail, the woods and the fields!

Dedicated as I am to the comfort and warmth inside, I take their word for it! For people who embrace the outdoors on skis, snowmobiles, on foot, or go for sleigh rides, this has been a great winter.

In the enclosed snap-shot you may recognize the customer in the back booth. Your Father, who defends Lanesboro from the “forces of evil”, is dug in at the White Front. He is sustained by coffee with cream and sugar, cheeseburgers with mayonnaise and an occasional T-bone steak.

The couple in the picture are Norma and David Smith. They bought the Blue Hotel which looks down over the main street to the Root River. It’s near Sylvan Park. They have ingenuity, courage and optimism. They’ll need all that to restore that huge old ruin.

Every town has its characters. What makes Lanesboro unique is that everyone is a character. That Glenn and I have been drawn here is a sign of our own eccentricity.

The sketch I included is of “Be-Bop”. On one below zero morning he came into the restaurant and removed his glasses which had turned opaque from the frost as he came into the warmth of the dining room. His glasses were attached to a plastic cord, generous in length and hung along his head, below his baseball cap, when on his face. One day he didn’t have money for a cup of coffee. He pulled a faded black and white snapshot from his pocket, cropped to wallet size. It was of his mother and aunt as young girls. He explained in all seriousness the historical value of the photograph! I accepted this great treasure in exchange for his cup of coffee and tucked it up by the phone in the kitchen. Later I was puzzled to notice it gone. Be-Bop had snuck back into the kitchen and quietly put the picture back in his pocket. Appropriately he did “odd” jobs around town.

“Odel Larson” was another regular. He had an imaginary friend who accompanied him! He sat in a booth and carried on a conversation with the empty space on the other side of the table. The local folks were used to him but tourists sometimes found him a little unsettling.

“Sam Busse” was another gentleman who frequented the restaurant. He was in his 80’s and walked a bit stiffly due to having two artificial hips. Sam loved story-telling. He lit up when he had an audience. Listening to Sam tested the patience of some as he had no short version to his stories and would not be rushed. One Saturday night Glenn and I were seeing the last couple out the door, chatting with them, when the sound of music drifted mysteriously from the back of the restaurant. I looked at Glenn. He mirrored my puzzled expression. Who was making the music? Where was it coming from? The riddle was solved as Sam emerged from the bathroom with his harmonica, a sheepish grin on his face. I’ve heard of people reading magazines, but “accompanying” oneself with a harmonica? Might as well “do it” to music!

Did you know “Johnny Rank”? He was a scrawny, elf-like little man with a long grey beard. He’d settle himself into a booth, often at the busiest time of the day. We had seven booths. (We referred to this as “six booths and Johnny!) He tucked his cane into the corner, his feet didn’t reach the floor, and lit up a Camel cigarette. He wore denim overalls with rolled cuffs, a dark red baseball cap and an old army jacket too thin for the below zero temperature. His eyes and nose were running streams of water. I handed him a paper napkin to stem the flow. He put the napkin on the table and wiped his nose by running his sleeve across his face.

Sometimes the eyes peering out from under the visor were vacant. “Ron Olson” stopped by his table. “Hello Johnny! Get married yet?” A twinkle came into Johnny’s eyes, his face lit up, he chuckled and laughed heartily, a deep laugh that caused every one around to smile and feel good inside.

Johnny was loved. People talked with him about the “good old days”. He told us proudly that he was “103” and that he was born in 1900! He never got tired of telling us how he was in the army; he was in Wyoming. “I’ve been all over!” and how he used to hunt rattle snakes.

One day he noticed Glenn wasn’t in the kitchen. “Where’s Felix?” he asked. I was startled but recovered quickly. “Felix has gone hunting,” I smiled. Felix Fry owned the White Front 30 years before.

It’s half-past lunch time. I think I’ll make myself a cheeseburger. Maybe this time I’ll try it with mayonnaise! Take care of yourself and extend best wishes to your friends from the staff of the White Front Café!

(This writing was adapted from a letter I wrote to Mike Roberts in 1991. He was serving in the Gulf War. His Father, Bob Roberts, was our police chief in Lanesboro at the time.)

No Comments Yet. Be the first to comment!

Your comment submission is also an acknowledgement that this information may be reprinted in other formats such as the newspaper.

Foods Weekly Ads
Studio A Photography