Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Remembering 9/11 in Hastings, Minnesota September 11, 2018

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TODAY, WHILE DRIVING THROUGH HASTINGS, I noted an American flag suspended across U.S. Highway 61 near the bridge that spans the Mississippi River connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“Why is the flag there?” I asked Randy.

“September 11,” he said, and I had one of those moments when I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten the anniversary date of the terrorist attacks on our country.

To the people of Hastings, thank you for reminding me of a date, an attack, a part of history that I should always remember.


Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling



In Hastings: The comfortable familiarity of an old-fashioned grocery store November 1, 2012

Reissner’s Meats & Grocery in historic downtown Hastings, Minnesota.

YOU KNOW HOW SOMETIMES, when you step into a place, you feel like you’ve been there before, but you haven’t.

That would be Reissner’s Meats and Grocery in historic downtown Hastings.

Third-generation owner Dick Reissner.

Entering this narrow two-aisle store with a mustachioed, gray-haired shopkeeper in a butcher’s apron leaning on the front counter, I experienced a sense of familiarity tracing back to my childhood. Reissner’s reminds me of the corner grocery in my hometown of Vesta where I purchased my favorite Tootsie Pop suckers, Bazooka bubble gum and yellow packs of Juicy Fruit gum from the candy counter on many a trip to town with Mom.

Honestly, I cannot remember much else about Rasmussen’s Grocery except the candy and the wood floors and the big old screen door that banged shut behind me.

Aisle one with the candy counter to the left.

Reissner’s in Hastings possesses that same nostalgic feel, even a vintage look in the red-and-white tile floors, the mishmash of merchandise, the hulking and energy-sucking open cooler that holds pop, and the price stickers adhered to canned foods and more.

Dick Reissner reads at the front counter while I explore his store.

Richard (Dick) Otto Reissner was preoccupied with reading when I walked in on a recent Saturday afternoon and didn’t seem to want to be bothered. So I didn’t query him with the list of questions formulating in my mind as I perused the aisles.

Vintage photos which clued me in as to the history of this place.

Therefore I have no stories to share with you about this third-generation family business. Only photos.

The exterior sign, which dates the business to 1902.

I totally forgot to search for the lefse or ask about  Grandma Ruth.

The vintage toys, etc., are not for sale.

An old, old cooler…

How often do you see price stickers on food anymore?

I have no clue, none, why there’s a saddle, right, in the grocery store.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Leaving my mark in a Hastings antique shop October 31, 2012

I’VE NEVER INKED my name onto a desktop, never etched my name into a picnic table nor my initials into the bark of a tree.

But I left my mark recently in a Hastings antique shop, because, well, I could.

I stood before the vintage Smith-Corona Floating Shift typewriter in The Emporium and pounded out this message: Minnesota Prairie Roots was here. Clack, clack, clack, clack… Twenty-nine times.

The message I left at The Emporium.

And I didn’t even make a typo, but felt a surge of Lutheran guilt at my self-centered promotion of my blog.

“Who would read this?” I wondered. “A customer? Management?”

Then, in an automatic reflex, I pulled my Canon EOS 20D camera to my eye and photographed the evidence. I would not make a good graffiti vandal.

However, from an artistic perspective, I fell in love with the photo—the simplicity of the image with its strong lines, its fuzzy quality (who says sharp focus is always best in photos?), its artsy quality and the red bands of ribbon and of words.

The gracious Emporium staff allowed me to photograph them.

So as to redeem myself for my self-indulgent infraction, I photographed the staff at the counter—they had no idea what I had typed onto that sheet of paper.

And just to make sure I’ve totally redeemed myself, I’m showing you several pieces of merchandise which particularly caught my eye on the second floor of this spacious, lovely and historic building.

Just loved this Fire King piece and this fruit. Should have bought it.

Artsy and lovely and beautiful.

I have no idea of the identity of this flaming orange-haired woman. I could think only of Cruella de Vil dressed for Halloween.

FYI: Click here to learn more about The Emporium, 213 East Second Street, Hastings, Minnesota.

The lovely architecture of The Emporium.

CLICK HERE TO READ a previous post from the Mississippi River town of Hastings, Minnesota, which brims with antique shops in its historic downtown.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Lovin’ Hastings’ historic downtown October 30, 2012

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Just a sampling of the historic buildings in downtown Hastings, Minnesota.

WHY I’VE NEVER VISITED historic Hastings, a Mississippi River town an hour from my Faribault home, prior to a few weeks ago remains a mystery to me.

Jammed with building after building after building hearkening from yesteryear, Hastings’ downtown holds precisely the type of architecture and vintage imprint that I find especially appealing.

Looking up at Second Childhood Toys.

I could just stand there and gawk at the upper floors of these mostly brick buildings—at the arched windows, the detailed trim, the dates that define a building’s birth—for a good spell.

Stroll the sidewalks of downtown Hastings at a leisurely pace and step inside the many charming shops.

But the sidewalk level, too, offers an equal amount of charm with a multitude of antique and gift shops, a sweet spot to sample ice cream or candy, and more.

Relaxing on an early autumn afternoon in downtown Hastings, when the weather was still warm.

It’s the kind of Main Street where folks lollygag, where locals relax on a bench and sip coffee, where a dog lazes in the middle of the sidewalk and no one minds skirting around the canine, where trolls lurk near the bridge.

In Oliver’s Grove 1819, a downtown park, I found this mural of trolls and the old spiral bridge which once crossed over the Mississippi from Hastings to Wisconsin. Hastings was originally called Oliver’s Grove after Lt. William G. Oliver who arrived here in 1819.

This describes the Hastings I found on a Saturday afternoon in early autumn. Hastings, with its historic district, reminds me of Faribault’s downtown. Except Faribault seems to be mostly undiscovered.

Mailboxes and an historic marker on a door in the business district.

These circus glasses caught my eye inside an antique shop, Second Street Antiques and Collectibles, I believe. It was difficult for me to resist purchasing these as I collect vintage glassware.

Inside the same antique shop, looking across the street at a row of historic buildings.

Just in time for Halloween…a vintage clown costume in the same antique mall.

A vintage turkey decoration for the table, a few booths over from that Halloween costume.

One more seasonal find, a casserole in autumn hues.

So many antique shops to visit and not enough time to see them all.

Walking the dog in historic downtown Hastings on a warm and sunny Saturday earlier in autumn.

PLEASE CHECK BACK for more posts from historic Hastings.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling