Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

This & that from my tour of downtown Sleepy Eye, Part IV March 13, 2018

Editor’s note: Today’s post concludes my four-part series from downtown Sleepy Eye in southwestern Minnesota. This final photo essay presents a mishmash of images. Enjoy.

 

The Sleepy Eye Farmers Elevator stands as a visual reminder of this area’s strong farming base. However, the elevator has not been used since 2009 and was purchased by a private party from Central Region Cooperative just a year ago.

 

An Indian chief, spotted in a storefront window, connects visually to the town’s namesake, Chief Sleepy Eyes.

 

I took my camera inside K & J Antiques & Collectibles where shopkeeper Kurk Kramer graciously allowed me to take photos.

 

Red Wing crocks and a beautiful vintage tile floor drew my attention in this former bakery turned antique shop.

 

Dakota Chief Sleepy Eyes is the town’s namesake. Kurk Kramer pulled this A.J. Pietrus & Sons vintage promo from a display case. He has plenty of Sleepy Eye collectibles for sale.

 

Native American collectibles are prominently displayed in this town named after a Dakota chief. This doll is offered for sale at K & J Antiques.

 

Sleepy Eye has a strong faith community with St. Mary’s Catholic Church and churches of other denominations. These figurines are shelved at K & J Antiques.

 

This photo shows a corner of a promo for the Orchid Inn, once a fine dining, banquet and dance hall in Sleepy Eye. These vintage paper pieces are for sale at K & J Antiques. The promo boasts (in part): “Of prime importance is the fact that while conveniently located, the Inn does provide the host with a site free of metropolitan distractions–a vital factor in group control.” It’s an interesting piece of literature for a former regional gathering place. Plans call for the property to become a STEM learning center with a focus on agriculture.

 

On a stalwart former bank building, I noticed this vintage alarm.

 

On another building I spotted this rusted mail slot. It looks like it’s been there awhile, as has the door.

 

I notice details, including this Minion towel hanging in a second floor window in an historic building. Made me laugh.

 

If you are interested in reading past posts written about Sleepy Eye through the years, please type Sleepy Eye into my blog search engine. Note that Sleepy Eye is much more than I presented in this four-part series. These posts are a result of about an hour spent walking through the downtown area before I had to be on my way. Plan your own trip to explore this community in Brown County, Minnesota. Click here to visit the Sleepy Eye Chamber of Commerce & CVB site for more information. 

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Exploring Woody’s in West Concord, a specialty auto lit shop September 10, 2015

Woody's Auto Literature and More in West Concord, Minnesota.

Woody’s Auto Literature and More in West Concord, Minnesota.

FOR ANYONE WHO APPRECIATES anything vintage auto-related, Woody’s Auto Literature and More in West Concord is a must stop-and-see.

Dave "Woody" Woodward

Dave “Woody” Woodward

You can’t miss this unique shop in the heart of downtown at 150 Main Street. The front of a vintage orange pick-up truck, a nesting home for birds, protrudes from the storefront under the name Woodys. And if Dave “Woody” Woodward happens to be in the shop, his van will likely be parked out front and he’ll have music blasting from exterior building speakers.

Lots of merchandise is packed into this small store.

Lots of merchandise is packed into this small store which features lovely original wood floors and a partially original tin ceiling.

Inside, a treasure trove awaits those who are gearheads or collectors or who are restoring vintage vehicles or simply have an interest in auto-related stuff.

Vintage art.

Vintage art.

Graphics suspended from the ceiling caught my eye.

Graphics suspended from the ceiling caught my eye.

I love this sweet mini calendar from a service station.

I love this sweet mini calendar for the art aspect.

For others, like me, the interest may be more visual arts-oriented.

Well-worn manuals...

Well-worn manuals…

I see art in these colorful manuals.

I see art in these colorful manuals.

There are shelves and shelves and shelves of manuals.

There are shelves and shelves and shelves of manuals.

Woody specializes in shop manuals, which cram shelves along narrow aisles. He’s been selling shop manuals, mostly to customers restoring cars, since 1998. His interest in the factory original guidebooks stretches back to the 1980s and his days in the Navy when he managed shop manuals. His vocational education is in auto parts, accessories and merchandising and his previous work experience as an auto mechanic. The guy knows autos.

A Blazer emblem.

A Blazer emblem.

Look at this vintage catalog page.

Look at this vintage catalog page.

Woody has a box full of key chains from a now closed dealer.

Woody has a box full of key chains from a now closed dealer.

The kid in you can purchase a toy model kit.

The kid in you can purchase a toy model kit.

From sales brochures to owner’s manuals (which Woody terms “glovebox books”), wiring diagrams, signage, toy model cars, key chains, emblems and way way more, a wide variety of merchandise packs this store. And the subject isn’t limited to cars—items related to tractors, outboard motors, small engines and more are among his offerings.

A sign posted in Woody's shop.

A sign posted in Woody’s shop.

Woody also takes his goods on the road, traveling to shows in places like Iowa, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania. It’s the reason you may not find him in the shop, even during advertised hours. Best call ahead before driving any distance to check out this truly fascinating business that interested even me, a non-gearhead. The husband, an automotive machinist, felt right at home perusing the merchandise and talking shop with Woody.

Woody's isn't necessarily open during the hours advertised on his business door.

Woody’s isn’t necessarily open during the hours advertised on the front door.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Miscellaneous merchandise.

Miscellaneous merchandise.

My husband thumbs through auto literature.

My husband thumbs through Sun Company specification cards.

The Lone Ranger themed ad on the right is vintage original.

The Lone Ranger themed ad on the right is vintage original.

He even has some parts for sale, like these

He even has some parts for sale, like these manifolds.  Woody carries vintage ignition parts and carb kits.

Woody pulled these autographed photos from his bulletin board. That's former President and Mrs. Bush and, to the left, Mr. Ed. Both were found tucked inside manuals he purchased.

Woody pulled these autographed photos from his bulletin board. That’s former President and Mrs. Bush and, to the left, Mr. Ed. Both pictures were found tucked inside manuals he purchased. He didn’t show me some of the photos he’s found which could not be published on this blog.

If you're a Standard Oil collector or need lights...

If you want a Standard Oil shelf or spotlights…

More miscellaneous goods.

More miscellaneous goods.

FYI: You can also shop at Woody’s online. Click here.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My beautiful niece on her wedding day September 9, 2014

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Carlyn and Jared leave the church in the early evening, showered with birdseed.

Showered with birdseed, Carlyn and Jared leave the church in the gorgeous early evening light of a perfect September day.

IT’S SO CLICHE to say that the bride was radiant. But no other word seems fitting for my niece, Carlyn, so in love with her now-husband, Jared, her high school sweetheart whom she married on Saturday at English Lutheran Church in Walnut Grove.

Just a historical note here. The English Lutheran church bell dates back to the late 1800s, when Charles Ingalls, the father of author Laura Ingalls Wilder, donated monies toward its purchase.

Lots and lots of birdseed tossed.

Lots and lots of birdseed tossed at the newlyweds.

The bridal couple, family and guests walked below that bell Saturday before witnessing a beautiful ceremony celebrating faith and family and the beginning of a new life together.

Look at how happy they are...

Look at how happy they are…that loving look Jared is giving his new bride.

Carlyn cried more than any bride I’ve ever seen. Cried walking down the aisle. Cried during the ceremony. Cried when she hugged her parents. So much emotion overwhelming her.

That look, oh, that look on the new groom's face...

That look, oh, that look on the new groom’s face after the ceremony.

And I thought how fortunate she is to live only blocks from her parents, to work side-by-side with her mother in a family-owned daycare. Likewise, Jared works with his father on their nearby farm.

Instead of signing their names in a guestbook, guests signed the leaves on this tree.

Instead of signing their names in a guestbook, guests signed the leaves on this tree.

These newlyweds will be surrounded by those who have loved and nurtured and cared for them their entire lives.

I watched as kids wove freely among adults on the church grounds and at the reception in the Westbrook Community Center. Small town carefree. Connected. Something you wouldn’t see at a wedding reception in a larger community.

Jared and Carlyn await their introduction and entry into the reception hall.

Jared and Carlyn await their introduction and entry into the reception hall.

On one end of the reception venue, kids tossed a toy football back and forth. A boy rumbled a toy truck across the floor. Preschool boys splashed in the drinking fountain.

And in between it all, adults laughed and conversed and danced to the beat of polkas, country line dances, 70s tunes that I once sang as a member of the Wabasso High School choir and more.

As my husband and I passed below street lights outside the community center, past the impressive corner veterans’ memorial and the old brick implement dealership where the bride’s dad (my eldest brother) worked before a new facility was built on the edge of town, I considered what a perfect day it had been. September weather at its best. My mom recovered enough to attend the wedding and reception. And love. Radiant.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Montgomery, Part IV: The unique way this Minnesota town honors its veterans, plus a haven for some March 7, 2013

NEARLY EVERY COMMUNITY, from the smallest to the largest, has a veterans’ memorial. And that is good, for honoring those who have served our country is worthy.

Often, though, these memorials are costly. So individual bricks or pavers are sold, fundraisers held, donations solicited to cover expenses. This, too is admirable, to garner that personal and community involvement, support and ownership.

But sometimes it is the simplest idea, the one that does not cost a great deal of money, which most impresses.

Patriotism is evident in downtown Montgomery.

Patriotism is evident in downtown Montgomery.

In Montgomery, Minnesota, you will find Veteran’s Memorial Park with its soldier and eagle statues, granite monument, inscribed brick pavers, park benches, flags and more.

Veterans' photos and information in the window of Aging Services.

Veterans’ photos and information in the window of Aging Services.

But you will also find, in the vet’s park and primarily in the heart of downtown, the photos and stories of Montgomery’s veterans printed, framed and showcased.

It is a simple, but deeply personal and moving, way to honor hometown men and women who have served in the military.

If you look closely, you can see the veterans' tributes in the lower windows of Hilltop Hall.

If you look closely, you can see the veterans’ tributes in the lower windows of Hilltop Hall.

I happened upon the Montgomery Veteran’s Project on a recent Sunday afternoon visit to see Curtain Call Theatre’s performance of “On Golden Pond” at historic Hilltop Hall. (Click here to read a previous post about Hilltop.) On Hilltop’s lower level, in the windows of Posy Pantry and the Montgomery Arts & Heritage Center, I first noticed the framed veterans’ tributes.

In the lower left corne you can see veterans' tributes in the window of Sweet Repeats Resale Shop.

In the lower left corner you can see veterans’ tributes in the window of Sweet Repeats Resale Shop.

But not until after the play, on a tour through the downtown, did I realize the scope of this project. Everywhere—from business storefront windows to exterior building walls—I spotted veterans’ photos and information, 279 total.

Honoring veterans at the Monty Bar.

Honoring veterans at the Monty Bar.

Framed and secured to the brick wall below a window at the Monty Bar are the pictures and military backgrounds of Cletus C., Dale and Darryll A. Gregor; Edward D. Pexa; and Sylvia A. Pexa Relander.

Veterans photos and info posted at Dvorak Accounting & Taxes.

Veterans photos and info posted at Dvorak Accounting & Tax.

Propped against a window at Dvorak Accounting & Tax, framed memorials reveal that George O. Dvorak was among the first troops sent to Europe in 1917. George H. Dvorak serviced communications equipment while supporting the 35th Tank Division in Korea.

More tributes on the exterior of the Happy Hour Bar.

More tributes on the exterior of the Happy Hour Bar.

Over at the Happy Hour Bar, I learn that Milo Kadlec, part of the 10th Infantry Division, received the Korean Service Medal with four Bronze Stars and the United Nations Service Medal.

To see these photos, to read this information, truly allows me to view these veterans as individuals, as hometown men and women who left rural Minnesota to serve in the U.S. and abroad.

More personal memorials grace the windows of La Nette's Antiques.

More personal memorials grace the windows of La Nette’s Antiques’n Lace.

But how did this project come to be, I wondered. When interviewing Montgomery entrepreneur and Hilltop Hall owner John Grimm, I asked him about the framed veterans photos. Grimm, an Air Force instructor pilot in Texas during the Vietnam War, had seen a similar tribute at a veterans’ memorial in his hometown of Wautoma, Wisconsin, and suggested that Montgomery establish such a personalized memorial. That was nearly three years ago.

Several vets' photos hang on the exterior of the local newspaper office, The Montgomery Messenger.

Several vets’ photos hang on the exterior of the local newspaper office, The Montgomery Messenger.

Initially coordinated by Mobilize Montgomery, the installation of these individualized memorials is now handled by local American Legion Post 79. For a suggested $25 donation to defray printing, frame and display case costs, families can honor their loved ones via a personalized tribute.

That’s not a lot of money for the front and center memorials embraced by a patriotic community proud of those who served their country.

A portion of the promotional brochure from The Harbor. Courtesy of John Grimm.

A portion of the promotional brochure from The Harbor. Courtesy of John Grimm.

THAT’S NOT ALL. Grimm, who says he has a passion for helping veterans, recently undertook another project aimed at assisting aging veterans and others in need. He bought the former Cottagewood Resort along Minnesota Highway 13 between Montgomery and New Prague last May and has converted it into The Harbor, advertised as “a serene haven for veterans and individuals with unique needs.”

The Harbor features three log cabins and a central facility which can house a total of 14 on the 20-acre wooded, lakeside property.

His goal, Grimm says, is to negotiate individual rental rates based on whatever is reasonable and affordable to the renter and will work for him to keep the haven financially solvent.

This Vietnam War era veteran, who previously operated a Montgomery area assisted living facility, tells of a call he received about a 52-year-old homeless veteran while The Harbor was in the beginning of renovation. He thought about the housing request for awhile and decided if the vet had to choose between living under a bridge and living in a mess, he’d likely choose the mess. Turns out the vet had been a sheetrocker, so he moved into The Harbor in July to help tape and seam sheetrock.

THERE, DEAR READERS, are two feel-good stories from one small Minnesota town, stories I discovered because I took the time to really look at Montgomery, to see the veterans’ tributes, and then to inquire about them. These discoveries await you at every turn. Just slow down, and you will see them, too.

Watch for one more story in my five-part series from this southern Minnesota community.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Rebuilding a rural Minnesota church January 1, 2012

St. John's Lutheran Church in Vesta, hours after a July 1 "series of downbursts" with winds of 90 - 100 mph ripped half of the south roof off. Photo courtesy of Brian Kletscher.

FOR SIX MONTHS NOW, since strong winds ripped half the roof from St. John’s Lutheran Church in my hometown of Vesta, the congregation has been without a permanent place to worship.

The southern half of the roof was ripped off by high winds and toppled onto the bell tower, which has since been removed. It was attached to the sides of the entry, as seen in this image from September.

Inside the sanctuary I listened to the wind flap the tarp that covered the damaged roof in September.

The pews and other items from the church were moved into the undamaged social hall.

Ponder that for a moment. If you are a church-going person, how would you be impacted by the temporary closure of your church building?

Here’s how St. John’s members have dealt with the situation: They are worshipping at their sister congregation, Peace Lutheran in Echo, about 10 miles away. They are holding Sunday School classes in the Vesta Community Hall. They are rebuilding and expanding St. John’s.

Repairs and building expansion are underway at St. John's in this photo taken on December 23.

The south side church expansion includes an office, handicapped accessible bathroom and an enlarged narthex, according to my mom, who attends St. John's.

Like the strong prairie people they are, St. John’s folks are adapting. They are helping one another, offering rides to those who can’t/don’t wish to drive to Echo, especially during the winter months.

Yet, this absence of their church within their community can’t always be easy. Imagine losing a loved one who attended St. John’s, whose death could not be mourned in the comfort of familiar surroundings. The same goes for celebrating baptisms and weddings.

In a small town like Vesta, population around 330, a church knits people and lives together into a community of care. That still exists. But, without a building, it takes extra effort to maintain that closeness.

For those who call St. John’s home and for those of us who grew up in this congregation, the reopening of these church doors cannot come soon enough.

Will “soon” be Easter?

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling