Waseca County Pioneer 111 W. Elm Ave.

Waseca, MN (507) 837-6767


The lifeblood of small towns

It’s been a rather ‘newsy’ week at the paper. 
Friday afternoon Deb Bently walked into the office and informed me the mayor of New Richland was escorted out of the NRHEG School building, where he has worked for the past three years. Rumors were and are flying. Unfortunately not much can be reported at this time. 
It was Mother's Day on Sunday. My family celebrated by going to lunch in Waseca. At the same time, unplanned, my aunt and her kids decided to go to the same restaurant, arriving only moments after we arrived. 
It was a lovely afternoon filled with tears from my mother as she read everyone’s cards.
My card was simple and attached to the flowers. “Mom, I didn’t forget this year. Love Eli.” 
Oh, how my mother loves fancy pots and plants. I stopped by Waseca Floral and picked out something that accomplished both of these feats. It's very nice to have a local florist whom I know to stop and shop from. It’s simply not the same to buy plants from a big box store. 
On Thursday of last week, I interviewed Dean and Theresa Grubstad, owners of New Richland’s Red Leaf Cafe. I have not completed the story yet–it’s been a busy week. I’m grateful my job creates opportunities like that one on Thursday which allow me time to have excellent conversations. I have been a patron of the cafe in New Richland since I could walk. Dad used to let me go up for lunch there starting at the age of 10 or so. 
I would sit at the same counter seat every day and order the same thing nearly every time. Chicken strips with fries, or chips, depending on whether my dad had given me $7.25 or $10. That same detail would also determine whether I was able to get a Mountain Dew or not. Ahh, simpler times. 
Back then the cafe was called the Dew Drop. I remember going there with my sister for lunch one afternoon. She meticulously applied ketchup and mustard in a ‘grid style’ pattern, before placing the pickles on top. That was the first burger I ever called, “my favorite,” and proceeded to apply ketchup and mustard in the same fashion for many years. I must say, though, those large style chicken strips and the crinkle cut fries will forever hold a fond place in my heart. 
Eating there as a youngster I learned what a “tip” was for the first time. I remember my dad telling me to leave a dollar or two for a ‘tip’ next time I was there. When I did, the waitress ran out the door after me to let me know I had forgotten my change. I said no, no, no, my dad said I was supposed to leave you a tip. 
When my friends would stay over at our house while I was growing up, Dad would pay for us to go to lunch together; that was a special treat. He always said, though, that if $20 wasn’t enough for the two of us to get lunch, then it wasn’t worth it. We made do. 
I remember another time at the cafe when it was raining so hard, all the patrons stayed and chatted for more than an hour after closing time. 
It was at this cafe I tried my first “malt.” Oh, in the years that followed I wished over and over again that the machine hadn’t broken, removing malts from the menu forever. 
After my confirmation graduation in eighth grade, the Red Leaf was where we went for lunch. 
I’ve had numerous business lunches there, social gatherings, and oh so many memories. I’m incredibly grateful small town, family-oriented businesses exist. So much so, I can’t help wondering whether people who grow up in a big city are able to collect worthwhile memories  and relationships to match the ones I formed in the communities I’ve grown up in. 
“A poet could write volumes about diners, because they're so beautiful. They're brightly lit, with chrome and booths and Naugahyde and great waitresses. Now, it might not be so great in the health department, but I think diner food is really worth experiencing periodically.”
― David Lynch


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