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1971: Grimm and Byrne used to operate in former Ohlen's Cafe location

Bits By Betty
Lead Summary
Betty Mann, president, Rock County Historian

The following appeared in The Rock County Herald on June 10, 1971.
Who in the World Were Gimm and Byrne?
Not everyone remembers Gimm and Byrne’s any more.
There are still some, however, who do, and this writer is one of them. Now that Ohlen’s Café, which years ago was Gimm and Byrne’s, is closed, it is unlikely there will ever be a restaurant there again. So we’re going to reminisce a little in the event future historians should ever go through these pages searching for material on what happened “way back when.”
There are those who ask, even now, who in the world were Gimm and Byrne?
Well, as I remember them, Gimm was a jolly, well-built German, whose first name was Fred, but who often was called “Feedy.” Byrne was an Irishman, slight build, serious in demeanor.
Gimm was the talker and had a hearty laugh. Byrne was quiet.
Gimm was tri-lingual. He was best at German and English, but he could also speak and understand Norwegian.
It wasn’t until the prohibition era that I was old enough to come to town with Dad, and invariably, one visit we made in Luverne every time we came was Gimm and Bryne’s. (Before prohibition, it was the corner saloon). Gimm always hailed Dad with a greeting in Norwegian as he stood behind the massive bar. The best drink he could then serve was a bottle of Country Club near-beer which he called “Peeah.” “Peeah” was beer with a German accent.
I had my first drink of root beer in Gimm and Bryne’s. In a mug. It was at Gimm and Byrne’s that I had my first hamburger in a restaurant. Up to that time, I thought a hamburger could only be bought at a food stand at the county fair, and nowhere else.
What a treat a Gimm and Byrne hamburger was for a farm boy who had to be content with sandwiches made of minced ham, grape jam, and cold roast pork every noon while attending country school.
Gimm and Byrne’s also conjures up another boyhood memory. It was the only place I knew of to go when I had to go. A place like that you don’t forget too soon.
The first black man I ever saw was in Gimm and Byrne’s. When he wasn’t cooking in the kitchen, he was out in front cleaning and scrubbing.
A row of chairs lined the side of the building opposite the bar. Here was the town’s meeting place for men. A cuspidor (c’mon, man, they were spitoons, and you know it) stood beside each chair. The town characters of those days could usually be found sitting there.
It was at Gimm and Byrne’s that I came to know Dada Baer and Fred Start. The Martins and the Coys may have been feudin’ mountain boys, but their feud was a lover’s quarrel compared to the feud those two men had developed over the years. One thing, though, Dana and Fred never pulled guns or fought with their fists. Usually, when one came in, the other went out by another door, mumbling words unprintable in a family newspaper. They just weren’t for being in the same building together.
One thing I never did see in Gimm and Byrne’s, however, was a woman. Unless, in later years, it might have been a waitress. A “nice” woman wouldn’t go in the place; in fact, she wouldn’t even walk down that side of the street. I always wondered why!
Gimm and Byrne’s has been gone now for many years. Changes have been made, most of them for the better, I am sure. But as years go by, places like this take on a historical significance, not because they present an era that is gone, never to return.
Fred Gimm and John Byrne never achieved fame of greatness during their lifetimes. But ask anyone who knew them, and he’ll tell you they helped make Luverne history. That’s why, perhaps, you still occasionally hear an old timer refer to the “corner” as Gimm and Byrne’s.
Anyone for erecting a plaque, designating it as a historic site?
The Rock County Historical Society is having our annual meeting on October 3 at noon at the Big Top Events Center. We invite you to join us, $15 a person in advance available at the History Center; $25 at the door. Our program is on old restaurants. Do you remember this one?
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

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