It was a special four-day celebration in Ellendale and one where an "unsung hero" was honored and some tales of Ellendale were spun.
The person honored last Friday night as the 2019 Ellendale Unsung Hero was Andy Lerberg, former owner of Lerberg's grocery story and still an active businessman in Ellendale. Lerberg currently owns Lerberg Fitness, the Car Wash and the Laundromat.
Lerberg, 76, has been a very active community supporter over the years and continues to promote Ellendale as a "great place to live."
The award is given out each year by the Ellendale Community Action Group.
"I knew I was in trouble when my daughter Wendy (Schultz) talked me into playing BINGO; I don't like to play the game," said Lerberg. Following the BINGO party, Lerberg's selection was announced.
Lerberg is a native of Ellendale, first living on the hill just west of where he resides currently with his wife Mary.
Lerberg's grandfather started the Lerberg's store in 1901 and ran it until 1929. His uncle Irwin then took over the store and operated it from 1929-39.
Andy's father, Arthur Lerberg, was the store proprietor from 1939-72. Andy and Mary took over the ownership in 1972 and ran the store until 2007 when they sold it to current owner Ross Sletten.
Andy is continually seen around Ellendale doing "odd jobs" to help out a community he dearly loves.
Lerberg admits to being part of the history of this small southeastern Minnesota community.
That history was expanded on Saturday with the Ellendale Area Heritage Society sponsoring Ellendale Area History Tour. Barbara Mrotz, Heritage Society president and Lloyd Kaplan, Heritage Society treasurer, chaired the event.
In the past, the Heritage Society invited interested persons to ride a hay wagon and tour the history of Ellendale. This year, Mrotz explained, the Society brought the venue to the park and chose three historical subjects:
• Gold Mine
• Ellendale Tool Co.
• Kernie's Supper Club
Ken Hendrickson even brought his pick axe with him to illustrate the historical story about hunting for gold in Ellendale many years ago.
The story has it that in the late 1880s, Morris Patterson was good to go to Minnesota to purchase a piece of land and dig in a certain place to find gold. Patterson sent his father, Robert, and uncle John Platt to the prescribed place and they bought the farm located northeast of Ellendale.
Morris' brother Wallace and his wife Alice and their two children joined him in this adventure.
Gold was never found and Patterson's family moved back to New Jersey and never returned to Ellendale.
Frank McNulty of Owatonna was next on the history tour docket, talking about vintage Owatonna Tool Company and Truth Tools. He was a salesman for Truth.
In the early 1900s, Arthur Cowden ran a small blacksmith shop in Ellendale. In his spare time, he made chisels and punches. In 1919, 100 years ago, he moved his business to Mankato. Automobiles then became more common and agriculture changed from horses to tractors.
Cowden found himself making more tools, and thus, Truth Tool Co. was born. Reub Kaplan, founder of Owatonna Tool and a former Truth Tool employee, bought the company and merged it with Owatonna Tool.
The third segment of the tour centered around Kernie's Supper Club located one mile east of Ellendale.
This part of the program attracted most of the attention because many people remember patronizing Luella (Lu) and Alvin "Kernie" Jensen.
Lu and Kernie worked in Kernie's mother's cafe (Johanna's Cafe) in downtown Ellendale (present site of Judy's Cafe). In 1947, they bought a couple of acres of land east of Ellendale and made plans to build a supper club, 24 by 70 feet. It had 20 booths, a dance floor and the latest lighting and kitchen equipment.
Waitresses Amanda Beach and Kathy Born, former bouncer Whitey Hagen and former building owner Dan Carroll took part in a panel discussion about Kernie's history.
Beach said she first worked at Johanna's Cafe and was sold along with Kernie and Lu when they started the supper club east of Ellendale. "I was an indentured servant," Beach laughed. She started at Kernie's when she was in high school. "I stayed there a long time but was also fired many times," she continued.
Whitey Hagen, known for his involvement in cancer auctions in Geneva, worked at Kernie's as a bouncer. "Kernie's was where food was king," he said.
"It wasn't a bad place," Hagen said, but he said he did have to keep peace with customers. He related one story where customers began fighting on the dance floor. Whitey's father was also a bouncer and told Whitey to "take two at a time" when evicting some customers who got out of hand.
"It seems like it was so long ago," Beach remarked.
Kathy Born remembers selling steaks for $3 each.
Carroll told about his days of remodeling the supper club into a living residence. "I am too young to tell Kernie's stories," he related. Carroll said it was quite a challenge to renovate the building, which totaled 8,000 square feet and had been closed for some time.
"Speak up with your memories and tell 'em what you know," Mrotz encouraged people in the audience at the park. Joyce Wayne told about her mother being responsible for a barbecue rib recipe that attracted many to the supper club.
Kernie's later became the Whispering Pines Supper Club. The club brought in some big name entertainers including Boxcar Willie and Louise Mandrell.