Demolition of former favourite cafe spurs host of memories

Demolition began Oct. 21 of what was once a very popular meeting place and diner for many current and former residents of the Wadena area. The site that housed the almost legendary Dave’s Diner was slowly being cleared, bit by bit, to make way for new construction.


It was the spring of 1946 when Clarence Rederburg first moved the building onto the lot and established the Central Coffee Shop. Restaurant operators who followed included G.H. Wilhelm, Hugh Tremblay and Dennis Harmsworth. The name Dave’s Diner was born when Dave Bullen took on the business in 1956 and it had remained the same ever since.

Following Bullen, proprietors who followed were Guy McMahon in 1962, later Henry Wong and family from Quill Lake and finally Thant and Helen Luu in 1990. Over the past year, the Luus, who also moved in a house in which to live during their tenure, have tried to clear out their remaining inventory of equipment, dishes, furniture and odds and ends before the diner was finally vacated and sold to Wadena Co-op.

As the demolition continued, several curious passersby joined the News on Main Street to find out what was happening. One of those was Sheryl Kayseas, who stopped for a few minutes while on an errand.
“So what was your favourite memory of Dave’s Diner?” asked the News.
“I remember going for orange floats with my dad,” laughed Kayseas without hesitation.

Once the News “tweeted” the question after returning to the office, there was no shortage of memories shared:

• Garth Babcock: The fries, the real milk shakes.

• Bruce Harvey: Filling the salt shaker with sugar.

• Scott Godhe: Henry Wong’s diner burger; we ate a lot of those!

• Doreen McGunigal: Henry Wong’s fun Christmas parties.

• Faye (Dreger) Schulz: Fries and gravy.

• Vivian (Wallster) McGunigal: Wee June Clark and her siblings peeking out of the kitchen!

• Debbie (Tietz) Brown: Going for coffee or a pop with Sherlyn, Faye, Kathy and Karen. Good times we had. And saying hi to everyone else in there. I also loved their coconut cream pie, the best!

• Lorna (Harmsworth) Hedman: Fries, gravy, ketchup and vinegar! Getting a window booth and watching the cars go by.

• Marla (Hope) Suik: Fries and gravy! And they made the best banana cream pie anywhere!

• Brenda (Fountain) Teichroeb: Fries and gravy and a Pepsi with Corinne (Kristjanson) or Jacque McGunigal-Clark.

• Jacque McGunigal-Clark: The jukebox! And of course fries and gravy, banana cream pie. Smoking with all my friends (and getting caught). And the odd apricot brandy starter with Shelli Narfason.

• Braden Mueller: I agree with both the fries and gravy and the jukebox. Nobody will ever be able to make that happen ever again!

• Don Tait: Going for ice cream, sundaes and floats with my cousins when we came to Wadena to visit in the ’50s and ’60s. Henry Wong’s wife only serving half-cups of coffee for refills. Getting my first introduction to Vietnamese cuisine when Thanh and Hein took over.

• Braden Mueller: So that’s who put the sugar in the salt shaker — ruined my fries and gravy!

• Marlene Atkinson Cleveland: I remember going down nearly every night with a quarter Dad had given me and it bought a bottle of Pepsi and a bag of chips! Meeting good friends and hanging out; those days were happy memories for me and now when I do get back home once in a while, when I drive by Dave’s Diner, you remember all those things. It was one of my first jobs and I remember in the fall when the hunters came down, they left good tips and were appreciative and genuinely enjoyed their trips.

• Larry Kazakoff: I spent a lot of time there. It was the gathering place. Jukebox to your left when you walked in. You could choose songs from your table. Big windows to watch people in the street. Fries and gravy, cokes, best pie anywhere. Gay McMahon would talk to the kids like we were adults. Going there for breakfast after graduation without any sleep. The ice cream sodas with Orange Crush. The green scale against the wall. They may have knocked it down but I can still see it.

The Wadena Co-op will be using the lot to expand the current grocery store. As one chapter of Main Street ends, a new one begins.

By Alison Squires

Wadena News


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