We knew the weather was going to be good.
The kind of summer weather we remember as kids growing up. Sunny days, hot enough to know it’s August, but not humid. Warm nights for driving around country roads. Sleeping with the windows open.
We left the city late on a Wednesday afternoon and headed west, happy.
First stop in Alma was the new restaurant in town – the Farmacy Café. A New Restaurant in a small town is a Very Big Deal. Everyone had been waiting for it to open for months. We arrived fifteen minutes before closing time (7:30 pm) but lined up anyway. The place was full, the wait staff was buzzing, the food smelled good, and we didn’t have to wait long.
We met the owner’s brother who was parked by the cash register, the owner’s friend who was running the cash register, and the owner’s sister and mother who were waitstaffing and “working the room” to make sure everyone was happy. This was clearly a closely held enterprise. Family and friends of Deb (the owner) helped her renovate and redecorate the restaurant and now they were serving tables and helping her cook. It was a very personal experience. And the chicken strips with cream gravy and Anna Mae’s coconut cream pie were to die for.
The next morning we turned off the air conditioner and pretended to be Cindy Hoedel.
It was one of those glorious mornings that made you wish everyone you cared about in the world could be there to enjoy it. Cool air, bright early sunshine with long shadows on a heavy dew.
Thursday, two days before Hot Alma Nights, time to get ready.
This little town of 800 people was expecting over 400 vintage cars to register on Saturday for an afternoon and evening of hot cars, big trucks, lawn chairs on the street, rock and roll music from corner loud speakers, and lots of food vendors. In preparation, lawns were being mowed, streets were being cleared, and a good amount of sprucing-up was happening. There was something in the air that is felt when everyone works together toward the same end, an energy and excitement that lifts the spirit. It was fun!
At the Volland Store, we too were getting ready, hoping for crowds, hoping to finish our concrete sidewalks, putting out lawn chairs, picking dogwood berries, doing all the little things that make guests feel welcome.
A good friend loaned us a GREAT sign and hung it close to where a gasoline pump stood many years ago. An old sign to remind us of an old gas pump – for old car enthusiasts (old cars, not old enthusiasts).
Saturday, The Big Day
Greg Hoots hosted on Saturday, and I learn something new every time he opens his mouth.
Greg pointed out that almost all of the photos in the exhibit have never been seen before.
Indeed, most of them have never been printed. Many of the negatives were loaned to Greg by Kratzer’s granddaughter Karen Kratzer Durso who had stored them in her closet for many years. What a gift to the world.
Do come see them if you haven’t already. The exhibit ends on Labor Day, September 7.
Sunday’s hostess was Deb Mayer, whose husband’s mother was a sister of Otto Kratzer’s wife – did you follow that?
It is always particularly welcoming to have a Kratzer relative or neighbor greet visitors.
I love the way the community values its history and heritage – and how they know who their ancestors were. Many here are fourth or fifth generation and proud of it –and rightfully so. I am indebted to all the volunteers who have hosted the gallery and the Kratzer exhibit since it opened in June:
Tony Meseke, Gary and Peggy Schultz, Cleo and Julie Schultz, Rob Meseke, Deb Mayer, Julia Anderson, Don and Joyce Meseke Mathies, Bob Meseke, Sylvia Palenske, Ron Schultz (scheduled for later), and Greg Hoots.
Most of the vintage car owners decided not to travel the ¼-mile gravel road to see us at the Store – and who could blame them? Nevertheless, we had good crowds both days, and we loved visiting with them.
Martin Gnadt knows more stories than all of us put together.
It was too hot for furry friends to stay in the car.
After the day in the Gallery, it was off to Hot Alma Nights!
When the cars left, people took to the streets and wandered everywhere. We sat at the “sidewalk cafe” of the new restaurant, looked over the crowd, and had a new view of the old stone buildings we had seen many times before. It reminded us of one of the small vibrant neighborhoods in Paris on a summer evening.