HUMPHREY — The building collapsed, but the memories are still there.
Last week the buildings that once housed Schmid’s Bakery, Avenue Bar and Sharon’s Antiques and many more were demolished by Bygland Dirt Contracting of Albion.
People gathered along Third Street in front of the structure, watching the buildings crumble to the ground in a pile of dirt and dust.
Michelle Wemhoff, who grew up in the bar, which was also her home, wiped away a few tears between the photo shoot and the video.
Avenue Bar, which everyone agreed was as much a gathering place for families and friends as it was a watering hole, was owned by his parents, Larry and Norma Gilmore.
“It was really bittersweet,” Wemhoff said as he watched the building crumble.
Wemhoff’s son Eric, who spent time in the bar watching the card players, and his daughter Jenaya, were there to watch and take pictures and video.
Before the Gilmores operated the bar, Ernie Schmid operated a bakery, cafe and bar in the same location.
His daughter, Stella (Rasmussen) Landauer of Albion, said she was the youngest in her family when her father was in business, operating Schmid’s Bakery.
She remembers why he needed to add a bar and cafe.
“The reason he stopped cooking was because the bread trucks started coming to town, that’s when he turned it over to a liquor store on the right side of the building. , and he had the only alcoholic drink until he retired. Inside he had a restaurant and a cafe,” she said.
There was a green door on the right side of the building, which led to the liquor store, and the restaurant/cafe was on the left.
Landauer said there was also a bus stop in front of the building where people could board the bus for a trip.
After Schmid’s retirement, three people owned the bar until the Gilmores bought it in 1968 and operated it until May 26, 2006.
Between the two, it has become one of “the” places to be in Humphrey. Wemhoff described it as a place where families hang out.
“It was a family bar,” she said. “Since I was there it was always a kids bar. My kids grew up there, my mom babysat my kids, and my kids have never seen a babysitter.
“My son, Eric, became a social person because of the bar. In fact, card players loved Eric, and he loved the ace of spades. I don’t know why, but he was walking around and saying, “You’ve got the ace of (s)pades”, and finally my mother told him that you can’t say that. He’s probably 3 years old…so he’d find it and he’d go alongside whoever had it, he wouldn’t say anything, he’d just support them,” Wemhoff said.
Card players flocked to the bar, making it their home until it closed.
“Our place has become the place of the card game. Mom gave the older guys the keys because she said, “I don’t get up that early,” or if they were going on vacation, she would give someone the key, tell them to lock when you’re done, put coffee in a thermos. She had a little cup and told them to put their money in it (to pay for the coffee),” Wemhoff said.
“It was just a very family-friendly bar, in fact Phyllis Heinen came straight from the hospital to the bar because she had to show Tori to Grandma Norma, and it was like that with all the young families. they get engaged or have a baby, they move on. That’s one of the reasons everyone called her mom.
Larry and Norman were “dad” and “mom” to just about everyone who knew them. They were big supporters of the schools, and after games the kids were invited to stop by for a free soda and rehash the game.
The Avenue Bar had a steady stream of customers. Wemhoff said there was a group that came in the morning to play cards, an older group that came around 3 p.m. while their sons were at the farms, an evening crowd and Sunday people after church heading for the avenue.
“Sunday, after church, the young adults would come in, and they would call it Blessing, and the Blessing would start when Father said amen, and they would come right down to the bar, and it would go on until evening,” Wemhoff said. .
She said the idea of buying the bar was her father’s, but her mother spent most of the time there.
The bar was also the home of the Gilmores. They made a house above and behind the bar.
“Mom said if I ran a bar, it would be a house because I wouldn’t try to maintain both and someone else raise her kid,” Wemhoff said.
When she was born, her parents were still buying the bar, but after she was born and discharged from hospital in Omaha, Wemhoff said her first stop was the bar.
“I’ve had people tell me they remembered my mom coming in with the crib,” she said.
“I moved there when I was 2 weeks old,” she said. “The bedrooms were upstairs, there were two bedrooms and a bathroom – at first – we turned the veranda into a third bedroom, and it became my bedroom. The kitchen and living room were just behind the bar.
After her daughter left, Norma had a toy box for the children near the men’s bathroom, while their parents enjoyed a night out.
Norma made sure the bar had a family atmosphere.
If the language got too strong, she wasn’t afraid to tell people to clean it up, and fights were rare.
The Avenue Bar was a place where people felt comfortable – so comfortable in fact, that three people rode horses through the bar.
Dick Preister, Sonny Herink, and Rita (Eisenmenger) Herink, who later became Sonny’s wife, entered the bar.
As he exited, Jim Wessel slapped the back of Preister’s horse, and one of his hind legs kicked the bar stool Wessel was sitting on, knocking him off the stool.
Coming out of the bar, the horse’s saddle got stuck on the door handle and broke it.
Wemhoff said his mom told them to get those…horses out of the bar, but everyone had a good laugh.
They closed the bar because Norma was ready to retire, and the sale never materialized, and they kept it as a warehouse for treasures they found while collecting antiques. Larry continued to work for John Deere.
Some of these antiques were recovered during the dismantling. Wemhoff said a bathtub with pedestal legs was saved, as was the beautiful green door to Schmid’s bakery and cafe.
When the buildings collapsed, Bygland filled the hole with dirt after the debris was removed. The remains were transported to dumps in Newman Grove and Clarkson.
As for the future of this space, Wemhoff said she will be planting grass on her property for now and has no plans for its use.