Rapid growth of industry after World War II

1949 photo of Four Winds Cafe with Naomi Koch and son, Dan, shown.
By : 
Mary Jo Dathe
Glimpses of Yesteryear

After World War II, the country experienced rapid growth in transportation and business, often with crews that worked around the clock. Hanna Mines was in full operation, with a railroad that snaked to its plant (south of town) and carried ore to the Ostrander shipping point. Ostrander was the second largest shipper (by railroad) of ore in the state, following Duluth!  We saw the opening of the Standard Oil Terminal and Ruan Transportation providing trucking to the oil industry. Numerous crews worked on constructing housing and businesses; it is no wonder that 24-hour truck stops and service stations were opening along the highways.

In the spring of 1948 Fred Koch purchased land on the north edge of Spring Valley to build a new service station and lunch room. The structure had living quarters for his wife, Naomi — they had previously owned the Covered Wagon Cafe on Broadway. From the accompanying photo you can see the 1949 building had a garage door on the north side for servicing vehicles. The new name was the Four Winds. Dan Koch, a son, said his parents came from Devils Lake, North Dakota. There the Lakota language took on the meaning of inviting and welcoming folks passing through from south, north, east and west. Whatever the reason, the name was long associated with the truck stop on the north edge of town.

Fred Koch operated the business only a short time, then passed it along to Vernel Henderson, then to Norman Jeche. The Jeches lived at the back with their daughter, Donna; later David and Agnes Beaston with their daughter, Sharon. Mrs. William (Harriet) Horsman and Mrs. Arthur (Edna) Krahn were employed as cooks, both by the Jeches and Beastons. The cooks waited tables, did dishes and filled the cars with gasoline — as business demanded. So this set the scene for March 30, 1953, when the tragedy occurred.

Fred McManus, a young lad from New York, was traveling with his girl friend to California. On the way, he committed several holdups to gain cash, killing three people before stopping in Spring Valley. As he entered the Four Winds, Harriet Horsman was the only person in the cafe — he promptly shot her. Agnes Beaston, upon hearing the shot, came up from the back and was also killed. David Beaston awoke to find his wife and Harriet Horsman killed, and went for help.  I assume the culprits were captured.

David Beaston left Spring Valley soon after, and Fred Koch, still owning the business, attempted to keep the service station open. He found travelers not only stopped by to fill with gas, they wanted to see "the place" where two murders were committed. A few months later he sold the property to Frank Kummer; the building was remodeled, and Frank leased it in the 1950s and 1960s to Gilman and Correne Robinson; Rollie Knox; and Al Larson. 

Frank Kummer sold the business to Carl Griebel, who had it burned down with firemen in attendance. Griebel scheduled a re-construction of the new Four Winds Cafe, a lucrative spot for the gas station and lunch room; and new owners have changed the name many times. 

Other pictures and stories have been published — in fact, the "Tales of Our Town" is available at the historical society, which opens Memorial Day. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., daily, to tour the Methodist Church Museum, Washburn-Zittleman Historic Home, the Ag Building, etc. See you there!