The last picture of Spring Valley's familiar landmark, the first Four Winds Cafe.
The last picture of Spring Valley's familiar landmark, the first Four Winds Cafe.
Rack's Family Restaurant opened a few weeks ago with front page coverage in the Tribune. Did you know that place has a fascinating history, only part of which you'll learn in this column? Historian Sharon Jahn compiled a great deal of information on places and people of Spring Valley for the 2005 "Tales of Our Town" history, and what follows is a brief early history of what we knew as the Four Winds, later Tootie Foster's Little Rock Saloon.

America's business and transportation systems experienced rapid growth after World War II, and Spring Valley was no exception. Hanna Iron Mining industry was in full operation south of town, the Standard Oil Terminal was built east of town, and Ruan Transportation was hauling fuels to countless bulk stations, service stations and customers in the three-state area. With improved highways and more vehicles on the road, a need arose for service stations and truck stops along the way.

In 1948, Fred Koch purchased land on the north edge of Spring Valley, where he built a service station and lunchroom with living quarters in the back half. Fred and Naomi Koch had once operated the Covered Wagon Cafe on North Broadway downtown. The name chosen for the new cafe was The Four Winds, to welcome visitors from all directions. Koch soon sold to Norman Jeche in 1950, and the Jeches also lived on site. They employed Mrs. William (Harriet) Horsman and Mrs. Art (Edna) Krahn as cooks. These ladies not only cooked the meals, they waited tables, did dishes, and gassed cars - whatever job was demanded at the time. In 1952, the Jeches sold the business to David and Agnes Beaston; they and their daughter, Sharon, also lived in the back half of the cafe, and the two cooks remained on staff.

Along came tragedy in March 1953. A young man named Fred McManus was traveling from New York to California with his girlfriend. En route he held up several places to gain cash, and in the process, killed three people before he got to Spring Valley. At 5:30 a.m., he entered the Four Winds and shot Harriet Horsman as she began her daily chores. Agnes Beaston, on hearing the shot, came from the back and she, too, was killed. David Beaston found the tragic scene and went for help. The robber/killer was apprehended near Dubuque, Iowa, later that day, and the cash he garnered for two murders? Only $40. Mr. Beaston left Spring Valley soon after, and Fred Koch, still owner, tried to operate the station, but found folks stopped not for gas or food, but to "see" where the murders had taken place.

Koch finally sold the business to Frank Kummer, who remodeled the place and leased it. Operators in the '50s and '60s that we remember included Gilman and Correne Robinson, Rollie Knox and Al Larson. In 1967, Kummer sold the property to Carl Griebel of Austin. The place had been a familiar landmark for about 20 years, a popular truck stop and great place to eat. Griebel decided to have the building burned down and constructed a new restaurant on the site. The name Four Winds was retained, and the business continued to change hands over the years, once operated by the Gundersons, whose Frontier Restaurant had burned on South Section Avenue; then opened as Prok's Family Restaurant. In 1997, Tootie Foster purchased the business, which then became the Little Rock Saloon.

Tootie Foster sold the business in April of this year, 2013, to Steve and Karla Tart, who have done extensive remodeling. New handicapped bathrooms sparkle; the kitchen and bar were completely redone. There are new windows, which brighten the interior - the dining room on the south seats about 60 diners and the bar on the north end has seating for 40 patrons. Five televisions keep folks up to date on news and sports. Bingo enthusiasts can play the board game on Wednesday nights at 6:30 and on Sundays at 4 p.m.

The Tart family includes son Mitch and daughters Ashley and Lindsay who are all involved with the operation.

Stop by and check out this new. friendly addition to our community.