The old Fargo Cafe has a special spot in Hank Reitan’s memory. Past columns about that cafe led him to write Neighbors about it.

Hank lives in Waubun, Minn.

“Around June 1, 1952, I finished 10th grade in Waubun,” he writes. “About then, mother, father and I finished planting three gardens by hand on our subsistence farm in the woods. Father then moved 70 miles west to Fargo to get a job at the Fargo Cafe washing dishes.

“Next, he moved me into his one-room apartment three blocks west of the cafe and talked the two Chinese managers and four Chinese cooks into hiring 16-year-old me as dishwasher, as he changed to another job.

“I loved this job,” Hank says.

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“In 10th grade, I was the shortest, thinnest boy, and the four Chinese cooks served me a meal before my eight-hour work shift five afternoons every week. Again around 7 p.m., the cooks fed me supper of whatever my body was hungry for.

“The cooks always asked if they could prepare veal cutlets or pork cutlets or chow mein or tuna salad or chicken salad sandwiches.

“For dessert, I took a bowl and big spoon into their walk-in refrigerator for cottage cheese topped with sliced peaches, pears or pineapple.

“In 1952 the cooks introduced me to hash-brown fried potatoes and onions.

“Around 4 p.m., before the supper customers came, I walked down to the basement to peel two metal pails of raw potatoes.

“Bolted to the basement floor was a gray-painted electric potato peeling machine. We poured raw potatoes in the top and caught peeled potatoes in a metal pan at the bottom.

“With a paring knife, we cut out potato eyes and disposed of them.

“I give credit to those four Chinese cooks for three things,” Hanks says: “being my friends; maturing me to appreciate ALL ethnic cultures; and feeding me to grow to 6 feet tall and 150 pounds by the time of graduation from 12th grade.”

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More memories

Hank then writes of his experiences in Fargo when he was in first and second grades, living at 5 ½ Sixth Ave. N. above a barbershop.

“I spent three summers exploring and playing in Oak Grove Park on the banks and in the trees along the west shore of the Red River.

“There was flooding of what in the 1940s was the lowland two blocks north of Fifth and Sixth Avenues North. At that time it was a grassy meadow where we played in the summer and ice skated in the winter at a Fargo city ice rink. We took swimming pool lessons at the Island Park pool, first from a low diving board, then a high board.

“I also had interesting experiences at the Crystal Ballroom, and an experience when my father and I drove a World War II refugee family of three women from Russia to WDAY Radio for an interview with Ken Kennedy.

“Then I had an experience when I was in around the eighth grade when my father brought me to WDAY Radio and talked Frank Scott into playing the piano with me as I performed ‘Guitar Boogie’ on the guitar and ‘The Irish Washerwoman’ on the harmonica. Frank later became the band leader for Lawrence Welk on TV.

“Another year I performed live music on KFGO Radio, where I believe the disc jockey was Lem Hawkins. I perked him up and made his job interesting that afternoon by being this skinny kid who played professional-quality music with no rehearsal needed.”

Hank also was a caddy at the Fargo Country Club the summer he was in ninth grade.

And there you have some memories from Hank, who says Waubun is so tiny you don’t need a box number to get a letter to him.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.