'People miss it': Effort underway to archive and hear your stories about Ralph's

The Historic and Cultural Society of Clay County is documenting and interviewing people about the bar, in hopes no one forgets Ralph's.

Signage for Ralph's Corner Bar.
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MOORHEAD — Some still get very emotional talking about the day Fargo-Moorhead watched Ralph's Corner Bar and Grill come down in 2005 to make way for apartments and retail space.

The iconic bar — across from the equally well-known bar Kirby's — had been home to a unique crowd for decades. Poets, bankers, musicians and wanderers of all sorts sat on the stools at Ralph's.

Now, the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County is documenting and interviewing people about the bar, in hopes no one forgets Ralph's.

From the late 1800s on, the building on Main and Fourth Street served the suds. But today, most people remember it as Ralph's.

"I think it's really the crowd that hung out there. It was such an eclectic mix of people from all kinds of different walks of life," said Mark Piehl, an archivist for the Historic and Cultural Society of Clay County. "A lot of college students, theater people, blue collar workers, (and) a bunch of folks from the beet plant."


Mark Piehl and Markus Krueger of the Clay County Historical and Cultural Society not only have stories of their own from Ralph's, they are in the middle of collecting interviews with customers, and asking people to share memorabilia they may have, all in preparation for an exhibit next fall about Ralph's.

"This town had a lot of great bars over the years, but what is it about Ralph's that captured people's imagination still," Krueger said.

So, how is it that both beer joints here survived for more than a century, and were such hot spots, even during prohibition? While Kirby's and Ralph's served beer and hosted bands, they had a symbiotic relationship, not a competitive one. They needed each other to survive.

"It was a good connection between those two establishments, and the different kinds of clientele, the different kinds of music that were in both of them, they worked together really, really well," Piehl said. "It really was the corner of the rock. It wasn't just Kirby's, it was Ralph's as well. And that's gone. People miss it."

Sure it was a dive bar, but as Mark Piehl said, it was an easy bar to underestimate. It wasn't the bar, it was the people inside that made it Ralph's.

Bands from all over the Midwest came to play there. A place where farmers, lawyers, students, their professors and others came to have a beer.

"People are getting to a certain age, and I think if we don't collect that kind of information right now, we're going to lose it," Piehl said.

So many mourned the day Ralph's came down, people still wear the T-shirts. Now there are plans for an exhibit and an archive to forever remember Ralph's Corner Bar.


To share your story, or any items for the Ralph's exhibit can contact the Clay County Historical and Cultural Society on Facebook .

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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