School and cafe at the center of life in Glenville

Published 11:23 am Thursday, November 13, 2008

It is nice to have a place to go when school and town events are over. Being able to stop for a hot lunch in the middle of a work day also provides a respite for hard-working folks.

The Office, a bar and grill on Main Street, fulfills these functions, helping tie together this community of 800 people in southern Freeborn County.

Glenville Mayor Wes Webb was having lunch at The Office on Tuesday with his son Matt and longtime friend Lauren Venek. The morning had not gone as planned for the mayor, owner of Com-Tec Land Mobile Radio, which sells and services communications equipment. Also a first responder, he had assisted two local citizens who had fallen on the ice of this chilly November morning, both of whom had to be transported by ambulance to the Albert Lea Medical Center. Because he had put his own business on the back burner temporarily, Webb was getting ready to refocus his energies on his primary job at Com-Tec.

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A committee had recently been formed to examine the need for a new fire truck for Glenville. An update of water filtration facilities loomed on the horizon. It’s all part of the job for the 16-year veteran mayor.

“You have to try to stay ahead of the game in all areas. You need a short-term position and a long-term position on the issues that you will be facing.”

The mayor said he can’t speak about the post-event crowds coming down from the school for a good time at The Office.

“I’m usually relaxing at home by that time, and getting ready for bed.”

His son, Matt, often migrates to The Office after events at the school. “It gets a little loud in here sometimes,” Matt Webb said. “Everybody has a good time.”

Heidi Hanson has managed The Office for the past four years and keeps an eye on the kids who stop in for burgers, fries and chicken strips after attending evening events at the school.

“Once the grill closes, the kids can only be in here if their parents are also here,” Hanson said.

She recalls one particular evening last fall. It was Parents Night and the last home game for the Glenville-Emmons football team.

“The football players all came in here wearing their jerseys, and after they ate they started singing karaoke together. People were taking pictures and everyone had a great time,” she said.

Glenville-Emmons High School Athletic Director Wayne Olson was ordering extra uniforms for the boys’ basketball team as the students crowded the hallway outside his office.

“We will have more boys on the team than we expected. Nobody gets cut here, in any sport.”

A local legend, “Mr. O” as he is fondly known, began teaching and coaching in Glenville in 1967. He continued as athletic director after retiring from teaching and coaching in 2003. He remembers the fun he had at sports practices and games. He admires the resiliency of today’s students, some of them raised by a single parent, or in homes where both parents work full-time. He brings a human touch to his daily interaction with students.

“Just to walk down the halls and say hi to the kids means a lot to them. They appreciate the recognition,” he said.

A special treat for Olson came last year when four of his grandchildren attended the school. The past few years have seen a significant turnover among teachers here. Some longtime educators have retired or moved on to other things, but Olson likes what he sees of his incoming colleagues.

“The staff is great and the kids seem to really like them,” he said.

Don Leathers has taught English, literature and speech classes in Glenville for the past 31 years, as well as serving as adviser to the school newspaper. He has seen the generations of students come and go and is very impressed with today’s students.

“These are good kids, very respectful. I think it’s a good reflection on their parents and churches,” he said.

Leathers said he tries to teach the importance of a love of languages as a connection to the wider world. He believes teaching is among most important jobs in the world. When his former students go on to successful careers after high school he says he feels a sense of accomplishment.

“I feel very lucky and very blessed to have had the career I have.”

Back at The Office Heidi Hanson is wrapping up the daily lunch hour. A trio of hunters in their blaze orange vests pays up at the cash register before heading out on the search for game birds to fill their bags. The business serves 30 to 35 patrons a day during lunchtime, some on takeout orders. The Office is available without a rental charge for reunions, wedding dances, birthday parties and anniversaries, and often has live music on the weekends.

“I enjoy meeting and visiting with people. It makes it more than a job for me,” Hanson said.