Guest column: The popular supper club known as Stables
Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023
Memories by Bev Jackson Cotter
I remember the Stables when it was a stable.
When I was a little girl, we’d drive by on the way to my sister’s farm, and I’d imagine it as a Southern plantation home. The white board fence around the pastures on the north and south sides of the driveway provided a backdrop for the elm trees that lined the long drive leading up to the white two-storied building with pillars encircling the front entryway. I was old enough to be reading novels about beautiful young girls accompanied by handsome young men riding in a horse-drawn carriage. I could just see them drive up that lane on their way to a ball given by the plantation residents. How romantic.
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In reality, that beautiful building setting at the end of the long drive was really a stable. Several professionals in Albert Lea kept their horses there. They were taken care of by a young man who lived in an upstairs apartment and maintained the horses, the pasture setting and the acres of landscaping.
Skip ahead to the late 1950s. The stable is now the Stables with a capitol S. Two enterprising men (Paul Lubke and Don Vandersnyck) from out of town decided to turn that beautiful setting into a plush dining establishment, an elegant restaurant where families could dine on Sundays, and businesses could hold Christmas parties and everyone could impress their guests with Albert Lea’s most sophisticated supper club. Upstairs, the former hayloft and apartment contained another special feature – a bottle club. Each member brought their own bottle – whiskey, rum, vodka, brandy, etc. – and the bartender labeled it with your name and you could spend the evening with friends enjoying the juke box music atmosphere and the liquor you brought.
The new supper club required the white board fence and elm tree lined driveway for an elegant approach, but it didn’t need the acres of pasture land. Consequently, most of it was divided into lots and sold. It became a housing development that was called the Stables neighborhood.
In 1961, Dick and I built a little three-bedroom rambler, and with almost four children, we moved in. What a fun place to raise a family.
Each house held a stay at home mom, a working dad, two, three or four kids, a dog and maybe a cat. In the summer time, the kids left the house right after breakfast, rode their bikes, played on backyard swing sets, played with their dolls, played ball, arranged parades, climbed the crab apple trees on the corner lots and even had crab apple fights until my son got hit in the eye with an apple and the neighbor boy brought him home with blood filing his cornea. After lunch the kids went back outside, and after dinner they stayed out until almost dark. At meal time, I used to holler “Tooni, Scott, Ken and Ri-ick,” and soon they would come flying into the yard, their legs running fast and their arms held out like airplane wings.
There were good times in the neighborhood and frustrating times — like in all neighborhoods, but when I look back I remember the coffee parties, bridge club, the baby showers, the neighborhood garage sales, the backyard visits and the hobo parties where everyone came dressed as a bum and we dined on beer and hobo stew.
How things have changed — the Stables has been torn down and pumpkins and sweet corn are now grown in the pastures. The city of Albert Lea has annexed the area and installed water and sewer lines to replace the one original well and the individual septic tanks and seepage beds that are in each backyard. Only a small number of original owners still live on Elm Street and Belgrade, and they are grandparents and great-grandparents now. With the women in the current families working full time and their children in day care, the neighborhood is quiet.
I’m glad we lived there when we did. My memories are priceless.
Bev Jackson Cotter is an Albert Lea resident.