A paved road, the Clontarf Club, and roller skates

I was chatting with my “Clontarf Insider” yesterday about the Clontarf Club.  She told me a bit about the origins of the Club…

About 1920 a gentleman from Benson started an oil company and thought that Clontarf was a good spot for a filling station, since the main road from Benson went straight through the town.  This was a great idea, until they decided to pave the main road, shift its course, and bypass Clontarf altogether.

Without the traffic from the main road, the station was not profitable, so it was sold to a local man named Patrick Regan.  Pat Regan started a garage, and throughout the 1920s it was known as much for the poker games played there as for the cars repaired.

Patrick Regan is seated on the left with Jim Duggan standing behind him. The two men on the right are unidentified.

George Gilbertson joined Pat Regan in a venture to remodel the garage, doubling its size, and turning it into the Clontarf Club.  Does anyone have a date for when the Club opened its doors?

I have heard that the lobster tail served at the Club was quite good…any other favorite items on the menu?

The paved road may not have been good for filling station business, but it did wonders for the recreational opportunities of Clontarf youth.  Donald and Gerald Regan (who happen to be sons of Pat Regan mentioned above), told me about how they would strap on their roller skates and skate the six miles to Benson on the smooth, newly paved road.  Then they would skate all night at the Armory, returning home on the midnight train to Clontarf.  Care to guess how much this one-way train fare cost in the 1920s?

Pssst…any ideas on the identities of the two gentlemen seated and standing on the right in the photo above?  Share your thoughts; leave a comment!

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “A paved road, the Clontarf Club, and roller skates

  1. Jackie Doherty

    Dear Aine,
    I had always heard that the gas station sold more bootleg booze than anything else. Do you know the date of the picture of Uncle Pat and his brother-in-law? Afraid that I don’t recognize the other two fellows. You don’t have to publish the part about the booze if the family objects.

  2. Jackie Doherty

    Dear Aine,
    Tom asked that I write to you with the following: When George Gilbertson owned the Clontarf Club (first he was partners with Pat Regan and later he bought out Uncle Pat and owned it outright), he was also bootlegging whiskey there. One time, when George had a load of whiskey, the Feds were chasing him and he literally outran them to my father’s farm (Joe Doherty’s place out in Tara Township). George and Dad were real good friends, so Dad helped him hide the whiskey in Dad’s barn in the hay in the hayloft. Tom believes that this was in the early 1940’s when booze was legal but the Clontarf Club did not have a liquor license. George got away clean and later picked up the whiskey when the heat was off. The only thing – Dad said that they didn’t find all of the bottles. Dad found whiskey bottles when he was pitching hay from the hayloft for the next 2 or 3 years.

    • Thanks Tom and Jackie! This is a great story. I hope your dad enjoyed the whiskey he would happen across it in the hayloft. I heard that George Gilbertson did some time for bootlegging, so he mustn’t have been so lucky on another occassion!

      Thanks again for sharing!

  3. Fran

    Hi Annie, the guy standing on the right sure looks like a “Foley” (Eileen remember John). I am probably wrong but had to take a guess.
    Enjoyed reading history on your site and will be returning for more information.
    Fran

    • Hi Fran,
      The guys in this photo are from your great uncle Tim Foley’s generation, so I am not sure what Foley it could be…maybe a cousin? I will think about this. Thank you so much for checking out the blog and commenting! Keep an eye out for your great-grandfather McMahon in future posts about McDermott’s General Store…he was one of the best customers.
      Annie

  4. Pingback: Wonder who the “dry” votes were? | History of Clontarf, Minnesota

  5. Jerry Jacobson

    I worked at the Contarf Club while I was in high school in the late 1960’s doing dishes and helping in the kitchen. I would usually go to work earliy on Saturday and mow the small lawn on the east side and just outside of the ‘dining room’. At that time the Clontarf Club was owned by Lyle and ‘Brownie’ Kesting who had a home on Meadow Land in Benson. Lyle Kesting ran a vending machine company (juke boxes, cigarette machines, etc.) and had them all over that part of western Minnesota.

    Brownie ran the Club on a day to day basis. She was a petite and powerful woman and ran the club with a firm fist. The Club never has a liquor license; rather, it was a BYOB club for hard liquor or wine. Patrons would purchase glasses of mixers (water, charged water, 7Up, cola, lemon lime, or sour) or from a limited selection of 3.2 beer. For regular customers, there was a wall of small lockable lockers for secure storage of hard liquor. The small front bar area had about eight stools, an electronic bowling machine, small bumper pool table and a cigarette machine, as well. Of course the vending machines were all supplied by Lyle’s own company. At the close of business every night the vending machines were always unlocked because Lyle said if cost less for the money to be stolen than replacing the coin mechanisms.

    The biggest night of the years was always New Years Eve. In the mid-1960’s the dance room (old garage area) was redecorated by Brownie and the walls were covered in fancy flocked wall paper and two three-globe chandeliers were installed.

    One way the club saved money was by requiring the waitresses (no waiters back then) to get on their hands and knees and scrub the place at the end of their work shift, which was often around 2 AM in the morning on weekends!

    The kitchen cooks were Lena Samuelson and Ruby Mazirck (sp?) from Clontarf. Rita Stayton was one of the full time waitress whose favorite expression was “Oh Kid”. There were several reasons for the good food served at the Clontarf Club, mainly was a really hot griddle and three deep fryers! The fat in the fryers was always changed weekly. On fryer did only chicken, one did seafood (shrimp) and one did french fries. This method ensured each food type retained great flavor.

    As you entered the dining room there was a glass-front butcher’s showcase that contained an array of steaks and chops which were hand trimmed by Brownie herself. The club was famous for its outstanding BBQ ribs! The ribs were always baked and then smothered in BBQ sauce, refrigerated and allowed to marinate for a couple of days! There are only a couple of people I know that have the actual BBQ sauce recipe to this day! Dinner always came with a great salad and a choice of french fries, baked potato or the best hash browns you ever ate. The club boiled russet potatoes and then shredded them; and then finished when cooked in small miniature aluminum pie tins and the most delicious crust top! The shrimp were always jumbo in size and lightly breaded. Both the shrimp or walleye fish was served on fish-shaped platters. The club did offer an enormous hamburger, which was fresh ground virtually everyday using the steak trimming scrapes. Another specialty of the club were its doughnut-sized onion rings.

    In the late 1960’s the Clontarf Club was sold to Robert and Barbara Hartley who moved back to the lower-48 from Alaska. Hartley was usually tending bar at the club; but, was often ‘resting’ up in the small office area because of his weakness for drink. Barb ran the club almost single handedly. At some time in the 1970’s the Harley’s built a small home to the east of the building on land that belonged to the club; but, by that time I had gone on to college and pretty much lost contact with the Hartley’s and the Clontarf Club.

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