Pieces of a historic bar which operated on Manning Main Street for over 50 years are now resting in the home of Chris and Erica Heck in Earlham, IA.
Since 1993 the 18-ft. cherry wood back bar and 22-ft. mahogany front bar were owned by Ralph Dobler who purchased them at auction when JD’s Bar closed its doors at 407 Main Street.
The bar holds memories for Manning’s Rick Lohrmann who tended bar for a while when he was in his 20s.
“When Jim (McLaughlin) first bought the bar from Chub Heithoff back in ‘81, I worked for him for a time helping tend bar and got to know a lot of the old boys. Knowing Ralph had the bar, I would always ask him, ‘why don’t you sell me that bar’?” said Lohrmann.
Then, one night in 2016, Dobler and Lohrmann were having a beer and Dobler was asked again about the bar and said he didn’t want to sell it. Lohrmann said one thing led to another and a deal was made that night.
“We laugh about it today because he thinks he sold it too cheap and I think I paid too much,” Lohrmann said.
His intended use for the bar was to place it in a new home his daughter Erica and her husband were building in Earlham. Lohrmann hauled it down to the home builder, J Thompson Builders, who had his craftsmen modernize and resize it so the front and back bar are 14-ft. long.
When they cut the bar down, they removed part of the center and retained the two ends. On one end where patrons often stood the name Bennie is carved in it. Lohrmann is confident it was carved by Bennie Otto. A metal plate on the bar reads: National Wood Works in Sioux City.
Lohrmann has attempted to capture some of the history of the bar. He knows the building was originally a harness shop, and Speed Pfoltner was the first to remodel the space, converting it to a tavern in 1940.
It became Herb Kuhl’s Blue Moon Tavern in 1946, and Johnny Kisgen and Linus Heithoff operated it as Johnny & Chub’s Place in 1948. Heithoff became sole owner in 1962 and ran Chub’s Place, and 1981 it became JD’s Bar, owned by Jim McLaughlin.
“It’s a part of history and a conversation piece,” said Lohrmann. “When I see that thing I think about a lot of the guys I used to know, like Charlie Stuhr, Harold Reinke, and Buzz Hargens. All those guys would come in and play cards and it was just a fun time.”
In an effort to showcase Manning’s history the Manning Historic Preservation Commission printed a coloring book late in 2017. The 24-page book showcases three Manning locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They include the north Manning Water Tower, the Leet-Hassler Farm at the Hausbarn-Heritage Park, and Manning’s Main Street District with 22 historic buildings.
The books were made possible with the help of Manning’s high school media class which converted photographs into line drawings, and funding from a local grant and a number of businesses who placed ads in the back of the book. Each drawing has a caption sharing some history about the building.
The books were delivered to Boulder’s Inn & Suites, the Manning Library, Hausbarn-Heritage Park, and local restaurants to be given to visitors and youngsters. The book was published with children in mind; however, adults are also enjoying the book as well.
After receiving one of the books, Paula Mohr, Ph.D., an architectural historian and certified local government coordinator with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, responded with complementary remarks. She shared the idea with historic preservation commissions throughout the state, some of which have contact the commission to obtain books.
To further showcase Manning’s historic locations a sign now greets people on Main Street welcoming them to Manning’s Historic Main Street. Soon, street signs along Main Street will be given toppers designating the historic district.