Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of stories planned by Cache Valley freelance writer Cindy Knowles based on the idea that everyone has an interesting story to tell.
Where can you find a water-witcher, zookeeper, corn man, dairymen, champion chariot racer and Santa Claus eating breakfast every morning?
Around 40 years ago, give or take a few, three groups of working men met around town to get coffee or juice and maybe a quick bite on their way to work. This started way before Starbucks was even a thing in Logan. Glauser’s Restaurant was the place for them to meet up until it went out of business and they moved over to Cabin Fever. It also closed, then the group moved to Lofthouse, which also closed.
Determined to keep meeting together, the group started going to the McDonald’s on north Main Street. It was a great location until it was remodeled. Being an opinionated group, they didn’t agree with how the dining room was set up and eventually moved to the newer McDonald’s on the south end of town. The group has been in that location for 20 years.
It is fascinating that the klatch never died out after all those moves. It seems to have made them more determined than ever to keep the group going, and it has grown. Quite a few of them went to the former South Cache High School together, grew up in the same small towns, married their friends’ sisters, etc. Some of the connections have been there from the very start of their younger lives. Two of this group are still working and the rest are retired.
It is a jovial bunch. When you walk in to order you can hear the roar of talking and laughter coming from the dining room.
The parking lot is filled to capacity Monday through Friday and would make one wonder what is going on at McDonald’s today. The group is slowly aging, but they watch out for each other and assist when needed to get everyone to the group table.
They consist of mostly men and a few caring wives and daughters who started coming because of their husband or father’s health. The women would help them get out of the house, some would stay and chat along with the men, or at their own table, or drop them off and get their shopping done.
“We solve all the world’s problems in one day, and then the next day we start all over again,” said Bob Chadwick from Millville.
Bob and his father ran the ice rink in Logan for years along with Doug Eames. Eames, who once worked for Logan city, started the Willow Park Zoo and now raises exotic birds in his retirement.
As a teen, Dick Berntsen would get a parking ticket every day from the no-parking zone when he went to high school. His dad said he was kicked out of the home until the fines were all paid off. He was also known as the boy who kissed all the girls in school, the Hot Lips of his day. Later he became a Logan church ward bishop.
When Alma Leonhardt was heading to work 40 years ago, he was hit by a car that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
“Alma is always positive, upbeat, no depression with him. If you are feeling down he will pick you and and make you feel better,” friend Clyde Demler says.
Alma has been in a motorized wheelchair for 40 years. He ramps up into his van and gets around town on his own. He builds the others up with his positive attitude. They say he has been that way since he was very young. He was a sergeant in the National Guard in Smithfield for 21 years. He was the mayor of Providence for three terms, on the board for Cache Valley Transit District, and the guys say he make the best sauerkraut.
Clyde Demler was a world-class horse chariot racer, going at speeds of 40 mph. (This is the same thing that Britain’s Prince Phillip used to do.) Clyde won a racing championship two years in a row and still wears his huge champion’s belt buckle. He and his son now raise five traditional race horses along with several pigeons.
Water-witcher of the group John Parker worked at Thiokol for years as an engineer. Everyone says he is the guy to call when you want to find well water on your property. Interestingly, he uses a coat hanger for the task. John married the queen of the South Cache High School ball.
Carl Nixon also worked at Thiokol. He’s retired and now lives in Nibley.
Norr Hendricks from Logan is one of two still going to work every day. He runs the Fast Cash Pawn Shop. He loves to read Louis L’amour books and has collected and read 337 of the 500 titles available. He has 40 leather-bound copies in his collection. He still farms and has been with the coffee group since the beginning. He is now getting into the race horses too.
Lynn Hulse of River Heights is a mechanic, heavy equipment operator and “scuba rescue guy.” If you want to see Santa during his summer vacation, he is the one with the long white beard. He is a professional Santa during the Christmas season, with 30-plus bookings. He cares for each of the guys and knows “all there is to share” about each and every one.
Judd Wilson of River Heights has a twin brother, so you have probably seen one of them around town for sure. The guys say he is the most talented of the group. He is a wood carver and has even carved Fred Flintstone’s car, among other items.
Judd was once out cutting down trees with a chainsaw when a tree fell on his femur. The break was so bad that he was in the hospital for three days. When the tree fell on him, the chain saw was still running, but too far to reach. He found a stick from his trapped situation and dragged the chainsaw to himself. He somehow chopped up the tree, got to his vehicle, and drove to meet up with one of his kids to take him the rest of the way to the hospital. He hasn’t attempted to cut down trees since.
Jim Zollinger was the local grocery bread delivery guy for years. He started at Eddies, then Earth Grains and finally Sarah Lee. He never left the building, the business kept changing hands. He is still working at his fruit/corn stand, Willow Valley Farms, near Ted’s service station. He usually has his young pickers with him at McDonald’s.
The younger boys have their own table and eat breakfast there with Jim and the gang. He is the Nibley watermaster and a world-class snowmobile climber. Alma Leonhardt is his brother in law.
Mark “Moose” Hansen was a dairy farmer and says he lives in “Hog Ward.”
“Chunk” (John) Richardson grew up in Wellsville and now lives in Hyrum. He got the nickname from his high school friends D.T. and Boog when they were hauling hay as teens. He was solid muscle then and the name stuck. He played softball with Alma and Clyde against Norr at the time. Clyde’s daughter told him about the coffee group and then he joined. He worked 32 years at Thiokol.
“I’ve been unsupervised for five and a half years since my wife passed,” he jokes.
Blaine Fuhriman, he is the one everyone likes “because he comes from good people.” He is from Providence and has been an electrician his whole life.
Roy Speth is from Nibley originally and now lives in Logan. He has always been self-employed, running his sprinkler pipe business. He went to South Cache High School with quite a few of the guys. When asked about the McDonald’s group, he said he and his wife Janet have a great affection for all of them and look forward to their morning visits.
The gals of the group have their own table in the overflow area. One of them who wished to be unnamed is actually 92. She is legally blind but is picked up by one of the group to participate in the McDonald’s gatherings.
Janet Speth was a Zions Bank teller in Logan. She knew everyone that came into the bank. She and her husband started coming to McDonald’s with her neighbors, Loyd Lewis and Wally Nickel. Both have since passed away.
Trudy Glenn is from the Pelican Pond near Young Ward area. Her husband, Phillip, was in the military. They started going to breakfast groups when they lived in South Carolina and Alabama while he was in the military there. Even though he passed away, she still comes to eat with the group.
Clyde’s wife, Shirley Demler, is from Wellsville. She drops him off every morning and then heads over to Walmart for her shopping ritual. She said for Clyde this is his connection to the world after having a stroke. The guys watch for him and help get him settled at their table.
Loyd Lewis started coming to McDonald’s with his best friend, Wally Nickle. Wally was the mayor of Logan years ago. Loyd worked at the USU agriculture department and took care of the grounds at Palatial Living for Wally. Wally passed away four years ago.
Loyd would have breakfast with the McDonald’s guys, lunch at Wendy’s and dinner at Angie’s. When Loyd started getting unsteady on his feet, the guys would guide him into the building along with his baby daughter, Melanie Carachano, who would bring him over. She came from Washington to look after him. After he took his last fall and was unable to go anymore, the guys would go over to his place to visit him. Loyd had always said “This is MY McDonald’s!” Loyd passed away just a few months ago.
Bill Petersen, the owner of the McDonald’s, packed up free breakfast bags for all the guys and personally delivered them to Loyd’s house. He also delivered them to Shirley’s house. She had a picnic for Clyde and all the guys on their front lawn after he had his stroke.
There were actually three separate groups originally doing the coffee/breakfast at McDonald’s when the pandemic hit. They all had to gather in the parking lot, where they brought their own chairs and a even table. At that point the three smaller groups bonded into one large group. McDonald’s loved the group so much, they posted head shots of every single person on their windows during the pandemic.
During the winter months they all went to the Old Gristmill for their morning ritual. Petersen offered to bring them breakfast to the Gristmill location, but the guys decided that they would now purchase from their new location.
Once the pandemic lifted, everyone went back to the south McDonald’s. The group is very complimentary of each other. No one brags because the other guys do it for them. This has been a very bonding experience for all of them. They welcome all who need a friend.
When asked if the group had any words of wisdom to share, Roy Speth jokingly said, “You would be hard pressed to find wisdom in this group.” Of course, he didn’t mean it.