Hope for sufferers of TLC withdrawal

Posted on January 26, 2016


When the Torch Lake Cafe closed last summer, a loud wail went up across the Township.  Where will we have breakfast??!!??  And Friday fish dinner?  And live music with Leanna Collins and friends?

Then word went around that Leanna had bought Sneakin’s.

Sneakin’s (we all still called it that even though it had been closed for quite awhile, and the place that went in there next had been closed for awhile too, but I digress). Photo c. 2003, Wilkinson Homestead Historical Society collection.

That turned out to be true.  Pretty soon there was a lot of construction activity going on at the corner of M-88 and US-31.  A lot of activity.  A cheerful message went up on the sign out front: 2016 WILL BE A FANTASTIC YEAR.

Then word went around that Unanticipated Issues had been discovered in the course of renovations.  That–to the surprise of no one who has ever undertaken renovations–turned out to be true too.  I noticed that the cheerful message on the sign was tilted all caterwhompus on one side . . . and that on the other it said 2019 WILL BE A FANTASTIC YEAR.  Hmm.

Stripping away a century of stuff

Renovations underway – Photo Gerry Sell 2016

Congregational Church Bruce edit

I called Leanna. I talked to her just a little minute ago.

“When you buy a 130-year-old building there’s lots of work,” she said.

Also true.  This particular old building began life (c. 1884) as a Congregational Church.  It was still going strong in 1898 when Nora Metz’s great-aunt Dessie Smith married Charley Anderson there.  It was no longer in use when the Andersons and their friends Jennie Euler and Guy McPherson posed for that picture on the right,  probably in the early 1920s. (Photo: Wilkinson Homestead Historical Society.)

Sometime in the 1920s Frank Hooper (Grace Hooper’s brother-in-law) bought it and opened Hooper’s Golden Bell, a restaurant.  When Prohibition ended in 1933, it became Hooper’s Golden Bell Tavern, where you could go to Friday night dances and have a cold beer and buy a chicken dinner for 45 cents.  (It has crossed my mind that perhaps a person could have bought a drink before 1933, but that might not be true.  The part about the 45 cent chicken dinner, though, is true.  Astonishing.) (Photos: Wilkinson Homestead Historical Society.)

Hooper's Golden Bell

Hooper's Golden Bell Chicken Dinner

Frank Hooper died in 1941.  I don’t know how long his widow continued the tavern, but eventually the Golden Bell became Molly Malone’s, beloved of many summer visitors from before my time.  (If someone has a picture of that I’d love to post it.)  Then Sneakin’s and the place whose name I forget were there.  Now it belongs to Leanna.  Good.  Back to Leanna.

Yes, they still plan to open the new Torch Lake Cafe by summer.  This summer.  (I have learned the value of relentless optimism, and I am prepared to believe that this is true.) We will still be able to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, and there will be music.  It will be cozy and beautiful, just like the Torch Lake Cafe and Blue Bar that we miss.  I wonder if we could talk Leanna into an opening special, a 45 cent chicken dinner . . .