The Broadview restaurant is a favorite haunt for many Knox students and Galesburg residents. From the slow conversations of a Saturday morning, to the drunken revelry of early Sunday morning, to the rush for Sunday brunch — as the hours shift, the restaurant does too. For 24 hours, The Knox Student stationed reporters in the restaurant, interviewing as many patrons as they could, to get a better idea of what makes this Galesburg landmark tick.
The lunch hour saw a full restaurant. A few families ate at the tables while the regulars drank coffee and ate their meals in the booth and at the counter.
One of these regulars was Ruth Smith, who has been eating at the Broadview for 35 years. She said that she goes to the Broadview at least once a day to drink her coffee. She was a friendly woman with blue streaks in her grey-white hair.
“There’s a regular bunch of us that come in about 8 o’clock or so,” Smith said. Sometimes, she said, they will talk for half an hour, but if the conversation is good, they might stay two hours.
“Usually, if the topic is politics, everybody leaves,” Smith said.
By the end of the hour, the lunch crowd had mostly cleared out, leaving the restaurant much emptier, a little over a quarter full.
Chance Charles, a lanky 23-three year old with platinum-blond highlights, has eaten at least one meal at the Broadview every day since he could remember. When he was a toddler, his grandmother, who worked as a waitress, passed him to other employees during her work shifts. Today, Charles’ family owns the Broadview restaurant and bar, where he works as a waiter.
Of all the interesting things that happen regularly at the Broadview — drunken Knox students staggering to order greasy breakfast food or random police night raids — Charles says that the most intriguing has to be the ominous presence of a ghost named Lavern Johnson.
According to Charles, Johnson was the former owner of the old Huddle restaurant, the predecessor to the Broadview. When the Huddle closed down and transplanted itself as the Broadview on 29 Public Square, Johnson’s specter tagged along. Though Charles has never witnessed any supernatural activity himself, he says that other employees have “sensed” the ghost throwing pots off of the shelves, turning pages on newspapers or dropping invisible morsels of food into the fryer.
“It’s really weird,” Charles says.
“Just a second, honey, I’m the only one here. You’re going to have to hang on,” the waitress says to the man at the counter.
“Those prices are for seniors, honey. Are you 60?” she says a few minutes later.
“No, d— it.”
From the corner booth in the Broadview, one can see all the way to the back dining area and all the way to the front door, and then beyond to the coffee counter and the claw game with the stuffed animals.
The corner table, like the rest of the booths, is covered in yellowed advertisements for local businesses with their phone numbers.
The “Heartland Amusement Park” to be reached at 1-309-34-HEART, a number which, when dialed, clicks to a standard “the number you have reached is not in service at this time … ” to remind the caller that Galesburg’s glory days have passed.
“How are you today?” an elderly man says to the waitress.
“I’m home sick in bed.”
The waitress’s name is Diana Strickland — not to be confused with Diana the owner. Strickland has worked at the Broadview for eight years and has been best friends with the “other Diana” since she was 15. Strickland was given a shirt by her a few years ago that labels her the “evil twin.” They consider each other family.
“I don’t have to work … not that I’m independently wealthy, but my husband does well … but I can’t picture not working here … this is my home away from home, and sometimes it’s my home,” Strickland said. “I work second shift because I’m not a morning person and I’m not a drunk person either.”
Strickland gestured to another server, a skinny young man with some tattoos and piercings, Chance Charles, the “other Diana’s” grandson. He has just returned from home where he was changing his pants after spilling ranch dressing on himself.
“I told her about your ranch episode,” she yells to him.
“See, just like family.”
An elderly man and his daughter, Richard Baughman and Laura Appell, sit down in the back dining area. They, too, consider themselves part of the Broadview family and even attend the yearly staff Christmas party.
“Sometimes I eat two dinners just to be polite,” Appell, who visits two to three times per day, said. “These poor people have seen me at my best and my worst … in fact I came in this morning and wasn’t feeling good, but they all hugged me and now I’m better.”
Appell’s father, McKinley, who now struggles with the onset of dementia, spoke about his work on the railroad with the owner’s father. His brother painted the pictures that decorate the Broadview dining room. Both he and his daughter have lived their whole lives in Galesburg.
“They [my parents] told me there was a crow flying over and they picked me up off a stump and that’s how I came to Galesburg. I don’t know what they meant by that,” McKinley said.
The restaurant was empty, save for the smell of the buffet that had been out since lunch. Arriving between 4 and 5 p.m. offers a quiet late lunch atmosphere as it falls between the midday crowd and the dinner diners.
This lull is used to recuperate: the staff clean the tables more thoroughly and the dishes clink as they are cleaned and stowed away.
The first customers for dinner arrived shortly after 5 p.m.
The elderly couple’s Pepsis were brought to their table before they had spoken a word.
The Broadview’s early evening crowd was sedate, with quiet conversation drifting over the seven or so filled tables. Most of the patrons were retirees, though one toddler chortled contentedly in her seat.
At one of the tables sat 77-year old Marilyn Egli and her husband, 83-year old Al.
Saturday night dinners at the Broadview have been a decade-long tradition for the couple (or for “a hundred years,” as Al put it).
According to Egli, “the Broadview’s always been around,” though it burned down and had to be rebuilt at one point in time.
Her favorite thing about the restaurant was simple: “Their food is good and the prices are reasonable … we eat as reasonable or more reasonable than at most fast food places,” she said.
By 6:00, the Broadview was bustling with the full force of the dinner crowd. Middle-aged couples lined most of the booths, and the chatter grew more audible.
Dan Howsley, however, occupied a booth all by himself. He has been eating at the Broadview for the past 15 years or so.
His 34-year old daughter used to wait tables there as a teenager. His wife is also a book keeper there now, so he can “meet her here for dinner every night.”
His job as a truck driver keeps him on the road a lot, and he also finds himself drawn to the Broadview because it is “about the only place you can get home cooked food … nothing here is pre-made.”
By this time, people were less willing to be interviewed, wanting instead to enjoy their meals in silence and solitude.
Among those eating with their families were Jacinda Ali, 32. Ali was eating with her younger sister Maryane, 21, her boyfriend Pedro Perez, 34, and her two children, daughter Shandi, 11, and son, Eli, 8.
Ali’s mother, a cab driver, often brought her to eat at the Broadview when she was a young girl. Now a mother and manager of a cab company herself, Ali has continued the tradition with her children. Though it is only Eli’s third time, Shandi had been to the Broadview once a month since she was little.
“The people know your name,” she said. “If there’s a problem, it gets resolved really quickly.”
That sense of familiarity was also important to Tanya and Rex Carlson, in their 50s and 40s, respectively. Not only was the Broadview owned by Tanya’s aunt (who had taken it over from Tanya’s father) but it was where she met her husband Rex, whom she eventually married in the back bar.
Though Tanya and Rex currently live out-of-town, they still drive in frequently to eat dinner.
Rex proudly points to his meal, which includes potatoes, vegetables, chicken, salad bar, soup and all the ice cream he can eat.
“How can you beat that?” he asked, holding up his receipt. “That’s cheaper than McDonalds!”
With the dinner rush coming to a close, a few families and couples remained at the Broadview at the top of the hour.
One group, composed of Ruth Smith, Erika Smith, Mark Paben and Jon Peterson, seated themselves at a round table.
Smith, who had been at the Broadview at noon as well, said that they have been keeping up the tradition of Saturday night coffees at the Broadview for nearly a decade.
The group had reason for choosing the Broadview over any other restaurant.
“The coffee ain’t as strong as floor cleaner,” Peterson said, joking.
Before the diner became the Broadview, it was a Howard Johnson’s restaurant, which Paben described as “kinda fancy.” The group did not come to the venue nearly as frequently because there were “too many snobs,” he said.
At 9pm, the back two tables of the Broadview were taken up by members of the Live Action Roleplaying Club, who had just finished their April Fool’s Day game.
The club has been gathering at the Broadview after their games for over 12 years.
“There’s a lot of running around, that makes people hungry,”freshman Nathaniel Rosenberg said.
The group says they love how welcomed they feel at the Broadview. There’s no question about where to go after a game.
“They always keep the back open for us,’” senior Katie Ohrich said.
The players usually start with a drink at the Broadview Lounge before moving into the restaurant for food.
“90% of the time when you’re drinking in there, it’s because you’re pissed off about the game,” Ohrich said.
Before that, though, the team always starts the night with a post game toast. There are several, but the most popular comes from lines from the movie “Blade” and the game “Warhammer 40k”: Blood for the blood god, souls for the master.
Although most Broadview customers interviewed had nothing bad to say about the restaurant — they liked the food, the wait staff and the prices — Frank Theobald had nothing but complaints.
He and two friends were eating at the Broadview, “bulls—-ing and having a laugh.” They said that the quality of their experience depended on when they came, but Theobald believed that “the Broadview is not the same as it was when we were younger.
“The prices are outrageous,” he said. “This used to be a beautiful place … but it’s getting to a place where it’s not kosher.”
He cited the lounge next door as one of the reasons for the change.
“The later it gets, the more freaky people get,” Theobald said. Early in the night, Theobald believes, the restaurant mainly gets people like him, who are interested in talking to friends. Later in the night, the population shifts to drunks, drug addicts and Knox students.
He also believed that the shift could be influenced by local government and talked at length about the county’s corruption.
“Knox County is the biggest ripoff county,” Theobald said. “You have no rights.”
Although he called Galesburg a “horrible place to be,” Theobald says he still stays in the county because it was where his family lived and died, so he wants to die here too.
He still comes to the Broadview, despite his complaints, with his friends so he can “tell people … how things are.”
He also admitted he likes the excitement.
“You got to come somewhere to watch the fights,” Theobald said.
In the last hour of the day, the Broadview was rather quiet with just a few groups scattered throughout the restaurant. A mother-and-son duo, Debbie and John Duerre, were seated at the counter having coffee.
Every Friday, John does karaoke.
“I’m too shy to sing,” Debbie said. She prefers to dance while leaving the microphone in John’s hands.
At midnight, the Broadview is mostly quiet. Most of the daytime crowd has left, and the early morning revelers haven’t arrived yet (many of them filter in after the bars close), but the restaurant isn’t empty.
The Roberson family sat at one of the restaurant’s side booths. They usually come in after football games or marching band competitions, so it is not unusual for Robin and Justin Roberson to be in the Broadview with their three children after midnight.
Robin and Justin have been coming to the Broadview for 20 years, since before they had kids. The wait staff all know them and even ask why their oldest daughter is not with them that night.
The family agreed that they enjoy listening to the karaoke that they can hear through the door to the Broadview lounge. Although none of them sing at the event, they like to listen to other people who can’t sing, but try anyway.
The family is also amused by the drunk patrons, who they see “every time we come.”
“When you live in Galesburg as long as we have, you expect to see drunk people,” Robin said. “That’s the entertainment.”
The restaurant was quiet and hardly full, but that did not last long. In the span of 15 minutes, people began filing into the Broadview at a consistent rate until nearly all of the tables and most of the bar was occupied.
Included in the crowd were younger people coming from the bars, wedding guests still in their formal attire, parents with small children and Knox students.
“You will see anything and everything walk through these doors,” Pat Custer, 44, said.
If his last name sounds familiar, it is because he is one of the men behind Custer’s Auto Repair, located at 560 S. Chambers St.
When he is not working as a mechanic, Custer is honing his love for baseball. He is an avid fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, featuring their logo in a tattoo on his hand between the thumb and forefinger.
Custer has had the honor of meeting a number of Cardinals players, including Albert Pujols before he signed a contract with the Los Angeles Angels in 2011.
But Custer’s biggest celebrity sighting happened by accident.
Recently, Custer visited Florida with a group of Galesburg High School students. During some free time on the beach, one student pointed him out: It was Justin Timberlake.
Custer had not even recognized him.
Pat Custer’s younger brother, Lyle, 42, comes to join the group sitting at the bar. In attendance are a DJ — employed by the Roadhouse Sportsbar located at 1011 E. Main St., he has a goatee, a tattoo on his calf and the nickname of “Foxy”— and the DJ’s father —named Ray, he is a lifelong Galesburg resident who has been coming to the Broadview for 45 years.
What makes the Broadview a destination point for Lyle Custer is Millie, a waitress who has worked the late night shift there for years.
“I’ve known her all my life,” he said. “I just know her as Mom.”
As it got later, the group said that the Broadview turned into “drama town.” The DJ, who had previously worked at a strip club, and Lyle Custer, who had worked as a bouncer, seemed confident in their assertions. Lyle said that the second and third floors of the Broadview Inn are occupied by “women of the night,” a few of whom could be spotted in the diner.
In his experiences, Lyle said that he was not always as even-tempered as he is now. As a kid, he would get into fistfights “probably every other day.” As an adult, this progressed further.
One night, Lyle had gotten into a fight with seven other men, causing enough of a scene that the Galesburg Police became involved. Without handcuffing him, they escorted Lyle to one of their cars and told him that he would have to be taken downtown.
It was when he learned that he would be placed in a holding cell that Lyle became angry. When he found himself inside one by himself, he punched at the thick wall of glass and metal bars until the glass shattered and he was able to break free.
“I’ve got bricks for hands,” he said.
This was the first and last time that the police placed Lyle Custer in a holding cell.
The Broadview had been quiet for nearly an hour.
Waitresses and other staff used the time to vacuum, start doing dishes and count money.
Behind the counter, a kitchen refrigerator was heavily decorated. There was a drawing of Patrick from “SpongeBob SquarePants,” lyrics to “Taps,” the definition of “veteran,” what appeared to be a child’s drawing in red crayon and a magnet that said, “Life begins after coffee!”
Slowly, a few individuals began to trickle in.
At 6 a.m., the Broadview was nearly empty.
Waitresses came in for their shifts, hung their coats, and discussed with one another their families, weekends and lives. There was an obvious sense of solidarity and friendship among the waitresses, and it lightened the mood of an otherwise dark, quiet diner.
Patron Jesse Larson was visiting Galesburg on business, working on railroad bridges. He has visited Galesburg a few times, staying at the Broadview every time.
“It’s bigger than I thought it would be,” Larson said of Galesburg. “It’s a big railroad town. But I’ve been [working on railroad bridges] for five years. It doesn’t really surprise me.”
At 7 a.m. on Sunday, patrons began to shuffle into the diner for early breakfast. The customers appeared tired, and many were not willing or happy to talk.
Still, the waitresses made small talk and lightened the mood of the Broadview as they prepared for a long day ahead.
Among the few customers was Terry Foster, who has frequented the Broadview for “four or five years,” and comes when he can.
“It’s the only place that’s open at 7 a.m.,” Foster laughed.
Throughout his meal, at least three waitresses came up to tease and talk to him.
“They know me here,” Foster said.
At 8 a.m., the Broadview was bustling with customers. All signs pointed to things only becoming busier: one couple had called ahead, their table reserved with a sticky note stuck on top of the salt shaker.
Friends Audrey Allaman, Shirley Pritchard and Pat Woods have been coming to the Broadview since the 1960s, when it was a hotel and bar called the Inn Place. Then, as now, there was a strong sense of community among patrons.
“If you didn’t show up two days in a row, somebody would check to see if you were dead,” Pritchard, 80, said.
Speaking about the “old days,” Mike Allen, 70, pointed to the board of numbers hanging above the doorway to the main dining room. Each number used to correspond to a table and would light up to alert waitresses to customers, he said.
Allen has been a regular Sunday morning patron of the Broadview for 40 years. Jovial and talkative, he sported a baseball cap emblazoned with the words “Vietnam Vet” and chatted openly about his work as senior vice commander for Post 8 of AMVETS in Knoxville.
While Allen typically comes to the Broadview on Sunday mornings for the breakfast buffet, he also visits during the week to talk to soldiers who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq. Having experienced firsthand the small salaries given to service members — $78 per month in the ‘60s, he said — he works to help young veterans learn about the benefits available to them.
“I’ve learned a lot, and I can help others with conversation,” Allen said. “You get paid for what you do in the kindness of things you do.
Around 9 a.m., the sticky note was removed from the salt shaker as John and Catherine Ross took their seats, along with friends Don and Audrey Lavender.
“We’ve been coming for five years … every Sunday at 9,” Don, 81, said. “This is our table.”
Martha and Dick England arrived after an early morning church service, snatching up one of the few remaining tables in the main dining area. Earlier, the restaurant had re-opened its lounge area, typically closed during the day, so that customers could take advantage of the extra seating.
“We’ve been coming for 10 to 15 years, or has it been 20?” Dick, 84, said. “Time goes by fast when you’re having fun.”
Bob Tracy, a 40-year regular, remarked with a wink that he was skipping church before getting up for a second trip to the buffet.
Although initially taciturn, Tracy opened up about how the Broadview had changed over the years as he sipped his second cup of coffee.
“The prices are higher, and the bacon’s crisper,” he said, holding up a piece for proof. “Which is good.”
The restaurant is still buzzing with the breakfast crowd, retired folks or entire families spanning a few generations. The wait staff are bustling around as families are finishing their meals.
There are no new faces for a while, and at 10:30 a.m. came the “last call” (for the breakfast buffet, that is). And almost as if on cue, nearly all of the morning patrons cleared out in a matter of five minutes, making way for the lunch crowd.
Willis Luallen, 86, of Woodhull, Ill. is still sitting quietly in the corner near the fireplace, sipping his coffee after eating breakfast the previous hour. Luallen has been a weekly patron at the Broadview for nearly 30 years.
“Not a lot has changed here [over the years], but it changed hands a few times,” Luallen said.
Luallen cited “good food, good service and good prices” at the Broadview, which also is a convenient spot for those in the area, but not just in the city limits. Woodhull, with a population just over 800, certainly isn’t known for its eateries. So Luallen makes the roughly 18-mile drive down Interstate 74 every weekend.
“I’ve driven about two million miles, and they’re still letting me make the drive here,” Luallen, a retired truck driver and auto dealer, said with a chuckle.
Earlier in the hour, as the last few families left after eating breakfast, the same conversation was heard as they ended their Sunday rituals: deciding what time to meet at the Broadview next weekend.
Compiled by Paige Anderson, Julian Boireau, Camille Brown, Kyle Cruz, Chelsea Embree, Charlie Gorney, Anna Meier, Kate Mishkin, Blair Peters, Gabrielle Rajerison and Kiannah Sepeda-Miller.