This story was published in the March 12, 2011, edition of the Hastings Tribune.
As one who has lived here all but two years of his life, Patrick Randolph is proud to call Hastings home. Randolph, 67, and his wife, Mary Jo, own the OK Café, 806 W. 16th St. It is one of many local business ventures he has tackled over the years.
An old railroad man by trade, he worked for the Union Pacific Railroad from 1965-80 as a brakeman and yard master.
So when he bought the OK Café in 1975 at its former location at 1622 N. St. Joseph Ave. by the old viaduct, he felt right at home in his new surroundings.
When the restaurant moved to its current location in 1988, he began to hear just how much customers missed the old railroad ambiance the former location provided. It was through these comments from customers that his interest in antiques was piqued.
His collection, much of which he has on display inside the restaurant, is his way of paying tribute to the pioneers who helped define the city's identity through the years.
"I've always been interested in antiques because they kind of tell a story," he said. "And we're all part of that story. When people come in, they say, 'I remember that' or 'I had one of those,' and that's part of their history.
"So I put pieces in here that are recognizable that people can see and connect with. There's a piece of equipment that farmers used to catch chickens with; farming equipment, de-horning stuff... Other items represent occupations: Army, National Guard, city workers and telephone line equipment."
His framed Kool-Aid packets are of personal significance to him, as he grew up across the street from Frank Perkins, brother of Kool-Aid inventor Edwin Perkins.
"We lived at 214 W. Fifth St., and Frank always came through with Kool-Aid and stuff like that," he said. "There were 10 of us kids, and we were always doing chores for him. We always had our supply of Kool-Aid."
His antique collection isn't confined to the restaurant, however. There are pieces of antique furniture in his home, as well. And antique vehicles, including a 1957 Porsche and 1957 Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
But mostly, his best stuff is on display for all the world to see at the restaurant, which he says has been a hub for special meetings between city and state officials and other prominent citizens of the community for decades.
"This restaurant was started in 1927," he said. "This is the third location. It's basically a Hastings institution."
As such, he said he really hopes to see it go on indefinitely. His beloved antiques — which include a "G" scale locomotive from Germany that totes some 60 cars advertising area businesses around on two tracks that circle the cafe's interior — have become part of that institution. For that reason, he considers them inseparable accents, permanent fixtures in a seldom-changing place of historical significance.
"Basically what I did was I went out and saw the antiques that I thought would represent something of the past and brought them in and made them the final decor," he said. "Very seldom do I add anything now unless somebody else brings something in.
"I hope the café goes on forever doing the same thing. And being an asset to the community of Hastings, not just the owner."