New book shares White Springs history

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Doris Barrette has written a book about White Springs Supper Club that also highlights her mother, Ethel Mann, and touches on some of her own life story. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

The history of White Springs Supper Club is coming to life through a new book penned by Doris Barrette, who grew up at the iconic McGregor establishment, washing dishes and peeling potatoes as a girl, then later waiting tables and serving drinks. Her mother, Ethel Mann, helped run the Springs from 1949 until her death in 2004.

Barrette decided to write the book at the urging of her niece and the ladies at the Hair Hut, in Marquette, where she gets her hair done.

“I never expected to write a book,” she admitted, “but wherever I went, people would talk about the Springs. And I’m the only one who knows the real history.”

Luckily, Barrette got a head start on the book in 2013, after writing an article for the North Iowa Times. She added to it over time.

“I sat in my recliner with my notes, and when something came up, I’d write it down,” she shared.

Barrette’s book delves into the history of White Springs, which was built by Archie Fritz on the property that once housed the Klein Brewery and opened in 1936. In addition to the supper club building, there are three rooms—each seven feet high—in a sand cave that were used to store and cool the beer the brewery manufactured. The cave was connected to the Springs by an entrance behind the bar. 

After Fritz built the Springs, Barrette said there were a few different owners, and her mother tended bar for them. While Ethel was working at the Springs, it was purchased by Ervin “Shorty” Mann and his wife, who came from Cedar Rapids. The couple shortly divorced, leaving Shorty as the sole owner. He and Ethel married in 1948. After Shorty’s death, Ethel became the sole owner of the Springs. Harold Landt then helped her run the business for many years.

The book also discusses everything from the supper club’s signature foods to its  dances—even well-known cats and memorable fights. It contains historic photos and accounts from local residents, in addition to background on Mann and Barrette herself.

“There are so many stories in there,” Barrette quipped. “The book weighs a pound.”

The present version is a bit different than originally intended. Barrette said she was 99 percent complete when her granddaughter, Jennifer Barrette Yager, announced that she and her husband, Robert Yager, planned to buy White Springs. The supper club re-opened over the summer, to great success.

“I had to take out the recipes and then re-write the latest chapter of White Springs,” she stated.

Barrette said her mother would be happy to see the latest generation taking over  the White Springs legacy. She’d also enjoy the book, just like Barrette hopes readers do.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, books are available at White Springs Supper Club, Hair Hut and The Planted Tree Gallery in Prairie du Chien. 

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