News Column

Exhibit tells story of Y-Knot, other popular places and people

May 13, 2014

By Tyler Ellyson, Columbus Telegram, Neb.

May 13--COLUMBUS -- Jim Cumming summed up a 51-year period in his life with just four words.

"My, my, my -- Y-Knot," Cumming said as he took his first glimpse in 15 years at the stainless-steel smoker that for decades sat in front of the local restaurant he worked so hard to run.

The 84-year-old and his family got a sneak peek Friday at a new Platte County Historical Society Museum exhibit that's partially dedicated to the Y-Knot Cafe, the popular drive-in Cumming opened in 1948 at the corner of Howard Boulevard and 33rd Avenue and operated until March 1, 1999.

The museum's collection includes menus, newspaper articles and the large, white sign with red lettering that's sure to remind visitors of the 25-cent hamburgers, barbecued ribs, curly-Q fries and frosty mugs of root beer that made the Y-Knot famous.

For Cumming, just seeing the old smoker, which now has a fresh coat of silver paint, was enough to bring the memories flooding back.

He bought the large cooker from a business in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in the 1960s, well after Cumming opened the restaurant he built out of remnants from World War II barracks. It held 60 pounds of ribs, preferably smoked using fruitwood, or cottonwood in a pinch.

"I barbecued lots of hundreds of them," Cumming said while checking out the item he sold years ago.

Don Griffiths purchased the smoker when the Y-Knot closed and always planned to restore it. But that never happened, so it was donated to the 2916 16th St. museum.

He delivered the smoker last week with assistance from Platte County Historical Society Board member Jerry Kneifel.

"He'll be down here crying when sees it, believe me," Griffiths said as the men positioned the smoker near the museum's east building.

Cumming didn't shed any tears when he saw it about an hour later, but it certainly brought back fond memories of his days owning the Y-Knot.

For Cheri Schrader, the decision to include the Y-Knot in the new exhibit highlighting the 1930s through the 1970s was an easy one.

The local restaurant is a huge part of Platte County's history, according to the museum's executive director.

"Everybody talks about it," she said.

But the exhibit, located mostly inside the former Third Ward Elementary School building, is more than a memento for the former restaurant.

There are many other items that represent the famous people and popular places in Columbus and Platte County during this time period, from the Kingsmen Automotive Club and Flying Wheels Skating Rink to Camp Sheldon and the artesian well.

Other pieces tell the stories of Columbus High School band trips to Chicago and the Rose Bowl, a Legion baseball championship and area musicians and athletes, including Charley Brock, a Columbus native who played for the Green Bay Packers.

Schrader said the museum is still looking for more local items to add.

"This is going to be an ongoing exhibit," she said. "It probably never will end."

The Platte County Historical Society Museum opens for the season Friday.

Hours are 1-4 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays or by appointment.

Admission is $3 per person, with children under the age of 14 admitted at no cost if they're accompanied by an adult. Platte County Historical Society members also are admitted at no cost.

The museum can be reached by calling 402-564-1856 or emailing


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Source: Columbus Telegram (NE)

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