Grain Belt Cabin
A Round Lake log cabin, used for a Grain Belt Beer advertising campaign in the 1960s, leaves the lake
WRITTEN by Jodie Tweed
IT’S A STORY THAT LEGENDS ARE MADE OF, A TALE THAT COULD ONLY HAPPEN IN BRAINERD, MINNESOTA.
And, naturally, this tale involves beer.
Back in 1960, folks from Grain Belt Beer in Minneapolis ask Brainerd distributor Willard Faust for a favor. According to his son, local historian Carl “Fert” Faust, they asked his late father if any local tavern owners would like to participate in a one-day photo shoot in exchange for one hundred bucks and all the Grain Belt beer they could drink. They’d also go fishing on the shoot. It was for an advertising campaign for the Minnesota-based beer company.
“Well, he did, and they did,” Faust explains. “He found three quite easily.”
The elder Faust strategically chose three of his best customers: Red Lord from Red’s Tavern in Merrifield; Hubert “Andy” Anderson, a bartender from the Happy Hour Bar; and Jerry Larson, manager from the Brainerd VFW.
The photo shoot took place at a log cabin on Round Lake, north of Brainerd. Faust says the shoot lasted from sunup to sundown. There apparently wasn’t much fishing going on or the fish weren’t biting since the fish shown on a string in the photos are trout. (Round Lake doesn’t have trout.) Faust said they sent someone to the fishery in Motley to buy fresh trout to string up for the photographs. Other photographs taken during that photo shoot show the local men admiring the ducks they shot while drinking Grain Belt inside the cabin. Since the photographs were taken in the summer, it’s unlikely they went duck hunting.
Despite these discrepancies, these are Faust’s favorite Grain Belt images, capturing quintessential moments of life spent at a Minnesota lake. Faust says the duck hunting scene was likely shot for the 1960 fall hunting season, and the fishing scene was for the following summer’s fishing season. Faust, who also worked as a beer distributor, collects and sells Grain Belt Beer breweriana. A few years ago, he was selling old Grain Belt advertising items at a local flea market when a man came up to his booth and said, “Hey, that’s my cabin.”
As it turns out, Steve and Joanne Carfrae purchased the “Grain Belt” cabin, as it’s often called, for $125,000 in 1992. The cabin was built in 1940 and at the time included a small one-car garage with an attached bunkhouse. The Carfraes are from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and they purchased the cabin sight unseen. The cabin was in terrible shape. The wood floors were covered in green and yellow shag carpeting. The only bathroom was painted pink with a stone field bathtub. There was also
a two-hole outhouse
“I walked through it and I called Joanne and said, ‘I think I made a mistake,’” Steve recalls with a laugh.
The authentic Minnesota lake cabin had previously been heated with coal and still contained a coal chute. The large stone fireplace includes a hinged steel door for baking or cooking over an open fire. Despite its rough shape, the Carfraes could see that the log cabin retained some of its charm, though hidden by all that shag. They renovated the cabin and added one more bedroom, a bathroom, and a large, lakeside deck to accommodate their family. They replaced some logs in 1992 and 1995.
Strange enough, they discovered within the cabin walls during remodeling a pristine 1932 presidential campaign poster for Herbert Hoover, who was born in West Branch, Iowa. They hung it on the walls of their cabin, along with the Grain Belt Beer advertising posters they bought from Faust. Decades later, the cabin looks much the same as the advertising from the 1960s. During the summer storms of 2015 and 2016, the couple lost thirty-five trees on their lake lot. None of them landed on the cabin.
But life goes on, as it does on the lake. After much thought, the Carfraes decided to remove the seasonal cabin and build a larger, year-round lake home. They tried to make the historic cabin work by adding a garage with an upper bunkhouse behind the log cabin along Ojibwa Road, but they often have up to eighteen family members staying with them at a time. They’d outgrown the cabin.
Another consideration was water that filled the basement. Over the years, the water table had changed on Round Lake, and if the sump pump failed, the family would have up to sixteen inches of standing water in the basement. It was a growing problem that they couldn’t ignore.
The Carfraes gave the vintage cabin to Jerry and Linda Campbell of Pequot Lakes, who moved the structure in early August to land they owned west of Pequot Lakes. It was quite the operation, with the home leaving the driveway at 5:30 a.m. The move confirmed that the floor beams and lumber from the cabin originally came from the railroad yard. There was one beam that had an inspection stamp dated 1929, noting that it had passed inspection.
While the cabin will no longer be on Round Lake, it will always be remembered by the family as the Grain Belt cabin.
“We were very fortunate to have owned this cabin, which was located in a wonderful area of Minnesota,” says Steve Carfrae.
In their new home, which will hopefully be finished in the spring, the Carfraes plan to have two log walls where they will display their framed Grain Belt cabin advertising posters. While they look forward to their new home, they will miss the cabin. Many memories were made there.