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By Blake Spurney
NEWTON—In 1962, Bill Hand killed a tornado in the restroom of the old Hand in Hand truck stop.
When he came out, the roof of the building three miles south of Newton was gone, and a hairless pig was in the building.
“He had to open the door to let the pig out,” says his daughter, Julie Sadowski. “The roof of this thing was really low and the tornado was at treetop level. Like my brother said, he couldn’t have fallen for a better man.
Bill and his brother, Duane, operated the gas station that stood next to the restaurant on what is now Old Highway 81.
“It was kind of a stop on the way to and from Wichita, so it was a pretty busy place before the freeway came through,” said Jill Gatz, Sadowski’s sister.
Judy Hand, Bill’s wife, said the restaurant and train station were hit hard by the freeway bypass. Hand in Hand closed its doors for good in the early 1970s.
“It was a different time and restaurants were very different from what kids know now,” she said.
Hand in Hand was one of two roadhouses south of Newton. The other was Newell’s Corner, which was two miles south at the intersection of K-196. Locals referred to the two places as “three miles” and “five miles”.
“I remember it was a good place to eat because it was a truck stop at one time and a lot of people liked to eat there,” said Lon Buller, who would make the trip from Hesston in the 1960s.
Gatz said going to Hand in Hand on Sunday was a treat for her and her four siblings. They sat in the corner banquette, which was the only table large enough to seat a family of seven. She was especially looking forward to chocolate ice cream for dessert. She said the restaurant had one of the tastiest fried chickens she had ever had.
Sadowski said she and her siblings had a lot of fun visiting their dad during breaks. The children received baskets of chicken, while their father drank coffee. She said Hand in Hand stayed open until at least 1972, and she remembers seeing lots of truckers coming and going.
“After the freeway opened, they weren’t going to take the small freeway anymore,” she said.
The land where Hand in Hand stood belonged to Roland and Rich Claassen. Roland’s son, Darrel Claassen, said his father, uncle and grandfather Leonard originally opened a truck stop just east of where South Dillons is. The Claassens later erect a new building which will become Hand in Hand. Darrel said the food there was great when Ofel Hahn ran the kitchen.
“Hand in Hand was popular and the restaurant was good food,” he said. “Back then, there probably weren’t many good places to eat.”
Diane Claassen, Rich’s wife, said the menu at Hand in Hand was very similar to Curtis C’s Diner.
“It was just a typical place in town to go eat,” she said.
Gatz said his father, who died last summer, had a sharp mind until the end. She said he remembered things no one else did.
One night Bill was working late into the evening. He looked up and saw a red station wagon like the one that should have been parked in front of his residence. He called Judy to see if the car was out front, and she told him she wasn’t.
“Someone had stolen the car,” she said. “He just saw him pass in front of the station. They could get it because [the thief] didn’t get very far at that time.
John Torline remembers going out to Hand in Hand for many late nights when he left work at the Ku-Ku burger joint in Newton.
“They had a great breakfast and you could get your fill for $1.25, which means I go back a few years,” he said.
Torline said that after having breakfast, he and the other young men would sneak into Newton because of the permanent curfew that was in place, and all of them were under 18.
“It was just a place to go to be with people we knew there,” he said.
Hand and Hand, which stayed open all night, received a lot of traffic from many young people returning home from a night out on the town in Wichita.
“It was just one of those places that was open 24 hours a day,” Randy Hague said. “Good greasy spoon food. Back then it was just burgers and fries.
Neva Dyck said her late husband, Harold, started working at the petrol station which was part of Hand in Hand in 1962. They lived just down the road.
“I have a lot of great memories there,” she said. “If my husband was here, he could tell you all kinds of good things. He was more in the life of the restaurant especially than me.