By Tim Leeds
They start showing up at PJ's Restaurant and Casino between 5 and 6 a.m. most days, with some still coming and going at 9 a.m.
It's a morning coffee club, with some coming as early as they do so they can get to work by 7 a.m. Others are retired but still come that early.
"'Cause you're up that time of day," retired railroad worker Bob Litzinger said.
Other retirees had different reasons.
"So we don't wake our wives up," Morris Toldness said.
Dennis Schubring added,
"You don't want us to get in trouble at home."
Litzinger added that sometimes he comes to coffee earlier than other times.
"It depends on whether I get run out of the house or not," he said.
Many of the late-morning crew are retired railroad workers, like Litzinger and Toldness. Schubring left the railroad on disability.
Clayton Parsons, who still occasionally works for Meissner Tractors Inc. and Patrick Construction, is one of the early early morning club members.
"We've got a mixture of a little bit of everybody. often the same people most mornings," he said. "We get a new one every now and then, too."
Some people go to different places throughout the morning. Schubring said he starts out with a group at Gary & Leo's IGA, then comes to PJ's, then ends up with another group at The Lunch Box, then goes home.
"It's a tough schedule, you know," he said.
Schubring is not alone in having coffee at several places, Parsons said.
"It just happens that this is the place to go and get breakfast," he said.
Not all of the railroad workers are retired, and not everyone who comes to coffee at PJ's is from Havre. Mike Cini still works for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and comes to coffee at PJ's. His brother, Rick Cini, who is a teacher in Delaware, goes to coffee when he's in town visiting Mike.
"When I'm here in the summertime, at Christmastime," he said.
The group discusses a variety of topics, but Rick Cini said one is common.
"Every time I've been here, we've discussed the weather. Usually the weather for a day, for a week and for the last four years," he said.
Other issues are a constant.
"We solve the problems of the railroad every day and the government," Toldness said.
The government arose at Wednesday's meeting specifically Gov. Judy Martz.
"Why do you guys have an idiot for a governor?" Rick Cini asked. "We have an idiot for a governor in Delaware, too."
When some in the group said the coffee club needed more Republicans to give Martz a fair shake, Mike Cini chimed in: "I'm a Republican but I definitely can't defend this governor. I'm sorry."
Local political leaders are also topics, the group said. A common topic for discussion is Hill County Republican Central Committee chairman Brad Lotton, Toldness said. The Associated Press story disclosing that Lt. Gov. Karl Ohs' assistant, Heather Keidrowski, called Lotton a "poophead" in an e-mail was one issue discussed this week.
The group has ties going back for years 16 years just with the coffee club, Toldness said. They have been meeting at PJ's for about four years, but met at the Iron Horse Restaurant in the Park Hotel for 12 years before that.
The meeting at the Iron Horse started because of earlier associations, and new ones have grown out of the coffee club over the years, Toldness said.
"It's just for the friendship," he said.