By Ross Markman
Amid the sugar packets, cream containers and steaming mugs of coffee, one man sits at the end of the table, daring to be different than the rest. His name is Everett Larson and he's drinking tea.
"I drank coffee all my life. No real reason, I just switched to tea," he said. "I guess I'm too wild drinking that coffee."
Larson is 72 years old, but you would never guess that by looking at or listening to him. He wears shorts and sneakers, and has the energy and zeal of a 20-year-old.
Larson is one of about a dozen men who meet at the Gallery Restaurant weekday mornings at 9:30. Half of them gathered toward the back of the Holiday Village establishment on Thursday.
"We're here every morning. It's just a get-together and a chance to talk about what's going on," Larson said. "We talk about anything and everything. We debate, but we don't argue."
The club, he added, has been convening for coffee for more than two decades. It used to meet at the old Park Motel restaurant, which is now closed. Only three members have died and others have moved away since the club's inception.
Most club-goers are retired Havre natives, some from construction work, others from the Burlington Northern railroad.
The lone member still in the working world is Harvey Brock, publisher of the Havre Daily News. Brock is the sixth Daily News publisher to join these guys for java.
"This is the only group in town where he can learn something," said Joe Gatzemeier, a 67-year-old retired contractor. "We really go through these publishers, but we don't know why."
At the other end of the table is Howard Miller, a native of Laurel who moved to Havre in 1969. Miller retired in 1990 from the railroad's mechanical department.
How long the guys spend each morning at the Gallery, he said, depends on the topic of discussion.
"Sometimes we talk politics, sometimes religion," Miller said.
These days, Miller said, he spends his time doing "just about nothing."
"But he works real hard at it," added Noel Davidson. "He had nothing to do when he went to bed. When he got up, he was only half done."
Davidson, 83, is the resident wisecracker of the coffee club. He used to do some building work and sold real estate. When did he retire?
"I start next week," he said with a smile. "Maybe."
"If you want a piece of machinery, a recipe or a formula, this is the place to come," Davidson added.
Don Johnsrud, who moved to Havre 40 years ago from North Dakota, agreed. The 62-year-old father of four spends his retired days golfing, fishing and hunting and, of course, attending the coffee club.
"We all have pretty different backgrounds and talk about a lot of different things," he said. "It's a social gathering for guys who have been friends for a long time."