Out to Lunch: The Bierstube with retired athletics director Don Miller
Editor’s note: Recently, we put out word about a new series we’ve planned. This week, we feature the second installment of that series. It’s called “Out to lunch” and aims to do two things. First, we’ll be writing about all the various restaurants in the Hastings area that we can go for lunch. Second, it aims to introduce you to a fellow Hastings resident.
As a sophomore at Minneapolis Roosevelt, Don Miller was the low man on the wrestling totem pole. This essentially meant that when equipment was handed out before the meets, he’d get the short end of the stick. That was the case when Miller took the mat for the first time. He strode onto the mat bare chested with a pair of sweat pants tied around his scrawny waist.
The good news for Miller was that he won the match.
The bad news for Miller was that those sweat pants had come untied by the end of the match. Miller went to shake the hand of his opponent while holding on to his pants with his other hand. Then the referee grabbed that other hand and raised it in the air to declare him the winner.
“I was standing in the high school gym in my jock strap,” Miller said over lunch at the Bierstube in Hastings recently. “That’s all I was wearing.”
He pulled up his sweats, ran out of the gym and raced toward the locker room.
His coach followed close behind.
“What are you doing,” his coached asked him.
“I’m going home,” Miller said.
“You get back out there and cheer on your teammates,” the coach told him.
Miller agreed and eventually moved on from the incident. If he ever needs reminding of it, though, all he has to do is open up his yearbook. Even his senior yearbook contains mentions of it from his friends.
For a lot of people, the incident probably would have soured the athletic experience. Not so for Miller, who went on to be a good wrestler, eventually wrestling in college at Augbsurg. He got into teaching and coaching and eventually ended up coming to Hastings to be the wrestling coach here. Later, he was named the high school’s athletics director. He spent 32 years teaching and coaching, including 28 in Hastings. He was athletics director from 1986 to 2000.
It seemed fitting to have lunch with Miller across the street from Todd Field, where he spent countless nights during his career in Hastings athletics.
Many nights after games, you could find him inside and it’s a place he’s certainly come to love over the years. In fact, after he and his wife Bobbi moved back to Hastings a few years ago, it was the first place they went to eat upon their return.
We both ordered one the Bierstube’s signature items, the reuben.
“Excellent,” Miller said between bites.
As his sandwich slowly diminished in size, stories kept coming about those old days back in Minneapolis. Miller said the most dangerous part about high school sports at the time weren’t concussions or knee injuries. It was something we take for granted these days.
“The most dangerous part was getting to the meets,” he said. “Our coach would give us two dimes to take the bus to get to the meets.”
Those two dimes, though, would never make it to the bus. Rather, the team members would pile into the car of a teammate and turn over their dimes to the driver who ended up making a hefty profit on the short drive.
Getting out at the end of the meets was the dangerous part, especially when Miller was a sophomore. He was typically forced to jump from the vehicle while it was still moving, he said with a laugh.
At Augsburg, Miller was a three-time Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion in 1961, 1962 and 1963. He then took a job teaching and coaching in Monroe, Wis. Four years later, Miller heard through a friend that the head wrestling coach job in Hastings had opened. He applied and got the job.
He later learned that his assistant coach was going to be Lee Snobeck, a former Minneapolis Roosevelt teammate.
“I came to Hastings and went to his house,” Miller said. “He said, ‘What are you doing here?’
“I said, ‘I’m going to be your new wrestling coach.’”
When Miller was promoted at HHS to the athletics director, he had to hire a new wrestling coach. He found a pretty good replacement for himself – a guy named Paul Vaith.
“I hired a better coach than me,” Miller said.
Vaith had a career record of 412-99-1, including a state title in 1996.
When Miller retired in 2000, he lived here for a few years but eventually, he and Bobbi got a place on a lake up north and lived there for seven years. They moved back to Hastings a few years ago and have loved being back.
About those reubens Tuesdays are the best days to go to the Bierstube if you are in the mood for a reuben. They are $8.
Mondays are the best days to go to the Bierstube if you’re looking for a burger – they are $5.
Want to be part of this series? Star Gazette editor Chad Richardson is inviting residents to call him up so he can take them out to lunch and write about both the restaurant and the person he had lunch with. Call him at 651-319-4500 or write him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.