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Minatare man discovers art dating from World War II behind restaurant wall

Minatare man discovers art dating from World War II behind restaurant wall

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When Dennis Wecker began remodeling one of the rooms in his bar, he didn’t expect to find a piece of World War II art. Pulling off the wooden panels in the Broken Spoke Bar and Grill, that’s exactly what he found.

“As soon as I saw it, I said ‘Oh my God! Look at this,'” Wecker said.

The painting — depicting three horseback riders galloping across the Plains — hangs in the dining hall of the Broken Spoke Bar and Grill — now in front of the paneling.

Wecker has owned and operated the Broken Spoke for about four years. He decided to go into the restaurant business as he neared retirement while working at a sugar factory. At that time, the Broken Spoke stood empty for about a year.

“I always cooked at home, and the grandkids always loved for me to cook and everything,” Wecker said, “(The grandkids) said, ‘Why don’t you open that up and open up the restaurant there?’”

So that’s what he did.

Wecker found himself remodeling the old building, which he said was a part of the World War II-era prisoner of war camp in Scottsbluff. German and Italian prisoners were imprisoned across Nebraska as a part of the war effort. One such prisoner was an Italian artist.

The Italian painter is said to have covered the building in art, Wecker said. When the war ended, the building was moved to Minatare.

Wecker said he was asked by a museum if he was interested in donating the art.

“I said ‘That picture has been in here ever since (the building) moved down here.' I said ‘It’s gonna stay,’” Wecker said.

They might be calling again, however.

Wecker told the Star-Herald that there might be more art buried behind the walls. He thinks that a previous owner covered the art up instead of removing it, out of convenience. That or most of it was destroyed over the years.

Still, Wecker said there are two more places he’ll look.

“I think a lot of them may have gotten destroyed through the years,” Wecker said. “There’s one place in particular that I want to look at yet. It’s about the same height that this one would come out of. I’m hoping that maybe it might be there but I don’t know.”

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