There's a lot of history in Hal's Windy Hollow Restaurant, 8260 Kentucky 81 -- on the walls, on the ceilings and in the atmosphere.

The business -- part restaurant and part museum -- is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year in its second location.

In 1964, Tom Miller opened what was then called the Windy Hollow Lakes Restaurant on a hill overlooking Windy Hollow Lakes in western Daviess County.

When he died of cancer in 1974, Miller's twin brother, Hal, took over what was then Windy Hollow Rustic Restaurant.

Hal Miller died in 2014 at age 90.

And his daughter, Evelyn Miller, decided to keep the family tradition alive -- and the restaurant open.

It's only open from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m on Sundays -- one of the few restaurants in the country that's only open six hours a week.

But Miller said the restaurant's popularity continues to grow.

"Sunday, we had people from Henderson, Evansville and north of Evansville," she said. "We had a significant number of new people here. We always ask people where they're from. We get people who have come to town for weddings, reunions and for other events. We had someone from Germany not long ago and when people from Sweden come to Swedish Match, they often come out here."

Hal's Windy Hollow Restaurant -- former home to the Cow Palace, Pepper Tree Restaurant and Cowboy's Tack & Trailer -- is across the highway from the Kentuckiana Livestock Market and off the beaten track.

"We're off the beaten track," Miller agreed. "But we're closer than we used to be. We're a destination now. People who are looking for something that's not a chain learn about us through social media."

Hal Miller was a collector of western, World War II and local history memorabilia.

The more he collected, the more rooms he added on to the original restaurant to create display space.

But on Dec. 5, 2006, fire broke out in the kitchen.

And despite the efforts of more than 40 firefighters from five departments, the restaurant/museum burned to the ground and thousands of historical items burned with it.

But Miller, then 83, said he wasn't ready to retire.

So, he moved to the new location and opened in early March of 2007.

Items salvaged from the original restaurant and hundreds of other items Miller had stored in other places soon decorated the new restaurant.

There are movie posters signed by Ronald Reagan, Tex Ritter and dozens of other stars of 1940s westerns.

There's a Nazi flag captured in 1945 by Tom Miller, a couple of Roy Rogers' toy guitars, a Red Ryder BB gun, a replica of one of John Wayne's rifles and an advertisement for Green River Whiskey, "the whiskey without a headache."

An old Roy Rogers lunch box hangs near mess kits from World War II.

'Dad's man cave'

"It's like visiting my Dad's man cave," Evelyn Miller said of the restaurant and its memorabilia.

Back in the mid-'60s, the restaurant was open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

"We were open Friday nights for the first year we were at this location," Miller said. "But other than that we've been Sunday-only for 23 years."

The buffet is a basic country breakfast.

"We added baked cheese grits recently," Miller said. "And we added French toast 20 years ago. But otherwise, it's basically the same as it was 50 years ago. The big items today are fried chicken and bacon, French toast and pancakes. We usually have 300 to 350 people every Sunday."

She said, "The old place was like Grandma's house, where you went for a good meal. This place is like Grandma moved to a condo. It's not as big, but it still has the good food. We have a third of the seating we used to have and about a tenth of the stuff on the walls."

Miller said, "We get really busy around noon on Sundays."

She has a lot of memories of the restaurant.

"I remember washing dishes when I could barely see over the sink," Miller said. "I was probably about 7 years old."

These days, she said, children who are learning about World War II come to visit the restaurant to look at the artifacts.

"I share Dad and Uncle Tom's stories with them," Miller said.

Old movies were a staple at the restaurant years ago.

Now, Miller is showing them again on TV monitors -- mostly cowboy movies from the 1940s.

"Sundays are tough," she said. "But I have a great staff of nine people."

Lee Stemmermann will have worked at the Windy Hollow Restaurant for 30 years in October.

Vickie Greenwell has been there 23 years.

"I don't know what I'd do if I didn't come out here every Sunday," Stemmermann said.

Greenwell recruited her daughter and granddaughter to work with her.

But her granddaughter will be leaving soon for college, she said.

Miller said Jim Drummond, a cook, also worked at the former location.

B.J. Fulkerson, formerly of BJs Castle Burgers, fills in on occasion, she said.

"He has ties to the restaurant that go back to the early to mid '70s," Miller said.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com.

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