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“We have…stuff going on here.”

Marie (Maria Nealson) of Marie’s Café in North Park (3016 University Avenue) is talking late at night in her café (open till 3:00 a.m. during summer).

“During the day you’ll get pushed," she says. "And there’s no one behind. Late at night you’ll hear big-band music. Water in the bathroom and the kitchen will turn on and off. Same with the TV. Eight months ago, at 11:30 at night, I was serving table one. Two middle-aged women. They were my last customers. One asked if she could use the bathroom.

"She was there a long time. When she finally came back, she said, ‘That man was so nice, the one stirring that big pot on the stove with the big paddle. He was big, too. He had such a nice smile, but he wasn’t talkative.’

"When the lady left, she turned and said, ‘Goodnight, Johnny.'”

Marie looks at me.

“I have no man like that working for me. No giant stock pot. I went back. All I could feel was freezing cold by the kitchen. There was nobody there. This place is probably 90 years old.

"Then, just yesterday [June 21], a woman came in and gave me this photograph. She said her father had owned this café around mid-century. Every night, he would prepare the stock pot for the next day, stirring in chicken and beef with a big wooden oar. And he loved big-band music.”

Until Marie took over the café in 2002, it was known as Johnny’s.

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Marie's Cafe in North Park

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Marie and her assistant Rachel. "I haven't seen anything yet," says Rachel. "But I believe it all."

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Is this Johnny? He was purportedly the owner from mid-century. At some point, the cafe was known as Johnny's

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Marie in the kitchen where the man was seen stirring the stockpot

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Outside Marie's, late at night

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