Clifford “Tip” and Lorraine Kirkner never forgot the night they met.
How could they?
For starters, the evening featured a masked man, a gun and a robbery.
Here’s how it all played out:
In 1950, Cliff was 30 and owned an Omaha jewelry store. Lorraine was 24 and worked at Sears.
Friends set them up on a blind date on a July evening. They began the night bowling with another couple.
Later that night the two couples stopped for a meal at the former 11-Worth Grill, later renamed the Fireside Restaurant at 38th and Leavenworth Streets.
Cliff and Lorraine sat in a booth with the other couple and were the only customers in the place.
About 1 a.m., two men, one wearing a rubber mask, burst through the door.
The men forced the employees into a walk-in cooler. One of the men pointed a gun at Tip and Lorraine and the other couple, telling them to sit still and they wouldn’t get hurt.
The robbers marched Tip and Lorraine and the other couple into the restaurant office.
Lorraine shook with fear, and Tip put his arm around her and helped her walk.
A few minutes later, Tip and Lorraine heard the robbers leave, so they stepped out.
A World-Herald story about the robbery said the men got away with $1,000, fleeing in a car with a blonde-haired woman and a third man.
Lorraine was still shaking after the robbers escaped. But she and Tip were still hungry, so they decided they’d eat the meal they ordered.
Lorraine remembers that the waitress’s hand was shaking so much she could hardly pour the coffee.
Despite their unusual first date, Lorraine and Tip began a romance.
Lorraine says, in a way, the robbery bonded them. She liked how Tip put his arm around her that night and made her feel safe.
The robbery gave them plenty to talk about. They’d recount details of the evening, and as the months passed they began to laugh about parts of the night, such as the waitress with the shaky hand.
Three years after that memorable first date, Tip and Lorraine married at Omaha’s Zion Lutheran Church. They were blessed with six children and 10 grandchildren.
Tip, a World War II veteran and active member of American Legion Post 331, ran Kirkner Jewelry for more than five decades. He closed the South Omaha business in 2001 and retired.
He died in 2009 at age 90, after 55 years of marriage.
Tip and Lorraine didn’t talk about the robbery in more recent years.
But she will always remember his strong arm pulling her close that night.
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