DECC Zamboni driver, 1989

I had planned to take a few days off… but this nice tie-in appeared for Sunday’s front-page story on the 60th anniversary of the Zamboni. So, one more entry:

November 5, 1989

Non-hockey playing celebrities at the DECC: Zamboni driver Walt Bruley gets some help from the Loon, a UMD mascot. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

Mommy, the Zamboni man!

Grooming the DECC rink has its rough, smooth spots

By Tom Dennis, News-Tribune staff writer

Walt Bruley has gray hair and can’t skate. But now and then at Duluth’s college hockey games, he gets the biggest cheer of the night.

Bruley, 43, is the senior Zamboni driver for the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. For 13 years he has piloted a boxy, funny-looking machine around the center’s ice rinks, resurfacing the ice between periods at University of Minnesota Duluth games.

And that gives him a certain measure of celebrity in a hockey-mad town.

"Kids see you in the shopping mall and they say, ‘Mommy! Mommy! The Zamboni Man!’ " he said. Good ice makes for good hockey games. So when the ice Bruley makes has been smooth and trouble-free, restaurant owners recognize him: "Ahh, Mr. Zamboni!"

Bruley smiled. "Of course, when the ice has been bad, it’s ‘Mr. Damn Zamboni,’ " he said. "But you do the best you can."

Driving a Zamboni is tougher than it looks. Steering with his left hand, Bruley uses his right to work levers regulating blade depth, water spray and other functions. The job is something like driving a truck and operating a crane at the same time. On ice.

And without being able to see, thanks to the awkward position of the driver’s seat. maybe that’s why Bruley, on his very first drive, smashed the Zamboni through the sideboards of the rink.

Then there’s "Zamboni elbow," the strain from working stiff right-hand levers. Drivers even have peer pressure to contend with. You’d be surprised how closely they watch each other, nodding with approval when one completes a resurfacing pattern right next to the exit gate.

But over the years, Bruley learned his trade. He learned to listen to the ice, to the noise that skates make. Good ice "chatters" more than bad ice does, he said.

Color and brightness count, too. "Every sheet of ice has its own personality," he said. "If it’s tough going in – if you have a hard time freezing it, say – it’ll be trouble the whole way through."

Just when you think you have it down…

"It was several years ago, UMD vs. the University of Minnesota, I think," he said. A championship rested on the game’s outcome. UMD was ahead as a period ended, and the crowd roared.

"So I was getting into it myself," he said. "I was driving around; people were yelling, cheering, giving me ‘high-fives.’ I was really excited.

"Then somebody threw a shoe in front of the Zamboni."

The machine choked. The stall that resulted was witnessed by thousands and delayed the game 10 minutes, he said.

Bruley learned his lesson that day. Driving a Zamboni is fun, he said. "But as soon as you let yourself enjoy it – bang! – something happens."

Today he takes pride in his work, but keeps a low profile. "When you don’t notice me, I’m happy," he said. "When you don’t notice that the ice is there, that means I’ve done a good job."

The same goes for the transparent shields that separate the crowd from the rink. That’s why Bruley and others clean the shields before every game, wiping away rubber streaks with a unique product called Puck Off.

Bruley sometimes works until 1 a.m., caring for the ice between late-night youth hockey games. Summer skating means that ice maintenance is a year-round job, too. No wonder people stare at Bruley in downtown Duluth in July: He’s usually wearing Sorels.

As a recent UMD hockey game was about to begin, Bruley punched the ignition and his Zamboni roared to life.

The machine lumbered out onto the ice. Bruley followed the classic Zamboni pattern: clockwise around the edges first, then up the middle, then around and around in ever-decreasing spirals.

Smoothly, professionally, Bruley left neither skid marks nor slush puddles in his wake. He made it look easy as he finished his last row right next to the gate.

Then he spun his Zamboni around in a racecar-like turn.

"OK, sometimes I like to show off a little bit," he said with a grin.

Freimuth’s Department Store closes, 1961

October 18, 1961

Freimuth’s Department store at the corner of Superior Street and Lake Avenue in downtown Duluth, circa 1960. (News-Tribune file photo)

Freimuth’s to quit business today

Duluth Herald, October 18, 1961

Freimuth’s Department Store, Duluth’s oldest family-owned firm, will go out of business at 5:15 p.m. today.

J.J. Mickelson, Minneapolis, court-appointed trustee of the financially troubled store, ordered the closing. He said he had no alternative.

The store went into bankruptcy Monday after a reorganization plan, worked out by the U.S. District Court and the referee in bankruptcy in Minneapolis, failed to restore the firm’s financial footing.

Edgar Freimuth, president of Freimuth’s, at 2 W. Superior St., said his 60 employees did not learn of their job losses until Tuesday. He told them as soon as he learned of the decision, he said.

Freimuth’s was founded in 1883 by the present president’s grandfather, I. Freimuth, as a general store, and was moved to its present location in 1900 from 119 W. Superior St.

Freimuth said another 40 persons are employed in leased departments which "will remain open at least temporarily." The leased departments are Gift House Stamps, furniture, beauty shop, a post office sub-station, millinery, watches and jewelry, downtown ticket office, restaurant and shoe repair.

Freimuth said he "explored every possible course of keeping the store operating." …

"I had no alternative but to order the closing," Mickelson said. "The reorganization plan failed. If the people of Duluth were interested in keeping Freimuth’s open they should have supplied the necessary capital." …

Mickelson said he will come to Duluth and make arrangements for a complete inventory of the stock. Then he will decide whether to sell the inventory in bulk "or to someone who wants to operate a department store," he said.


Freimuth’s was located on the site of what is now an open plaza next to the Minnesota Power building, where the city Christmas tree is displayed each year.

After the department store closed, the building – known as the Fowler Building – sat largely vacant for several years. It was acquired, along with the neighboring Fidelity Building, in 1968 by a group called Duluth Downtown Properties Inc., and was razed in April of that year (more on that below).

In November 1968, the News-Tribune reported that the group wanted to remodel the Fidelity Building "for use as a motor hotel of about 100 units. It would be in conjunction with a parking ramp and retail shops to be constructed on the site of the Freimuth Building."

Obviously, that didn’t happen. From what I can tell, the site sat empty until the Minnesota Power complex went in…. but if anyone out there knows more and can fill in the gaps, please post a comment.


The photo above has some nice detail. Here are some zoomed-in views.

Looking south down Lake Avenue, there is the railing of the bridge over Michigan Street, then the Metropole Hotel building. Among the other signs just visible are one for Joe Huie’s Cafe, and one for Old Bohemian beer:

Here is a look at the busy Superior Street facade of Freimuth’s:

Next door to the Freimuth’s building was the Fidelity Building, housing – at this time – what appears to be the Kelley-Duluth hardware store (the sign is a bit hard to read). Beyond that to the west, it looks like there was a furniture store:


Here is another photo of Freimuth’s, from August 4, 1959, showing a window display that must have been celebrating the new St. Lawrence Seaway:

In the background, behind the people looking in the window, is a building with a "Diamonds" sign on it, so I’m guessing it housed a jewelry store. It appears that it’s located where the Tech Village complex is today. Anyone have more information?


As mentioned earlier, the Freimuth’s / Fowler Building came down in April 1968. Here are a couple photos of the demolition, both from April 16, 1968:

Razing of the Freimuth Building in Duluth began Monday, attracting the attentionof pedestrians on the Lake Avenue viaduct sidewalk. Demolition of the building by Earth Movers of Duluth, Inc., is on contract to Duluth Downtown Properties Inc. The latter corporation is razing the structure for possible development of a retail store, parking ramp and motel complex. (News-Tribune file photo)

Visible in the photo above is an entrance to Joe Huie’s Cafe and the Metropole Bar:

Here is the second razing photo:

The Freimuth Building, long an important part of the Duluth business community, is being razed for possible development of a retail store, parking ramp and motel complex. (Duluth Herald file photo)

Visible in this photo are a Fitger’s beer sign along Michigan Street behind the crane, and in the far, far background is a very early Skywalk "bridge" over Michiagn Street – I think that’s the one out the back of what is now Wells Fargo Bank:


Finally, here is the last Freimuth’s image from the archives – an undated artist’s concept for what probably would have been a major renovation, rather than a replacement, of the Freimuth’s Building:

This would probably date to 1955-1960; judging from the financial difficulties the store faced in 1961, I don’t think they would have been planning such major work anytime after 1960.


So that’s everything about Freimuth’s in the Attic’s clipping and photo files… and I’m exhausted. I’ve been going at a whirlwind pace on posting the past couple months. I’m going to scale back just a bit in frequency of posting for a while; we’ll see you back here in a few days.

Hey, they’re stealing Ronald McDonald!, 1984

June 30, 1984


Ronald McDonald, a little worse for wear, lies Friday in the Duluth Police Department. The black smudges on Ronald are fingerprint powder. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)


All the King’s men break up bid to kidnap clown

By Larry Oakes, News-Tribune staff writer

McDonald’s and Burger King may be archrivals, but when would-be thieves in Duluth tried again to kidnap Ronald McDonald, employees at the Burger King next door weren’t about to let ’em have it their way.

"Business is business, but neighbors are still neighbors," said Nick Patronas, owner-manager of Burger King, 208 E. Central Entrance.

As the night manager and two other Burger King employees came off duty at 2:30 a.m. Friday, they spotted two men trying to steal a 6-foot plastic statue of Ronald from McDonald’s at 110 E. Central Entrance.

After a scuffle, employees Patrick Hey and Dan Johnson were holding one of the suspects for police, who had been called by manager James Anderson.

Michael Bruce Waino was arrested. He was charged Friday in St. Louis County Court with criminal damage to property and two counts of misdemeanor assault stemming from the scuffle.

Waino told police he is a counterman at a Taco John’s restaurant.

The other suspect is being sought by police, according to Lt. Lloyd Fredrickson. Ronald – minus a foot – was brought to police headquarters Friday to be dusted for fingerprints.

Thieves made off with Ronald by breaking him off his pedestal in late May, but the $1,400 statue was recovered in a roadside ditch a few days later. He was broken and cracked again Friday, but McDonald’s probably will have him repaired again, said Geoff Gruba, an assistant manager.

Gruba said his restaurant was grateful the rivals helped out. "It was super," he said.

Patronas said his employees were happy to do it, despite "a good-natured rivalry between the two places."

"If somebody was breaking in their store I’d be over there right away," said Gruba.

McDonald’s had closed at midnight, so when the Burger King trio heard voices in the restaurant’s fenced kiddie playground, they figured someone was burgling the burger clown.

"We went over there and split up," said Hey, who confronted one of the suspects.

"He put his hands around my neck and then I decked him," said Hey.


I got a kick out of the autopsy-like photo of Ronald McDonald, and the McDonald’s-Burger King-Taco John’s entanglement in the story. As the story mentions, it was not the first time that year that misfortune befell the statue. After being stolen on May 28, it was found on June 1; here’s the story from the June 2, 1984 News-Tribune:

Ronald McDonald is welcomed home Friday by assistant store manager Bob Walczak and a group of Meadowlands children, who were celebrating their last YMCA swimming class. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)


By Larry Oakes, News-Tribune staff writer

Ronald McDonald has been found and should be back on his feet in no time.

The six-foot fiberglass statue that was severed at the ankles and stolen Monday from the McDonald’s restaurant at 110 E. Central Entrance was recovered Friday by five members of Central High School’s track team.

"We all had read about it in the paper," said Brian Spehar, a senior. The others were Doug Johnson, Bill Zwak, Brian Williams, all seniors; and Simon Reff, a junior.

The team stumbled on the clown while chasing a fox they saw during practice.

Robert Larson, local manager of McDonald’s stores, was pleased. The management had been fit to be fried over the theft of the $1,400 statue.

"We’re very happy to have him back," said Larson.

Ronald’s likeness was found minus his over-sized shoes, which stayed on the pedestal in the fenced kiddie park outside the restaurant. The clown was resting comfortably Friday night in the restaurant’s garage.

Ronald’s rescuers were, left to right, top row: Brian Williams, Bill Zwak and Brian Spehar; bottom row: Doug Johnson and Simon Reff. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)


The team members said they found the statue while running along the west side of Orange Street near Eighth Avenue West. They hoisted the clown to their shoulders and ran a mile back to school with it and gave it to their coach, Tim Hollis.

At first they told him it was a present for being such a good coach, team members said. Hollis was skeptical. "Where did you steal it?" reportedly was his response.

Enough clowning around, they decided, and called police. Ronald was returned home. Larson said he will try to have Ronald reattached to his feet.

For their efforts, the runners received all the Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, fries, McNuggets, apple pies and root beers they could handle, courtesy of the management.


Here is the photo that ran earlier in the week, before the statue was found:

Yes, these are big shoes to fill. All that remains of a statue of Ronald McDonald are Ronald’s shoes. Ron was heisted from the McDonald’s restaurant on Central Entrance in Duluth early Monday. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

Looking out into the background, over what I presume is Central Entrance, there is nothing but trees and grass and flat land. But the buildings across the way today – the strip-mall and car repair shops – are perched on a bit of a hill. I’m confused – did they haul in a bunch of fill when they built that strip mall? Can anyone clear that up?

Wow! Video of full-length KBJR newscast from 1975

Well, right after stumbling across the 1992 KDLH newscast clip in the previous post, I did a little more looking around YouTube and found these gems – three long clips that, together, appear to show a nearly complete KBJR-TV newscast from August 1975.

Wow. What a lot of fun watching these – the old newscast style and format, the "Databank" computer graphics, the ads (look out for the "Walking Tall Part 2" movie ad in the second clip), and especially "Talk Back" in the third clip. At the start of the first clip you’ll even discover what "KBJR" stands for, if you didn’t know already.

To "NorthlandSports," the YouTube user who posted these, nice work, and please do share some more clips if you have them.

And, in case you missed it because I bumped it down so quickly, remember the 1992 KDLH newscast clip in the post below.





Video clip of 1992 KDLH broadcast

I just discovered this clip on YouTube… it’s the closing couple minutes of a 1992 KDLH evening newscast.

Stay tuned until the end, and you’ll hear the old KDLH theme music. When I was a kid in the 1980s and early 1990s, visiting my relatives in Hayward in the summer or at Birkie time, we’d watch KDLH (the dominant station at the time, right?), and I still remember that theme song. There were lyrics… ending with "K-D-L-H T-V" Does anyone remember the rest?

You also get a glimpse of a local sports broadcasting icon, the late Marsh Nelson, in the closing seconds.



 *** UPDATE: As mentioned in one of the comments, there also is an YouTube video showing KDLH and WDIO newscasts from 1988, when there was the big fireworks explosion in Duluth. It was the subject of this earlier post. The clip starts with KDLH, then moves to WDIO (I enjoy the opening sequences).

Sam Titch and People’s Market, 1977

August 11, 1977


Sam Titch, owner of the People’s Market for more than 40 years, is closing the store and moving on. He says his store is the oldest in Superior. (Karl Jaros / News-Tribune)

Superior to miss grocer Sam

By Sue Willoughby of the News-Tribune staff

People have probably become accustomed to Sam Titch sitting near the window of the People’s Market.

When a familiar face passes by, he’ll wave and if you stop in he’s always got a few minutes to talk.

Most of the people on the street know Sam. They should – he’s owned the small grocery store at 1119 Tower Ave. for 40 years.

In fact, he’s been in the grocery business on Tower Avenue since he opened a store at 524 Tower Ave. in 1916.

But that once-familiar figure in the window is soon to become a thing of the past. Sam has sold the building and is getting out of the business after 61 years.

He doesn’t like the thought of leaving but, since a stroke 13 years ago, he’s had trouble getting around and now he’s selling the fixtures and moving on.

"I guess I’m gonna relex – go to Florida in the wintertime and come back here in the summer," he said. "But, if not for that stroke, I wouldn’t have sold out until I died. I like the business. It made me what I am."

Sam claims People’s Market is the oldest store in Superior but says "everything good has to come to an end sometime."

"When I come here they didn’t have pavement, they had wood blocks," he said. "It was a busy town in them days – lumberjacks and everything. Today they haaven’t got nothing."

Born in Lithuania, Sam came to Superior in 1914, when he was not quite 15. He never attended school – "not even kindergarten," he boasts – but business has always been good because he trusted people and they trusted him, he said.

"I’ve still got some old-time customers," he said. "We still deliver to houses. We still do things like the way I started it."

Sam’s right hand is his longtime friend Verna Scanlon. He says he couldn’t manage without her running the store and helping him get around.

Sam says he wants out of the business. "I can’t get around no more and run it myself. And that’s no good."

But he doesn’t like the idea of having nothing to do.

"It ain’t gonna be no fun for me; it makes me feel bad, very bad. I don’t know what I’ll do. But I guess I can’t sit around and wait until I die. I just thank God I’m paralyzed in my body but not up here," he said, pointing to his head.

Verna also has mixed feelings about leaving the business she’s helped build for 40 years.

"You know, when you’ve never traveled and done all those things it’s exciting," she said. "But we’re both Superiorites. This is our home town."

"Yeah, but if we don’t like it we can always come back and sell peanuts," Sam said. "You don’t need too many people to do that. I might as well see things now."

Sam will probably be missed most by his steady customers and the people in the area who got used to his smile and conversation.

Has Duluth fallen to the concert D-List? Why?

Over the past few weeks, there have been several posts (here, here, here and here) in the Attic about concerts from the 1970s through the early 1990s.

I’ve found lots of singers / bands in the files – Kiss, Motley Crue, Metallica and Bryan Adams, among many others – who played Duluth while they were pretty big (if not very big) national acts. It seems like there were at least a couple shows each year.

But not so much any more. Yes, we had Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, Wilco, etc. in recent years – but it seems like those shows are getting further and further apart.

Now, there are a lot of great local bands… but what has happened with all the big names? Are we now perceived as too close to the Twin Cities? Is the DECC now too small? Is the city too small? Have the development of regional festivals like 10,000 Lakes affected the situation?

Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts (I’m moderating these comments, so it may take a while for them to show up).

And, if you want to keep adding other big / memorable Duluth music performances that I missed in the previous posts, please do so.

Posted in Uncategorized

Kiss concerts in Duluth

Kiss, fall 1974, clockwise from top, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. (Casablanca Records promotional photo)

Following up on a post from earlier this month, I tracked down the "Kiss" folder from the archives, and here are the dates I could find listed for their Duluth Arena / DECC concerts:

Kiss w/additional acts Doctor John and the Raspberries, November 3, 1974

Kiss w/opening act Uriah Heep, January 18, 1977

**** Addition: According to commenters, there was a Kiss show in 1979 w/opening act John Cougar.

Kiss w/opening act Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics, February 17, 1983

Kiss w/opening act Dokken, March 13, 1985 (estimated 5,000 attendance)

Kiss w/opening act King Kobra, March 13, 1986 (fewer than 3,700 attendance; snowstorm that day)

Kiss w/opening act Faster Pussycat, May 27, 1990 (estimated 8,000 attendance)

I can’t find any mention of more recent appearances, so feel free to add comments if you know of others.

A few notes on the listings above:

– I triple checked, and Kiss did in fact appear exactly one year apart, on the same date in 1985 and 1986. Does anyone know if that was more than a coincidence?

– The 1974 appearance was an early stop for the band, which had formed less than two years before. Here is the snippet of pre-concert text that ran beneath the promotional photo at the top of this post:

A rock group called "Kiss" and other rock performers will appear in concert at 7:30 p.m. next Sunday in the Duluth Arena. Appearing with Kiss, which goes in for wild makeup and bizarre props a la Alice Cooper, will be Doctor John and also Raspberries, another rock group which recently was reorganized. Tickets are available at the usual area outlets.

– The Raspberries, which broke up in the mid-1970s, included Eric Carmen. Carmen went on to a solo career that included, among a few other hits, "All By Myself," "Hungry Eyes" from the movie "Dirty Dancing," and "Make Me Lose Control." For more on the Raspberries, check out their Wikipedia entry.

– Here is an item that ran in the News-Tribune after the 1977 concert:

A cameraman for a local television station claims members of the Kiss rock group party pushed and threatened to hit him if he shot film of their arrival in Duluth

Mark Ginsberg of KDAL-TV said as he attempted to shoot film one man shoved an attache case at the lens of his camera and demanded the film.

"He told Duke Skorich (who had been covering the arrival) that the Supreme Court ruled that no one could take pictures of the group without their makeup," Ginsberg said. The group wears heavy stage makeup at all appearances.

Another man grabbed the brace to Ginsberg’s camera, he said.

Members of the party offered to buy the film, Ginsberg said, but "I told them I wasn’t at liberty to sell it."

– The newspaper clippings indicate that there were News Tribune staff photos of the mid-1980s concerts, but unfortunately there are no prints in the files.

Here’s one more promo photo (from the non-makeup era):

Kiss, circa 1984. From left, Gene Simmons, Eric Carr, Paul Stanley and Mark St. John. (PolyGram Records promotional photo)

Posted in Uncategorized

Tearing down the Bradley Building, 1979

December 3, 1979

The wrecker’s ball is pulverizing the four-story Bradley Building at the southeast corner of Lake Avenue and Superior Street to clear the way for realignment of Lake Avenue South and eastward extension of the I-35 freeway. The rear of the building is being demolished but the front portion will remain standing until early January to minimize traffic interruption. (Karl Jaros / Duluth Herald)

The Bradley Building was included at the end of an earlier News Tribune Attic post on Famous Clothing. At one time it was the home of KDAL radio and television. At the time of its demolition it also was known as the Compudata Building – I presume that must have been the last tenant.

Here is another photo of its demolition, from November 23, 1979:

Work crews began last week to tear down the Compudata-Bradley Building at 10 E. Superior St. Here, a worker dismantles a brick wall by hand, because the adjacent building, which houses Famous Clothing, will remain standing. The work is the first demolition in the long-delayed Interstate 35 extension from Mesaba Avenue to 10th Avenue East. The structure is one of four to be razed for realignment of Lake Avenue South as part of the freeway project. During the demolition, which will cost $280,000, pedestrian access will be blocked along Superior and Michigan streets near the building and car traffic along Michigan Street will be reduced to one lane. (Karl Jaros / News-Tribune)

Monroe School burns, 1992

May 30, 1992

Duluth firefighters continued to spray water on the old Monroe School building at 26th Avenue West and First Street Friday morning, eight hours after they found the building engulfed in flames. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

Fire levels old Monroe School; arson suspected


Authorities say the fire that destroyed the former Monroe Elementary School in Duluth’s West End Friday morning may have been intentionally set.

"The fire is of suspicious origin and is being investigated," Duluth Deputy Fire Chief Dan Haus said. "There had been reports of vandalism and breaking into the building on the previous day."

What remained of the century-old building was demolished later Friday because the structure was unsafe, Haus said.

"The walls may crumble," he said before the razing. "It’s unsafe to enter."

The fire was reported about 2:30 a.m. When firefighters arrived minutes later, the three-story building was engulfed in flames.

"It was so fully involved that we couldn’t mount an interior attack," Haus said. "It was unsafe."

So, instead of entering the building, firefighters fought the blaze with water hoses from the outside.

"We just tried to control the situation," Haus said. "There was no effort to save the building. … There wasn’t much to save. Our concern was not to risk lives."

The water dousing continued until about 3 p.m. Friday.

The school, at 2502 W. First St., was built in the late 1800s and closed in the 1950s. Since then, it had been used by various businesses for storage. Most recently it was Central Sales of Duluth.

No damage estimate was available Friday.


I think the address listed in the story may be incorrect. In any case, the school was located at 26th Avenue West and First Street, on the east (normal direction) / southeast (Duluth diagonal direction) corner. The site, now a parking lot, is right behind T-Bonz Bar. The school shows up on an old plat map posted on the Minnesota Reflections Web site here; you’ll need to use the controls on the site to zoom in.