Waiting for UMD hockey tickets, 1985

January 11, 1985

Hockey season is over for Minnesota Duluth fans, so it’s time to sit back, relax and wait for the next game — like these Bulldog hockey fans are doing in this photo from Jan. 11, 1985, during the season after UMD lost in the national title game. The fans are (from left) Anne Kelly, former All-American UMD golfer Tom Waitrovich and Joe Jay Jackson — also known as the Maroon Loon mascot — and they’re set up to spend the night in the Duluth Arena-Auditorium concourse waiting to buy tickets for the following weekend’s UMD-Minnesota hockey series. The tickets went on sale the next morning. Jackson got into games free as the Maroon Loon, but he needed to get tickets for his parents, he told News-Tribune photographer Joey McLeister. (*note… apparently the photo caption info was wrong; the Maroon Loon was Jay Jackson)

What were they snacking on? Let’s take a closer look:

Mister Salty pretzels (with the little pretzel-man I remember on the boxes), and…

…Red Owl popcorn!

For a view of the Maroon Loon in costume – though it probably was not Jackson, but instead a later Loon – look at this News Tribune Attic post from earlier this year.

Traffic jam on Miller Trunk Highway, 1979

August 15, 1979

Cars waiting to get in to the Air Show caused a two-lane, mile-long traffic jam on Miller Trunk Highway. (Karl Jaros / News-Tribune)

This view is looking northwest toward the intersection of Miller Trunk Highway and Arrowhead Road. Here is a zoomed-in view:

Whistling Bird restaurant, 1999

March 27, 1999

Toney Curtis encourages guests at his Whistling Bird restaurant to try one of the Jamaican specialty items on the menu in March 1999. Photos by Josh Meltzer / News Tribune

Thursday’s News Tribune included a "Stuff We Like" column by reporter Christa Lawler on the Whistling Bird restaurant in Gilbert.

On Thursday evening, I decided to look in the archives to see what was in the paper 10 years ago – and by coincidence stumbled upon an article from soon after the Whistling Bird opened, reporting on the phenomenon that the Jamaican restaurant had quickly become.

Here is that article from exactly 10 years ago – March 27, 1999:



News Tribune

William Morrissey knows fine dining. His firm, Morrissey Hospitality Cos. Inc., manages two of the Twin Cities’ highest-rated restaurants – the St. Paul Cafe and Pazza Luna, where few diners get in without a reservation.

But he wasn’t prepared for what he found while passing through the Iron Range town of Gilbert on his way to a ground-breaking at Giants Ridge Ski Resort.

There, across the street from Big Al’s bar, a nondescript funeral home and Jim’s Bait, Morrissey found an island of neon in the heart of pasty and sarma country, population 2,800.

"This restaurant would be unexpected in the Twin Cities, much less Gilbert," Morrissey said, recalling his visit to the Whistling Bird, a spicy Jamaican restaurant lighting up Gilbert’s main street with its neon storefront. "It’s just fun. It’s what dining should be."

The barely 5-month-old restaurant is owned by Iron Range chef JoPat Curtis and her husband, Toney Curtis, who is Jamaican.

Pedestrians pass by the Whistling Bird Cafe in Gilbert in March 1999.


Given the high mortality rate of independent restaurants, other business owners told the couple they’d be crazy to open such an improbable restaurant in Gilbert – not generally known as a hub for culinary adventure.

But to the surprise of many, the restaurant has made Gilbert a destination among the local and not-so-local cognoscenti. The place is booked every Saturday night through April 10. Even weekdays often require a reservation, as Morrissey found out one Tuesday in March. He had to settle for a seat in the bar.

"It’s just the most talked about thing in the area," said Linda Roketa, marketing director at Giants Ridge. "You have to call for reservations weeks in advance, and that’s not normal for around here."

The restaurant’s guest book reads like a geography lesson. Customers have come from Texas, Canada, Florida, Wisconsin, Minneapolis – even Hamburg, Germany. Gas stations and other businesses on Broadway street have enjoyed the benefits.

"It’s drawing people into their community for other things, too. It’s almost part of economic development through food," Roketa said.

All this, JoPat Curtis notes, without placing a single advertisement.

"It’s almost embarrassing," she says. "We’re full every night."

JoPat Curtis puts the finishing touches on coconut shrimp in March 1999 at the Whistling Bird Cafe in Gilbert, the restaurant she owns with her husband, Toney.


Curtis’ cooking career spans more than 20 years. She has worked the country clubs, hotels and resorts that are sprinkled across the Iron Range.

Working country clubs meant she had winters off and plenty of time to travel. It was during a vacation in Jamaica that she met Toney, who was a waiter at one of her favorite Caribbean restaurants. They married in 1991.

"He’s probably one of the only black people living in this town for sure, but he’s been very well-received and there haven’t been any problems," Curtis said.

The two often thought about opening their own restaurant, but couldn’t afford it. They got a break one Christmas when JoPat’s brother – who sold a successful Twin Cities brokerage firm – offered to put up the money.

The Whistling Bird is named after a guest house in Jamaica. The menu consists of pastas, steaks and seafood items that Curtis has built her reputation on. But it’s perhaps most notable for four Jamaican entrees – all based on recipes Toney Curtis brought from home.

The two pride themselves on their authentic jerk sauce, a concoction of minced onions, allspice (pimento), fresh thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg and, of course, Scotch bonnet peppers, which provide the kick. The spices and jerk paste are brought over from Jamaica by friends and relatives.

"Toney’s father actually has a small plantation of pimento trees (in Jamaica)," JoPat said."We have lots of people making trips for us (for spices)."

Though the flavors are alien to many locals, the restaurant has become more than just a curiosity.

"Just about everybody I know from Hibbing has been here," said Greg Ban of Hibbing. "They can’t wait to get back."

Lake Vermilion resident Doug Meaden agrees.

"It’s a very plain-Jane, steak and baked potato type of town – fish fries on Friday nights – you know, the traditional stuff. So this is really a breath of fresh air," he said.

Go… Orphans?

Last week I was scanning through microfilm of papers from 1934 when I stumbled across a story about a Superior Central – Superior East high school boys basketball game. Here is the first paragraph:

Playing heads-up basketball and taking advantage of every break, the Superior Central high school quintet upset East high’s hopes of retaining the northern Wisconsin basketball crown by scoring a surprising 20-to-10 victory last night over the defending champions before 1,500 fans in the Orphans’ gymnasium.

"Orphans" is repeated several times in the story. The Superior Central Orphans? Does anyone out there know more about the origins of that nickname, and how long it lasted? Please post a comment if you know.

Ceiling collapses at Central, 1963

December 4, 1963

Dennis Moe views remnants of a plaster ceiling which crashed to the floor in Duluth Central High School’s cafeteria on Dec. 4, 1963. News Tribune file photo

On December 4, 1963, a huge portion of plaster ceiling came crashing down in Duluth Central High School’s cafeteria while school was session — and, miraculously, no one was in the usually-busy room at the time.

Here is the account from the next day’s News Tribune:

A tragedy that could have injured or killed as many as 30 students was averted by mere chance at 73-year-old Central High School Wednesday.

A portion of plaster and acoustical tile ceiling in Central’s cafeteria crashed to the floor at about 2:20 p.m., 90 minutes after the students had left the room following their mid-day lunches.

The damaged section measured about 30×10 feet and fell onto two tables, battering them and 20-30 chairs. … Weight of the section was estimated to be as high as three or four tons. …

Although Duluth voters recently approved a special $2.4 million tax levy for school improve-ments and construction, none of the bond issue provisions was for improvements at Central.

The School Board did, in 1961, initiate action aimed at obtaining a 60-acre tract for construction of a new Central High School. At that time, it was indicated the new school would be built within 10 years.


The board hit its early predictions right on the nose — in 1971, students left “old” Central and moved up the hill to start classes at “new” Central. Today, the landmark old school continues to be used for district offices, while the new school is slated for closure under the district’s long-range facilities plan.

Here is one more photo from old Central, of a busy hallway as viewed from a staircase in September 1969:

And here is a slightly zoomed-in view of some of the students:


* Last week there was a post that featured a photo of the Glass Block coffee shop. News Tribune reader Gail Reamer of Duluth called to let me know that she was the waitress behind the counter in that photo, with a cup of coffee in hand to serve to a customer.

Canal Park, 1992

February 26, 1992

Aerial view looking north over Canal Park, February 1992 (Clara Wu / News-Tribune)

Canal Park is in the midst of its industrial-to-tourism changeover in this photo. There is still a car dealer and industrial buildings along the lakeshore, on the right side of the photo.

What is now Little Angie’s Cantina, at the center of the photo, was Kemp’s Fish Market when this photo was taken.

Building Woodland School, late 1950s

Late 1950s

This undated aerial photo by the News-Tribune’s Earl Johnson shows Woodland Middle School under construction in the late 1950s. The school opened in 1958.

This view is looking west; Woodland Avenue runs from top center to center right; Eighth Street cuts from top to bottom across the right side of the photo.

Here is a zoomed-in view:

News Tribune Attic, now with tags

You may have noticed the appearance of "tags" on this site in the past couple of days.

For those not familiar with tags, I now can give each post a few "tag" words – say, "downtown duluth" and "1960s" – that will help categorize each post. Then, you can click on the listing of tags on the right side of the page to get all the posts that relate to… again, let’s say "downtown duluth" and "1960s."

I’m going to slowly start working back to old posts, assigning tags to all. Hopefully that will help make this site a bit easier to navigate.


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Glass Block coffee shop, 1969

May 15, 1969

Glass Block was a pillar of commerce in downtown Duluth for decades, and in 1969 the venerable department store underwent major renovations. When they were complete, the News Tribune was on hand to document the changes.

The store’s newly remodeled restaurant is featured in the photo above from May of that year. At lower left, patrons (left to right) Gladys Archambault, Clara Hexum and Francis Brandenburg enjoy a coffee break. To the right, restaurant manager Agnes Goff keeps a watchful eye on the operation.

Goff managed the restaurant from 1955 to 1978, according to her obituary in the News Tribune. She died in 2003 at age 90.

The downtown Glass Block store, located at 128-132 W. Superior St., closed in 1981. The building — which had housed the store since 1892 — was razed to make way for what is now the US Bank building at the corner of Superior Street and Second Avenue West.

A second Glass Block store opened in the Miller Hill Mall in 1973. The Glass Block name lingered on at that location until fall 1998, when it was sold and converted into the present-day Younkers store.

Interestingly, the number you would have used to call Ms. Goff at the Glass Block in 1969 — 722-8311 — still is the phone number in use by Younkers at the Miller Hill Mall.

The Glass Block has been featured in several other News Tribune Attic posts: here, here and here.


Here is one more photo from that 1969 remodeling project:

White leather shoes are on special for $8.90:

And, in the background is the Closet Shop:

Mystery solved

I confirmed with the person who submitted the question (see previous post) that this monument, located at Asbury United Methodist Church on Grand Avenue, is in fact the one she was looking for; she said she remembered it from the vicinity of 45th Avenue West and First Street.

It’s a big granite boulder with "Oneota" carved at the bottom. The plaque recognizes not all the Merritt brothers, but instead one of them – Rev. Lucien F. Merritt. Here is a closer view:

Now, given some more time, I’d look into just how this monument made its way from its old location to its new location – but I’m short on time right now. I assume there is some connection between Asbury United Methodist and the church mentioned on the plaque. If anyone wants to fill in the gaps, please post a comment or e-mail me at akrueger@duluthnews.com.

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