Take the Attic challenge

As an addendum to the previous Attic post – all about Duluth’s Miss Teen of America Pageant experience in the mid-1980s – there are a few more photos I would like to present as evidence of the big hair, flashy wardrobe, over-the-top, wacky decade that most of us recognize, and some of us love – including me. And the following photos are a few examples of why I remember it so fondly because, really, what was everyone thinking?

And I challenge you to answer that question in each of the photos below. Queries presented in multiple-choice format. Or, make up your own solution. In the spirit of the decade, this quiz is just for fun. (Actual photo captions to follow in a subsequent Attic post.)

These pageant contestants are:

A) Singing "Kumbaya" around the soft glow of an imaginary campfire created on a Lite Brite

B) Swooning over the announcement that "Charles in Charge" star Scott Baio has agreed to be the pageant host

C) In a competition to see whose hairspray works better (from left) Aqua Net, White Rain or Rave.

This group of Miss Teens is practicing:

A) "Holding Out for a Hero," as sung by Bonnie Tyler and made popular by Kevin Bacon driving a tractor in the movie "Footloose"

B) Preparing to catch Baby in the event that Patrick Swayze can’t get the job done when they do "the lift"

C) Using the Jedi mind trick to create a force field that will keep the Dark Side away from their pageant

This contestant’s talent is:

 A) Interpretive dance – to the song "Wind Beneath my Wings," as sung by Bette Midler in the movie "Beaches"

B) Reacting when "Price is Right" announcer Rod Roddy says, "or how about, A NEW CAR." (Thank goodness she doesn’t have to spin the big wheel, you know, with all that fringe.)

C) Performing as a member of Devo. She’s going to "Whip it, whip it good."

Nothing points to a sign o’ the times like a soda can. Judging by the surrounding attire, that Diet Sprite can is circa: (inset below)

A) 1981

B) 1985

C) 1989

And just in case you’re curious, the Miss Teen contestant above is providing her followers with the answer to the question, "Where’s the beef?"


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged

Duluth, in all its pageantry

Contestants for the Miss Teen of America Pageant practice a dnce performance in the Duluth Entertainment and
Convention Center Auditorium. (1987 file / News Tribune)

From 1983-87, Duluth played host to a gaggle of exuberant, prim and proper teens who were contestants for the Miss Teen of America Pageant.

In the 1980s "beauty" pageants were in their heyday, at least it seems that way in my memory. Who doesn’t remember getting their bowl of popcorn and some Shasta root beer and settling in front of the TV to watch the next Miss USA or Miss America receive her crown? (It was one of the rare times I was allowed to stay up past 10 p.m. when I was little) Or, remember perennial pageant hosts Bob Barker and Dick Clark with Miss USA announcing the year’s semifinalists or the top 10 contestants’ scores after the evening gown and swimsuit competitions?

The Miss Teen of America pageants in Duluth were much the same: preliminary rounds to determine finalists, talent and evening gown competitions, a host who had achieved some level of fame. In 1983, the first year of the pageant, it was Timothy Patrick Murphy from prime-time soap opera "Dallas." Anyone remember who his character was? In 1985, the pageant upgraded(?) to Scott Valentine from the TV show "Family Ties." Remember him? He played Nick Moore, boyfriend of Justine Bateman’s "Malorie"

As in any other pageant, Miss Teen of America also featured crying, profusely thankful winners, lots of congratulatory hugs from competitors, and extravagant 80s fashion at its best – puffy sleeves, ruffles, lots of lace, all combined into one evening dress.

Miss Virginia, Denise Wallace, reacts after being named Miss Teen of America 1983, as runner-up Miss West Viginia, Carla Johnson, hugs her. Miss Teen Minnesota, Robyn Christenson of Manohmen, Minn., was third runner-up. (1983 file / News Tribune)

Miss Teen of America 1985, Amy Wharton of Mechanicsburg, Penn., accepts congratulations from the outgoing Miss Teen, Debbie Brooks of California. (1985 file / News Tribune)

Miss Teen of America winner Jill Scheffert of New Hope, Minn., and first runner-up Roxanne Mosley of Matthews, N.C., react to the judges’ decision. Scheffert received a scholarship and prizes worth $30,000. (1987 file / News Tribune)

The Miss Teen of America pageants in Duluth were not billed as "beauty pageants," however. They were more like "scholarship programs." A point that pageant organizers were adamant about because it was stated in every News Tribune article written about the pageant between 1983-87. Pageant organizer Heidi Stennes was quoted in a Sept. 1983 article saying, "It’s a teen pageant. We don’t have a swimsuit competition, for instance. They can do that when they turn 19. This gives them credit for their achievements, their grades, for being well-rounded teenage girls."

The boys from Duluth high schools chosen as the contestants’ escorts sure thought beauty went with the brains, though. (See article below) Refer to the last two paragraphs for evidence of raging teenage hormones circa ninth to 12th grade, and in almost every teen movie I saw in the ’80s.

After 1987, the Miss Teen of America Pageant, which had its headquarters in Minneapolis, moved to a warmer climate when Hilo, Hawaii, offered to host the event.

Mr. Twin Ports Physique, you’ve got some explaining to do

In January 1980 there was a contest looking for Duluth’s premiere hard-body. It was called Mr. Twin Ports Physique. As far as this photo will tell me, there were at least four contestants, listed from the left, Jason (no last name); Brad Estrom; Ted Shaffer; and Tom Haugen.

But that’s all I’ve got to go on, other than that their bulging muscles look quite impressive despite the awkward posing. Does anyone know any of these men, who the winner was or any details about the contest? Help me out!

1980 News Tribune file photo by Joey McLeister

Greetings from Steeltown

Morgan Park again jumped to the forefront of Duluth’s fascination with the history of its neighborhoods when it was featured recently on "This Old House" magazine’s Web site as one of the Best Old House Neighborhoods in the Midwest. In the article it said, "Morgan Park might be the most interesting neighborhoods to make our list."

And it does have a rich history. Set up as a "company town" in 1914 by U.S. Steel for its workers and their families, the neighborhood had everything that residents would need: schools, hospitals, fire and police departments, a 47,000 square-foot clubhouse where the community could gather.

Photo courtesy of the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center

The Morgan Park clubhouse, called the Goodfellowship Club, included a large gymnasium with an indoor track, a swimming pool, bowling alley, dining hall, even a ballroom. Information for the photo above says the structure was under construction in 1917. A News Tribune article from 1978 says the clubhouse was constructed in 1914, with the rest of Morgan Park. Another article, from 1981, says it was given as a gift to the neighborhood in 1915 by financier J.P. Morgan Jr. The same article also says the neighborhood’s original blockhouse-style buildings were all constructed between 1914 and 1916. Does anyone know the correct answer to when the mammoth community center was built?

At any rate, the clubhouse was razed in 1981 after it became too expensive to maintain and repair. A community center about one-fourth the size was to be constructed in its place, according to the 1981 article.

It must have taken a lot of effort to demolish the structure, which was built like most of Morgan Park’s homes – with concrete and steel, of course. If a massive natural disaster were to wipe out Duluth, these homes probably would still be standing.

1978 file photos / News Tribune

In the late 1970s, Morgan Park was nominated as a historic site and plans to register the neighborhood as a historic district were in the works. Community members ultimately decided to deny the historic designation, which brings with it restrictions on remodeling original structures.

But it was Morgan Park residents who got "This Old House" to recognize their neighborhood. I guess they don’t need the National Register of Historic Places to tell them how to preserve it.

And, I would like to know where I can find all these old Morgan Park photos. (below)

John Howden, a longtime Morgan Park resident, pores over historical photographs at the Goodfellowship Club of the neighborhood’s history. (1978 file / News Tribune)

Love for Spirit Valley

 This year marks the 33rd annual Duluth neighborhood festival known as Spirit Valley Days. It’s a nearly weeklong celebration featuring the ever-popular pancake dinner, Miss West Duluth contest, family actvities, lots of food and music – and what festival would be complete without a parade?  

The Spirit Valley Days parade is the highlight of the hometown festival for many, including Anna Berg (below) who attended the 16th annual festival in 1992. At the time, she said she hadn’t missed a festival, which began in 1977, and that watching the parade made her feel young again. I’m sure a lot of festival-goers feel the same nostalgia.

1992 file / News Tribune

What would a parade be without a band? And you don’t often get the chance to see men playing clarinets outside the Rustic Bar.

Members of Swede Anderson’s German Band perform in the 1986 Spirit Valley Days parade.
(1986 file / News Tribune) 

The Spirit Valley Days festival gained some notoriety in 1990 when it was featured on a segment by "Today Show" weatherman Willard Scott. He plugged the event on the show after a festival organizer sent him a Spirit Valley Days T-shirt – extra-large.

What’s more iconic about a parade than clowns passing out candy? Answer: People driving tiny cars.

Mike Zigrich drives a small motorized car for Pabst Distributing during the 1985 Spirit Valley Days parade. (1985 file / News Tribune)


Our erratic weather

Anyone who lives in the Twin Ports is familiar with the capricious tendencies of the area’s weather. And its erratic ways have been well-documented. We’re constantly affected by it, and most of us are fascinated by it, which is why there’s rarely a week that goes by without publishing a weather-related photo or story.

A frequent topic: The sometimes drastic temperature differences between the hilltop and the Lake Superior shore. The photo below gives a dramatic example of the phenomenon.


Looking toward downtown Duluth from Skyline Parkway, clouds of steam can be seen covering Lake Superior, caused by a 50-degree difference between the air and water temperatures. (1988 file / News Tribune)


In another photo, from 1991, the hovering fog looks as if it’s about to swallow the landscape in front of it.

A slight shift in the wind caused an enormous bank of fog to roll in out of Lake Superior, as seen from the Central High School parking lot. (1991 file / News Tribune)


Here, the Aerial Lift Bridge looks and if it’s suspended in midair, disconnected from its surroundings, which probably is a familiar sight to longtime Duluthians.

1989 file / News Tribune


Below, a photographer captures a brief sun shower over Duluth’s hillside. Talk about being in the right place at the right time for a unique image.

1988 file / News Tribune

I know people don’t like to think about winter in the midst of our short-lived summer, but who hasn’t driven up the hill to discover it blanketed with snow when your front yard was barren?

Snow on West Skyline Parkway contrasts with a bare downtown and snowless Park Point. (1987 file / News Tribune)

Sidewalk Days, now on bricks

Today, the bargain-hunters will graze one last time through the offerings of Duluth’s Sidewalk Days, featuring three days of deals, music and food all along Superior Street.

I’m not sure when the event got its start, but according to our archives, vendors have been setting up shop since at least since 1982. A look at some of the old photos reveals that Superior Street has changed significantly since then. And I’m not just talking about the storefronts. 

Below is a photo from Sidwalk Days in 1984. Notice the bricks that are absent from the surface of Superior Street; it was just plain old asphalt then.

Sidewalk Days in downtown Duluth in 1984. In the foreground, 
a German band provides entertainment.

The Greater Downtown Council was formed in 1984 to help breathe life into the downtown area. The group’s plan included repaving the streets with brick to make the area more welcoming to pedestrians.

In this photo from July 24, 1985, Sidewalk Days was nearly rained out, the problem made worse by the construction going on along Superior Street. I’m guessing this is when the brick-paving project began.

By July 1989, Sidewalk Days shoppers hungry for deals strolled along a brick-laden street.



In 1982, Little Nicholas Lombardi gets into the spirit of scrounging for bargains and dives into a 10-cent box of books. He chooses a romance novel. 


A possible conversation that may have transpired between this couple while shopping during Sidewalk Days in 1986:

"What do you think of this shirt here, Marge?" 

"Oh, I don’t know, Henry. Vertical stripes don’t suit you and it might be tough to iron out them wrinkles."

I invite you to comment and come up with your own dialogue.


Duluth’s skywalk evolution

Born in 1977, Duluth’s downtown skywalk system has gone from its first span over Superior Street, connecting First National Bank to the Normandy Inn (near the area that is now the Holiday Center), to its latest extension over Lake Avenue that will connect skywalkers to the Technology Village.

Below is the frame of the first skywalk span under construction. The sign in the foreground advertises that First National Bank still is open. Although, it’s worded in a peculiar way: "What are you looking up here for? When we’ve got all the confusion in front of you."

The photo caption also describes construction of the second span, referring to the "Lyric Block" downtown. Does anyone know where the name for that particular block came from?

The frame of the first of two downtown skywalks – costing about $220,000 – was erected over Superior Street from the First National Bank to the Normandy Inn. Another will cross Second Avenue West from the Lyric Block to the Northwestern Bank of Commerce.

Below, a clipping from the May 9, 1978, News Tribune and a photo showing the first(?) user of the downtown skywalk. I wonder how long the photographer had to wait to get that image?

Skywalk from the Lyric Block to First National Bank.

These people really know how to organize a parade! The festivities were part of the grand opening promoting the downtown skywalk system, and its usefulness as an indoor shopping mecca. I think more work went into creating those floats than construction of the skywalks they’re celebrating.

A story published May 15, 1978, about the grand opening said: "… by 1979 most downtown stores and buildings will be reached through skywalk links. The entire system will cost $6 million, including public and private investments, which will turn the downtown into a large shopping center – all indoors."

In comparison to the $6 million that was spent to build several skywalk links in 1979, it will cost $2.63 million to build the latest span of the skywalk over Lake Avenue that is under construction as we speak. Drivers, you may have noticed that you can’t get up Lake Avenue between Pizza Luce and First Street. The latest link will connect people to the Technology Village by skywalk for the first time. The extension is expected to be completed Oct. 1

Here’s where the extension is being built:

Looking up Lake Avenue where the proposed new section of Skywalk would connect from the left side along the alley between Superior Street and First Street to the parking ramp area on the right. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com


Below, the skwalk system today

2008 file / News Tribune

The Greater Downtown Council, which turned 25 this year, played a major part in helping to revitalize Duluth’s downtown area in the mid-1980s, including the creation of signs directing people through the developing skywalk system. Above is a view of the skywalks looking down Superior Street.

Could this be a member of the Village People using Duluth’s skywalk in 1983?

Nope, I guess it’s just a guy (Jeff Rolson. Anyone know him?) walking toward Pioneer Hall in the DECC (then called the Arena) after lifting weights at the YMCA. This skywalk link was often referred to as the Northwest Passage.

July 4 BWCAW blowdown

Today the Attic offers the second installment of two significant Northland events that marked their 10-year anniversaries this week.

On July 4, 1999, Mother Nature sent a furious wind strom through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildnerness. Winds reportedly reached 100 mph in places over a 30-mile-wide stretch of the BWCAW. Millions of trees were toppled. Several canoers were stranded or injured, including 14 who needed to be airlifted from the devastated wilderness.

News Tribune staffers patched together a sketchy report from U.S. Forest Service news releases and phone calls to the area. The story only scratched the surface of the true impact of the storm.

Thunderstorm Hammers Region, injures at least four, authorities say

News Tribune

A strong storm roared across northern Minnesota Sunday, breaking trees, causing power outages, leading to a tornado warning in northern Wisconsin, and injuring at least four campers in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

“People have been reporting trees over tents,’ said Bob Behrner, who was working in the U.S. Forest Service’s dispatch office in Grand Rapids Sunday evening. “We have a spinal injury about eight miles west of the end of the Gunflint Trail. We’re working to get some people out to that.
“We just got a report a few minutes ago of a person with two broken legs just west of Seagull on Alpine Lake,’ he said. “So we’re sending an airplane into that.
“And right now we have an aircraft in Lake Polly, which is 30 miles east of Ely,’ he said. “We don’t known the nature of those injuries.’
Earlier in the day, an injured person was airlifted from the Brule Lake area. Behrner said he didn’t know how badly that person was hurt or what sort of injuries he or she suffered.
“That’s all I’m aware of so far,’ he said of the four injuries.
The count, however, could go higher as people come out of the BWCAW.
Sunday’s storm packed winds up to 80 mph, and blew so many trees down that part of the Gunflint Trail was blocked.
The Minnesota State Patrol and Department of Transportation advised people to stay off Minnesota Highway 1 between Ely and Isabella until work crews finished clearing the road.
The storm also delayed Ely’s Fourth of July parade an hour and reportedly flipped a semi-trailer onto its side in Canyon.
“There was a lot of wind damage — trees and power lines down,’ said Jim Christenson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth. “That’s the common thing.’
In addition to high winds, the storm brought heavy rain, hail and unconfirmed reports of funnel clouds near Longville, Caribou Lake north of Duluth and Markham.
"This whole thing started early this morning coming out of the Fargo area of North Dakota and swept across northern Minnesota," Christenson said.
A storm packing wind gusts of more than 90 mph hit Fargo and West Fargo at about 7:30 a.m., tearing roofs from buildings, flipping airplanes and leaving thousands of residents without power. As many as 10,000 people remained without electricity Sunday afternoon, authorities said.
By 10 a.m., the storm hit Walker, Minn., with 70 mph winds, knocking down power lines. Forty-five minutes later, 1 1/2-inch hail fell on Blackberry, a small community southeast of Grand Rapids.
Hibbing received 80 mph winds and rains that flooded some streets around noon, but the storm caused no major damage, Hibbing Police said.
By evening, the Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Bayfield and Ashland counties. Weather Service meterologists spotted a developing tornado, but at press time no tornado was reported to have touched down.
Jane MacDougall of Duluth was driving on St. Louis County Highway 4 north of Island Lake when the storm hit. Trees were falling everywhere through an approximately 2-mile stretch hit hardest by the storm.
"Dozens of trees," MacDougall said. "I’d say anywhere from 30- to 50-foot pine trees. It looked like something just dug them out from the woods."
Christenson said the storm actually died down a little as it entered St. Louis County, then picked up strength and moved off through the Arrowhead.
Bill Schultz was fishing near Markham shortly before the storm hit.
"It kept rumbling and rumbling," he said. "We got to the house at 1 and by 1:10 everything broke loose. The treetops were touching the ground.
The wind blew Schult’z picnic table into the garden. His neighbor had several trees blown down.

Official statements and eyewitness accounts in the following days detailed a far worse situation.

14 injured campers airlifted from BWCAW as search continues

News Tribune

The search for injured campers in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness continues today after rescue workers evacuated 14 who were hurt during Sunday’s storms.
“Our employees are out checking on a lake-by-lake, campsite-by-campsite basis to make sure people are OK,’ said Superior National Forest spokesman Mark Van Every. “That’s going to take some time — a lot of portages are clogged with downed trees.’
Injured by falling trees and branches, the victims were airlifted from the BWCAW Sunday and Monday. While details on the severity of their injuries are sketchy, at least several had broken bones, authorities said. One reportedly had more serious internal injuries and another had a spinal injury.
There were no reports of deaths from Sunday’s storms, which raked Fargo, N.D., before sweeping across northern Minnesota. Two years ago, lightning from a similar storm killed a Boy Scout leader and injured another on Newfound Lake.
To speed the search in the BWCAW, the Civil Air Patrol began flying search missions Monday. Air Patrol spotters who find campers signaling for help then radio the Forest Service to send in one of the two float planes available for rescues.
“My concern is for everybody who doesn’t have road access, everyone who is in the Boundary Waters,’ said Cook County Sheriff David Wirt. “If the portages are blocked, then these people can’t get out. If they are injured and they can’t move, we need the air show.’
An incident team met in Ely Monday evening to plan today’s reconnaissance and rescue efforts.
Sunday’s storm, packing winds in excess of 80 mph, knocked down numerous trees in a swathe four to five miles wide and 30 to 35 miles long starting in the Moose Lake area and going up to Alpine Lake just west of Seagull Lake.
“There were also other areas hit along the Gunflint Trail and Sawbill Trail farther south,’ Van Every said. “A couple of our campgrounds are closed and we are in the process of helping people get out. The East Bearskin and Flower Lake Campground were both hit pretty hard.’
Fallen trees closed the Gunflint Trail Sunday, and hit resorts and campgrounds along the trail. Phone contact along the trail was spotty Monday.
It’s too early to tell if the Forest Service will have to close any of the entry points to the popular canoe country, officials said.
“Many of those areas are going to be affected for a while,’ Van Every said. “It’s not something we are going to be able to clean up in a short period of time.’
While the Forest Service’s first priority is finding everyone needing help, Van Every said, “We’re working toward what is the best approach to getting those portages opened as quickly as possible, because it’s going to prevent people in the wilderness from getting out.’
The Forest Service had no information Monday on the number of people who were in the BWCAW over the holiday weekend.

The aerial photo, taken in April of the following year shows a portion of the area most damaged by the storm. Beyond the initial shock of the storm’s devastation, the threat of massive fires caused by the fallen trees worried forestry officials for years to come.

Read this July 8 News Tribune account of two Duluth campers caught in the thick of the storm.

Duluthians survived ‘quiet destruction’ of vicious wind storm

News Tribune

Early Sunday afternoon, Duluthians Glenn Kreag, Barb Koth and their dog, Abby, stopped for lunch after crossing five portages to reach the shore of one of the Kekekabic Ponds in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
It started to rain, and the sky turned greenish-yellow to the west. So the two campers propped their 17-foot canoe in a tree, crouched under it and ate peanut butter sandwiches and sardines.
“We were admiring the fury of it,’ Kreag said of the storm that whipped the water into a white froth.
All of a sudden, the wind grabbed the canoe and tossed it backward. Instinctively, Kreag held it down, fearing it would be lost in the rapidly accelerating winds.
Then they heard a cracking sound from the red pine that moments earlier had been a canoe prop.
“The tree is coming down,’ said Koth.
The tree hit the canoe, with Kreag under it, and threw both to the ground. Neither was hurt.
But the worst was yet to come.
“We have to get out of here!’ Kreag shouted, and both began to run, but in different directions.
Kreag, a 55-year-old extension educator for the University of Minnesota, spotted the root ball of a large, freshly uprooted tree.
At the same time, Koth scrambled into an open spot, but found no safety there. “I felt like I wasn’t going to stay on the ground . . . like possibly I was going to be lifted,’ she said of the winds.
Crouching under the root ball, Kreag shouted to Koth to join him. She dashed to the tree barefoot, having shed her shoes during lunch, and crawled beneath the roots. Abby, the 6-year-old black lab and greyhound mix, joined them.
For the next 20 minutes or so, they and their dog watched as trees bent nearly to the ground, then snapped. It was a quiet sort of destruction, not what they would have imagined.
“It was not like it was huge crashing,’ Kreag said of the trees. “There was noise from the storm, but the trees bent over and over and over until they gave up. You could just see them going down.’
When it was over, the landscape had changed. Before the straight-line winds hit, Kreag and Koth stood in a majestic forest of pines, a classic canoe-country scene.
The aftermath reminded Koth, who once lived in Washington state, of the rows of downed trees after the Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption in 1980.
“It was so orderly and at the same time it was utter chaos,’ said Koth, a planner for the National Scenic Byways Resource Center. “I can see why they call them straight-line winds. It is picture-perfect straight-line trees all down in one direction.’


This photo from the U.S. Forest Service brings you up close with the storm’s power.