Grab a broom, go play

It might seem inappropriate to start talking about winter when September has just begun, but the season is just around the corner. And what could be more fun than playing with brooms and a ball on a sheet of ice?
That’s what Grandma’s Marathon organizers were thinking when they decided to branch out in 1984 from the summer racecourse into a winter sport — broomball.


Doug Tarvestad prepares for impact by falling teammate Bruce Pichotta in a wet and sloppy intramural broomball practice at UMD. Their team name: Fruit of the Broom. (1987 file / News Tribune)
 

What’s broomball you ask. Well, it’s a lot like hockey, played on a similar but smaller rink with six players to a side. Some key differences: The players wear boots instead of skates, they use brooms for sticks and the puck is actually a soccer-like ball.

Sports writer Bruce Bennett explains it all in a column he wrote for the News Tribune in 1984 about the forming Grandma’s teams.

 


Kerry Conley drops the ball down in a face-off between broomball players at the Norton Park Clubhouse ice rink. (1984 file / News Tribune)

The city-sponsored teams were disbanded at some point before the 1990s hit. But they were given a revival in 1992 when a Duluth parks and recreation director organized league play at Grant Field, as explained by a 1992 News Tribune article.

Has anyone played broomball? Did you play with Duluth’s early teams? What was it like? The guy below apparently loved to play so much he forgot to put his pants on before heading out to the rink.


Matt Weisz (in the shorts) made a save on a shot by Glenn Gilderman as they played broomball in the parking lot of First United Methodist Church. Weisz said of wearing his shorts to the game: "It’s only bad when I get snow on my legs." (1991 file / News Tribune)

 

Hey, Soup’s On!

It didn’t take long for one new sandwich and soup restaurant to become a downtown hot spot, according to a 1983 article about a little local eatery called Soup’s On.


Logo on the storefront of Soup’s On at 232 West First St. in Duluth. (1985 file / News Tribune)

The restaurant was open a mere seven weeks before its owners were planning to make it a chain. They eventually opened three more Soup’s On restaurants in the Twin Cities. The company that owned the restaurants sold all four in 1985. The Duluth eatery’s original manager, Michael Garcia, bought the business and kept it open just two more years, closing it 1987.

It seems as quickly as the restaurant took off, it also just as quickly burned out. But a 1987 News Tribune article said that "while its bottom-line performance was lacking," Garcia’s restaurant provided Duluth and Superior one of their more cultural eating experiences." Garcia often invited local artists to exhibit their work at Soup’s On. He and the other owners also spent about $70,000 when the Duluth location opened to renovate the former Center Liquor store into a place where "a typical worker can come and feel very much removed from the office environment," Garcia had said.


Lunchtime diners relax at Soup’s On. (1983 file/ /News Tribune)


Soup’s On featured large windows that looked out on First Street and allowed plenty of natural light to filter into the dining space. (1983 file / News Tribune)

Does anyone remember eating at Soup’s On? Obviously, the restuarant catered to its soup that, according to a 1983 article, was made every morning in 60-gallon steam-jacketed kettles. Its most popular offerings were French Onion and a seafood chowder made with clams, scallops, crab meat and shrimp. Yum!

If you were a diner there in the 80s, what varieties did you try? What were your favorites? The Attic wants to know.


A typical lunch at Soup’s On -  a roast beef sandwich, French Onion soup and coffee. (1983 file / News Tribune)

 

Free falling in Canal Park

The Grandma’s Marathon finish line wasn’t the only attraction in Canal Park in 1992. Bungee Maxx Inc. also was in town with its 130-foot crane set up outside the Park Inn, which is now the Canal Park Lodge.

Thrill-seekers could pay $75 to be strapped into an ankle harness, then free fall from a rubber bungee cord, hurtling toward the pavement on Canal Park Drive below.


Jay Dandrea of Superior makes his first-ever bungee jump. (1992 file / News Tribune)

Then-News Tribune staff writer Jay Faherty took the plunge and wrote a column about it. For some, the price for such a rush was a little too much. But Faherty thought it was worth the cash, saying in his column: "The rush created from the acceleration and seeing the ground grow closer and closer was a high I never felt before."


A bungee jumper takes a leap from the 130-foot crane outside the Park Inn. (1992 file / News Tribune)

The jumpers didn’t actually fall 130 feet, though. Well, not unless something went wrong. The bungee cord allowed them to go only about 90 feet down before bouncing them back skyward.

According to a News Tribune story accompanying the 1992 column, an accident had happened in Excelsior, Minn., just days before the thrill attraction was in Duluth. A woman lost consciousness when the bungee cord recoiled around her neck during the jump. But that didn’t stop about 150 local jumpers from experiencing the thrill.


Don Jewell of West Duluth falls backwards to begin his descent toward Canal Park Drive. (1992 file / News Tribune)

Read Jay Faherty’s bungee-jumping column below:

On a bungee plunge

By Jay Faherty
News Tribune staff writer

Some said it was guts. Others called it stupidity.

I thought it was simply unbelievable.

Bungee Maxx Inc. was back in Duluth with its crane and rubber-band like ropes to give Northlanders the opportunity to experience some true free-falling.

If you had asked me earlier this week what I was doing Saturday, I probably wouldn’t have said I would be plummeting from atop a 130-foot crane toward the pavement.

But that’s what I did.

Totally by choice, of course. No one forced, or even asked me to jump. I just thought it looked like fun.

I had my doubts about the entire process until watching co-owners Tim Swail, Pat Crosby and Sean Knutsen check each and every piece of equipment during set-up Friday night at a parking lot between the Park Inn International and Endion Station.

After watching several jumps that night, I decided I would jump Saturday afternoon.

After paying $75, two of the company’s 13-member crew dressed me in harnesses and gadgets from ankle to waist and said I was ready to go. Swail accompanied me to the top and explained what was about to happen.

"When we reach the top, I’m going to throw the cord out and put you on the edge of the cart," he said. "I’ll shut the door behind you, but don’t think I’m pushing you off."

The view was incredible for the few seconds I was at the top. But the sight wasn’t all that great when I realized I would soon be heading straight down toward all of it.

He then told me that after I was announced as next jumper, the crowd would join in a five-count countdown. Then I was to do a huge swan dive and keep my eyes open. Just before the crowd started its countdown, Swail jokingly asked, "So, Jay, how do you like heights?"

Then things happened really quickly.

Five.

"What am I doing?"

Four.

"Wow, the lift bridge is up."

Three.

"Here goes nothing."

Two.

"Oh, my god."

One.

I dove. I kept my line of sight on one spot and couldn’t help but think that if this cord did break, I wouldn’t even know what happened.

The rush created from the acceleration and seeing the ground grow closer and closer was a high I never felt before. Then it was over.