Duluth police vehicles

Robert Cox (left) and Robert Grytdahl on patrol in 1976.News Tribune

Today’s Duluth Police Department vehicles are black and white, and so are the ones I found scrounging through an old folder full of Duluth police photos. Enjoy a look back at Duluth’s finest and their various styles of motoring methods. Some of the photos have downtown Duluth in the background. Can anyone recognize the locations or know any of the officers featured?

–Dave Nevanen, copy editor

New Chevy Nova police cars in 1978. News Tribune

Patrolman Donald Rockwell (left) checks a drivers license as patrolman Edward McLean pulls the squad car into curb at 5th Ave. W. and Superior Streeet in 1958. Photo by Earl Johnson

John Derosier (left) and Dennis England patrol with snowmobiles in 1971. Charles Curtis/News Tribune

Parking ticket vehicle in 1964. Charles Curtis / News Tribune

Superior Street businesses

Here’s an undated photo from the attic, taken on Lake Avenue looking north toward Superior Street (we’re pretty sure about Lake Avenue, but might be wrong). The vehicles in the photo date it to later than 1966, and a car at the left has that ubiquitous Northland accessory – a canoe strapped to the top.


The businesses visible along Superior Street (from left) are Master Furriers, The Caribe Grill, Northwestern Bell Telephone Co., International Wig Boutique, Kindy-Lyon (optometrists?), Cameraland and Hokkanen (& Hokkanen?), a jeweler and watch shop.

The sidewalk along the Lake Avenue bridge is made of wood, and there appears to be a kiosk of some sort on the corner of Superior Street. Also noteworthy are the tall street lights and the telephone booth on the sidewalk. There appears to be a blocked-off opening in the bridge railing that could have led to a stairway down to the Michigan Street level. 

Can anyone tell us more about the businesses in this photo, the kiosk, the possible stairway and the wooden sidewalk on the bridge?

– Dave Ojala, copy editor


Outdoor youth hockey

Outdoor youth hockey

Squirt hockey teams competing at the Lower Chester rink  in 1988. Bob King/News Tribune

Outdoor hockey hasn’t changed much, except maybe it had more people playing outside because of the lack of indoor arenas. I grew up playing youth hockey on outdoor rinks. One time we played with temperatures below zero and the goalies were allowed to play in Sorel boots and when your playing shift ended on the ice, instead of crawling over the boards to sit in a snow bank, you skated to the warming house to warm up. Ahh, the good old days.

Skaters enjoying the new hockey rinks at the Woodland Community Club in Duluth in 1985. Joey McLeister / News Tribune

Two new outdoor rinks were built 26 years ago at the Woodland Community Club in 1984, so here’s a sample of those youth hockey days at various Duluth neighborhoods during the 1980s.

If anyone has any interesting outdoor hockey experiences, feel free to share them.

–Dave N.

Bob Piertz (left) and Scott Haugen round a cone during a skating drill for the Lester Park squirt C team in 1986. Dave Ballard / News Tribune

Bjorn Gangeness smooths out the ice at Congdon Park in 1990. Clara Wu/News Tribune

Todd Kuusisto is carried to his face-off against Keefe Ebmer by referee Roger Hellgren during a tournament game between Merritt and Piedmont in 1984. Joey McLeister/News Tribune

Kevin Walsh (left) and Ben Hubert enjoy a moment of glory for the Piedmont Heights Squirt Ds in 1985. John Rott/News Tribune

Duluth supper clubs, revisited

In snooping around our electronic archives for information about some of Duluth’s old supper clubs, I was struck by how many people’s obituaries told of their working at such establishments as the London House, the Highland Supper Club, the Flame and Black Bear Lounge. Not to impugn any of Duluth’s current eateries, but it is hard to imagine people feeling that same sense of belonging at one of today’s fast-food places or chain restaurants.

Tin Pan Alley troupe performs at the London House. Undated News Tribune photo

This undated photo of the “Tin Pan Alley” entertainment troupe at the London House, site of the present-day Perkins on London Road, certainly reflects different times.

Tracking changes through the years at the Highland Supper Club on Miller Hill Highway reflects the changing tastes of restaurant-goers over time.

An April 1972 Duluth Herald clipping reports that the Highland was included in an issue of Ford Times, a publication of Ford Motor Co. The “Favorite Recipes from Famous Restaurants” column included the Highland’s recipes for Lobster O’Brien and Prima Granda King Shrimp.

Ownership of the supper club turned over a few times, with Hope Lindman of Hopkins, Minn., planning to purchase it in a September 1970 article, “dependent upon the approval of transfer of [the] liquor license.” In 1979, another owner, Howard Guckenberg, was reported to be planning to add a new kitchen on to the building.

The article says, “The Guckenbergs said all new cooking equipment will be stainless steel and will include several computer-controlled pieces.”

By May 1983, the Guckenbergs were complaining of years of financial losses, with more plans to remodel and upgrade the facility. The Guckenbergs were negotiating with restaurateur David Cornelson of Minneapolis, who planned to open a new restaurant at the facility, filling “an open niche in the Duluth market between fast-food restaurants and supper clubs,” according to the story by reporter Jack D. Shipley.

Shipley continues: “The Highland was one of the city’s premier supper clubs for more than a decade. But a boom during the 1970s in restaurant development left the Highland suffering, Guckenberg said.”

In September 1983, former employees of the Highland were picketing the restaurant to get their old jobs back when it reopened under the name Neon Parrot. The employees were members of Hotel, Motel, Restaurant, Bar and Club Local 99.

The Neon Parrot on MIller Trunk Highway  September 1984 News-Tribune photo by Bob King

The Neon Parrot operated at the site for awhile, as well as Rudolph’s Barbecue. By 1993, the old supper club had been reincarnated as “The White Elephant Bar and Lounge,” and the building was being purchased by yet another owner, the Duluth law firm of Orman & Nord, which was moving its offices to the building. The new owners planned to continue to lease the bar space, while making vacant space at the building available as office space for professional tenants. The law firm, now named Orman Nord Spott & Hurd Attorneys, remains in the building at 1301 Miller Trunk Highway today.

– Mary Beamish, copy editor

French River missile base

Have you ever seen the red-and-white water tower near the French River on the North Shore and wondered why it was there? A tiny file in the News Tribune attic might offer an answer.

The Air Force activated a Bomarc antiaircraft missile base in the Town of Duluth in 1961. It included 28 missile-launch facilities with concrete silos, missile service and assembly shops, an auto maintenance shop, a dormitory, a fire hall and supporting utility systems. It reportedly was staffed by 157 airmen. The Air Force spent $3.65 million on the base before closing it in 1972 when the Bomarc missile became obsolete. The missiles were shipped to a naval storage depot in Virginia, and Air Force officials at the time said they might be used as practice targets for other missiles or aircraft. The first photo below shows the last of 28 missiles being hauled away in August 1972. The second is a 1968 photo of a Bomarc missile in the ready position.

Stories say the Town of Duluth bought the base for $126,00 in 1976, intending to sell it to the Mathisen Tire Co. for $140,000. The trail ends there. The former base apparently has been used by various local businesses over the years, but the News Tribune has no record of which businesses used it or when, or who owns the property.

Does anyone know if that water tower marks the site of the former base, who owns the property and how it has been used over the years?

Heyday of Bridgeman’s

Tina Lindvall of Duluth dishes up an ice cream cone at Bridgeman’s — where she’s worked the past three years. She’s a sophomore nursing student at St. Scholastica.

 Back in May 1976, when this Duluth News Tribune story was written, there were eight Bridgeman outlets in the Duluth area. That included a new Bridgeman’s at the Village Mall.

“Roy and Chester Bridgeman started the first ice cream store in 1936, People found it amusing that anyone would attempt to sell ice cream in this near-polar climate,” the story said. “… Within a month the Bridgeman brothers opened a store in West Duluth and a cone shop at 45th Avenue East and Superior Street which later became a store. They also opened a shop at 5th Avenue East and Fourth Street and in 1937 started doing business in the West End and in Superior.”
The story pointed out the Bridgeman’s hired only “the cream of the crop.”
“We like our girls to look sharp, no dangling hairdos or runs in the nylons,” said Lee Ellingson, supervisor of Bridgeman’s Duluth stores.
What are your memories of going to Bridgeman’s to eat or working there?



Chester Bowl ski jump

On Dec. 31, 1969, Duluthian Terry Kern took the first jump off the new 55-meter ski slide at Chester Park when the ski area reopened. The facility also known as Chester Bowl included a 15- and 35-meter jumps, an intermediate hill and a 3-mile slalom course.

There are two ski jumps, Big Chester and Little Chester. Big Chester, erected in 1924, rises 115 feet from the ground. Little Chester was built later. Here are some ski jumping photos from Chester Bowl during the 1980s.

If you know anyone in the photos or have any memories of the Chester jumps, feel free to comment.




McQuade Safe Harbor could have been bigger – and at Brighton

Any plan to alter the shoreline of Lake Superior generates strong feelings in the Duluth area. That certainly was the case in the 1980s, when the city of Duluth and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources created a plan for a boat launch and harbor at Brighton Beach. And compared to the McQuade Safe Harbor eventually built about four miles farther up the North Shore, the proposed Brighton Beach facility (plan drawing below) was a mammoth. 

The McQuade Safe Harbor officially opened in 2008 with three boat-launch ramps, a kayak-launch ramp, tie-up docks, and parking for 54 vehicles with trailers and 23 vehicles without trailers. By comparison, the proposed Brighton Beach site had six boat-launch ramps, a 1,000-foot breakwall with at least 23 boat tie-downs, 43 boat slips, a harbor capacity for 150 boats and 200 parking spaces.

The Brighton plan mushroomed after the city of Duluth approved spending $8,000 in 1984 to study improvements at the park. By February 1989, the harbor plan had been developed by the city and DNR, and preliminary engineering work had begun. Protests, one of which drew at least 200 people, and debate on the editorial pages of the News Tribune followed. Support for the project by Duluth city councilors began to fade in the face of public opposition. On October 16, 1989, the Duluth City Council unanimously asked the DNR to drop the Brighton Beach harbor plan. Because the city owns the land, the vote killed the project. The result is the smaller MCQuade Safe Harbor (seen below), and a park at Brighton Beach that has been preserved for more passive enjoyment of the big lake.

MCQuade Safe Harbor

Posted in Uncategorized

Mayor’s portrait comes out of hiding to take its place in Duluth City Hall

David Ericson’s painting of former Duluth Mayor Henry Truelsen

David Ericson’s portrait of former Duluth Mayor Henry Truelsen

The St. Louis Historical Society is currently showing six paintings by David Ericson (1869-1946), a portrait and landscape artist who lived in Duluth. His piece “Skyline” shows the waterfront in 1882 — when Ericson was 13.

This earliest surviving painting by native Duluthian David Ericson (1869-1946), a watercolor of the Duluth “skyline” from the waterfront in 1882, is one of six Ericson works featured in a new exhibit at the Depot.

Hearing about the show reminded me of an interesting story involving Ericson I ran across when I was doing some informal research on my husband’s great-grandfather, Henry Truelsen, who was mayor of Duluth from 1896-1900.
A May 24, 1921, Duluth News Tribune article headlined “Council accepts gift of former mayor’s picture” recounts how a portrait of Truelsen commissioned from Ericson sat in “hiding” for 20 years, according to then-Mayor Sam Snively. Snively is quoted:
“One of my first steps after assuming office was to bring from hiding and have placed in the council chamber the portrait of Henry Truelsen, former mayor of Duluth.”
“The portrait was painted 20 years ago at the request of some of Mr. Truelsen’s friends but was never paid for. It has been in the keeping of J. Johnson, acting in behalf of Mr. Ericson. The portrait was valued at $1,100. Wishing to make a contribution, Mr. Ericson reduced the price to $600.”
Ericson finally got his $600 payment for the painting when Snively undertook his campaign and Thomas A. Merritt of Duluth stepped forward to buy the painting as a gift to the city.
The article goes on: “The painting is encased in a beautifully gilded frame bearing a tablet upon which is engraved: ‘Henry Truelsen, mayor of Duluth, 1896-1900. Through whose untiring efforts Duluth obtained its water and gas plant. Presented to the city by Thomas A. Merritt.’ ”
The engraving’s ever-so-brief mention of Truelsen’s work on the water and gas plant refers to a tumultuous battle led by Truelsen for public ownership of the city’s water supply at a reasonable price. His objection to the purchase price in 1894, while he was president of the Board of Public Works, led to his populist candidacy for Duluth mayor.
Actually, Snively exaggerates a bit the length of time the painting sat while Ericson waited for payment. A News Tribune story from April 11, 1910, announces that Ericson had been commissioned to travel to Zenith, N.D., Truelsen’s new home, to paint the portrait. A committee had been formed and a “subscription list” drawn up to collect money to pay for the painting, but apparently that effort was not successful.
No word on whether Ericson was miffed by the drying up of funding for the painting, but he was quite successful nonetheless.

David Ericson

Ericson, who was born in Sweden, immigrated to the United States with his family and settled in Duluth in 1872 when he was a young child. The family lived on Park Point near the spot where the Aerial Lift Bridge now stands.

"Salting the Sheep" by David Ericson

His talent was recognized early, and his first success was winning a gold medal at the Minnesota State Fair for his painting “Salting the Sheep” when he was 16. He spent time living and painting in Provincetown, Mass., New York City and Paris, studying for a time with well-known painter James McNeill Whistler.

David Ericson in his studio

And Ericson was appreciated as well in his hometown of Duluth, as an Oct. 21, 1924, article observes: “A prophet may never be a prophet in his own country, but occasionally a painter is appreciated by his home town as is evidenced by the unusual interest which Duluthians are taking in Mr. Ericson’s pictures.”
Ericson was a popular lecturer at women’s and educators’ groups around town, with his paintings of scenes from here and abroad proving popular with the hometown crowd.

"Morning of Life" by David Ericson, a painting of Ericson’s young son at a dock on Park Point in Duluth

A Nov. 12, 1961, clipping reports a trip to Duluth by Ericson’s son, David Ericson Jr., who donated 18 of his father’s paintings to the Tweed Museum at UMD. The Tweed featured Ericson’s paintings most recently in 2006 in the show “David Ericson, Always Returning: The Life and Work of a Duluth Cultural Icon.”

By Mary Beamish, DNT copy editor

To learn more about David Ericson on the Minnesota Artists Web site:

To learn more about Henry Truelsen in Minnesota History magazine:


Remembering Bronko Nagurski

Twenty years ago in early January, legendary football player Bronko Nagurski died in International Falls at the age of 81. Nagurski, was an All-American at two positions, defensive tackle and fullback while at the University of Minnesota in the 1920s. The 6-foot, 225-pound hard-hitting Nagurski played in the NFL for the Chicago Bears from 1930-1943. After football, he wrestled professionally until he retired from sports and returned to his hometown of International Falls where he operated a service station until 1968.

Born Bronislau Nagurski to Ukrainian parents, Bronko is a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is in many Hall of Fames, including the Duluth Arena Sports Hall of Fame.

He was successful in many things, including the story about his gas station in downtown International Falls.

A visitor to the Canadian border town asked whether or not he was a successful gas station owner.

"Once someone gets gas from Bronko, they never go anyplace else," a local told him.

"Is the service good?" asked the visitor.

"No, not really," said the local.

"Does he have the best price?"

"Actually he is about three cents more expensive than everybody else in town."

"Then the gas must be better."

"No, it’s just the regular gas from Standard Oil."

"Then why does everyone keep coming back to Bronko?"

"Because when Bronko Nagurski puts your gas cap on, no one but Bronko Nagurski can get it back off."