Betty’s Pies, 1978

August 6, 1978

Betty Lessard holds one of her famous lemon angel pies at her cafe north of Two Harbors in August 1978. (News-Tribune file photo)

Before planned road construction forced a move to modern digs uphill from Highway 61, the famed Betty’s Pies was housed in a more humble home much closer to the road, near the Stewart River bridge. It’s known around the region for its pies, but the restaurant – known back then as Betty’s Cafe – also holds the distinction of being a pioneer in smoke-free dining, as shown in this 1978 article:

Betty specializes in clean air and homemade pies

By Susan Willoughby, Duluth News-Tribune

TWO HARBORS – There’s something about knowing that Betty Lessard is in the kitchen baking that makes everything taste better at Betty’s Cafe.

When you walk in you’ll see Betty emerge from the kitchen, her hands and apron covered with flour and her cheeks flushed from the heat of the oven. That’s all part of what makes her famous homemade pies famous.

The cafe has a warm, homey atmosphere, much like going home for Sunday dinner. That atmosphere and Betty’s cooking mean standing-room-only crowds every weekend.

Those crowds make Betty confident to enforce a state law some might consider bad for a restaurant business: If you attempt to light a cigarette over that second cup of coffee, you’ll be firmly but politely directed to the smoking area – two picnic tables just outside the cafe.

The smoking ban at Betty’s began three years ago because her tiny cafe is too small to designate a smoking area under state law.

But Betty enforces the ban, unlike many restaurant owners, because she believes her homemade pies, rolls, bread and cookies will taste a little better without the smell of "second-hand smoke."

"Most people who own eating places are afraid if they don’t allow smoking they’ll lose customers," she said. "But I have my standards. Besides, they can take their coffee outside, and it’s not that much to ask."

Betty has an edge over even the most determined smoker – she makes pies so delicious you want no distractions from eating them. Her crusts are flaky, her fillings creamy and delicious, her recipes a closely guarded secret.

"If they don’t want to obey the rules they can go somewhere else," Betty grinned. "There’ll be 12 more in line behind them when they leave."

The cafe is very small – it seats about 35 people – and cigarette smoke will drift all through the building in minutes, Betty said. "Even if I could, I wouldn’t go back to having smoking," said Betty, who up to 12 years ago smoked two packs a day. "I found out how nice it could be. And everyone comment on it. Even smokers comment on how they enjoyed their food without inhaling someone’s second-hand smoke."

Betty’s Cafe overlooks Lake Superior. Its outdoor smoking area is to the left, under the sign. (News-Tribune file photo)


Betty figures she runs one of the only no-smoking restaurants in the state – and that has brought her some additional customers.

But Betty’s doesn’t really need much help. Word of mouth alone has brought customers from as far as Sweden to taste those famous pies.

One bite of that fresh strawberry, blueberry, peach and raspberry, that banana and coconut cream, that lemon meringue and lemon angel or that four-layer chocolate pie – well it just makes you forget about all the calories and ugly fat.

It’s what sold 3,800 pies last year to a faithful following during Betty’s six-month business season from smelt season to deer season. And it’s what Betty estimates will sell 5,000 pies this year.

"I know a worker at the Duluth Thompson Hill [tourist information] center, and she tells me people come in and just ask for ‘that pie place,’" Betty said. "She knows right off what they’re talking about."

Betty starts her day at 4:45 a.m., making pies and getting ready to open the cafe at 11 a.m. Most days she doesn’t leave until an hour after the 8 p.m. closing.

Weekdays – except Tuesdays, when she’s closed – Betty sells whole pies. But she couldn’t begin to keep up with the weekend demand, so pie is sold only by the slice.

"A big seller is strawberry," she said. "But my favorite is that fresh peach."

Betty’s Cafe – on Highway 61 three miles north of Two Harbors – started out as a smoked fish stand 22 years ago. And Betty, who was once a professional photographer in Duluth, began baking "just to find something to do."

She branched out to trout and chicken dinners and finally became famous for her cookies, bread and pies.

Her voice is soft and her eyes are warm, but she doesn’t fool around when it comes to enforcing her no-smoking policy.

"I had only one problem with a customer," she said. "A woman came in with her husband, and wouldn’t put out her cigarette for anything. I said I would call the sheriff, and he would fine her $100.

"Well, she just sat there and kept smoking," Betty laughed. "And her husband finally just walked out on her, he got so mad."


Betty Lessard sold the cafe to Janine Bjerklie in 1984, who in turn sold it to Carl Ehlenz and Martha Sieber in 1997.The new building opened in 2000; the old cafe structure was torn down in 2002, as seen in this photo:

A wrecking machine takes a bite out of the old Betty’s Pies building on April 24, 2002, as it is brought to the ground by MNDOT workers. (Renee Knoeber / News Tribune)

Here are a few more Betty’s Pies photos from the News Tribune files:

Although no longer the owner, Betty Lessard still makes a presence at her namesake restaurant, Betty’s Pies – including on this day, July 14, 2001. "People just get excited, they flip out because Betty is here," said assistant manager Roma Clarin. Now Betty, who still serves as hostess on regular basis, has a new pie cookbook coming out. (Rick Scibelli / News Tribune)


Carl Ehlenz, co-owner of Betty’s Pies, is covered in silly string by his employees just before the old building is torn down on April 24, 2002. Ehlenz worked for two years out of the old building before moving into the new one behind it. (Renee Knoeber / News Tribune)


This 1956 photo shows the original, first building where smoked fish was sold at the site of what is now Betty’s Pies. The building was added onto over the years and bakery items were sold. (Submitted photo / News Tribune file)


Janine Bjerklie, owner of Betty’s Pies, hold a pair of famous pies inside the restaurant on Oct. 3, 1997 – when the business was up for sale. (Chuck Frederick / News-Tribune)


Feel free to share your Betty’s Pies memories by posting a comment.

– Andrew Krueger

Bill Watson wins Hobey Baker, 1985

UMD hockey player Bill Watson (left) and coach Mike Sertich talk on March 29, 1985, at a news conference in Detroit after Watson was announced as the 1985 Hobey Baker Award winner. It was the second consecutive year a Bulldog player won the award. (John Rott / 1985 file / News Tribune)

25 years ago: UMD’s Watson wins Hobey Baker Award

Exactly 25 years ago, the Duluth News Tribune carried news of a second consecutive triumph for the UMD men’s hockey program.

On March 29, 1985 — reported in the March 30 paper — Bill Watson became the second Bulldog in a row to win the Hobey Baker Award as the season’s top college men’s hockey player.

Unfortunately, the same paper also carried news of a heartbreaking, multiple-overtime loss for UMD in a second consecutive NCAA tournament.

But focusing on the positive, here’s a column by the late Bruce Bennett, then the paper’s associate sports editor, on Watson’s win:

It was the biggest and most impressive of the five Hobey Baker Awards ceremonies. Bill Watson won college hockey’s top individual award Friday, giving UMD back-to-back winners, and 500 Bulldog fans packed the Westin Hotel’s Mackinac Room to roar their approval.

For Watson, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s two-time scoring champion, all-star and All-American selection, being named the season’s top college player was the cap to a grand Bulldog career. Almost.

“Now we’ve got to go out and win a hockey game,” Watson said after accepting the Baker trophy. He was referring to Friday night’s showdown with RPI in the NCAA semifinals.

“I’m overwhelmed by this,” said the Powerview, Manitoba, native who turns 21 today. “And I’m nervous.
He didn’t show it. He spoke easily about what the award meant to him. “I’m proud to follow in the footsteps of Tom Kurvers,” his former teammate who won the award last year. “I know what he accomplished and what he meant to the team. It’s a great thrill for me to be here today.”

“Bill Watson epitomizes what the Hobey Baker Award stands for,” said UMD Coach Mike Sertich. “He has become a complete hockey player. He has shown the hockey world he may be the most dangerous player in college hockey right now.”
Word spread fast among the maroon-and-gold-clad crowd Friday morning at the Westin complex as rumors that Watson was the Hobey Baker winner were rampant. That prospect brought Bulldog boosters to the press conference in droves.

“I want to thank the Duluth fans, my teammates, my coaches and my parents,” Watson told the assemblage. “Without any of them, I wouldn’t be standing here.”

Watson, who will receive his award Tuesday night at the Decathlon Club in Bloomington, Minn., said he’d learned he won the award Thursday, after practice, when Sertich informed him of the choice.

Sertich had been aware since Monday that Watson was the 1985 selection, but he kept it under his hairpiece. “I didn’t think we could win it two years in a row,” he said. “I thought the selection was too political. I’m glad I was wrong.”


UMD’s Bill Watson walks from the equipment room at the Duluth Arena to a waiting bus that will take the hockey team to the airport for their flight to Detroit on March 26, 1985. The Bulldogs were on their way to play RPI in the national semifinals. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune and Herald)

That night, the Bulldogs fell to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 6-5 in triple overtime in an NCAA semifinal at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

It was a heartbreaking result for UMD, which the year before had lost to Bowling Green in four overtimes in the national title game.

In 1985, the Bulldogs rebounded to beat Boston College in the third-place game — yet again, in overtime.

Watson, meanwhile, signed with the Chicago Blackhawks after the season. He played parts of four seasons for the Blackhawks. He later served as an assistant coach at UMD, head coach at St. Scholastica and an assistant at Western Michigan.

He now works for Northwestern Mutual in Duluth and continues to be involved with the Bulldog men’s hockey program.

Duluth’s Don Ness: player before mayor

As the Minnesota high school basketball season concludes, 2010 also marked the end of Duluth Central and its basketball team with the upcoming closing of the school.

Duluth Central basketball player Don Ness (front) had a quiet moment on the bus next to the state tournament plaque the team received on their trip back to Duluth from St. Paul on March 29, 1992. In the back reading a newspaper was Erik Reinertsen and playing cards were Dave Berntson and Todd Hanson. Clara Wu / Duluth News Tribune

Looking back at Duluth Central basketball, one player on the 1992 Trojan team that went to the state tournament was Don Ness, who later would become mayor of Duluth. Here’s a brief look at that March in 1992, where the Trojans finished with a third-place finish.

Duluth Central’s Don Ness makes a basket against Moorhead in the third-place game at the state tournament at the St. Paul Civic Center. Clara Wu / Duluth News Tribune

Duluth Central players celebrate after a win at the 1992 state boys basketball tournament in St. Paul. Players are (from left) Don Ness, Elisha Sickler, Erik Reinertsen and Bill Irving. Clara Wu / Duluth News Tribune

Dave Nevanen, copy editor

Lakehead Service Center, 1961

October 31, 1961

Lakehead Service Center, 1530 London Road (News-Tribune file photo)

The Lakehead Service Center opened in 1961 on London Road in Duluth’s Endion neighborhood. After remodeling, additions and a name change, it’s still there today, operating as London Road Car Wash. Cars exiting the car wash today still use the original exit, as seen in these photos.

This photo is undated, but it may be from a couple years after it opened:


Here is an article that previewed the opening of the service center, from July 28, 1961:


By Garth Germond, Duluth Herald staff writer

Mayor E. Clifford Mork and Robert B. Morris, Duluth Chamber of Commerce executive secretary, will take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the new Lakehead Service Center Saturday.

George Finch, president of Lakehead Service Co., and William Soules, vice president and general manager, say their new center – located at 16th Avenue East and London Road – is the first of its kind in the state.

They describe it as a "supermarket" for auto owners, offering complete mechanical repairs and maintenance, gas and oil service and a high speed car wash. The car wash will be opened next week.

Soules says that the car wash will employ a variety of new-type automatic equipment. It will use a mild detergent under high pressure to watch cars; a 10-horsepower vacuum cleaner to clean interiors; and a 120-horsepower blower for fast drying.

The center occupies about a half-block of space. Its white-painted concrete-block buildings were erected by United General Constructors, Inc. C. Everett Thorsen was the architect and Elmer M. Peterson the consulting engineer.

Soules and Finch announced appointment of Donald E. Anderson, former operator of the Highland Service Center, as head of their repair department, and Leonard Sathers, a veteran Duluth gasoline service station operator, as service manager. Pure Oil Co. products will be featured.


For more information on the Pure Oil brand, click here.

Here are a few close-ups from the first photo:

Remember Jack McKenna?

There is a rather large file in the News Tribune attic on Jack McKenna, a former Duluth television personality who apparently began his career here in the 1950s as “Captain Q” on a children’s program and later played “Professor Fantastic” on a late-night horror show on WDIO-TV Channel 10. The next mention of him in the file is as a WDIO weathercaster in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

Jack McKenna does his weathercast at WDIO in 1977, the same year he was
chosen favorite TV personality by Twin Ports residents.

McKenna portrays “Captain Q” in the early 1960s.

After that, he made moves to weathercasting positions in Denver and San Francisco in 1973, returning to WDIO in 1975. Sometime after that, he moved to Tucson, Ariz., for another weathercasting postion that didn’t suit him well. He returned to Duluth at KBJR-TV Channel 6 in 1979 for a position as a news host. He returned to weathercasting at KBJR in about 1983. He was laid off by that station in 1989. That’s where the attic trail ends. Does anyone know what McKenna did after 1989? Do you have any stories to share about his on-air personality, style and quirks?


-Dave Ojala, copy editor

McKenna in 1970.

Dominant Broncos: State hockey tourney

International Falls hockey coach Larry Ross and the Broncos during a game in the mid-1960s against Duluth Cathedral in Duluth. News Tribune photo by Charles Curtis

There have obviously been many good teams to play in the Minnesota high school boys hockey tournament, but there were none as dominating as the International Falls Broncos during the 1960s.

The Broncos have won seven state championships overall, with four of those coming in the 1960s. The Falls put up some impressive numbers in accomplishing that feat.

–The Falls had a 59-game winning streak from 1962 to 66.

–The Broncos won three consecutive state titles (64-65-66), and were an overtime loss away from five straight. The Falls beat Roseau for the 1962 title, then lost 4-3 in overtime to St. Paul Johnson in the 1963 title game. The Broncos came back to win the next three state titles, including undefeated seasons (26-0) in 1965 and 1966 under the guidance of coach Larry Ross, who was with the Broncos from 1954-85.

Falls hockey coach Larry Ross, who had a record of 566-169-21 in 31 seasons (1954-85), including six Minnesota state titles. News Tribune photo

One other interesting note about those teams. Before Bronco Arena was built in 1968, the Broncos played their "home games" at Memorial Arena in neighboring Fort Frances, Ontario.

Many argue the undefeated 1965 Falls team with players like Tim Sheehy and Pete Fichuk was among the best in Minnesota boys hockey history. I tend to agree, but I may be a little biased being from the Falls. Agree or disagree, I’d like to hear who you think was the best prep hockey team in Minnesota history.

–Dave Nevanen, copy editor

Duluth Bike patrol

With the warmer weather and ice melting off the streets of Duluth, bicyclists are once again becoming more common and visible. Recent events, such as four young people being ticketed for blocking traffic while delivering food donated to charity, prompted lots of comments on the News Tribune’s Web site during the past year. As bicyclists again take to the streets, it’s important for cyclists and drivers to follow the rules of the road.

In 1980, the News Tribune published a photo and short story about the Duluth Bike Patrol, a group of six UMD students who carried police radios while cycling the city, and had authority to write tickets to cyclists who violated traffic laws. In the program’s third year in 1980, the emphasis was shifted from educating cyclists to enforcement,Milo Tasky, then police chief, said.

This is the only reference to the Bike Patrol in the DNT attic. Does anyone know what happened to the program? Was it cut because of budget constraints? Is another such program needed today, and would it be effective?

– Dave Ojala, copy editor

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