Break dancing takes Duluth by storm, 1984

I found a file of break dancing photos in the News Tribune Attic, and oddly enough every single one of them was from 1984. It seems like that was the year break dancing really took off in Duluth, at least for a while.

Here are a few photos from “The Icebreakers,” a break dance show staged by students at Washington Junior High in December 1984:

Willie Kruger rehearses a solo dance from “The Icebreakers,” Washington Junior High School’s break dance show, while Ebony Carter and Kim Ouillette watch on Dec. 4, 1984. Kruger is one of about 15 dancers who have been rehearsing since early November for the show, which will premiere before the student body Friday. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

Mike Rojas “takes it to the floor” during a rehearsal of a break dance show, called “The Icebreakers,” at Washington Junior High School in Duluth on Dec. 4, 1984. To the left are Scott Daugaard and Steve Miller; to the right is Jeff Jegloski. (Bob King / News-Tribune)


Here are some photos from March 1984, which accompanied an article headlined “Break dancing makes it to Duluth”:

Make a “wave” in the halls of Washington Junior High in March 1984 are, from left, Alvon Carter, Ollie Grant and Chet Pepper. Carter learned break dancing from relatives in Ohio. He taught Pepper, who taught others, and so on. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Sean LaFontaine break dances at a Washington Junior High School dance in March 1984. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

Terry Goods break dances at a Washington Junior High School dance in March 1984. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)


And then there were these photos with an article that ran on September 19, 1984:

Alvon Carter, 16, takes David Gerber, 10, through some “floor rocking” moves during break dancing lessons at the Duluth YMCA on August 23, 1984. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune & Herald)

Young dancers breakin’ parents tradition

By Marc Perrusquia, News-Tribune & Herald staff writer

Some women in black leotards were finishing an aerobic dance lesson when the children rushed into the gym, crowding around the exercise mat in the Duluth YMCA.

A Michael Jackson song blared from a tape deck: “Billie Jean’s not my girl…”

The women seemed to enjoy it immensely, smiling as they twisted their torsos side-to-side in an exercise that would make a belly dancer groan.

The kids didn’t appear impressed with the older generation’s gyrations. They were waiting for the “old folks” to clear the mat so they could get down for the real hit of the day – break dancing lessons.

A group of the youngsters gathered around their instructor, Shockwave.

The first lesson of the day was this: Shockwave is the street name for Alvon Carter, a 16-year-old Duluth break-dancing enthusiast.

Picking a street name is the first and simplest step to becoming a break dancer. All you do is take a name you like and give it to yourself, as many of Carter’s friends have done: Reflex, Sonic D, Space Cowboy and Baby Breaker.

The second lesson is this: The name must be “fresh.” Fresh is the equivalent of “cool” or “with it.”

For example, it’s doubtful a name like Melvin Podiovak would be fresh, but Marvelous Mel just might be.

Lesson three is similar to lesson two: Along with the right name, you must have the appropriate music.

Carter shook his head as he watched the women finish their Michael Jackson-inspired lesson.

“No, it’s just not fresh enough,” he said, nodding toward the aerobic exercisers.

Carter brought his own music by little-known groups like Grand Master, Sugar Hill Gang and Electric Kingdom. The music features a lot of of bass playing, lightning-fast lyrics and, most importantly, a quick beat.

Some youngsters try break dancing during lessons at the Duluth YMCA in August 1984. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune & Herald)

After the women cleared the mat, Carter’s 25 young apprentices  climbed on.

The first step Carter showed them was the “Joker Kick.”

To do it, you squat to the floor, bend a leg beneath your seat and, alternating with the other leg, thrust it forward like a Russian gopak dancer – except here the dancer isn’t really leaving the ground. …

Some of the students of the students were taking spills, so Carter watched them individually.

“What are you guys doing here?” Carter asked.

“It’s too hard,” said little Jim Kubiak, 7. He and some boys were sitting on the edge of the mat, watching the others.

Unlike a fresh name, fresh dancing never is achieved easily.

“Go like this,” Carter said, demonstrating. “I’ll bet you can do it.”

The boys mimicked Carter. Still they weren’t up to his level, but they were a bit better. When Carter left, the boys sat down again.

“I seen break dancing a lot on TV and I like it and stuff,” young Kubiak said. “Mostlty on ‘Beat It’ (the Michael Jackson video).”

Unlike their instructor, most of the students have a greater fondness for Jackson.

So do many of their parents.

“When Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ tape came out he (her son, Justin) started break dancing by himself, so I mentioned they had classes and he said yes,” explained Wendy Eld, 29, who was watching from the edge of the mat. “I like it. I’m glad he’s into it. I try to do it myself, but he says I do it wrong.”

“When we were young, we were doing the twist and jerk,” said Terri Reilly, 28, Eld’s sister. “It was Elvis, then.” …

The stars and the dancers have changed since then, but the enthusiasm of these youngsters is just as intense as it was for their parents.

Back on the mat, Justin was going through some steps.

He stumbled and fell, but got up and continued. …

Carter doesn’t demand that his students be good, only that they try.

“You can make things up if you just practice it,” Carter said. …

Carter discussed many other break dance moves: popping, top rocking, ticking, and hand spinning. To describe them would take more words than Michael Jackson’s gloves have sequins.

But if you feel up to it, the break-dancing lessons are continuing at the YMCA at 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. The cost is $16 for four weeks.


Do you recognize anyone in these photos? Share your memories by posting a comment.

Duluth hospital photos, 1960s

From the News Tribune files, here are some photos of Duluth hospitals in the 1960s through 1970:

Miss Helen Langamo, RN, head nurse of the OB department at St. Luke’s hospital, shows a typical labor room – one of seven – circa 1962. (News Tribune file photo)


This photo was featured in a previous Attic post in April 2009:

From the “nerve center” of the St. Luke’s intensive care unit, all 16 patients in the section can be seen in January 1962. (News Tribune file photo)


Miss Kathleen Riley, RN, and Miss Janet Benson, RN, show a delivery room at St. Luke’s hospital on October 26, 1962. (News-Tribune file photo)


Student nurse Ethel Kuitala talks with patient Sina Sandberg at St. Luke’s hospital on Jan. 5, 1962. (News-Tribune file photo)


A new parking structure is under construction above First Street at Miller Memorial Hospital on June 8, 1970. (Duluth Herald file photo)


Do you recognize any of the people in these photos? Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.

Carl Eller mystery photo

While looking in the News Tribune Attic earlier this week, I found this photo of Minnesota Vikings great Carl Eller holding a camera, flanked by two employees of a store I assume to be in Duluth, sometime in the 1970s.

The caption on the back of the photo identifies them as Paul Goldstein (left), owner, and Mike Newman (right), photographic manager. But it does not name the store, and does not include a specific date that would help me track down an accompanying story with more information.

I’ll keep looking through the files, but in the meantime can anyone out there provide more information about the location, date and context of this picture? If you know more, please post a comment.

Mels TV Audio closes, 1999

September 11, 1999

Karen, Richard and William Moe, co-owners of Mels TV Audio on East Superior Street, are seen in September 1999. Mels is closing, and the Moes are having a going-out-of-business sale. The building was purchased to make way for a new National Bank of Commerce branch. (Bob King / News-Tribune)



By Jane Brissett, News-Tribune

Mels TV Audio, a Duluth store where customers have gone for decades to buy high-quality home entertainment equipment and receive personal service, will close its doors in late October.

Owners Richard, Karen and William Moe are retiring from the business and selling off the store’s inventory in a sale that began Thursday.

President Richard Moe, 60, said he had planned to retire in two years but when a representative of National Bank of Commerce came knocking on his door recently, the offer to buy the building was too good to pass up.

Mels was something of an institution in Duluth for consumers who wanted top-quality televisions and stereos long before big box retailers such as Best Buy came to town.

Mels was founded by Mel Cohen, who began a repair service called Service Radio and Sound Co. at 120 W. First St. in 1946. When television came into its own in the early 1950s, he said he erected 40-foot antennas on the roofs of customers’ houses to pick up television signals from the Twin Cities. As the business grew he began to sell TVs, record players and other equipment.

By 1955 Cohen had moved and expanded his business three times, and in 1967 moved the store to its present site at 1314 E. Superior St.

“We were the first ones to sell hi-fi and stereo and color televisions,” Cohen said in a telephone interview from his daughter’s home in California. “When I first started, I was nothing but a guy who repaired people’s radios and phonographs.”

Cohen, now 73, lives in Duluth and Colorado. He sold the business to the Moes in 1981 when he retired. Richard Moe had been with the store since 1957 and his brother, William, had worked there since 1959.

Bryan Connor and Joe Carr (hidden), who work at Mels TV Audio, load a big TV into a truck to make their first delivery of the going-out-of-business sale in September 1999. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

Competing with discount retailers wasn’t as tough as many people thought it would be for Mels, Richard Moe said. The store, which now has 11 employees, would match prices on identical equipment and also offer service while discounters would not, he said.

But Mels specialized in high-end merchandise. “We couldn’t handle the low-priced equipment because we couldn’t make the profits,” Moe said.

The store specialized in home stereo systems, including custom home installation.

Ann Treacy of Duluth has been a customer for about nine years, when Mels employees installed audio wiring in her house during a remodeling project.

“We’re not techies. We don’t know anything about the equipment and we don’t want to know anything about it,” she said. “They set up this really user-friendly system.” And they also taught her how to use it.

They’ve also advised her on a number of purchases, from a run-of-the-mill VCR for the kids to a good CD player.

“Knowledgeable salespeople have been our savior,” Moe said.

There is a possibility that the service department may continue operating with its two technicians after the store closes at the end of October but details have yet to be worked out, Moe said.

Mels is ending on a high note, he said. The store has remained profitable and the Moes are eager for the freedom retirement brings.

“I really want to whitewash the concept that Best Buy had anything to do with the store closing,” he said.


Here’s one more, earlier shot of Mels, from a reader-submitted photo in the DNT files. There’s no date listed in the caption:


Share your memories of Mels by posting a comment.

Do you know anything about this car?

A reader passed along this clipping from Reminisce magazine, about a one-of-a-kind (or close to it) car supposedly built in Duluth in the 1950s:

The same car also was featured in Hemmings Motor News last year.

A quick initial search of the DNT files turns up nothing on Pingel or the Sterling Stein. Does anyone out there have any information to offer? If so, post a comment.

I may not be able to moderate comments for a few days, but they’ll be saved and I’ll approve them as soon as I have the opportunity.

More Arrowhead Bridge photos

A few years back, early on in the history of the News Tribune Attic, I did a post on the Arrowhead Bridge – the old wooden span that linked Superior with West Duluth until it was replaced by the present-day Bong Bridge. You can read that post here.

While going through those files again, I found a few more Arrowhead Bridge photos that were not included the first time around. Here are a few:

The Arrowhead Bridge, looking from Superior toward Duluth, on October 22, 1978. (Karl Jaros / News-Tribune)


The Arrowhead Bridge was closed on October 3, 1973, after the lake carrier Peter Robertson struck a pier on the Wisconsin side the day before. The accident disabled the drawbridge lift mechanism. Inspecting the span were, from left, Vern Kekkonen and Edward Fleeze of the Minnesota Highway Department, and Mel Sarvela of the Wisconsin Highway Department. (George Starkey / Duluth Herald)


The Arrowhead Bridge, looking from Superior toward Duluth, on August 19, 1980. (Karl Jaros / Duluth Herald)


Here are a couple more shots of the construction of the Arrowhead Bridge’s replacement – what is now the Bong Bridge:

Wisconsin Gov. Lee Dreyfus (front left) and Minnesota Gov. Al Quie (front right) share a joke during groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Arrowhead Bridge – now the Bong Bridge – on September 27, 1979. (News-Tribune file photo)


The new Arrowhead Bridge – now the Bong Bridge – takes shape across the bay on May 11, 1982. At this point, the center span stood on its own, unconnected to either shore. (Charles Curtis / Duluth Herald)


You are welcome to post comments with your Arrowhead Bridge memories – but I won’t be able to get around to moderating them until later this month. They’ll be saved, though, so go ahead and post comments if you’d like, and I’ll get to them when I can.