Odd, obscure, historic, humorous, random and/or relevant items from the archives of the Duluth News Tribune. Duluth News Tribune and Herald file photos are copyright Duluth News Tribune; direct questions to akrueger(at)duluthnews.com.
Duluth’s Homegrown Music Festival, which opened Sunday, celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Here is a gallery of News Tribune photos from – or associated with – Homegrown Festivals of years past:
Galynn White of the duo Gabel and Galynn sings Thursday night at the Red Mug in Superior during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Andy Gabel of the duo Gabel and Galynn performs Thursday evening at the Red Mug in Superior during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Galynn White of the duo Gabel and Galynn plays the violin Thursday night at the Red Mug in Superior during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
The Keep Aways perform at the NorShor in April 2005. The all-girl punk band will be performing at the 2005 Homegrown Music Festival. (Amanda Odeski / News Tribune)
Zach Stofer fronts the Hardcore Jollies during the semi-final round of Grandma’s Sports Garden’s “True Music Nights” competition in April 2004. The Hardcore Jollies also will play their first Homegrown Music Festival. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
Pizza Luce is one of several stops for people attending the 2002 Homegrown Music Festival. (Renee Knoeber / News Tribune)
People groove to the music of Super D and the Double Chucks at the Norshor Theater in April 2002. The Norshor will be one of several venues for this year’s Homegrown Music Festival. (Renee Knoeber / News Tribune)
Mayfly performs during the 2001 Homegrown Music Festival at the NorShor Theatre. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
Al Sparhawk of the Black Eyed Snakes grits out a tune as Brad Nelson drums in the background during the 2001 Homegrown Music Festival. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
The band Both performs at the NorShor Theatre during the 2001 Homegrown Music Festival. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
Ann Forsman belts out a tune while Jason Loop accompanies her during their band Mayfly’s performance at the 2001 Homegrown Music Festival. (V. Paul Virtucio / News Tribune)
Bryan Johnson (left) breaks into a solo on the congas during a performance by the band Crazy Betty in front of a tightly packed crowd at the Norshor Theatre on Friday night. Crazy Betty is one of 10 Duluth bands that will perform in the first Homegrown Music Festival at the NorShor in spring 1999. (Josh Meltzer / News Tribune)
Zack Cannon, whose rap name is simply “Cannon,” performs early Friday morning at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of the 2007 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
A sign at Twins Bar reveals the lineup for the opening night of the 2007 Homegrown Music Festival. For Thursday, the Twins Bar would host hip-hop bands from the Duluth area. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Adam Baumhardt of Smokey Bogart plays the guitar late Thursday night at Twins Bar in Duluth, MN as part of Homegrown Music Festival 2007. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Jiggity Jaze (left) and Bliss (right) perform as part of Kritical Kontact early Friday morning at Twins Bar in Duluth, MN as part of Homegrown Music Festival in 2007. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Kritical Kontact performs early Friday morning at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of the 2007 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Mike Hietala of Smokey Bogart gets into the music Thursday night at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of Homegrown Music Festival 2007. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
DJ Derek Delgado works on the turntable while rapper Cannon, whose real name is Zack Cannon, performs Thursday night at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of the Homegrown Music Festival in 2007. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Eeirearq’s Amy Ugstad (right) bangs away on the drums as Bret Walczynski and Jason Szumowski play at the Red Lion in Duluth on Friday night during the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
Dylan Kesti, drummer for Anti-Anne, attacks the cymbals during their performance at the Electric Fetus Friday night during the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
Low’s Mim Parker shares a quiet moment with Al Sparhawk before they take the stage at the NorShor Theatre on Thursday night as part of the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
Sam Rodman of Anti-Anne plays during their set at the Electric Fetus Friday night during the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
A large crowd turned out to watch Low perform at the NorShor Theatre’s reopening after an 8-month closure imposed by the city for fire code violations Thursday night as part of the 2006 Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)
The NorShor Theatre re-opened Thursday night, May 4, 2006, for the first time in eight months after being closed for fire code violations. The theatre played host to Low and the Homegrown Music Festival. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune staff)
“It’s tough to celebrate someone dying, but the figurehead of terrorism is gone now,” said Adam Depre (left) of Duluth in reaction to late-night news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden. “Now it’s time to look at the underlying reason for terrorism.” He was getting his hair trimmed by stylist Diane Fernholz of Duluth after attending a 2011 Homegrown Music Festival concert at Pizza Luce late Sunday night. (Bob King / News Tribune)
Coyote band members Marc Gartman (from left), Jerree Small, and Matt Mobley perform Friday evening at Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth as a part of the 2011 Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth. (Clint Austin / News Tribune)
Leane Marie performs Thursday evening at the Red Mug in Superior during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Mike Wilson will be playing three instruments in seven bands during the 2008 Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
Doug Lefebvre of Die(ode) enters a shaft of light Thursday night at Twins Bar in Duluth as part of the 2007 Homegrown Music Festival. (Derek Montgomery / News Tribune)
You may notice that the captions are pretty sparse on a few of these photos; if you can provide any names where they are missing, please post a comment.
Duluth native Lorenzo Music uses the studios at Minnesota Public Radio in downtown Duluth in April 1998 to tape commercials and other voice-over roles. “Cartoon (characters) are very hard to do remote,” he says. “Everyone has to be sitting in the same room. You really have to react to each other. That’s one thing I no longer have a shot at. But I’m willing to give it up to be here in Duluth. It’s worth it for what I have instead.” At the time, and for many years, Music preferred not to have pictures taken that showed his face. (Bob King / News-Tribune)
THE VOICE IS FAMILIAR, BUT WE CAN’T QUITE PLACE THE FACE
By Chuck Frederick, News-Tribune staff writer
In a downtown Duluth recording studio, Lorenzo Music snaps a headset over his ears, smooths out a script and leans into the microphone.
“Do you wanna know what I’m wearing,” he teases as producers and engineers in both Los Angeles and Duluth wiggle patch cords and adjust sound levels before taping a radio commercial.
A voice from California considers Music’s question. Her short, startled laugh spills out of the overhead speakers and fills the Minnesota Public Radio studio inside the Holiday Center.
“Uh, let’s see,” she says. “Hawaiian shirt?”
“Hey, this is Duluth!” Music declares, smiling broadly.
“Oh yeah,” she says. “Denim?”
Lorenzo Music has been wearing his comfortable jeans and loose-fitting denim shirts a lot lately. He has a Duluth Pack slung over one shoulder, a spectacular view of Lake Superior over the other, and in between, the contented, easygoing smile of a man at home.
One of Hollywood’s hottest sitcom writers of the 1970’s, Music left the grind of L.A. in December to visit his old hometown.
And now, like someone reluctant to trade in a favorite pair of sweatpants after a long weekend, he’s finding it hard to leave.
The man who helped create “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” who co-created “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Rhoda,” whose voice is that of Rhoda’s never-seen-but-beloved Carlton the doorman and later of Garfield the cartoon cat, is rediscovering his roots.
He also is writing his autobiography and a slim volume of poetry and he is working as a voice actor, taping commercials and voice-overs in Duluth via digital telephone lines.
“I came back to Duluth because I wanted to remember my memoirs,” said Music, whose visit in December was a birthday gift to his wife, a chance for her to visit her mother, Margaret Johnson, in West Duluth.
“I just felt so good here,” he said. “This place is where I was formed and it’s so far removed from the stress of L.A. I felt I could come here and be here. (A friend’s) house was available on the lake. All I had to do was write and listen to the waves — and be here. I had to do it.”
Duluth roots are deep
Music came to Duluth for the first time in 1942. He was 5 years old then and had moved from Brooklyn, N.Y., with his parents, Harry and Sophie Music. A master mechanic, his father worked in the Superior shipyards during the war and played a drum in the company band that marched each time a new ship was launched.
Performing and comedy filled the Musics’ home in Central Hillside. “I was even forced to entertain as a child — or they wouldn’t feed me,” Music deadpanned, slipping into that goofy, Carlton-like, singsong voice of his. “I was a stand-up baby.”
He graduated from Central High School in 1955 and went to the University of Minnesota-Duluth to study speech and English.
But he spent more of his time playing banjo and performing comedy in the UMD cafeteria. He also performed for the Owl’s Club, the Eagle’s Club, pretty much anywhere that would have him, even the faculty wives’ tea.
He took to acting, too. During rehearsals for “Guys and Dolls” at UMD he met Myrna Johnson, the West Duluth woman who would become his wife.
Jerry and Myrna Music pose for a publicity photo in 1961, they year the former UMD students appeared at the school’s Homecoming dance in October. They later changed their names to Lorenzo and Henrietta. (News Tribune file photo)
Chases his dream
“I remember wanting to be an actor when I was 7, or maybe a comedian,” said Music, 60, a short round man with a smooth head and a quick wit. “I always knew I was a performer.”
In 1959, he chased his dream to Los Angeles and then to San Francisco. One night, he watched the yet-undiscovered Smothers Brothers perform.
“I can do that,” he thought.
The next morning he auditioned, performing the same little folk music and comedy act that had underwhelmed the Owls back in college. It went over better this time. He landed the nightclub gig.
“It was a cute act in the UMD cafeteria, but I didn’t know if I could do it in front of the Smothers Brothers and the owners of the club,” Music said. “To me, this was the big time.”
Hours before his first performance, he blacked out with fear. His bride-to-be fed him chicken soup and helped him dress. She drove him to the club and literally pushed him onstage.
He was a hit. The two were married, and not long after, she joined him on stage.
Together, though, the act didn’t gel. It was hard to tell who was funny and who was playing it straight, Music said.
The club fired the Musics. They hit the road, intent on making another run at the limelight. They played coffeehouses and nightclubs across the country. They toured with the USO, doing shows in the Far East, Europe and the Mediterranean.
By 1967, they liked their act. It was good. It was ready.
But it was too late.
The Byrds were hot and the Beatles had all that hair. Rock ‘n’ roll was in. Their folk-music-and-comedy act was out.
Myrna and Jerry Music use a Japanese tea service they brought back from their USO tour of the Far East, during a visit to Duluth in fall 1963. (News-Tribune file photo)
Lands Smothers Brothers job
The Musics wound up in Las Vegas, opening for Julie London. On the other end of the strip, the Smothers Brothers were on the verge of mega stardom. They had been signed by CBS to do a weekly series and were looking for writers. They remembered Music. He had never written professionally, but accepted the job.
“I didn’t think you needed to be professional to be a good writer,” Tommy Smothers said from his car phone in Burbank, Calif. “I flavored the writing staff with new guys. We all learned our craft as we went along.”
Music was one of 15 writers for the Smothers’ show. Others included Steve Martin and Rob Reiner. In 1969, they won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy Writing.
“(Music) was one of the fun guys,” Smothers said. “I was a big fan of his. I always loved his delivery and his act. I figured he’d be a good television writer because he was funny. He and his wife had a great act.”
Two and a half years later, Music left “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” to become head writer of the new “Glen Campbell Good Time Hour.” He bounced to another variety show and also started moonlighting, writing in evenings and on weekends with longtime friend David Davis. Davis had been a director of “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” and associate producer of the spy spoof “Get Smart.”
The moonlighting paid off. The new writing team sold scripts to “Love, American Style.”
Helps create ‘Mary’
And in 1970, when Davis was asked to produce a new show based in the Twin Cities about an independent-minded TV newswoman, he brought Music along as his writing partner. For 2 1/2 years, Music and Davis wrote or contributed to nearly every script of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
“Everyone working on the show was from somewhere not Minnesota,” Music said. “I was their Minnesota expert. Things like, ‘How long does snow stay on your shoulders after you come in out of a storm.”‘
“He didn’t even have a desk at first,” Davis said of Music. “He sat in my office and I pulled out one of those boards that come out of desks for your typewriter. That was his area.”
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was a huge success. The network was eager to cash in. “Why don’t you guys come up with another show,” a CBS executive asked Music and Davis. “If you guys could write a new show for any actor, who would it be?”
“Bob Newhart,” they said in unison. They had written for him before, including a sketch he performed on the Smothers Brothers’ show. They knew his stammer. And they loved his dry, straight humor.
“He was easy for us to write for,” Davis said of Newhart. “I had grown up with him on the radio.”
So they started writing, back at the same secluded Santa Barbara, Calif., beach hotel where they had written their first Mary Tyler Moore episode and where they would later write the pilot for “Rhoda.”
“The Bob Newhart Show” was another hit, thanks in large part to Music and Davis, the show’s star said.
“If their concept hadn’t worked, the show wouldn’t be on the air. It wouldn’t have done so well,” Newhart said from Los Angeles. “The best tribute is it’s still on (in reruns). It’s still being watched and it’s finding a new audience.
“Being a writer myself, I always felt the most important thing in the world is the written word,” Newhart said of Music’s and Davis’s scripts. “If you don’t have the words on the page, nothing is going to work. And this show worked.”
Lorenzo (Jerry) Music, right, the Duluth Central High School graduate voted “wittiest” of the Class of 1955, returned home in June 1976 to give the commencement address for his alma mater at the Arena. He was welcomed at the Duluth airport by a delegation which included, from left, Central Principal Richard Carlson, Joanne Maddox and Mary Forseth. (News-Tribune file photo)
The show also prompted one of the 1970s more unusual and talked-about drinking games — “Hi Bob.” To play, participants took a drink each time someone on the show said Bob’s name or “Hi Bob.”
Music insists he and Davis didn’t invent the game, though they may have helped it along. They did write all those “Hi Bobs” and “Bobs.”
But for good reason, Music said. Actress Suzanne Pleshette had a habit of calling Newhart, her on-screen hubby, “honey.”
“The ‘honeys’ bothered us and we thought they’d annoy the audience,” Music said. “She put them in when we didn’t write them and they made her character sound whiny, so we started writing fewer and fewer ‘honeys’ and more and more ‘Bobs.’ “
Rhoda and Carlton
Newhart was a ratings machine, and CBS was hungry for more. The executives wanted a Mary Tyler Moore spinoff based on best friend Rhoda Morgenstern. They tapped Music and Davis to develop and produce “Rhoda,” a show that forever changed Music’s life.
It was based in New York and needed a New York feel, Music said. The characters lived in an apartment building. And down in the lobby, there was a doorman — Carlton the doorman.
In the debut episode, Carlton’s now-famous slow, somewhat-drunk-or-stoned voice stumbled from an intercom box in the apartment of Rhoda’s sister, Brenda. “There’s a woman here who says she’s your sister,” Carlton said. “She doesn’t look anything like you.”
“The lines weren’t necessarily funny,” Music said. “It was the way they were done. The guy was gooney. He was out there. I do good gooney, I guess.”
Music and Davis had tried to hire a different actor to deliver Carlton’s lines. But no one did it quite right. They either played him too big. Or too drunk.
Music delivered the lines during rehearsals. “You should have seen him,” Davis said. “He was practically falling over, he was trying to do the lines so sleepily. The first time he did it, everyone just busted out laughing.”
With auditions going poorly, it was Mary Tyler Moore who finally suggested Music stay with the part. She was a guest star on that first episode.
Music did. And got huge laughs from the live studio audience during taping.
Carlton’s appeal can be traced to the days before television, when families huddled around the radio. Imaginations painted pictures of the characters. Carlton allowed Americans to do that again.
“It was a fun thing that people tuned in for. I thought it was hilarious from the very beginning,” actress Valerie Harper, who portrayed Rhoda, said from her New York home. “Lorenzo was great. He’d do the voice live on the side with a microphone so the audience could hear. And it was always incredible. I can’t remember a line from Carlton that didn’t work. I don’t remember Lorenzo ever bombing out.”
One hot doorman
Carlton the doorman was one of Hollywood’s hottest stories that television season of 1974-75. An air of mystique surrounded him. Who was he? What did he look like? A fan club started. Several hundred fans joined.
In the final episode of the season, “Rhoda” viewers thought they’d finally get to see the mysterious character.
A knock on Rhoda’s door. It was him. Rhoda cracked open the door but didn’t unhook it. Upset with Carlton, she delivered a severe tongue-lashing. When she finished, Carlton, played by Music, stuck in his arm, extended his hand and asked, “Will there still be a tip?”
The two characters worked well together, Harper said. The contrast of the out-of-it, laid-back Carlton against the high-strung, speak-her-mind Rhoda made for many comic moments.
“It was another character to play off, another super, funny character,” Harper said. “He just had a terrific voice for Carlton. He didn’t do a trick voice. He did a character. He used his own voice and that’s what helped make it work. It was honest.”
In 1976, Music was on top of the world. He had four hit shows on his resume and two Emmys, the second for an animated CBS special he created and produced called “Carlton Your Doorman.” He returned to Duluth that summer a hero, the guest speaker at graduation for his old high school.
But just three months later, the bottom fell out. “The Lorenzo and Henrietta Music Show,” a syndicated daytime talk, comedy and musical variety show starring Music and his wife, fell flat.
It was a “suicide run,” Music said. “It was a total disaster. An absolute bomb. I was always good on my feet, but I wasn’t that good.”
The show was canceled after six weeks, its ratings abysmal.
Lorenzo and Henrietta Music in a publicity photo for their short-lived “The Lorenzo and Henrietta Music Show” in 1976. (News-Tribune file photo)
Now a top voice actor
About that time, Music’s phone rang. It was an agent who provides voice actors for radio commercials, cartoons and other voice-overs. He said he had been getting requests for the Carlton the doorman voice. Was Music interested?
Two decades later, Music is one of the top voice actors in the business. Of the thousands of actors available to do voices in the Los Angeles area, Music is one of only a few who works consistently, said casting director Carroll Day Kimble.
“He’s a love. And he’s very well respected in the business,” said Kimble, who runs Carroll Voiceover Casting Co. in Los Angeles. “He’s extremely creative behind the microphone. He can change a couple little things and really make a spot sparkle. He’s a genius in the booth.
“And in the advertising world, people love to know they just booked Carlton the doorman,” she said. “They like to say, ‘Hey, I booked Garfield the cat.”‘
After Carlton, Garfield is probably Music’s best-known voice role. In 1983, he won another Emmy Award for co-writing a Garfield TV special. And from 1988 to 1995, he provided Garfield’s voice for the Saturday morning cartoon series.
Music’s other voice characters have included a crash test dummy in those you-can-learn-a-lot-from-a-dummy public service announcements that encourage motorists to buckle up, and, more recently, a store announcer on “The Drew Carey Show.”
“I believe voice actors should be heard and not seen,” Music said. “If you don’t know what I look like, I can be the crash test dummy. I can be Garfield the cat. I can be anything. But if some kid knows what I look like, then Garfield becomes me, and I don’t want to be Garfield. Garfield should be Garfield.
“As a voice actor I can be an ugly frog or I can be a handsome prince,” Music said. “If I worked on-camera, I could only be the handsome prince. You know?”
All of which helps explain why Music doesn’t like his photograph published. And why he was reluctant to be interviewed for this story.
He craves anonymity. It’s good for his career, he said, to maintain that mystique about his identity that started with Carlton the doorman.
Music wants you to know the voice, not the face. It’s the voice, after all, that puts lunch in his box, gas in his car and his kids in college.
“All I need is a studio, and this is the studio here,” Music said between takes at Minnesota Public Radio. “We have everything we need here. And this is all I need to bring. A pencil and my reading glasses. And if I didn’t bring a pencil, it wouldn’t matter.”
He doesn’t even read the script before arriving.
The radio commercials he is taping this day are for a casino near San Diego that’s giving away a pair of Volkswagen Beetle cars. Music portrays an excited caller who asks an exterminator if they’d heard about the bug infestation.
His head bobbing, his hands waving, his eyes popping to emphasize certain words, Music performs the lines. Between takes, he sips from a glass of milk left over from lunch. After one run-through, he pauses.
“At the ‘heck no,”‘ he says into his microphone, talking to the producer in California, “I feel like I could do that line a different way. Should I just do what I feel is best?”
“Always,” says the producer.
And the next time, Music does it differently. He drops some words, adds others, changes the emphasis. He does the lines better. No question.
“This is feeling really good,” the producer says. “The character sounds fine. The acting sounds fine.”
One more time.
“Wonderful. That was awfully good,” the producer says. “I can’t imagine anything else I’d want. Except for you to come back to L.A.”
Music smiles again.
“Oh, please don’t make me come back to L.A. just yet,” he says.
And this time, there’s not even a hint of teasing in his voice.
— end —
Lorenzo Music died from cancer on Aug. 4, 2001, at age 64. He was survived by his wife and four children.
Here are a couple of YouTube clips featuring Lorenzo Music’s voice acting. The first is from the pilot episode of “Rhoda” – you can see his name in the opening credits, and then hear him as “Carlton the Doorman” at about the 1:10 mark:
And here’s a short “Garfield” clip from the 1980s:
Share your memories and stories by posting a comment.
Joyce Campbell (from left), owner of the Recycla-Bell in Duluth, stands in front of the building with regular visitors Malahn Amend, 20, Genevieve Gaboriault, 16, and Leah Smith, 17, in February 1996. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
RECYCLA-BELL PATRONS FIND FUN, RESPECT AT OLD BUILDING TURNED MUSIC VENUE WHERE DRUGS, VIOLENCE AREN’T TOLERATED
By Zita Lichtenberg, News-Tribune staff writer
Cutting lyrics and a raging electric guitar blast through giant speakers. In a room with black walls, a band is pounding out music and a group of kids are “moshing” — pushing against one another, trying to get to the center of the group.
In the other room the kids are more subdued, sitting and talking in booths that look like leftovers from a ’50s diner.
This is the Recycla-Bell in Duluth’s Endion neighborhood, and on this particular Saturday, around 200 14- to 20-year-olds have come to listen to music, talk and just hang out.
Once a Northwestern Bell telephone building at 1804 E. First St., it’s now a music venue for Northland bands and the only place in the Twin Ports these young people feel belongs to them.
A young woman in flowing clothing with glitter in her eyelashes stands next to the booths talking to Joyce Campbell, the Recycla-Bell’s owner.
She is Michelle Pesek, a 20-year-old pre-med student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and she is thanking Campbell for keeping the Recycla-Bell open.
“There’s a feeling of peace and camaraderie and the freedom to be ourselves here,”‘ Pesek said.
Despite minimal supervision — Joyce and her husband, Chris, are the only chaperones — the crowd at the Recycla-Bell is calm and self-controlled.
“The owners are very good-hearted and respectful, and the kids don’t feel they are being repressed,” Pesek said.
“If they are repressed, they will rage against it,” she added, “but if they are treated like thinking, respectful teen-agers, they will act like thinking, respectful teen-agers.”
Some of them have dyed their hair unnatural colors and pierced their bodies in socially incorrect places. Others look like the kid next door in flannel shirts and blue jeans.
Regardless of their fashion statements, they defy some of the negative stereotypes adults hold about today’s young people.
Recycla-Bell patrons dance to live music in the dance area in January 1996. Young people of all ages crowded the dance floor. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
Freedom through responsibility
Recycla-Bell kids cooperate with and appreciate the Recycla-Bell rules: no alcohol, no tobacco and no drugs.
“It just doesn’t fly if you break the rules,” said Joel Hardesty, 19, whose band played at the first concert at the Recycla-Bell in 1991.
There is one compelling reason: the music. It is one of the only places teens in the Twin Ports can see local bands, along with occasional groups from Canada and other parts of the United States, playing music they like — rock, alternative, punk or ska (the precursor to reggae).
The young people here know they will decide the fate of the club themselves, and nobody wants to mess things up.
As insurance, John Stone, a Recycla-Bell regular, acts as the unofficial bouncer. He has kicked out people only one or two times. Drugs, alcohol and violence are not problems, he said.
Besides making sure the moshing doesn’t get out of hand, Stone, 20, recruits bands and runs the sound system. He said it’s important that the music and the environment at the Recycla-Bell are largely controlled by people under 21.
There is no decor except for a few posters, and the music room’s black walls and empty floor provide the perfect backdrop for bands and dancers who are attempting to escape the trappings of the adult world — if only for a few hours.
Besides having the minimalist atmosphere they crave, young people say the Recycla-Bell is a place to go and feel respected and accepted.
“It’s a place where kids can be in charge while still respecting some rules,” said Joel Monsaas Kilgour, 19.
“Anyone who comes in here isn’t labeled,” said Jessie Huard, 17. “The Campbells accept any group.”
Superior High School students Adam Frink, 14 (left), and Amy Brandt, 17 talk with their friends, seated behind, at the Recycla-Bell in Duluth in February 1996. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
Owners’ attitudes key
“Young people need what we all need: love, respect, hope and to feel like we have some choices. I started with this basic premise,” Joyce Campbell said.
She and her husband bought the old Northwestern Bell Telephone building in 1991, made an apartment for themselves on the third floor, and turned it into an activist center for anti-violence and environmental causes and a music venue for young people on the weekends.
Joyce often plays the part of mother to the “Bell kids,” as she calls them. She knows many of them well, gushes with praise over their accomplishments and snaps their pictures, telling them to pick them up the next time.
The kids smile or fidget with embarrassment — many of them are not used to having an adult earnestly compliment their dyed hair and eccentric outfits.
“My opinion has always been that hair color or length and clothing styles are some of the safer choices that young people trying to figure out who they are can make … they don’t have the dangers of other choices like drugs, alcohol, sex and violence,” Campbell said.
Political activities still take place at the Recycla-Bell, but they are separate from the concerts, the Campbells said.
There are some political signs in the building promoting peace and opposing a couple of military programs, but most kids are oblivious to them and say the owners have never tried to open political conversations with them.
But Campbell does live by her principles, and tries to instill a sense of respect in the young people who go there. Besides the anti-drug, tobacco and alcohol rules, she will not tolerate ill treatment of others or discrimination.
Setting such rules and still giving kids room is a delicate balancing act. Campbell described one band she prohibited from playing because it had what she considered a sexually explicit, offensive name. But she gave in when the band changed its name, for one night, to “Appeasing Joyce.”
The kids respect her authority and her flexibility, and Campbell has had little need for discipline.
The music stops playing around 10:30 p.m. and, with few exceptions, the kids shuffle out quietly and are gone by 11 p.m. Many of them call their parents on a bright orange phone, Campbell’s private line, that sits on a piano in the main room.
Campbell has had parents call her on that same phone, asking what the Recycla-Bell was all about.
She always invites them to stop by, and many of them take her up on it.
“I’m really happy about it,” said Roxanne Stahl of Duluth, whose 14-year-old daughter frequents the Recycla-Bell.
Stahl went in to check the place out for herself and said she was glad the crowd was young, explaining that she felt uneasy when her children went to places where the patrons were older.
“If there’s a place these kids can go and hang out for a few hours, then I’m all for it.”
A surprising number of Recycla-Bell kids share Stahl’s relief that there is an “under 21″ place to hang out.
Ask around, and the majority of them will tell you they are glad there is no smoke or drunken people to deal with (and most of them say they have experienced both at parties elsewhere).
Coffeehouses and cafes, the only other places in the Twin Ports where under-age people can enjoy live music, are all filled with smoke, complain many of the kids at the Recycla-Bell.
Recycla-Bell visitors move about the large gathering room on a crowded Saturday night in January 1996. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
Community rallies to protect the ‘Bell’
The hangout almost disappeared a few years ago when the city of Duluth brought charges against the Campbells of disturbing the neighborhood and of committing zoning violations for running a commercial establishment in a residential zone.
The disturbance charge was dropped quickly as people in the neighborhood, rather than complaining, rallied to support the Campbells. The Duluth police had only a couple of complaints about loud music while Campbell was able to produce letters of support from several neighbors close to the Recycla-Bell.
Supporters wrote letters to the city and Mayor Gary Doty, and young people collected more than 1,000 names on petitions supporting the Recycla-Bell.
Campbell argued that she was running a charitable operation, which is allowed in her neighborhood. She makes no profit from concerts and spends her own money to keep the place heated.
Nearly two years and seven court appearances later, the Campbells were informed in April 1995 that the city had dropped all charges “in the interest of justice.”
City Attorney John Smedberg said one of the deciding factors was the overwhelming support of the community. He said the message he heard was that, in this day of gangs and drive-by shootings, it made no sense to close down a place where kids gather peacefully.
“Yeah, you do listen to stuff like that,” Smedberg said.
The police department has not experienced any trouble with the Recycla-Bell since the lawsuit.
“As far as I’m concerned, we feel they’re trying to do a great thing there,” said John Christensen, license officer for the Duluth Police Department. ““For a group of young people, that age group, they don’t have anyplace else to go to be together, listen to music, dance and hang out.”
Mark Kuiti, bass player for the band “Lift”, plays and sings at the Recycla-Bell in Duluth in late December 1995. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
Recycla-Bell looks for real support
With the legal difficulties past, the Recycla-Bell is back to the business of being the music scene for young people.
The Campbells are there every concert night as chaperones, counselors, supporters — whatever the “Bell kids” need.
Support from the community is great, but Joyce Campbell says she wishes some tangible support would back it up.
“We are committed to keep doing what we are doing and we are going broke,” said Campbell, whose income is from two small “Ma and Pa-type” motels she and her husband own.
“The kids, who organize and plan events, usually give us a donation from money collected at the door, but this small amount doesn’t begin to touch our expenses,” Campbell said.
She strongly encourages the bands to keep admission down to $3 per person to keep the concerts open to all income levels.
Campbell said if the Recycla-Bell were run by an organization such as a church or the city, it would not be as free and open as it is. But that lack of affiliation also means lack of regular funding.
If she had one wish for the Recycla-Bell, it would be that adults in the community who support it would get involved — stop by to help chaperone and clean up. Give a few financial donations. In the past two years she has received only around $100 in private donations.
“The typical parent says, ‘I’m really happy for what you are doing for the kids,’ ” Campbell said. “My response is usually, ‘Get involved, we could use some help.’ ”
Most have yet to accept her invitation.
— end —
Joyce Campbell sits in one of the booths at the Recycla-Bell before the visitors arive on a Saturday night in March 1996. Behind her are some of the many political messages that some of the visitors have put up on the walls. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
Here’s one more article from a couple months earlier – Jan. 6, 1996:
ANYTHING GOES IN MUSIC, DRESS AT DRUG- , ALCOHOL-FREE RECYCLA-BELL
By Zita Lichtenberg, News-Tribune staff writer
If you have nothing to prove and don’t take your fashion statement too seriously, check out the live music and atmosphere at the Recycla-Bell in Duluth.
Fluorescent dye-jobs mix easily with baseball caps and bandanas at this all-inclusive gathering place which features live bands in an environment free of tobacco, drugs and alcohol.
The rules may seem conservative, but the atmosphere and the crowd are not. The music ranges from loud rock to alternative, and the dancing ranges from too-cool-to-move to moshing and body passing.
Walk in the door and you’ll probably see a fair share of black leather and dredlocks but you also will see representatives from the sweater-and-jeans crowd and some who would be hard to put into any group.
The lack of group identity is the main pride of regulars at the Recycla-bell. They get especially annoyed if you call them “alternative.”
“Alternative is almost popular now, like preps and jocks are,” said Jessie Huard, 17, who has been coming to the Recycla-Bell for about three years. “We are very much our own selves.”
The only people who would feel out of place at Recycla-Bell, according to Malahn Ament, are those who put down a certain group or style — or those who might come in looking for drugs.
“We are not trend-setters. The only statement we try to make is that we’re not drug users,” said Ament, 19.
The Recycla-Bell building, in a quiet East End neighborhood, was owned by Northwestern Bell before Joyce and Chris Campbell bought it and transformed it into a meeting place and music venue.
Two rooms in the basement are open when bands play. One is jammed full of booths right out of a ’50s diner where people gather to talk. The other room is usually dark except for the stage lights that illuminate the bands and the giant American flag hanging over the stage. The only other noticeable decor: a few political signs promoting peace.
The bands are a mixture of local high school and college groups, and traveling bands from the Twin Cities and elsewhere.
The Recycla-bell is only open for concerts. The next is Jan. 27 and will feature several “ska” bands including Flux Capacitor and Slapstick. The music is a mixture of reggae and punk.
On Feb. 17, several alternative bands will play including Puddle Wonderful, Blind Shake, Life of Riley and Omega 2000.
Doors at Recycla-Bell, 1804 E. First St., usually open about 6:30 p.m. with music from 7 to about 10:30. Doors close at 11 p.m. Cover is usually $3 but may go up a dollar or two depending on who is playing.
— end —
Carla Garber, 15, laughs with some of her friends after returning from the dance and band area at the Recycla-Bell on a Saturday night in January 1996. (Josh Meltzer / News-Tribune)
I’ve been meaning to do an entry on the Recycla-Bell, also listed as the RecyclaBell and the Recyclabell – for some time. I was reminded by a recent Perfect Duluth Day post about a reunion concert coming up later this month.
The News Tribune does have some earlier material on the Recycla-Bell, in a folder I set aside a while back – and now can’t locate. When I do, I may post some more items.
The paper’s electronic archives don’t contain any more full articles all about the club (there’s no mention of when the Recycla-Bell closed), but they do have a number of mentions of the club in passing, noting upcoming shows. Here’s a sampling of bands and DJs who played the Recycla-Bell in the 1990s:
December 1995: Puddle Wonderful, Fromundas, Sourpuss and Omega 2000
May 1996: Flux Skapacitor
January 1997: Acidine Solution, U.S.V., the Riff Randells and the Krammies; Ferd Mert, the Rydells and Edible
February 1997: House of Large Sizes, Puddle Wonderful, Unbelievable Jolly Machine and The End; Doutang, the Swingtones and Alex Mac; O2, J. Hendrixson, MVP, Stonz’, DJ Boo and Elam
March 1997: The Dames; Area 51 (mister e and grandmaster kevin), Xaq from the Shack of Xaq, the House of Tod and Demonica Del Rio from the S & M Mausoleum; Blind Shake, Apathy, the Dames and Da Sonics
April 1997: Shapht vs. Shaft and Buggin’ Out
Spring 1997: The Sellouts
As always, share your memories by posting a comment.
Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, marks the 10th anniversary of the plane crash near Eveleth that took the life of U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), his wife Sheila, and six others. Read the News Tribune’s coverage of the anniversary here.
Here’s a selection of News Tribune file photos from Wellstone’s many trips to the Northland, leading up to his election to the Senate in 1990 and in the years that followed:
Democrat Paul Wellstone ratchets up his U.S. Senate campaign against incumbent Republican Rudy Boschwitz during a stop at the Duluth Labor Temple on June 9, 1989. (John Rott / News-Tribune)
Senator-elect Paul Wellstone reacts to the approval of the crowd during a standing-room-only town hall meeting at the Marshall School cafeteria in Duluth on Dec. 5, 1990. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)
As Sen. Paul Wellstone jokes with locals at Maggie’s, a popular restaurant in Nashwauk, on April 5, 1991, owner Margaret Breuling looks on and smiles. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)
Sen. Paul Wellstone greets people who gathered for the opening of his office in Virginia, Minn., on April 5, 1991. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)
Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., speaks at a rally at the Duluth Labor Temple on London Road on April 13, 1991. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)
Sen. Paul Wellstone answers questions from the audience during a meeting about health-care issues on Feb. 13, 1992, at Duluth Central High School. (Clara Wu / News-Tribune)
Sen. Paul Wellstone addresses DFL delegates from across Minnesota on June 5, 1992, the first day of the state DFL convention at the DECC, Interpreting was Kim Olson of Minneapolis. (Bob King / News-Tribune)
Marilyn Pribyl of Chaska and Terry Selle of Bloomington listen as Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., pauses to chat with them during a stop at Grandma’s Restaurant in Duluth on Jan. 15, 1994. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)
Sen. Paul Wellstone addresses a gathering of people in low-income situations during a news conference Nov. 21, 1995, at Emerson School in Duluth. The event was held to bring attention to the plight of low-income people in need of housing assistance. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)
Aimee McIntyre (left) and Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., share a laugh during a rally for Wellstone at the Federal Building in Duluth on July 1, 1996. Supporters wore shirts with red targets and the words: “Proud to be a Republican Target.” (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune)
Sen. Paul Wellstone speaks to the crowd gathered at a rally at the DECC’s Pioneer Hall in Duluth on the morning of Oct. 23, 1996, as Vice President Al Gore applauds in the background. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)
U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone answers a question from a student in the audience during the Democracy in Action forum April 9, 1999, at the College of St. Scholastica. More than 600 students from the three high schools in Duluth attended the forum, which gave them an opportunity to challenge and ask questions of elected officals. Listening to Wellstone on stage are state Sen. Sam Solon and Duluth Mayor Gary Doty. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)
Sen. Paul Wellstone speaks to a crowd of about 100 gathered Sunday at the entrance of ME International in Duluth on Oct. 31, 1999. Wellstone voiced his support of the United Steelworkers of America Local 1028 strike that has been in effect since August. (Renee Knoeber / News-Tribune)
Sen. Paul Wellstone visits Denfeld High School in Duluth on Nov. 16, 2000. (Rick Scibelli / News-Tribune)
Sen. Paul Wellstone meets with a full auditorium of Denfeld High School students on Nov. 16, 2000, at the school. Wellstone took questions and comments from students regarding the recent election and the issues surrounding it. (Rick Scibelli / News-Tribune)
U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone greets members of the Duluth Denfeld singing groups Solid Gold and Steppin’ Up on Nov. 16, 2000, during a visit to the school. Wellstone engaged the students in a town hall-style meeting, discussing the previous week’s presidential election. (Rick Scibelli / News-Tribune)
Sens. Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton talk in Superior on March 9, 2001, with employees of Partridge River Inc., the company whose Hoyt Lakes plant was destroyed by fire earlier that month. The meeting took place at Partridge River’s Superior facility. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)
Share your memories and stories by posting a comment.
Unused cartons of Barnum’s milk show the old Golden Guernsey labels, which were phased out in 1990, the same year production of the 4-percent variety (right) stopped. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)
Requiem for a heavyweight
Diet craze kills an institution built around Golden Guernsey 4% milk
By J.P. Furst, News-Tribune staff writer
This has been a lean year for “4-percent drinkers” in the Twin Ports, the hard-core consumers of a heavy, old-fashioned milk bottled in Duluth for nearly 40 years.
Barnum’s Golden Guernsey Milk – a creamy, high-fat milk produced only by Guernseys and packaged in Duluth’s West End – disappeared from local dairy cases last spring.
For longtime connoisseurs, it left an empty spot in the refrigerator and on the kitchen table.
It marked the passing of a Duluth institution, a local custom that harked back to the days when every neighborhood had its own dairy and the milkman brought glass-bottled milk to your door.
Like it said on the carton, “Guernsey cows are the only cows that give you milk like this.”
“There were a lot of true 4-percenters out there,” said Art Massie Jr., an ex-employee of the 49-year-old family business that distributes Barnum’s milk. “That milk had a real richness and ‘tastability’ to it. It was a unique product.”
In the heyday of high-fat milk, about 20 years ago, Massie said the Barnum’s line distributed about 5,000 half-gallons a week to corner groceries and the new supermarkets coming of age in Duluth.
“Those were the days when you had a grocery on every corner,” said Massie, 59. “You got to know the grocer and build a relationship, and you got to know your customers. The Barnum’s line was the only one that was in every Twin Ports store through those years.”
Art Massie Jr. is shown on Dec. 6, 1990, in front of the family business, which distributes Barnum’s milk. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)
“It was mainly older people who bought it, people who may have grown up on creamier milk,” said Harvey Winthrop, owner of the Ideal Market in downtown Duluth. “They were looking for a richer milk, and Golden Guernsey was the richest on the market.”
It certainly was. Pure Guernsey milk contains 4-percent milkfat or more, at least 1 percent more than Holstein milk. It has 10 percent more milk solids in it. It has the consistency of half-and-half – almost like a thin milk shake.
It tasted great.
“Fat tastes good,” said Wally Gronholm, president and general manager at Franklin Foods in Duluth, which bottled the milk for Barnum’s. “It’s a fact. Most of us who like good food like fat. That’s why we like hamburgers and fries. they’re full of fat and they taste good.”
But most Americans are trimming fat out of their diets and that’s becoming obvious in milk-drinking habits. “Skim, 1- and 2-percent milks are the ones people are buying now. The average fat content of all the milk we bottle is less than 2 percent now. That’s a big change from 10 years ago.”
The demand for Golden Guernsey milk was drying up, said Steve Massie, Art’s nephew, who now owns the family business. They were distributing only about 1,000 half-gallons a week earlier this year.
The number of Guernseys milked by Northland farmers was also dwindling, and it was getting more expensive to truck the milk to market.
“It became unprofitable after a certain point,” said Massie, 40. “But you miss having something so completely unique on the market.”
Half-gallon cartons of Barnum’s milk roll down the production line at Franklin Foods in Duluth on Dec. 6, 1990. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)
For some people, it was like when Fitger’s quit producing beer, or when Joe Huie’s cafe locked its doors for good. “We still get calls now and then, asking how come it’s not bottled anymore,” he said.
“They had their loyal customers, all right,” said Mark Miller, co-owner of Snow White Food Center on Wopdland Avenue. “That’s all some people would drink. They’d come in and buy the Guernsey milk religiously – until their doctors told them to drink lower-fat milk.”
The Barnum’s label itself is representative of the changes in the local milk business. It exists on paper only – or on wax cartons. The milk is actually packaged by Franklin Foods, as are Arrowhead and Kemps milk. The Massies’ company simply owns the right to the Barnum label and is a distributor.
Since dropping the Golden Guernsey line, Barnum’s milk is now similar to its competitors’ products, but people remain loyal, Steve Massie said.
“Barnum’s still exists because we have very loyal customers and we give good service,” said Massie, who remembers helping his grandfather, Art Massie Sr., package cottage cheese in his basement on St. Paul Avenue in the ’50s. “That’s been our family’s tradition since 1941. It’s the main ingredient in our success.”
Steve Massie of Massie Distributing, distributors of Barnum’s milk, loads a truck at the Franklin Foods Dairy in Duluth’s West End on Dec. 6, 1990. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)
The only place in the Northland where 4-percent milk is still in the stores is around Ashland, Wis., he said. “We thought about buying our Guernsey milk from a bottler over in Waukesha, Wis., but it didn’t seem feasible to bring it in here.”
There’s a certain amount of Guernsey milk in all of the milk packed at the Franklin plant in Duluth, but it’s nothing you can taste. “All milk tastes pretty much the same once you take the fat out,” said Gronholm. “A Guernsey drinker might give me an argument about that, but it’s true.”
Were the Massies “true 4-percenters”? Did they pour that heavyweight milk, as viscous as 10W-40 motor oil, on their corn flakes at home?
Steve said, “Nah. We were down to 2 percent milk at my house.”
Art, a wiry man with a long memory, chuckled. “That’s what I’m down to, too.”
Even the milkman has to go with the flow.
– end –
After typing in this archive article, I’m a little confused about the lamentations over the loss of 4-percent milk. You can still buy whole milk – is that not the same thing? Was the “Golden Guernsey” variety something unique, unlike other brands of whole milk? If you remember – and if you know any more about when the Barnum’s brand name disappeared from local shelves – please post a comment.
And while we’re at it, can you think of any other unique, Northland-favorite food products, past or present? Over at Perfect Duluth Day there have been occasional discussions about Connolly’s Tom and Jerry Batter. What other local favorites can you think of? Again, post a comment to contribute to the conversation.
Flames illuminate the sky above the former Holy Family Catholic School on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 1992, as Duluth firefighters battle the blaze. The interior of the West End building was gutted by the fire. (Clara Wu / News-Tribune)
Tears shed at landmark’s ruin
By Laurie Hertzel and Susan Hogan/Albach, News-Tribune staff writers
Nearly 70 years of memories went up in smoke and flames Tuesday evening when the former Holy Family Catholic School burned.
Hundreds of West End residents stood along the sidewalks at 24th Avenue West and Fifth Street, watching as flames shot out of the roof of the burning building. Some wept.
“This is going to be a hard one for the parishioners to forget,” said Patrick Perfetti, a parish trustee. “There’s a good number of parishioners who grew up and went through kindergarten through eighth grade there.
“There were some tears shed tonight.”
Originally Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School, the three-story brick building was constructed in 1926. It became the Holy Family Catholic School in 1985 when three West End Catholic parishes merged.
This was not the first time the building burned.
“It survived a fire in the late 1940s, at which time the entire roof caved in and fell down onto the main floor,” Perfetti said. “It was repaired and rebuilt and brought back up to standards and utilized as a school.”
The school closed in the spring of 1990, but the building remained an active part of parish life.
Youth programs, religious education classes, meetings, wedding receptions and parties were held there. The building contained a gymnasium, classrooms, a library and a kitchen. Some of the upstairs rooms were used for storage of audio visual equipment and parish documents, and others were offices.
“I’m just glad nobody was in there,” said Marlene Jacobs, youth minister and religious education coordinator. “There are times where there are hundreds of kids in there.”
She was standing on the sidewalk watching with tears in her eyes as firefighters battled the blaze. Her office was on the old school’s second floor.
“Many traditions have been housed in this building for years,” said the Rev. Al Svobodny, associate pastor. “I grieve with the parishioners at the loss of great memories in their lives.”
“The biggest activity that’s going to be missed would be for all of the weddings and anniversaries and funeral luncheons that took place in that building,” Perfetti said.
“This is going to be very difficult for people.”
This weekend, Bishop Roger Schweitz is scheduled to say Masses at Holy Family to celebrate his 25th anniversary as a priest. Schweitz served as pastor of the parish before he became bishop.
“This will be very helpful, to have the bishop here,” Svobodny said, “because he will help deal with the healing process. … What was supposed to be a celebration will be a time of healing.”
Assistant Fire Chief Jim Smith examines the damage inside the former Holy Family Catholic School in Duluth’s West End on Dec. 16, 1992. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)
The fire caused the roof to cave and the upper floors of the building to cave in, and on top of that the main floor sustained heavy water damage. The building was razed, and today a parking lot occupies the site.
The fire was ruled arson, started by someone on the balcony of the first-floor gymnasium. In the last clip saved in the News Tribune file on the fire, investigators were trying to track down some teenagers seen leaving the scene of the blaze; I have no idea if they ever were caught.
Looking out over downtown from atop Duluth’s steepest street – Fifth Avenue West, at its intersection with Sixth Street, April 2012. (Andrew Krueger / News Tribune)
This blog chronicles many things that have changed in Duluth over the years, but here’s an entry on something that’s as much a topic of discussion today as it was 50 years ago – the steep streets downtown. They certainly can keep life interesting – take this mishap from 1984.
Back in February 1998, the News Tribune looked at life on what often is cited as THE steepest street in town – Fifth Avenue West, above Mesaba Avenue. Here’s that story:
A DIFFERENT SLANT OF LIFE
PEOPLE WHO LIVE AND WORK ON DULUTH’S STEEPEST STREETS TAKE THE UPS AND DOWNS IN STRIDE
By Chuck Frederick, News-Tribune staff writer
Angela Szymecki leaned into the hillside and climbed slowly to the top of the mercilessly steep street. Her leg muscles screamed as she clutched a railing and reminded herself not to slip. She didn’t want to fall. Not here. Not on Fifth Avenue West, perhaps the steepest of Duluth’s many steep streets.
In a city built on the side of a hill, a city that is sometimes compared to San Francisco, thousands of Duluthians live and work on the hillside. Many of them think nothing of it. They buy four-wheel drive vehicles, take roundabout routes home during snowstorms, and then turn their front tires toward the curb when they park.
But on some streets people can’t help but think about the hill. They can’t help but wonder, “If I fall down will I stop rolling before I splash into the harbor?”
“It is dangerous walking up and down this hill,” said Szymecki, a two-year resident on Fifth Avenue West, which has a 25 percent grade between Fifth and Sixth streets. That compares to a 19 percent grade on the steepest ski run at Spirit Mountain, the Gandy Dancer.
“I slipped just the other day,” Szymecki said of her steep street. “And on just a little piece of ice. That scared me.”
Living and working on the face of a dropoff can be hairy. Concessions must be made to the terrain. Difficulty in moving around during the winter is something you just come to accept.
But it also can be fun, some residents say. There’s something very Duluth about it, something rugged and adventurous, a pride that comes from knowing you live somewhere others don’t dare visit.
Unless they’re looking for an extreme workout, most joggers choose the same route across Fifth Avenue West, rather than up or down the steep street. Between Fifth and Sixth street, the avenue’s grade is 24 percent. (Bob King / News Tribune) Note that many of the trees lining the street in this photo from January 1998 are no longer standing in the present-day view atop this post.
Bruce McLean feels that rush. From the back of Szymecki’s home, his voice is dripping with an attitude flatlanders will never understand.
“Did you mention the goats?” he shouted before stepping into the front room, grinning. “The billy goats we saw walking up here the other day? Did you mention them?”
“Very funny, Bruce,” retorted Luke Szymecki, Angela’s 16-year-old son and Bruce’s friend.
“I rode my bike down that hill once,” McLean continued, still grinning. “Only once. I looked back up and decided to sell it to a passerby at the bottom of the hill.
“My girlfriend is afraid to drive up it,” he said, being a little more serious. “I’ve got to walk down there and meet her and then drive her car up for her. It’s crazy.”
“And it’s just crazy to park here,” Luke said. “I assume your car would just end up at the bottom of the hill every time.”
Mail carrier Jack Harmon has been parking his postal truck on Fifth Avenue West for 14 years.
“It can be difficult,” he said of this portion of his route. “But the city takes pretty good care of the streets and most of the people do real good to keep their steps clear. I’ve gotten so used to (the hillside), I actually look forward to the exercise. I’ve gotten to know the people there so well, too. If I didn’t deliver there, I’d miss our little chats every day.”
Arne Sather delivers mail to the top half of the avenue. He, too, has come to accept the hill as just another part of the job. He has even developed a sense of humor about it.
“The guy who used to have this route, he wound up with one leg shorter than the other,” Sather said, his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. “You have to do the route backwards every couple of days to keep yourself even.
“But the best thing to do is park and walk,” he said, more seriously. “Driving on those hills is tough. There are days you just can’t control the truck there.”
You don’t have to tell that to the city workers who plow Duluth’s steepest streets. Tony Budisalovich has been plowing Fifth Avenue West for 10 years.
“I’ve slid from Sixth to Fifth in a second and a half,” he said. “I’ve done full-circle spins. You just hold on and go. There’s nothing you can do. It’s like on a skating rink. It happens so fast. It’s over with before you can really get scared. But afterward you shake. You just sit there and shake.”
Budisalovich likes to drive his grader backward up the avenue — not because it’s easier to climb the hill, but because he wants to see where he’s going if he should slide back down.
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “I’m waiting another three years for another guy to retire. Then I can take his route. Let someone else take a turn at this.”
Shoveling, driving and even just walking can be a challenge on a steep street, says Angela Szymecki, seen here in January 1998. She lives near the top of Fifth Avenue West, perhaps the steepest of Duluth’s many steep streets. (Charles Curtis / News Tribune)
Most of Duluth’s steepest streets are in Central Hillside, Goat Hill and Lincoln Park (West End). But a pair of streets near the top of the city’s steepest list are found over the hill. St. Paul Avenue and Minneapolis Avenue, both in the Woodland neighborhood, ranked fifth and sixth with grades of 20 and 19 percent, roughly the same as the Spirit Mountain’s steepest ski run.
That doesn’t surprise Doug Sanders. He has lived at the bottom of Minneapolis Avenue, near Isanti Street, since 1942, back when the avenue was first nicknamed “Steep Minnie.”
Sanders remembers neighbors throwing ashes from their coal furnaces onto the road to help motorists climb the hill.
“People who lived up there had to get up the hill,” he said. “Those ashes and clinkers helped.”
Sanders also remembers sledding down the avenue as a boy, back when there wasn’t as much traffic and cars didn’t go so fast.
“We’d keep one kid at the bottom of the hill as a lookout, and then down we’d go,” he said.
Kids still play on the hill, zooming down on their bikes, sleds or in-line skates.
“I’ve seen the neighbor kids take their Roller Blades down it,” said Mary Kettelhut of Minneapolis Avenue. “That’s horrifying. I pray no cars are coming across at the time.”
A block over on St. Paul Avenue, the steep hill stopped bothering Jennifer Lewis the day she bought a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Gone are the days when she had to shout into the back seat to remind the kids to hang on because Mom was turning into the driveway.
“We don’t have any problems, but we still see a lot of cars getting stuck here,” Lewis said. “They’ll try to make it up the hill, but they’ll get stuck, so they’ll have to back down, and then they’ll slide and wind up getting stuck in the woods. Then someone has to call a tow truck.
“It is hard to make it up and down some days,” Lewis said. “But it’s where we live. We love it here. We make the best of it.”
- end -
Mail carrier Jack Harmon makes sure he sets his parking brake before delivering mail to a house off Fifth Avenue West in January 1998. After 14 years on the route. Harmon says he’s accustomed to steep streets. “I actually look forward to the exercise,” he says. (Bob King / News-Tribune)
Here’s a list that ran with the story back in 1998:
Duluth steepest streets
Some streets in Duluth are actually steeper than the steepest run at Spirit Mountain. The Gandy Dancer ski hill has a 19 percent grade. These streets are at least that steep:*
Streets and grade
1. Fifth Avenue West between West Fifth and West Sixth Streets — 25% — Rises 80.788 feet in 320.239 feet
2. 17th Avenue West above West Third Street — 24% — Rises 37.616 feet in 158.707 feet
3. W. Seventh Street above Piedmont Avenue — 21% — Rises 54.820 feet in 256.960 feet
4. 19th Avenue West above Old Piedmont Avenue in Goat Hill. — 21% — Rises 42.343 feet in 197.869 feet
5. St. Paul Avenue between Isanti and Anoka avenues — 20% — Rises 51.114 feet in 260.366 feet
6. Minneapolis Avenue between Isanti and Anoka avenues — 19% — Rises 61.307 feet in 318.738 feet
7. West Fourth Street above Piedmont Avenue — 19% — Rises 65.854 feet in 338.615 feet
Minneapolis Avenue in the Woodland neighborhood, seen here in January 2002, has gained a legendary reputation for its steep slope that rivals the steepest run at Spirit Mountain ski resort. The street is usually a haven for kids on bikes, in-line skates and sleds. (Justin Hayworth / News-Tribune)
Here are some other steep Duluth streets:
– Eighth Avenue West above West Third Street — 18% — Rises 58.420 feet in 319.687 feet
– Fourth Avenue West below Mesaba Avenue — 17% — Rises 51.312 feet in 307.957 feet
– First Avenue East between East Sixth and East Seventh streets — 17% — Rises 51.408 feet in 306.421 feet
– Park Street between Livingston and Morningside avenues — 17% — Rises 48.723 feet in 289.757 feet
– West Sixth Street above Piedmont Avenue — 16% — Rises 32.522 feet in 199.730 feet
– 26th Avenue East between London and Greysolon roads — 15% — Rises 46.058 feet in 314.733 feet
– 22nd Avenue West above Piedmont Avenue — 14% — Rises 20.838 feet in 154.139 feet
– Fourth Avenue East from Superior to First streets — 13% — Rises 39.190 feet in 297.699 feet
– 19th Avenue East above Superior Street — 12% — Rises 35.249 feet in 293.994 feet
– 21st Avenue East between London Road and Superior Street — 11% — Rises 35.767 feet in 311.500 feet
– Mesaba Avenue above West Seventh Street — 10% — Rises 38.888 feet in 390.875 feet
*There may be steeper streets in Duluth than some included here. These lists are not intended to be “Top-10” style rankings. Some streets were included solely because they are well-traveled, allowing easy comparisons to steeper but lesser-known roadways.
Source: The Lake Superior College Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineering Technicians.
Share your steep-street stories and memories – and tell us if there’s a steep street missing from these lists – by posting a comment.
Smokey the dog, owned by Donella Kubiak, has become quite accustomed to his rabbit friends on Park Point in May 1999. They have become used to him, too, not showing the least bit of concern as he barks at strangers. (Derek Neas / News-Tribune)
Park Point’s hare-raising problem
Rabbit population in Duluth neighborhood growing – by leaps and bounds
By Bob Linneman, News-Tribune staff writer
Donna Scorse sees nothing bunny — make that funny — about a robust rabbit population hopping around her Park Point neighborhood.
She’s expecting $500 worth of plants, flowers and shrubs to arrive this weekend for her back yard and fears the burgeoning bunny boom town will quickly embark on a search-and-destroy mission.
“Sure, they’re cute,” Scorse said with a hint of laughter tinged with frustration. “But this isn’t a cute problem.”
She’s at wits’ end, unsure how to deal with her long-eared dilemma. Everywhere she turns she sees rabbits. While the exact number of bunnies is difficult to determine, there are at least 50 throughout the four-block area — probably more. And the population is growing, evidenced by a large number of baby bunnies.
According to several of the area’s residents, the colony of rabbits started a few years ago from a single breeding pair of pet Easter bunnies who were released into the wild — which is illegal and morally repugnant, says Duluth rabbit expert Ruth Lyon. No one is sure of the culprit’s identity.
Being rabbits, these furry mammals have done what they do best — procreate prolifically. Females are capable of producing a litter of up to a dozen offspring every 28-35 days.
The explosion of rabbits has some in the neighborhood calling for some kind of control.
But not everyone is anti-rabbit in this area of Park Point — Minnesota Avenue between the 1400 and 1800 blocks, with scattered bunny sightings as far away as the Aerial Lift Bridge.
While Scorse would like to see the rabbits eradicated, relocated or simply removed, Donella Kubiak says leave the cute little varmints alone.
They aren’t hurting anyone or anything, she says, and nature will eventually take its course.
Kubiak has about 20 rabbits living in her yard — where a large deck allows good cover for the animals. To her, the rabbit population is a wonderful addition to the landscape. Even her dog, Smokey, doesn’t seem to mind the rabbits, who have been known to invade his doghouse on occasion.
“They mow the lawn and fertilize it too,” Kubiak said of the rabbits. “I enjoy them. They’re wonderful. I don’t want anyone out here harassing them.”
Six rabbits roam in the back yard of Donella Kubiak’s house on Park Point on May 19, 1999. Kubiak says the rabbits don’t do any harm on her property and she loves to have them around. (Derek Neas / News-Tribune)
There are several separate warrens of rabbits in this area, but all seem to be from the same roots. Most of them are white with black spots or stripes, and a smaller number are brown and black.
Folks in the area seem split on the bounty of bunnies. Some go as far as feeding the rabbits, while there have been reports of others who shoot them — which is illegal within city limits.
George Flentke, who heads the Wisconsin chapter of the House Rabbit Society in Madison — an education and rescue group devoted to rabbits — called the Park Point infestation a tragedy, “a dump-and-breed situation.”
“It’s one of those situations we have a hard time dealing with,” he said. “They can do a good deal of damage. They can denude that area pretty quickly.”
Low-lying trees and bushes in the area are feeling the effects. Scorse points to bushes in her yard that have gone from about 18 inches tall to a fraction of that size.
While distressed that the domestic rabbits were dumped, creating this colony of semi-wild rabbits, Flentke is equally surprised they have managed to survive — and thrive.
“I’m shocked, more than shocked, that they made it through the winter there,” Flentke said, adding that when he heard domestic rabbits were booming in Duluth, Minnesota, he couldn’t imagine them surviving for long. “Domestic rabbits don’t usually do well in the wild. They usually die out.”
But Park Point is lacking in predators at the moment. A normally strong fox population is down and raptors — hawks, owls and eagles — are not prevalent, either.
Two rabbits huddle nose to nose in the woods between the 1400 and 1800 blocks of Minnesota Avenue on Park Point in May 1999. Rabbits can be seen in the area in groups or alone, but they seem to be just about everywhere. (Derek Neas / News-Tribune)
Rich Staffon, the area wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said the rabbit epidemic isn’t a huge threat to the ecosystem of Park Point.
The area is isolated. And, Staffon says, domestic rabbits are genetically incapable of breeding with native species like the snowshoe hare and cottontail rabbit.
If the rabbits managed to cross the Aerial Lift Bridge and began establishing colonies downtown or on Duluth’s hillside, “then we might have to say it’s time to nip this in the bud,” Staffon said. “But I don’t see them as a big threat to this point.”
Staffon recommends those who don’t want rabbits eating their plants to construct enclosures to keep them out.
“It’s up to the individual,” he said. “Property owners can remove them. But I don’t recommend they release them somewhere else.”
Carrie Siegle, director of the Duluth Animal Shelter, said property owners on Park Point can bring any rabbits they capture to the shelter, but they would be destroyed. The shelter has neither the space nor the resources to handle a large number of rabbits.
Other options include live-trapping the rabbits and giving them to someone who raises the animals.
Staffon suspects it won’t be long before predators, especially airborne ones, discover the area is teeming with easy prey.
The mostly white rabbits tend to stand out in the brush. And these domestic-turned-wild bunnies, most likely descendants from European hares, are not exactly fast on their feet.
“Pretty quickly, I would guess, something in nature is going to discover this surplus of food,” Staffon said. “Sooner or later, they’ll move in and take the rabbits out.”
The sooner the better for Scorse: “I’m hoping someone can come out here and help us control this problem,” she said. “I don’t know what to do.”
A year later, Scorse got her wish – a group called Rabbit Rescue of Minnesota came to Park Point to round up the animals:
June 24, 2000
Volunteers from Rabbit Rescue of Minnesota, a Twin Cities animal rescue group, try their luck at catching a rabbit with a volleyball net on June 23, 2000, in front of a house in the 1700 block of Minnesota Avenue on Park Point. This one got away. (Derek Neas / News-Tribune)
‘Wascally wabbits’ divide Park Point
Some residents cheer volunteers, others want furry creatures left alone
By Bob Linneman, News-Tribune staff writer
The rabbit roundup on Park Point got under way Friday with limited success, but the presence of the group — known as Rabbit Rescue of Minnesota — had residents of the Point taking sides.
The Park Point rabbit zone, from about 13th Avenue to 20th, was ground zero for these volunteers, most from the Twin Cities, trying to capture as many of the domesticated rabbits as they could. It’s thought that at least 200 rabbits roam the neighborhood.
As of Friday evening, the group had caught about a dozen rabbits. Another 30 were trapped and caged — prior to the group’s arrival — by Park Point residents helping in the rescue operation.
The roundup continues through the weekend.
Not everyone on Park Point was happy with the bunny catchers’ arrival….
… but some Park Pointers were overjoyed to have the rabbits removed. (Photos by Derek Neas / News-Tribune)
Residents of the area were clearly divided. The group of volunteers, ranging in size from a half-dozen early Friday to about 15 later in the day, were met with signs of protest and welcome.
Two yards had clear “No hunting” signs posted, urging the rescuers to stay off their land. Two others had signs; one said, “Welcome Rabbit Roundup” and another “Bunnies here, please find and remove.”
“It’s been the extreme on both ends,” said volunteer Michelle Nephew of St. Paul, a member of the Rabbit House Society, a national advocacy group devoted to pet rabbits. “We’ve had some people drive by yelling at us, and others cheering us.”
There were also confrontations. Tim and Cindy Olson didn’t want any of the rabbits living in their yard to be removed.
At one point, the rabbit group skirted the Olsons’ property line while the family watched closely, making sure they didn’t cross onto their property. A few words were exchanged, but nothing got out of control.
“They’re terrorizing the rabbits,” Cindy Olson said. “They’re chasing them through people’s yards. The rabbits usually come right up to us, but now they’re shying away.”
Tools in the roundup included live traps, nets of various sizes and plastic fencing used to trap the animals.
The effort to capture the rabbits, neuter the males and hold an adoption Sunday has been sanctioned by the city of Duluth.
Administrative assistant Mark Winson, Mayor Gary Doty’s top aide, said the city is picking up the rescue group’s lodging costs and has rented a truck to transport the rabbits from the Point to a West Duluth warehouse.
Michelle Nephew of St. Paul and Christopher Ellian, 11, who lives on Park Point, bait a live trap for rabbits on June 23, 2000. (Derek Neas / News-Tribune)
Winson estimates the city’s contribution at $300. He added that the group does not need a permit to capture and transport the rabbits within city limits.
The mayor’s office, Winson said, has been inundated with pleas for the city to take action on the rabbit issue.
Andrea Nye, a 17-year-old Jefferson High School student from Bloomington, is one of the leaders of the rescue group and coordinated the roundup.
She said she’s rescued rabbits for more than two years and ; raised them for 11. She- is committed to helping: solve the Park Point situation, which she learned about from a Minnesota Public Radio report.
Friday’s effort was difficult.: “We’ve had lots of confrontations, but that’s part of it,” she said, unfazed by those opposing the group’s presence.
Many enjoy the rabbits and would prefer they be left alone. Others, however, call the rabbits a nuisance, doing thousands of dollars in damage to gardens and shrubs.
There are three schools of thought: leave them alone, kill them or capture and adopt them out as pets. Rabbit Rescue of Minnesota prefers the third. Others expressed a different viewpoint.
“The rabbits would be much better served by re-introducing a few native red foxes to Park Point and adopting an ordinance outlawing the feeding (the rabbits),” said resident Gary Hopp, who said the rabbits have destroyed his gardens.
The roundup continues today. Sunday, at a warehouse on West Michigan Street just past 29th Avenue West, the group hopes to host rabbit adoptions. The event will be open to the public — signs will direct people to the warehouse.
So whatever happened to all those rabbits on Park Point? News Tribune Editor Robin Washington tackled that topic in a column that ran in the paper on April 4, 2010.
Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.
Richard Wozniak, who owned the well-known Young at Heart Records in downtown Duluth for more than 40 years, died on Feb. 18 at age 94. You can read the obituary on the News Tribune website.
I posted several articles about Wozniak and his store on this site back in 2009. You can find those posts here, here and here.
I dug up a few more photos of Wozniak and his shop from the News Tribune files; here they are:
Richard Wozniak, owner of Young at Heart Records, in his store in April 1993. (Bob King / News-Tribune)
Richard Wozniak outside his store at 22 W. First St. in June 1981. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)
A customer rifles through stacks of records at Young at Heart Records, 22 W. First St. in downtown Duluth, in June 1981. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)
Richard Wozniak’s desk at Young at Heart Records is littered with mailing from record companies, the latest issue of Record World, blank cassette tapes, two clock radios, and a broken adding machine. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)
A card for the record club at Young at Heart Records in Duluth, June 1981. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)
Richard Wozniak, owner of Young at Heart Records in downtown Duluth, in his store in June 1981. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)
John Harteau of Duluth (right) buys a record from Richard Wozniak at Young at Heart Records, 22 W. First St. in downtown Duluth, in April 1993. Harteau said he’s been a regular customer of the store since the 1950s. (Bob King / News-Tribune)
Share your memories of Richard Wozniak and Young at Heart Records by posting a comment.