Haunted house in Duluth, 1902

In a town with as much history as Duluth, there are countless stories of ghosts and haunted houses. But most of those don’t make the newspaper.

One that did was the case of “mysterious rappings” at a home in the Lincoln Park/West End neighborhood, in December 1902. As you can read below, the News Tribune carried two stories about the strange events in a home described as “three doors east of Twenty-sixth Avenue West on Tenth Street”; no specific address was given. Is the house in question among those still standing along that block of 10th Street? It’s hard to say – but if you have anything to add to the story, please post a comment. And if you’d like to share your own Northland ghost story, please feel free to share those, too.

Here are the two stories about the mysterious spirit of West 10th Street, as they appeared in the News Tribune back in 1902:

December 5, 1902


Mysterious rappings give concern to many timid persons

Duluth has a genuine haunted house, located just east of Twenty-sixth Avenue West on Tenth Street.

Besides the ghost, spirit or whatever it may be, there reside in the house Mrs. Lindberg and her three children.

The building was formerly owned by ex-Alderman Ambrose M. Cox, who was asphyxiated by gas last Saturday. At the time Mr. Cox owned the building a man named Joseph Wolf died of smallpox there.

To make the story more weird the appearance of the unearthly noises were heard shortly after Mr. Cox met with the fatal accident.

Startled by rappings

Monday the occupants were startled by rappings on the floor. An investigation of the cellar did not reveal anything, and the noises continuing through the night, the case was reported to the police. Two policemen called during the day. Shortly after their entrance, the noises began and continued at intervals. Neighbors of the family heard of the trouble and called, and one man has been wearing his pompadour ever since.

The spirit does not object to being interviewed, and will answer any question put to it.

Tuesday night a brother of Mrs. Lindberg remained at the house during the night. He commanded the spirit to answer by two raps for no and three for yes. Directly following the questions, given in an ordinary voice, the answers were given. When asked if it would like some music three solemn raps was the reply. Accompanying music on the mouth-organ, the clog of an expert jig dancer could be plainly heard on the floor. After a song by the same man, an encore by the unseen visitor followed. The rapping was either loud or soft according to the wishes of the audience, and any number of raps asked for was given. They emanate from different parts of the floor, according to the disposition of the rapper.

The spirit evidently sleeps between the hours of 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. for it refuses to be aroused during that time. It is also partial to small audiences and will not give a performance before a crowded house.

Many visit the house

Inquisitive persons from all parts of town have visited the place, most of them unbelievers in spiritualism, but all report themselves fully convinced.

When asked if it would like to talk with a certain woman an affirmative reply was given. The woman lives on a farm out of town, and the two oldest girls of the family were sent for her Thursday. She refused, however, to converse with the unearthly person, and says she will leave town. While the girls were in search of the friend of the spirit, no noises were heard, but as soon as they re-entered the house, an inquiring rap was immediately heard on the floor.

The occupants say they cannot put up with the disturbance much longer and the house will soon be for rent to some unsuperstitious person.

A dog was put in the cellar to keep the spirit company, but he was more particular about the company he kept, and was last seen going down Tenth Street as fast as his legs could carry him.


Here’s a short follow-up that ran in the paper two days later, on Dec. 7, 1902:


Spiritualist tries to drive spook out but it refuses to quit house

Ghosts continue to hold daily carousals at the west end.

Those haunting the house three doors east of Twenty-sixth Avenue West on Tenth Street played before a crowded house last night.

A spiritualist called yesterday to commune with the spook and induce it to get out, but a deaf ear was turned to her request. To the question, “Are you to remain here?” it replied solemnly in the negative.

Different persons around the city have laughed at the stories of those who visited the house, and expressed a desire to investigate the nocturnal mystery. One who was particularly brave – before getting into the vicinity of the ghost – said he would show them how they were all being fooled.

He accompanied his friends to the house, and heard the gentle tap, tap, tap on the cellar floor. He then asked questions and was immediately answered by the invisible oracle. He tried Scandinavian, and was perfectly understood by the ghost. “Strike louder,” he exclaimed in a whisper. The dirt was shaken out of the cracks at his feet. His hat rose on his head, a break was made for the door and he fled.


That’s where the story seems to end in the News Tribune. If you know more about this haunted house, or any others in Duluth or the Northland, please post a comment.

The end of Golden Guernsey 4-percent milk in Duluth

December 1990

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.

Holy Family Catholic School burns, 1992

December 15, 1992

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.

For some more history on the Holy Family Parish, including its former church buildings, go to this past News Tribune Attic post.

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Photos of winter in the Twin Ports in the 1980s

Before our snow disappears in the next few days – highs may reach the 50s by next week – I thought I’d take the chance to dig through the “winter” photo files in the News Tribune Attic and post some shots from the 1980s of people having fun – or at work – in the snow. Here they are…

Judy VanDell and daughter Kristin, 4, stroll by a snowman on top of a car at the corner of 24th Avenue West and Fourth Street on Dec. 3, 1986. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

First-graders at Congdon Elementary School roll a big snowball for the base of a snowman on March 10, 1986. Their teacher, Sharon Rud, said she let the kids build a snow village after their gym class was canceled that day. (Bob King / News Tribune)

Paul Guello sculpts the snowman’s face while assisted by his son Michael, 3, (far left) and neighborhood kids Christopher and Tiffany Lee, ages 6 and 3, at Superior’s Central Park on Nov. 24, 1986. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Kids gather at Portland Square Park in Duluth on Nov. 22, 1986, to build a snow fort. They are, left to right, Katie McRae, 6; Shawn Hoffman, 10; Jeff Clasen, 6; Alex Ross, 11; and Jacob Akervik, 9. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

David O’Brien, 7, son of Don and Barb O’Brien, blasts down a sledding hill near Commonwealth Avenue in Gary on Jan. 25, 1985. He was sliding with his friend Mike McDevitt, 6. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

Kids from the West Duluth and Duluth Heights soccer clubs cooperated to roll two giant snowballs to use as the bases for goalposts for the game at Irving Field in West Duluth on Nov. 16, 1985. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Susan Gross starts a seemingly insurmountable job shoveling wet, heavy snow in front of her house on Red Wing Street in Duluth on Nov. 29, 1983. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Scott Tousignant, 11, makes a speedy descent of snow-covered stairs leading from Second Street to First Street at Sixth Avenue East in Duluth on Nov. 26, 1983. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

Mabel Smevoll, 84, sweeps a light dusting of snow from her walkway in West Duluth on Dec. 8, 1988. Smevoll said she loves to work even at her age, and said she was “making room for some more” snow. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

Harry Staaf, 85, clears his driveway along 27th Avenue West on Dec. 27, 1988. “If you’re going to live in Duluth, you gotta expect shoveling,” Staaf said. “By summer we will all forget this anyway.” (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

Ryan Wiisanen, 6, tosses a snowball at his aunt, Shirkey Uraniak, on Oct. 14, 1986, at Uraniak’s house in Maple. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

Gary Kniep heads home from the grocery store on Nov. 20, 1988, carrying the groceries and pulling his son Garrett, 4, down St. Marie Street near the UMD campus. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

A 6-foot-tall snowman on the corner of Second Avenue West and Superior Street in downtown Duluth caught a lot of glances and the attention of Kelly Larson, 3, and her mother, Sally, as they waited for her dad, Jim, to join them for shopping on Dec. 14, 1988. The snowman’s creator was not known to nearby shop employees. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

Trina, Mark and Charity Hansen of Duluth take a snowy glide down a hill near Portland Square in Duluth on Nov. 5, 1988. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

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

Wall comes tumbling down in Duluth’s West End

No one was injured when concrete cornices fell from the Johnson Furniture Co. building, 1917 W. Superior St. in Duluth, on Oct. 16, 1968. Dennis Johnson, a member of the firm, reported that before the cornices fell a bright flash of lightning was seen and might have caused the collapse. When the cornices collapsed they tore a six- by eight-foot sign from the building and smashed two eight- by 10-foot plate glass windows. Russell Johnson, president of the company, said that it was a miracle that no one was on the sidewalk. (News-Tribune file photo)

Johnson Furniture was a longtime business in Duluth’s West End / Lincoln Park neighborhood. According to News Tribune files, the company was founded in 1917. It operated at 1907 W. Superior St. from the 1920s until 1957, when it moved to the former home of J&J Furniture Corp. at 2009 W. Superior. In 1962 it moved to 1917 W. Superior — the site of the cornice collapse in the photo above — and stayed there until moving to the former Enger & Olson Furniture building at 1826 W. Superior St. (I could not find a date for that).

The owners of what eventually was known as Johnson Brothers Furniture announced in Feb. 2011 that they were closing the store.

In the photo above, looking left from Johnson Furniture, you can see the Hong Kong Cafe at 1921 W. Superior, then Dahlen’s Paint and Wallpaper, the White Inn Cafe and a long, low commercial building that was vacant at the time, according to a 1967 city directory.

In the background, across 20th Avenue West, the Seaway Hotel is visible.

Here are two views of that row of buildings today:

At some point between 1968 and today, the Hong Kong Cafe building was torn down. Was there a fire? Post a comment if you know that story. Other than that, there has been a big change in businesses (or lack thereof at present), but the buildings remain essentially as they were 44 years ago.

Here’s one more associated photo from the News Tribune files:

Ready for the grand opening of Johnson’s Appliance and Television Store at 1907 W. Superior St. are Edward Aamodt (left), manager of the appliance section, and Ronald Vogler, manager of the TV and stereo section, in this photo published Sept. 14, 1966. The building, which formerly housed Johnson Furniture’s trade-in outlet, has been remodeled, with new paneling throughout and new carpeting in the balcony. (Duluth Herald file photo)

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Jim’s Hamburgers, 1980

This Attic entry originally was posted in August 2008; I’m posting it again after seeing on the Perfect Duluth Day website that the last Jim’s Hamburgers location, on Superior Street in the West End, apparently has closed.

While apparently there is no absolute confirmation the cafe is closed for good, the windows are papered over. When I tried its last listed phone number, it had been disconnected.

So, for anyone who didn’t see this post the first time around, here’s a look back at Jim’s Hamburgers restaurants in Duluth:

November 27, 1980

Jim’s Hamburgers is crowded every day, so Jim and Jay Overlie stay open on Thanksgiving. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)



Time was, Jim’s Hamburgers was about the only place open on Thanksgiving. Jim Overlie kept his restaurants open on the holiday pretty much to serve his regular customers and anyone else passing through town – those with no place else to go.

There wasn’t any turkey and dressing, but the hamburgers and hotcakes were abundant.

Times have changed. Businesses have come and gone; buses that once brought hungry travelers downtown now arrive in western Duluth. And places like senior citizen centers offer hot holiday meals to the elderly.

But Jim’s Hamburgers still is open on Thanksgiving – as well as Christmas.

It’s a tradition that started in 1937, when Overlie first went into business. He worried about his regular customers, many old and without families, and about where they would eat holiday meals like Thanksgiving dinner.

“I always worked on the theory ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ ” Overlie, now retired, says. “A lot of our regular customers were retired people who didn’t have facilities to cook. People were good enough to give us their business all year around,” so Overlie figured he’d make sure those same people had someplace to eat on Thanksgiving.

Holiday business was a family project. Overlie’s son, Jay, who manages the four Jim’s Hamburgers restaurants, two on West Superior Street, one on East Fourth and the other at 502 E. First St., started working holidays as a boy.

“My daughter and son always came down on holidays,” Overlie says. “They’d rather come down at Christmas than stay home. They got greater satisfaction doing that than unwrapping presents under the Christmas tree.”

Waitresses would make cookies for some of their favorite customers and the elderly diners often would reciprocate with gift boxes of candy.

At one time, Christmas Eve was the busiest night of the year at Jim’s. Worshippers from nearby churches came in for after-service meals and last-minute shoppers thronged the place.

Jay Overlie stands in front of the Jim’s Hamburgers restaurant on West First Street. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)


Jim’s Thanksgiving business has dropped off a bit. “There’s a few you always get, but it’s not like it used to be,” Jim Overlie said.

But the restaurants stay open on the holidays.

“It’s a hard thing to put in words,” Jay said. “It’s more of an obligation where customers appreciate the fact you’re interested in them, too.

“The customers recognize each other. They don’t always talk, but when one is missing, they notice. They care about one another.”

Even though he no longer works day-to-day in his restaurants, the elder Overlie expects to drop in at the three restaurants that will be open on Thanksgiving (the store at 414 W. Superior will be closed).

According to a News-Tribune article from April 1982, the Jim’s Hamburgers location at 414 W. Superior St. was sold off that month and became a restaurant called Bragg’s. That left three Jim’s Hamburgers locations – 502 E. Fourth St., 2005 W. Superior St. and 205 W. First St.

On June 10, 1995, the News Tribune carried news that the original Jim’s Hamburgers location, the one on First Street, had just closed. Jim Overlie had sold his restaurants in 1985. New owner Dick Christensen said the cost of required health and fire code improvements were too high at the First Street restaurant, which seated 14 at the counter and 24 in the booths, and which in its earliest days was called the Blue and White Restaurant.

At the time, Christensen also owned the Jim’s Hamburgers locations on Fourth Street and in the West End on Superior Street. Here is a photo of the Fourth Street location from December 1996:

And here is a photo of the West End location from February 2001, when its owners were fighting the city smoking ban:

The East Fourth Street Jim’s Hamburgers location now is home to Quizno’s sandwich shop, which opened in April 2006 (though Jim’s Hamburgers is still listed in the phone book at that address). That left the West End location of Jim’s Hamburgers as the only one still in business in August 2008 when this post was first written. It remained open in early 2011 (the last time I was in there), but as of February 2012 appears to have closed.

Taystee bakery closes in Duluth’s West End, 1987

November 13, 1987

Lights glow at the Taystee Bread bakery, 2326 W. Superior St., as loaves are “baked while you sleep” in March 1983. The beam of light is from a passing car. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

After today, Taystee bakes no more

By Mike Hughlett, News-Tribune staff writer

Today will be the last time Earl Sellards helps you make a sandwich.

Sellards will preside over the mixer at the Taystee bakery that blends 700 pounds of water, flour, yeast and shortening into a blob of dough big enough to make 25,000 loves of bread a day.

But that isn’t nearly enough to beat the plant’s competitors. The machines in the 66-year-old bakery at 2326 W. Superior St. don’t have the muscle to move any faster. So when Taystee bakers bag their last loaf today, another Duluth industry – large-scale commercial baking – will disappear.

Heileman Baking Co. bought the Taystee plant from American Baking Co. last summer and decided to end its baking operations today. The plant will continue to receive bread from Heileman’s St. Paul bakery and ship it throughout the Northland. But 33 of the approximately 65 jobs in the plant will vanish.

“It looks like I’ll close it up,” Sellards said.

Bob Veillet turns out enough dough to make 640 large loves of bread at Duluth’s Taystee’s bakery in March 1983. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

Sellards said about 500 people worked in Duluth’s commercial baking industry when he started at Taystee 31 years ago. Most worked at the Taystee plant and at Zinsmaster Baking Co. in the West End.

In his younger days, Sellards had to pour 100-pound sacks of flour and bulging bags of raisins and sugar into the dough mixer. Now, the raw materials are pumped into the mixer by machine.

But otherwise, the job hasn’t changed much.

Sellards will spend today tending an elastic ooze that will become white, rye, wheat and raisin bread by the time the plant closes. After the bread rises for 4 1/2 hours, he’ll give it a solid punch to let air escape. Then He’ll throw the glop back into a mixer.

Beads of perspiration will coat his temples and forehead. His white T-shirt and white pants – a standard baker’s uniform – will be mottled with light stains. Flour will encrust the joints of his fingers and dust his forearms.

Sellards and his co-workers make enough bread every minute to keep a family in a host of toast for three months. But Heileman’s competitors, as well as its own plants in other cities, can bake four times as much bread per minute, Sellards said. The other plants have newer machines, some run by computers.

“You just punch buttons, that’s all you do,” he said.

Bob Benson, Tom Anderson and Dean Derosier unload baked bread and load up unbaked loaves at the Taystee bakery ovens in Duluth in March 1983. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

Sellards and others said they saw the end coming at Taystee long ago. The plants longtime owner, American Baking Co., did nothing to prevent the plant from becoming a relic.

“This place was so outdated. It was just a matter of time,” said Tim Sullivan, the plant’s shipping foreman, who has worked at Taystee for 10 years. “If I walked in here and saw what this place had, I’d shut it down.”

Heileman decided to do exactly that a month after it bought four American Bakery plants in June. The company offered 33 break makers in Duluth the chance to take jobs at Taystee bakeries in St. Paul or Madison, Wis.

Jerry Rudolph said he and five other workers accepted Heileman’s offer. He’s got an apartment ready to rent in Shoreview, Minn.

“They say it’s a lot nicer down there,” he said as he snatched a pan of bread from the oven. “They say it’s gonna be a real nice job.”

Roger Halverson operates a dough cutter at the Duluth Taystee bakery in March 1983. It cuts the dough into 1 1/2-pound  loaves. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

Cal Jasper works aside Rudolph flipping fresh-baked loves onto carts bound for the slicing machine. The air around the oven is filled with the pleasant smell of fresh bread. It also is hot, but not as sweltering as in July, when the temperature near the oven soars well over 100 degrees.

A stocky man with a full beard, Jasper was hired at the bakery almost 10 years ago when he was 21. At $9 an hour, the job paid him well enough to raise a family.

His family will keep him in Duluth, even though he could work in Taystee’s St. Paul bakery.

“I’ve lived in a lot of smaller communities and I didn’t want to raise a family in a big city,” he said. “I grew up on the St. Louis River. To go down and have my family grow up on the pavement – I just couldn’t see it.”

Taystee bakery production manager Don Haglund checks out a freshly baked loaf of bread at the Duluth plant in October 1981. (Karl Jaros / Duluth Herald)

Jasper, like other workers, may be eligible for job retraining money through the Jobs Training and Partnership Act. The city of Duluth and Clyde Iron plan to give Taystee workers some excess money from a $72,500 state grant awarded to Clyde. The state, however, must agree to the city’s proposal.

Because Jasper didn’t quite work 10 years at Taystee, he is ineligible for even a minimum pension, unlike Sellards and Ron Nichols, who has worked at the plant since the 1950s.

Nichols cleaned flour and scrap dough from the bread assembly line for most of his years at the plant. Today. he’ll work on the stretch of the line where bread dough plops into pans.

But even a 34-year veteran like Nichols won’t receive much more than $500 a month in pension money after the baking operation folds. Saturday, he’ll be looking for a new line of work at age 53.

— end —

The Taystee bakery still stands today; it’s the home of Northern Business Products at the corner of Superior Street and 24th Avenue West.

Here are a few more News-Tribune / Herald file photos of the Taystee bakery while it was still in operation:

Curtis Brosseau of Duluth takes unbaked loaves of bread to the ovens at the Taystee bakery in Duluth’s West End in October 1981. (Karl Jaros / Duluth Herald)


Bob Benson (right), head oven operator, and Bob Sawyer, flip table operator, work at the Duluth Taystee Bread bakery in October 1981. (Karl Jaros / Duluth Herald)


Bob Veillet punches down dough at the Taystee bakery in Duluth’s West End in October 1981. (Karl Jaros / Duluth Herald)


Mike Mallory of Duluth loads up a truck at the Taystee Bread bakery on Oct. 18, 1981. (Karl Jaros / Duluth Herald)


The Taystee bakery discount store in Duluth, October 1981. (Karl Jaros / Duluth Herald)


As noted in the story, there was another large bakery nearby – the Zinsmaster Bread Co., later Metz Baking Co., at 2831 W. Superior St. That bakery closed in 1980; the building burned in late 2010. Its last tenant was Peerless Auto Body.

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Anniversary of the 1991 Halloween megastorm

At 11 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, 1991, Duluth residents continued to dig out from the storm on East Seventh Street. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

NOTE: This post was compiled in 2011…
This week is the 20th anniversary of the Halloween megastorm, which ranks among the most severe – if not the most severe – winter storms to strike Minnesota and the Northland.

It certainly sits atop the snowfall record books for Duluth, having dumped nearly 37 inches of snow – 36.9 inches to be exact. That shattered the previous single-storm record by nearly a foot.

Copied below are two articles that ran in the News Tribune in October 2001, looking back at the storm on its 10th anniversary – one a chronological account of the storm’s sweep across the region, and the other a look at the meteorology of the blizzard. And there are more photos that ran in the News Tribune as the storm raged two decades ago; I apologize for the marks on the photos; they had to be photographed off microfilm because the original glossy prints have gone missing.

You can share your storm memories by posting a comment (click the “voice bubble” at the top right of this post). And if you have any storm photos to share, send them to akrueger(at)duluthnews.com.

Traffic is sparse and pedestrians few on Superior Street in downtown Duluth as heavy snow falls on the morning of November 1, 1991. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)


By Chuck Frederick, News-Tribune staff writer, October 2001

A little snow on the pumpkin — no biggie.

And that’s all it was.

At first.

Before it ended, though, the storm that hit Minnesota and then the Northland 10 years ago today would be the stuff of legend. It would even get its own nickname: the Halloween megastorm.

Decades-old records fell during the three-day winter blast. Duluth alone received more than a yard of snow. Across the state, blinding whiteouts hampered travel, cars slid into ditches, forecasters issued blizzard warnings, power outages darkened homes, principals closed more than 400 schools and owners shut down more than 500 businesses.

An estimated 190 million cubic feet of snow had to be plowed, shoveled and blown away by crews in Duluth.

Everyone was left with a story.

Cars lost under snowbanks. Kids sledding down suddenly deserted hillside avenues. Workers stranded. Snowmobilers in full glory. Weddings called off. Births that couldn’t be. And trick-or-treating. Did anyone make it to more than just a few houses that night?

The storm wound up clouding Duluth’s mayoral election, with supporters of one candidate charging that supporters of the other candidate were plowed out while they were forced to wait.

Who could ever forget it? Who’d ever want to? Here’s a look back at the largest snowstorm in Duluth history.

A group of current and former UMD students didn’t let the heavy snow deter them from enjoying an afternoon in a hot tub at a home on Second Street on Nov. 1, 1991. Clockwise from far right are Kris Simon, Mike Erickson, Brenda Berglund, Cal Matten, Dennis Karp, Jay Lyle, Becky Sunnarberg, Aaron Stoskopf and Eric Rajala.  (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

THURSDAY, OCT. 31, 1991

7 a.m. — Railroad worker Tom Johnston of Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood wades into the Brule River in Northwestern Wisconsin. “The fish were literally jumping on the banks,” he reports. “I don’t know how many I caught, but it was a ton.”

1:30 p.m. — A light, fluffy, postcard-quality snow swirls across Duluth and parts of the Northland.

2 p.m. — With the snow just beginning and with winter weather advisories posted, Duluth’s Judy Rogers remembers an order of 120 tulip bulbs she received weeks earlier from a mail-order catalog. She hurries home from work at a travel agency, slips a snowsuit over her good clothes, and then sets out digging six-inch holes, one for each bulb. Motorists honk in support of her earnestness. “Better hurry up,” one of them shouts from East Superior Street.

3 p.m. — Snow begins to accumulate on the edges of roads, then in grassy areas. The storm strengthens.

4 p.m. — The Walter J. McCarthy, a 1,000-foot coal carrier that makes weekly trips from Superior to Michigan, sails toward Duluth. Unable to see the Aerial Lift Bridge through what is now a whiteout, the boat’s captain joins several others in deciding to anchor off-shore.

4:15 p.m. — Duluth angler Tom Johnston leaves the Brule River after a huge day of fishing. He trudges through the deepening snow and climbs into his truck. For several hours, he tries but fails to climb a hill that leads from the remote parking area back to the sleepy country road above. “I didn’t think I was going to make it home at all,” he said. “I thought I’d spend the night in my truck. It was scary.”

4:30 p.m. — Like other kids across the Northland, Bobbi Pirkola’s children bundle winter clothing under their Halloween costumes in Esko and prepare to set out for trick-or-treating.

4:45 p.m. — With the storm raging, the Pirkola children abandon their plans. Instead, they join Mom in shoveling the driveway. “I’m sure we made quite a picture,” Bobbi Pirkola said. “An ugly witch, an old bum and Rambo all out shoveling snow. It was one of the best Halloweens ever.”

5 p.m. — Emily Meyer, 3, sets out for trick-or-treating in her Lincoln Park/West End neighborhood, the long green fin of her Little Mermaid costume leaving a wake in the fresh snow behind her.

7:30 p.m. — Back along the shores of the Brule River, snowbound angler Tom Johnston perks up. Headlights. A 4-by-4 truck pulls into the parking lot where he’s been stuck for hours. “He broke trail for me,” Johnston said. “He crawled up that hill and I followed. I tried two or three times and finally, thankfully, I made it, too. Nowadays when it snows, I head home real quick.”

Rachel Armstrong of Duluth tries to dig her car out of deep snow on Nov. 1, 1991, during the worst of the Halloween megastorm. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

FRIDAY, NOV. 1, 1991

2 a.m. — Furniture topples and cabinets pour open aboard the 1,000-foot Walter J. McCarthy Jr. The boat rolls wildly in the storm, reports watchman John Clark of Duluth. The captain decides to pull up anchor and head for Thunder Bay, where he hopes there are calmer waters. “It was waist deep on the deck,” Clark said. “Sailors just aren’t used to moving around in that. It was awful.”

8 a.m. — Don Johnson steps into his Lakeside home’s attached garage and presses the garage door opener. A floor-to-ceiling wall of white fills the garage’s opening. “A snowblower would be useless,” he said. “Where would a person put the snow?”

8:15 a.m. — After weeks of praying for snow, Dorothy Carlson’s granddaughter is delighted as she makes her way to the breakfast table in Two Harbors. The eighth-grader is visiting from the Philippines, where her parents serve in the Navy. She had never seen snow. “Tina, you didn’t have to pray so hard,” her grandmother teasingly scolds.

8:30 a.m. — In Ely, Vermilion Community College student and football player Tim Myles fights through the storm to pick up a marriage license. He realizes there’s no way he and his fiancee will make it to the courthouse in Virginia for the ceremony.

11 a.m. — The phone rings in Marcella Von Goertz’s Hunters Park home. “How are you doing over there?” a voice comes from across the street. “Just fine,” Von Goertz answers, “as long as I have electricity, heat and telephone. Only I can’t get out of the house.” The front door is drifted shut.

11:15 a.m. — Betty Plaunt, the owner of the voice across the street, crawls over the snow piles with shovel in hand. She pokes holes in the snow like an ice angler. Then, an inch of snow at a time, she frees Von Goertz’s door from its tomb.

Noon — Gusts up to 60 mph whip the fresh snow. Nearly 4 1/2 additional inches fall during the morning, pushing the storm total past 13 inches, with no sign of letting up.

12:15 p.m. — With license in hand but no way to get to the courthouse in Virginia, Tim Myles calls churches around Ely. On the third call, he finds a pastor who agrees to perform the ceremony.

1 p.m. — Marti Switzer calls an ambulance to her Lincoln Park/West End home. Her 19-month old daughter Carleigh is lethargic and running a fever, likely a reaction to immunization shots the day before. But an ambulance can’t get through the snow. A pair of snowmobilers happen by and offer help. They go to the house and carry Switzer and her daughter back to the main road, where emergency personnel await. “I never did get to thank them,” Switzer said. “They may have saved my daughter’s life.”

3 p.m. — The best man and maid of honor both snowbound, Ely’s Tim Myles corrals two teammates from his college football team. The vows are exchanged — with a free safety as best man and a linebacker as maid of honor. The happy couple celebrates with Hot Pockets at the Holiday gas station, about the only business open. Theirs is one of only a few Northland weddings to go on despite the storm.

5:30 p.m. — With no stores open, restaurants operating with skeleton crews, and 300 guests in town for a tourist-railroad convention, Leo McDonnell of Duluth’s railroad museum finally makes arrangements for a family-style meal at the Chinese Lantern. His group sets out en masse from the Radisson Hotel a block away. But three women, all from Mississippi, refuse to go. “They were afraid,” McDonnell said. “They were afraid they’d fall into the snow and drown.”

6 p.m. — Storm in full gale with continuing high winds and more than 9 inches of fresh powder falling during the afternoon alone. Thunder crackles overhead and lightning flashes.

8:30 p.m. — With the storm whipping into a fury, Minnesota Department of Transportation officials scramble to choose a message for the flashing warning signs they have along Interstate 35. “How about I-35 parking lot,” plow driver Brad Miller jokes. “But that’s what it was,” said the department’s Wendy Frederickson, also on duty that night. “You looked out and it was this sea of white and then all these abandoned cars that looked like they just parked there.”

11:59 p.m. — An additional 5 1/2 inches of snow fall during the evening, stranding workers downtown and residents in their homes. Only four-wheel-drive vehicles move. And only on main roads as snowplow crews can only hope to keep main arteries open.

The front page of the Saturday, Nov. 2, 1991, Duluth News-Tribune, with coverage of the Halloween megastorm. My apologies for the creases – this copy had been folded and stored in a drawer for years. Click on the image for a larger view in which you can read the stories (you can click on most photos in Attic posts to enlarge them).

SATURDAY, NOV. 2, 1991

4 a.m. — Back in Duluth’s Lincoln Park/West End neighborhood, the mother of “Little Mermaid” trick-or-treater Emily Meyer, Barb Meyer, awakens with a wave of sheet-ripping pain. The family’s expected baby decides it doesn’t want to miss the storm.

4:30 a.m. — With emergency lights flashing, a police 4-by-4 arrives at the Meyers’ home. A fire truck follows, then a snowplow, sanding truck and finally an ambulance. “Boy, they’ll do anything to get their road snowplowed,” a neighbor jokes.

5:30 a.m. — After more than a half hour of white-knuckle, siren-wailing driving, the ambulance with Barb Meyer and her soon-to-be-born baby arrives at St. Luke’s Hospital. The family realizes quickly theirs will be one of many storm-baby stories. The maternity ward is jammed with mothers about to give birth and with new mothers unable to be discharged because of the snow.

6 a.m. — Northland residents wake up and can’t believe their eyes. Nearly 4 more inches fall overnight as strong winds continue. Drifts reach the tops of grocery stores. Snowbound and abandoned cars make plowing difficult.

10 a.m. – Unable to drive in the deep snow, Dr. Niles Bartdorf arrives at St. Luke’s Hospital on cross-country skis to help deliver Barb and Ron Meyer’s new baby.

Noon — Two more inches of fresh snow fall during the morning hours. Residents emerge to shovel or to walk to stores for junk food.

12:15 p.m. — Fran Tollefson’s eyes fill with tears in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood. Her husband, Dave, who had fallen off a paint ladder over the summer and suffered a life-threatening brain injury, is out blowing snow with his son. In that moment, she realizes for the first time he’ll be OK. “I hurried for my camera,” she said. “It was hard to see through the lens because my eyes were filled with tears.”

1:13 p.m. — Amy Meyer is born to Lincoln Park/West End couple Ron and Barb Meyer. The little girl is quickly nicknamed “Amy Storm” or simply “Stormy.”

6 p.m. — Nearly 2 1/2 inches of fresh snow fall during the afternoon.

11:59 p.m. — High winds continue, but the snow begins to taper. Less than half an inch of new snow falls during the evening.

There was a lot of digging out to do at Catlin Courts in Superior on Nov. 3, 1991, as the Halloween megastorm wound down. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

SUNDAY, NOV. 3, 1991

6 a.m. — Barely a trace of new snow falls overnight, marking an end to the Halloween megastorm and the beginning of the cleanup. Most streets are still impassable. Hundreds of snowbound cars are still buried.

1 p.m. — After three frustrating days of scrapped-and-updated forecasts, TV weatherman Collin Ventrella pays a group of college students a case of beer to dig his car out of a snowdrift. “Probably the best deal I’ve ever made,” he said.

Liz Howard’s coat bears a silent plea as she shovels out the front entrance of the Archer Building in Duluth’s Canal Park on Nov. 3, 1991. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)


Barb Meyer wraps “Amy Storm” into her stroller and heads out on a spring walk along Lincoln Park Drive. A city of Duluth street-cleaning truck pulls up alongside her. “Was that the baby born during the megastorm?” the driver asks. “Yes,” Barb Meyer says. The driver beams. “I was the one driving the snowplow that night.”


The Birthplace at St. Mary’s Medical Center is very, very busy, reports nurse Holly Calantoc.


Don Syring fixes the snowmobile he used to get from his Woodland home to IGA Foods on East Superior Street during the winter storm on Nov. 2, 1991. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune) 


News-Tribune, October 2001

The Halloween megastorm wasn’t done after it dumped record amounts of snow on Duluth and the Twin Cities.

The 1991 storm was one of three that headed to the East Coast and produced the now-famous “perfect storm,” the one written about by Sebastian Junger and later turned into a feature film starring George Clooney.

Around here, it snowed like crazy because of a high pressure ridge across the eastern Great Lakes that held the storm in place for the better part of three days.

According to the National Weather Service, a low-pressure system roared north from Texas that week on a jet stream pointed straight at Minnesota. The weather system carried humidity, and tons of it, from the Gulf of Mexico.

When it reached Minnesota and then Duluth, the low-pressure system met a cold air mass moving south from the Canadian plains. Snow developed. It fell and just kept on falling, because the high-pressure ridge over the eastern Great Lakes was stubborn about letting it shake free.

With a Halloween pumpkin grinning behind him, Ben Bjoralt, 11, of Duluth, used a shovel to make a snow fort at a friend’s 21st Avenue East home on Saturday, Nov. 2, 1991. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

At least two feet of snow fell from a line just west of Mankato, through the Twin Cities to Duluth and finally to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Southeastern Minnesota was hit with a deadly ice storm. The Twin Cities got 28 inches of snow, topping the single-storm record there by eight inches.

Duluth also set records. With 36.9 inches of snow, the city easily topped the suddenly wimpy former single-storm mark of 25.4 inches. That one had been set in December 1950.

For the month, Duluth wound up receiving 50.1 inches. That easily iced the old snowiest November mark of 37.7 inches set in 1983.

– end –


Click here for some additional interesting information about the Halloween megastorm from the National Weather Service in Duluth.

And, as mentioned up top, share your Halloween megastorm memories by posting a comment.

Lincoln Park School’s ‘Grandma Margaret,’ 1997

September 22, 1997

Margaret Conway, otherwise known as Grandma Margaret, is all smiles during kindergarten class at Lincoln Park School. She worked as a teacher and as a principal for a total of 43 years, and  has been a school volunteer for 17 years. Her belief in children has influenced others to volunteer their time at school. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)



By Mary Thompson, News-Tribune staff writer

Every weekday at precisely 7 a.m., Grandma Margaret Conway picks up her cane, bids farewell to her toy poodle, Tuffy, and heads toward Duluth’s Lincoln Park School.

She moves gingerly down the sidewalk, standing barely 5 feet tall, careful of her arthritic knee. Lincoln Park Principal Ed Marsman swears a strong wind could blow her away.

If that’s true, then Grandma Margaret’s daily arrival is something of a miracle.

A miracle would be fitting for this white-haired, 81-year-old kindergarten volunteer. In 17 years at Lincoln Park, she’s missed exactly three-quarters of a day.

“I see a need. It’s nice I can still do something,” she says. Somehow, Conway believes that explains why she does what few people will do. She has given more than 3,000 days of her life, without any thought of material reward, just because it’s best to love children.

Hundreds of people take time to volunteer in local public schools. Each one is special, but none more so than Grandma Margaret.

She was born Patricia Margaret Conway. Family and close friends call her Pat, but in the world of Lincoln Park elementary school she is simply Grandma Margaret.

Most teachers don’t even know her last name.

Grandma Margaret reads to Kellie Alaspa in the kindergarten class at Lincoln Park School. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

‘Now you try’

This year, Grandma Margaret will spend the school year helping kindergarten teacher Donna Busick prepare 23 5-year-olds for first grade.

Donna Busick is teaching 5-year-olds to write their names. Most children trace nice, short names like “Ann” or “Robbie” with fat crayons. But one boy struggles against the immensity of his eight-letter name. He is the smallest child in Busick’s class.

The beautiful dark-eyed boy traces and then retraces the first letter.

Grandma Margaret, moving quietly past knee-high tables of children, stops behind the boy, leans over, and covers his small hand with hers. Together, they trace the letters of his name in fat green crayon.

“Now you try.”

Her voice is almost a whisper, but the child hears.

The long-named little boy wobbles his crayon across the page. He tires just before the end, and Grandma Margaret’s hand falls lightly over his to trace the last two letters.

“Very nice,” she says, leaning a little closer so he can hear. Then, as quietly, she moves on.

Children call from each knee-high table.

“Look, Grandma.”

She turns and lays her hand on the girl’s shoulder, admiring her newly penned name.

“Look, Grandma. My drawing.”

Grandma Margaret turns again, this time to a family portrait scrawled on white paper. She moves this way all morning, smiling, moving her delicate hands from one child’s shoulder to another child’s head.

“Very nice. That’s very good,” she says over and over. She means it every time.

She comes back to the littlest boy, once again lost in his long name, who is scribbling fat lines instead of tracing his name. Grandma Margaret doesn’t chastise. She simply leans over, again, and takes his hand. They finish together.

“Good job,” she says.

Grandma Margaret fusses over the kindergarten children during lunch break at Lincoln Park School. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

‘Kindness and gentleness’

Donna Busick is grateful for Grandma Margaret. “She teaches kindness and gentleness. She teaches them manners. She’s a blessing to have here,” Busick said.

Grandma Margaret knows teachers can use an extra set of hands. She was in education for 43 years — first as a teacher, later as a principal at St. Anthony Parochial School in St. Paul. She never married, devoting her life to children in parochial schools. She spent many years teaching choir to young students. Music, like teaching, was a passion.

“I was told I had a true voice,” Grandma Margaret said.

She lost her voice a few years ago when a rare virus paralyzed her vocal cords. For one day, she could barely hear and couldn’t speak. She came to school anyway, but the teachers sent her home. It was the only day she missed in 17 years.

Now, this woman with a master’s degree in special education is content to shepherd children through crowded hallways and prepare lunch tables. She lays out 23 plastic spoons, 23 paper napkins and 23 cartons of milk each day.

These are things the children will pick up in the lunch line as they get older, then set out themselves, though never as carefully as when Grandma Margaret did it for them.

“It’s hard for them to pick up everything at first. It’s a lot to remember,” she said.

Some things have changed over the years. An arthritic knee forces Grandma Margaret to the elevator more often than the stairs. She worries about the two-block walk this winter.

Not that rough weather could stop her. Last winter, after an ice storm glazed her six front steps, Grandma Margaret broke down a cardboard box, placed it on top of the small hill on her front yard, and slid to the sidewalk along the street.

The children would notice if snow or illness kept Grandma Margaret from school. But she would notice it most — like this summer, when her arthritic knee kept her from summer school for the first time in 17 years.

“I missed the kids. I was lonely,” she said.

Grandma Margaret’s gifts are not just for children. She works her magic with adults, too.

Florence Taylor has grandmothered Lincoln Park kindergartners for nine years. It’s her reason for living, now that she’s widowed.

She got the position through Grandma Margaret, who didn’t want Taylor sitting alone in her Gary-New Duluth trailer home.

“If it wasn’t for Margaret, I wouldn’t be here. I’d give my life to her,” Taylor said.

It’s quiet time

Recess is over. Time for snacks. The children bounce in their little blue chairs. One blond-haired boy, wild from play, hoots out loud.

Margaret turns from the tray of peanut butter crackers she’s arranging and softly lays her small hand on his head.

He gazes up at Grandma Margaret and knows it’s quiet time.


Margaret Conway, “Grandma Margaret,” died in Duluth in September 2003 at age 87.


Monday’s News Tribune has an article and photos looking back at the long history of Duluth’s Lincoln Park School, which is closing at the end of this school year.

Lundahl’s Coffee Shop, 1988

April 25, 1988

Betty Crandall chats with Mark Manthey and his daughter Martinique, 5, at Lundahl’s Coffee Shop, 32 N. 21st Ave. W, in April 1988. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

Coffee’s on again at Lundahl’s

By Ellen Smith, News-Tribune staff writer

Just three months after a fire closed the doors temporarily, business at Lundahl’s Coffee Shop is bouncing back.

On a recent sunny morning, a dozen West End businessmen shared coffee and sweet rolls in the back of the tiny restaurant – as they do every morning – to determine which lucky diner would pay the bill. Up at the counter, elderly brothers in matching hats sipped coffee in unison. And at the table near the corner, a group discussed bocci ball and other games of their youth over a friendly cup.

Behind the counter, Betty Crandall – she’s the owner – prepared the soups and pies of the day. Roger McColley, the dishwasher, scrubbed up plates and saucers, stacking them next to the waitress’s ticket wheel. Mary Lou Moebakken and Tammy Crandall, Betty’s daughter, poured cup after cup of Lundahl’s famous egg coffee.

Egg coffee?

“Sure,” Betty says. “It’s what brings the customers in.”

Egg coffee is a throwback to the days when people boiled their brew in large galvanized pots over an open flame. At Lundahl’s, the crew boils an egg – shells and all – in with the grounds and water until the shells rise to the top and the coffee’s done. After a quick run through a conventional coffee strainer, it’s clear as consomme and ready for drinking.

“Do you find the taste of it different?” regular Dean Davidson asks a newcomer as they sip their java. “Some days it’s wonderful, and others it isn’t as good.

“But, by and by, it’s the best coffee around,” he said. “Everyone will say that. That’s why they come.”

Dean should know. The Electrolux salesman has stopped by for breakfast nearly every morning for the past 15 years. Usually, he orders “Dean’s Special,” an off-the-menu combination of a sunny-side egg, two bacon strips and a pancake, but this morning he dined on the daily special – a short stack of strawberry ‘cakes with syrup and whipped cream.

Lundahl’s Coffee Shop regulars George and Walter Carlson of Duluth finish up their java. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)


But it’s more than the coffee that brings the customers in. Lundahl’s, 32 N. 21st Ave. W, is a friendly place. Customers and workers know each other by name. The soups, muffins and desserts are made fresh every morning and the orders are sent out quickly. With its blue curtains and white vinyl tablecloths, the place feels downright homey.

“The atmosphere is different…,” says Tammy, who fled back to Lundahl’s after a stint as a prep cook at a nearby chain-owned pancake house.

“… over there it’s rush, rush, rush,” Betty said.

“Over here it’s more friendly, with neighbors coming in…,” Tammy continued.

“And salesmen doing business,” Betty added.

“And teasing,” said Mary Lou, stopping by to pick up a coffee pot.

Tammy Crandall writes up the lunch menu at Lundahl’s Coffee Shop. The restaurant’s fare changes every morning, when Betty Crandall decides what she’d like to cook up for the day. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)


Lundahl’s has served egg coffee since 1904, as boldly proclaimed in the shop’s front window. Betty – no relation to the Lundahl family – has run the restaurant since 1983. She got into the business after a former cook quit in 1981 and ended up buying the place.

“I never intended to have a restaurant,” she said during her morning break. “I didn’t think I was good enough.” She’s never taken a cooking class, but raising 10 children gave Betty plenty of experience in serving the masses.

Under her guidance, the restaurant ran smoothly until Jan. 30, when vandals broke in and set a fire in the basement. Betty has nor idea who started the blaze, or whether the police ever found the culprit.

The fire closed the restaurant down for two months for cleaning and repairs. Lundahl’s regulars – Dean, the elderly brothers, the West End business operators, the bocci ball fans – all breakfasted somewhere else.

It wasn’t much fun, Dean said. He tried a few other local restaurants, but the food didn’t suit him and the company wasn’t the same. Soon after Lundahl’s reopened on March 28, he returned.

Apparently most of Betty’s other customers felt the same way.

“Some of them went to the doughnut shop on Third Street; some went to the Highway Host,” Dean said. “But they’ve all come back.”

For another cup of coffee.

Tammy Crandall pours a pot of steaming coffee from a galvanized kettle at Lundahl’s Coffee Shop in April 1988. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)


The building that housed Lundahl’s Coffee Shop, on the corner of First Street and 21st Avenue West, now is home to the Innerspace Scuba Center. I can’t find any additional information on when and why Lundahl’s closed… I’ll leave it to you to fill in the rest of the story by posting a comment.