Omnimax Theatre opens, 1996

April 18, 1996

Omnimax Director Dennis Medjo stands in the new theater at the DECC on April 17, 1996. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

OMNIMAX IS HERE

THE DREAM LIFTS OFF / IT’S DULUTH’S GREAT NEW TOURISM HOPE

By Dominic P. Papatola, News-Tribune staff writer

After 13 months and about $9 million, the Duluth Omnimax Theatre lifts off tonight with an appearance by astronaut George “Pinky” Nelson and “The Dream is Alive,” a cinematic ode to America’s space shuttle program.

The theater — the 24th of its kind in the country — is the latest addition to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, one that DECC operators hope will draw around a quarter-million visitors a year.

If the Omnimax meets those projections, the theater will become one of Duluth’s best-attended attractions, surpassing Glensheen, the Depot and the Lake Superior Zoo in terms of popularity.

DECC officials have hosted a few advance screenings of “The Dream is Alive” including a Tuesday night shindig for employees of the convention center and their families. These dress rehearsals indicate that the Omnimax is a functional and comfortable addition to Duluth’s stable of venues.

The lobby — with blue carpeting, bright-white walls, ash woodwork and oreboat red railings and exposed duct work — strikes the semi-formal chord of an upscale “legitimate” theater or a spartan academic auditorium. Yet, there are plenty of movie-house and tourist-friendly touches.

The exterior of the Duluth Omnimax Theatre, as seen in March 1997. (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune)

For the run of “The Dream is Alive,” for instance, the gift shop stocks a variety of “Mommy-can-I-have” items such as inflatable space shuttles, NASA totebags and freeze-dried “action snacks.”
Back in the lobby, there’s a well-appointed snack bar, offering standard movie-theater fare at the standard — which is to say, grossly inflated — movie-theater prices: $2.99 for nachos, $1.69 for a small soda.

Since you’ll pay a premium for these snacks, Omnimax officials decided to let patrons bring those goodies into the theater itself — and even equipped the seat-arms with cup holders.

If you’ve never walked into one of these dome-style venues, you may experience a touch of vertigo. You enter at the bottom of the theater; soft lighting and synthesizer-heavy background music increase the feeling that you’ve entered another world.

The purple-and-blue seats are set in a permanent diagonal Barcalounger position, focusing your gaze upward at the white, dome-shaped screen that stretches 72 feet in diameter. This angle, ideal for viewing the IMAX movies, makes it difficult to use the theater for other sorts of meetings or presentations, as DECC officials have said they’d consider doing.

People prepare to leave the Omnimax Theatre in Duluth after a showing of “Walking on the Moon” on Dec. 8, 2006. The six people pictured were the audience for the 6 p.m. show. (Clint Austin / News Tribune)

The seats are 20 or 21 inches wide, depending on where you’re sitting, but those handy cup holders make them feel a bit narrow.

For best viewing, try for the seats higher up and toward the middle of the rows.

The “rake” — or angle of the rows — is very steep, so you’ll want to be careful when, say, crossing or uncrossing your legs so that you don’t give the person in front of you a kick in the head.

No matter where you sit, though, the movie completely fills your field of vision. Combined with a 10,000-watt speaker system that seems to rumble at you from all directions, your stomach may be convinced that you’re in motion, even though your head knows you’re sitting still.

“The Dream is Alive,” a valentine to NASA’s space shuttle program made before the 1986 explosion of the Challenger, was filmed in part by astronauts on the shuttle Discovery. The film, an oldie by IMAX standards, is scheduled to run about 10 weeks. It will be replaced by “Special Effects,” a first-run feature that will premiere in Duluth and at a half-dozen other IMAX theaters.

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The Duluth Omnimax Theatre was joined at the DECC by the Duluth 10 – a “normal” movie theater next door – in December 2004. After years of low attendance, the Duluth Omnimax closed in March of this year; the future of the theatre building remains undecided; the DECC board is weighing options.

Here are a few more photos from when the Omnimax Theatre was built:

An explosive charge broke ground at the future site of the Omnimax Theatre, in what was then a DECC parking lot, on March 16, 1995. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

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Construction of the Omnimax Theatre is on schedule in this view from Aug. 30, 1995.  Ironworkers placed an evergreen tree on top of the building when the highest beam was put in place. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

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DECC Executive Director Dan Russell explains the features of the Omnimax Theatre being constructed next to the DECC on Aug. 29, 1995. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

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Lake Avenue viaduct opens, 1984

October 24, 1984

The newly opened Lake Avenue viaduct is seen in an aerial view on Oct. 24, 1984. The viaduct opened to traffic after more than a year of construction. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune & Herald)

The Lake Avenue viaduct provided a new link between downtown Duluth and Canal Park, in advance of the construction of the Interstate 35 extension across the former rail yards.

You can see the nubs of roadway at the center of the span that would link up with on- and off-ramps from the freeway, which was completed a few years later.

Here are a couple zoomed-in views from the photo:

On East Superior Street, there’s the Strand Theater (now demolished), and the Famous Clothing building, which now houses the Electric Fetus record store.

Famous Clothing had shut down the previous year, but the store’s signs remain visible. You can read more about the store in a previous Attic post here.

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Across the bridge, there’s the Harbor Inn. It later became the Canal Park Inn, and was razed in 2006 to make way for the new Canal Park Lodge.

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The Saratoga, pre-Canal Park days

March 1963

The Saratoga Hotel, Cafe and Bar (right) and other business along the south side of Superior Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues West, March 1963. (News-Tribune file photo)

I’m not familiar with the history of the various incarnations of the Saratoga, but I assume this establishment on Superior Street in the old “Bowery” district is a forerunner of today’s Club Saratoga in Canal Park. All the buildings in the photo above were razed during the Gateway redevelopment project in the mid-1960s; is that when the Saratoga moved to its present location? Post a comment if you know.

The other businesses on the block, heading east (left) from the Saratoga, are Dove Clothing and Shoes, Zien’s Grill, Green’s Crystal Terrace nightclub, the 5th Avenue Hotel and the Spalding Hotel.

Here is another view from the same day, from a different angle:

I like the Saratoga Hotel sign in the window – here’s a close-up view:

I think it says a lot about a hotel when “Yale locks on every door” is a selling point – but that’s just me.

For more photos of Duluth’s long-gone Bowery, click here. For more about the Spalding Hotel, seen in the top photo, click here, here, here and here.

Share your stories and memories by posting a comment… and become a fan of the News Tribune Attic on Facebook if you haven’t done so already. Find the Facebook page here.

Duluth Arena photos, Part 3

Here’s the third and final installment of Duluth / DECC Arena photos from the News Tribune archives. This one covers the years from about 1975 to the present. Click on the photos for a larger view and for caption information:

Today’s News Tribune print edition includes a 16-page special section all about the new Amsoil Arena, which debuts tonight with a UMD men’s hockey game.

The section also includes a timeline of DECC Arena history, but we couldn’t fit the entire timeline in the allotted space. So, here is the extended version…

Duluth Arena timeline

1961

Efforts begin in earnest to build an arena-auditorium complex in Duluth. The city was lacking in venues for large concerts and sports events, especially after the collapse of the Amphitheater in 1939; among the few facilities were the Armory, the Duluth Curling Club and the Denfeld auditorium.

Among the early proponents was businessman Jeno Paulucci, who at the time headed the Northeast Minnesota Organization for Economic Education. In September 1961, that group launched a campaign to build a convention, cultural, entertainment and sports center in Duluth.

In December 1961, Duluth Mayor E. Clifford Mork kicked off a drive to build the complex and appointed an arena-auditorium advisory committee.

January 1963

The $6.1 million project receives a $3 million federal grant. In February 1963, Duluth voters approved a $3.1 million bond issue to build and a tax levy to operate the complex.

The harborfront location was selected by the committee over other candidates, including Leif Erikson Park; the area between the Depot and the Civic Center; and land west of the College of St. Scholastica. To prepare the site, previously home to a scrapyard, sand was dredged from the harbor and used to fill and level the land.

December 19, 1963

On a frigid day, ground is broken for the Duluth Arena-Auditorium. Work continues for 2 ½ years.

August 1966

The Arena-Auditorium opens with a celebration more than a week long in conjunction with Portorama festivities. The theme of the opening is “Hello World.”

On Friday night, Aug. 5, there is a ribbon-cutting ceremony and gala celebration in the Arena, with guests including comedian Buddy Hackett, Lorne Greene, star of TV’s “Bonanza,” and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. “All of know too well that the news has not always been good in Duluth and the Head of the Lakes region,” Humphrey told the crowd. “But there is a new day — of good news and hope and confidence. And it is well worth some celebration.”

The opening celebration also includes a performance by Metropolitan Opera baritone Robert Merrill to open the Auditorium; a packed Arena concert by the Beach Boys and fireworks displays.

“Not for many decades, perhaps never in Duluth’s history, has there been such genuine widespread enthusiasm over a civic achievement shared by so many people,” the News Tribune said in an editorial. “There are hardly enough superlatives to describe the mood one can sense all over town. … The Arena-Auditorium not only extends a ‘Hello World’ greeting, but it signifies even more poignantly that this region has done something daring and magnificent to make itself a part of the broader world that pulsates around us.”

Late August 1966

The Ice Capades hold their first show at the Arena, starting a years-long tradition of rehearsing in Duluth for several weeks and opening their tours at the Arena.

Nov. 19, 1966

First UMD men’s hockey game at the Arena, an 8-1 win over Minnesota in front of a capacity crowd. Keith “Huffer” Christiansen has six assists in the game, still a UMD record.

December 1966

The Harlem Globetrotters play at the Arena for the first time. The removable Arena basketball court hosts many games over the years until being sold to St. James School in West Duluth for use in their gym.

Sept. 15, 1967

Jack Benny headlines the Arena’s first anniversary party, joined by singers Bobby Vinton and Mary Lou Collins, former “Tonight Show” bandleader Skitch Henderson and the Rudenko Brothers, a juggling act.

Benny, then very much an A-list Hollywood star, said organizers told him performing in Duluth could open doors. “(They) said I probably could get two days in Hibbing, and a full week in Twig,” he quipped, joining a long line of comedians to poke fun at that Northland locale. “All my life, there have been three cities in the world I wanted to see — London, Paris and Twig.”

Late 1960s

The Arena hosts the NCAA men’s hockey finals, an appearance by Bob Hope and the Republican state convention in 1968, and its first appearance by Lawrence Welk in 1969; Welk would return several more times over the next decade, always drawing a good crowd.

Early 1970s

Notable concerts at the Arena include Johnny Cash, Three Dog Night, Sonny & Cher and Deep Purple.

Oct. 16, 1976

Thousands flock to the Arena to see Elvis Presley perform in Duluth for the first time.

The News Tribune’s Jim Heffernan provided this account: “Women screamed, flashbulbs — thousands of them — popped, fans tried to climb on stage and were repelled by police, and Elvis sang. The more he sang, the more they loved him. They loved him most when he began passing perspiration-soaked silk scarves from around his neck to the few adoring fans who made it to the edge of the stage. He performed for exactly one hour, then he was gone. … As the audience filed from its seats, a voice on the public address system said ‘Elvis has left the Arena.’”

Elvis returned for a second, packed concert at the Arena on April 29, 1977. Less than four months later, he was dead.

Late 1970s

Other big concerts at the Arena include Kiss, the Doobie Brothers, Styx with Eddie Money and Cheap Trick.

Early 1980s

The Arena hosts the NCAA men’s hockey finals in 1981. Other notable events include the Loverboy concert (crowd of more than 8,000) and the Airstream convention, which brought thousands of the silver travel trailers to the DECC.

Feb. 17, 1984

The UMD men’s hockey team wins its first WCHA championship with a 4-2 win over Wisconsin at the Arena.

The next day’s News Tribune included this account from reporter Kevin Pates: “There was great tension as the final minutes ticked down, but that tension was then released. As the clock showed 0:00, UMD’s 20 players spilled onto the ice and mobbed goalie Rick Kosti near the goal and then toppled on to one another. An air raid-type siren blared and the song “Celebration” cascaded over the Arena sound system. … (Bulldog coach Mike) Sertich joined his team carrying a maroon-and-gold sign bearing the inscription No. 1. He was quickly hoisted on the shoulders of his players and given a victory skate around the rink.”

UMD advanced to the national title game that season, falling to Bowling Green 5-4 in four overtimes. The Bulldogs also reached the NCAA tournament in 1983 and 1985.

April 1984

The Arena hosts curlers and curling fans from around the world for the Silver Broom world curling championships. It’s the second time the event is held in Duluth; the first time was in 1976.

April 22, 1984

Heavy metal rocker Ozzy Osbourne plays an Arena show on Easter Sunday, to the consternation of some in the community. There are few protesters on the day of the concert. “Osbourne made his appearance to a crescendo of Wagnerian orchestral music,” the News Tribune’s Bob Ashenmacher reported. “Pyrotechnics ignited, a dark scrim dropped, and there he was in a cape. He was flanked by two statues of bats with lit eyes and five-foot wingspans, over which poured fog vapor.”

July 22, 1984

Huey Lewis and the News draw 8,176 concert-goers, one of the largest — if not the largest — concert crowds ever at the Arena. “The sound mix was excellent throughout the hall. The lights were splashy and punctual,” the News Tribune reported the next day. “(Lewis) is athletic on stage, grabbing his floor-stand microphone at full run and leaping, with splits, off platforms.”

Mid-1980s to mid-1990s

Big concerts at the Arena include shows by Bryan Adams, Loverboy, David Lee Roth, Poison, Motley Crue, Metallica and Def Leppard. The Minnesota North Stars, Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks play exhibition games at the Arena.

March 15, 1998

After trailing Minnesota 4-0 in the third period of a WCHA playoff game, the UMD men score four times to force overtime, then score in the extra session to win 5-4 and advance to the WCHA Final Five — one of the most memorable comebacks and games in Bulldog hockey history.

Oct. 22, 1998

Bob Dylan performs in Duluth, his birthplace, for the first time to a sellout crowd of nearly 8,000 in the Arena. “Backed by a four-man band, Dylan appeared restrained and even a little nervous at first, but he soon relaxed with inspired guitar gesturing and reflexive boot-scooting,” the News Tribune reported the next day. “It was an unusually animated Dylan. He bobbed, shook and smiled with the audience. In the end he took a deep bow to the crowd. … While Dylan said little to the crowd and nothing at all about returning to the Northland, nobody seemed to care.”

Early 2000s

The UMD women’s hockey team achieves success from the start, winning the first NCAA Division I title in 2001, repeating in 2002 and making it a three-peat at the Arena in 2003, with a double-overtime win over Harvard.

The News Tribune’s Christa Lawler reported on the epic 2003 final: “Perhaps the greatest game in the history of women’s college hockey came on the Bulldogs’ home ice at the DECC in front of 5,167 fans — the largest attendance in three years of the NCAA-sanctioned event. The game hung tied at 3-3 through one 20-minute overtime period. The ice was resurfaced and (Nora) Tallus fired the game-winner at 4:19 of the second overtime to bring an end to the longest game in the history of the women’s Frozen Four.”

In 2004, the UMD men make a run back to the Frozen Four.

July 13, 2004

President George W. Bush speaks at the Arena to a crowd of about 8,000 while campaigning for re-election. “Bush spoke on national and international issues and offered little local color, except during a slip-up when he referred to being welcome in Duluth, northern Wisconsin and the ‘Iron Ridge,’ instead of the Iron Range,” the News Tribune reported.

Bush also spoke to a capacity crown at the Arena on Nov. 1, 2000, just days before the election in which the then-governor of Texas defeated Vice President Al Gore.

Mid- to late 2000s

Some highlights of more recent years include concerts by Nickelback and Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper (who also played the Arena back in 1975); the UMD women’s hockey team’s continued success, including a national title won in Duluth in 2008; several strong seasons by the UMD men’s hockey team; and the 2010 DFL state convention.

December 2010

The UMD men’s and women’s hockey teams close out their time in the DECC Arena; banners are lowered and all-DECC teams are recognized, among other special events.

Other events held at the Arena over the years include high school graduations, circus performances, wrestling matches, rodeos and countless other spectacles. And with the DECC Arena set to continue as a performance venue, the opening of Amsoil Arena is not so much the end of the line, but the turning of a new chapter in the venerable venue’s story.

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Share your Arena stories and memories by posting a comment.

Duluth Arena photos, Part 2

Here is the second of three galleries of Duluth Arena photos from the News Tribune archives. This batch goes from late 1966 through 1975. Click on each image for a larger version and to read the caption information:

The final gallery of photos will be posted Thursday, along with an extended version of a Duluth Arena timeline that appears in the DNT’s special section about the new Amsoil Arena. That 16-page special section will be included with Thursday’s paper.

Duluth Arena photos, Part 1

Continuing the News Tribune Attic’s look back at the history of the Duluth Arena, here’s the first of three batches of News Tribune archive photos I’m going post. This gallery covers the period from planning for the Arena-Auditorium complex in the early 1960s through the grand opening in August 1966. Click on the photos for a larger view and for caption information:

More Arena photos will be posted tomorrow and Thursday. If you missed it, I posted a complete 1966 grand opening brochure on Monday.

Plan to pick up a print copy of the News Tribune on Thursday for a 16-page special section all about the new Amsoil Arena.

And, as always, share your Arena and DECC memories by posting a comment.

Socrates runs aground on Park Point, 1985

At this time 25 years ago, crowds were flocking to Park Point to see the freighter Socrates, which had been driven ashore on Park Point by a big November storm. Here is a look back in photos and stories from the News Tribune archives…

Chuck and Leeann Richards and their dog, Toby, glance back at the crowd on the dunes watching the beached freighter Socrates on Park Point on Nov. 19, 1985. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

The Socrates was at anchor off Duluth on the night of Nov. 18, 1985, when strong winds and intense waves drove it ashore on the shallows of Park Point. Here’s the next-day account from the Nov. 19, 1985 News-Tribune:

WIND, WAVES PUSH SHIP AGROUND

By Susan Stanich, News-Tribune staff writer

Winds gusting to 40 mph blew the 584-foot freighter Socrates aground on Park Point in Duluth Monday night, stranding the vessel in shallow, sandy-bottomed waters.

A strong northeast wind hurled 10-foot waves over the Liberia-registered ship late Monday. However, Coast Guard officials said the ship was in no immediate danger and no attempts to free it were expected until today.

The saltwater vessel, with a Greek crew of 24 aboard, was coming into port for a load of wheat bound for Italy, said Dan Sydow, agent with Federal Marine Terminals Inc. in Duluth.

The ship, its decks lit up with floodlights late Monday, was lying almost parallel to the shore near 18th Street South on Park Point, said Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Dennis, spokesman for Coast Guard Group Duluth. He said the waves were too high for tugs to try to pull the ship to deeper water.

About 7:45 p.m., “one of the people here at the station saw out the window what looked like a ship barreling into Park Point,” he said.

The ship had been anchored offshore when winds gusting to 40 mph began pushing it toward shore, Dennis said. The ship ended up in about 20 feet of water, about 50 feet off shore.

“It’s a sandy bottom, so there’s no hull damage,” Dennis said. “It’s in no danger of flooding, as far as we know.”

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The Socrates is blown ashore on Park Point on Nov. 18, 1985. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

From the moment it started coming ashore, the Socrates drew a crowd of spectators. It remained stuck for days. Here’s an account of the scene from the News-Tribune of Nov. 20, 1985:

GROUNDING LAUNCHED BIG BEACH PARTY

By Bob Ashenmacher, News-Tribune staff writer

At 8 p.m. Monday it was a maritime mishap.

Three hours later it was Duluth’s newest tourist attraction.

The grounding of the freighter Socrates on Park Point instantly turned a storm-lashed Canal Park and Park Point into a carnival.

The festive atmosphere increased Tuesday, until Duluth police — imposing restrictions that will continue today — began stopping sightseers from driving out onto the Point. If you didn’t have a helicopter or Jet-Ski, as some people were employing, you were out of luck.

Duluth radio and television stations began broadcasting word about the ship’s distress shortly after the situation became apparent Monday night. And after the television stations had led late newscasts with the story, hundreds of residents made their way to the area.

Never mind the icy rain, flooded streets or steady 40 mph wind that drowned out most sounds except the roar of the surf.

On they came.

Tow trucks zoomed everywhere, liberating people who had calmly driven into water up to their headlights, stalled and then gotten indignant.

One of the Aerial Bridge’s two lanes was closed for construction, so access was regulated by traffic lights on each end. Drivers ignored the lights, causing several near-collisions on the bridge.

The Warehouse Bar at Canal Park did a brisk business, according to owner Butch Curran. And there was some unusual behavior.

“Yeah, I saw kids standing up there letting waves hit them. Kids were driving up saying ‘Where’s the boat? Where’s the boat?’ Their parents had heard the news on TV in the Cities and called them. Weird, huh?”

Business was slower at Grandma’s Saloon & Deli, probably because it was nearly surrounded by water full of driftwood and other flotsam.

Crowds of chilly boatwatchers keep an eye on efforts to free the freighter Socrates on Nov. 22, 1985. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

The best action, of course, was out on the beach itself.

When the larger waves hit the side of the Socrates, the resulting geysers of water looked as though the ship was under torpedo attack. Spray catapulted over the tallest rigging and was illuminated by powerful floodlights atop deck cranes.

Already aground, the ship was visibly working its way further toward shore, more securely into the sand. Its bow, feebly lit by two nose spotlights, yawed laterally. An anchor chain set to the lake side jerked and slacked as the vessel rolled.

Occasionally a sound of smashing metal was audible above the roar of the wind and surf; it may have been a raised anchor banging against the side of the vessel that faced the beach.

Viewers made their way to the tops of the closest dunes. they stood bracing themselves against the wind as long as they could stand it, then retreated. They tried to record the spectacle on film with everything from Instamatics to elaborate shoulder-held video units.

On Tuesday, the weather calmed and the hundreds of sightseers turned to thousands.

People tramped through Park Point residents’ lawns on their way to the beach. They took group photographs in front of the vessel. they peeled bark from trees and scavenged driftwood for a bonfire.

Grandma’s did very good business, according to manager Brian Daugherty.

“In fact, we’ve been wondering how much it would cost to sink a ship on a weekly basis if it could be done,” he said.

He wasn’t the only one half-joking Tuesday about the tourism potential of the Socrates.

“My tongue’s in cheek, here — wouldn’t it be terrible if they couldn’t get it off, if it was there all winter?” said a chuckling Dan Russell of the Duluth Convention and Visitors Bureau.

He said the bureau received about 20 calls Tuesday morning from people elsewhere in the state wondering if the ship would be grounded long enough for them to make it to Duluth.

“There’s a tremendous amount of interest in it,” he said.

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The Socrates lies stuck in the shallows of Park Point as seen from Skyline Parkway on Nov. 19, 1985. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

The Socrates rests nearly parallel to Park Point on Nov. 19, 1985. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

The crew was evacuated from the ship, and after some delays a flotilla of tugs got to work on freeing the Socrates on Nov. 22, 1985. Eight tugs pulled on the Socrates; six were captured in this memorable image by the News-Tribune’s Charles Curtis:

As you can see in the photo, the tugs succeeded in getting the bow freed and swung around, but the stern stayed stuck in the shallows.

Crews dredged around the stern on Nov. 23, digging a 20-foot trench in the sand around the ship. And on Sunday, Nov. 24, the flotilla of tugs finally worked the Socrates free. Here’s an excerpt from the next day’s News-Tribune:

At 12:46 p.m., after having been coaxed about 120 feet forward, the Socrates started to pick up speed and slipped onto Lake Superior.

“She’s really moving!” said someone standing by a window in the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office at Canal Park. Coast Guardsmen ran to the window from the next room, where some of them had been watching the Minnesota Vikings play the New Orleans Saints.

“That’s it!” “There you go!” “:46 on the hour!” the men exclaimed.

Cmdr. Stanley Spurgeon, commanding officer of the Marine Safety Office, put down his binoculars. “The first big moment was when we got everybody off the ship (last week) … This is the second.”

A radio squawked in the next room: “No oil leakage around the Socrates.”

“And that was the third,” Spurgeon said.

An aerial view of the Socrates and the tugs that freed it on Nov. 24, 1985. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

The Socrates underwent repairs for some holes in a forward ballast tank, but otherwise was relatively unscathed from its unplanned sojourn on the shore.

The News-Tribune of Nov. 27, 1985, included some interesting details. A salvage official said crews needed “every trick in the book” to free the Socrates. Where it landed helped.

“It was on a sandbar. You couldn’t ask for a better thing to run aground on,” said Doug Oppliger, an engineer for Durocher Dock & Dredge. “If you look at the rest of the shore of Lake Superior, there aren’t a whole lot of better places to put a ship.”

Meanwhile, the News-Tribune also talked to the captain of the Socrates for that Nov. 27 story. Here’s an excerpt:

Up in the master’s quarters, Capt. Ioannis Kukunaris was finishing up paperwork and getting his ship ready to sail again.

“The high winds and waves pushed us ashore,” Kukunaris said, struggling to describe the grounding in English. “I saw the worst of the lakes,” he added.

Kukunaris, a seaman for 23 years, would say little about the accident. But Jack Frost, a representative of the ship’s owners, Heliotrope Shipping Corp. of Liberia, said the Socrates and its crew were overwhelmed by wind and waves that forced the ship to drag its anchors and drift into shallow water.

“They saw it was dragging,” he said. “The engines were ready. The crew did everything possible and couldn’t stop it.”

Frost said he doesn’t know the cost of the salvage operation. But Durocher officials have put the price tag at about $500,000 in salvage costs and lost time.

Socrates crew members descend a ladder to a waiting Coast Guard vessel on Nov. 19, 1985, the day after the grounding. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

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The ship left town on Dec. 6 with its load of grain for Italy.

On Jan. 18, 1986, the News-Tribune carried a story about the Coast Guard’s report on the grounding. The report cited the captain of the Socrates, Ioannis Kukunaris, for not reacting quickly enough to the worsening storm.

“He had shown concern about the weather and about the wind, but he took no positive action to meet his concerns,” Cmdr. Stanley Spurgeon, head of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office in Duluth, told the News-Tribune. “It wasn’t a major foul-up, but it had major consequences.”

The Coast Guard said Kukunaris should have moved his vessel farther out on the lake, as another freighter did that evening. They did commend Kukunaris for acting quickly and professionally to prevent damage to the ship once he discovered it was drifting ashore.

Two years later, the Socrates still was sailing the Great Lakes with Kukunaris as its master, although it had not been back to the Twin Ports, according to a News-Tribune article.

As far as where the ship is today… I tried to find out online, but didn’t have much luck. If anyone knows, or if you want to share your memories of the Socrates, post a comment.

And here are two last photos from the News Tribune files…

Tom Maki and Carol Holleman and their dog, Rupert, at their home at 1609 Lake Ave. S. on Nov. 21, 1985. They saw the ordeal of the Socrates from their front windows. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

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Pete Williams watches dredging operations around the Socrates on Nov. 23, 1985. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

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And one note for anyone looking for Part 2 of the Mr. Magoo the Mongoose story… I haven’t forgotten, and I’ll post it soon.

Free falling in Canal Park

The Grandma’s Marathon finish line wasn’t the only attraction in Canal Park in 1992. Bungee Maxx Inc. also was in town with its 130-foot crane set up outside the Park Inn, which is now the Canal Park Lodge.

Thrill-seekers could pay $75 to be strapped into an ankle harness, then free fall from a rubber bungee cord, hurtling toward the pavement on Canal Park Drive below.


Jay Dandrea of Superior makes his first-ever bungee jump. (1992 file / News Tribune)

Then-News Tribune staff writer Jay Faherty took the plunge and wrote a column about it. For some, the price for such a rush was a little too much. But Faherty thought it was worth the cash, saying in his column: "The rush created from the acceleration and seeing the ground grow closer and closer was a high I never felt before."


A bungee jumper takes a leap from the 130-foot crane outside the Park Inn. (1992 file / News Tribune)

The jumpers didn’t actually fall 130 feet, though. Well, not unless something went wrong. The bungee cord allowed them to go only about 90 feet down before bouncing them back skyward.

According to a News Tribune story accompanying the 1992 column, an accident had happened in Excelsior, Minn., just days before the thrill attraction was in Duluth. A woman lost consciousness when the bungee cord recoiled around her neck during the jump. But that didn’t stop about 150 local jumpers from experiencing the thrill.


Don Jewell of West Duluth falls backwards to begin his descent toward Canal Park Drive. (1992 file / News Tribune)

Read Jay Faherty’s bungee-jumping column below:

On a bungee plunge

By Jay Faherty
News Tribune staff writer

Some said it was guts. Others called it stupidity.

I thought it was simply unbelievable.

Bungee Maxx Inc. was back in Duluth with its crane and rubber-band like ropes to give Northlanders the opportunity to experience some true free-falling.

If you had asked me earlier this week what I was doing Saturday, I probably wouldn’t have said I would be plummeting from atop a 130-foot crane toward the pavement.

But that’s what I did.

Totally by choice, of course. No one forced, or even asked me to jump. I just thought it looked like fun.

I had my doubts about the entire process until watching co-owners Tim Swail, Pat Crosby and Sean Knutsen check each and every piece of equipment during set-up Friday night at a parking lot between the Park Inn International and Endion Station.

After watching several jumps that night, I decided I would jump Saturday afternoon.

After paying $75, two of the company’s 13-member crew dressed me in harnesses and gadgets from ankle to waist and said I was ready to go. Swail accompanied me to the top and explained what was about to happen.

"When we reach the top, I’m going to throw the cord out and put you on the edge of the cart," he said. "I’ll shut the door behind you, but don’t think I’m pushing you off."

The view was incredible for the few seconds I was at the top. But the sight wasn’t all that great when I realized I would soon be heading straight down toward all of it.

He then told me that after I was announced as next jumper, the crowd would join in a five-count countdown. Then I was to do a huge swan dive and keep my eyes open. Just before the crowd started its countdown, Swail jokingly asked, "So, Jay, how do you like heights?"

Then things happened really quickly.

Five.

"What am I doing?"

Four.

"Wow, the lift bridge is up."

Three.

"Here goes nothing."

Two.

"Oh, my god."

One.

I dove. I kept my line of sight on one spot and couldn’t help but think that if this cord did break, I wouldn’t even know what happened.

The rush created from the acceleration and seeing the ground grow closer and closer was a high I never felt before. Then it was over.

 

 

 

Canal Park, 1992

February 26, 1992

Aerial view looking north over Canal Park, February 1992 (Clara Wu / News-Tribune)

Canal Park is in the midst of its industrial-to-tourism changeover in this photo. There is still a car dealer and industrial buildings along the lakeshore, on the right side of the photo.

What is now Little Angie’s Cantina, at the center of the photo, was Kemp’s Fish Market when this photo was taken.

Northwestern Iron & Metal, 1978

October 6, 1978

This News-Tribune file photo from 1978 shows the Northwestern Iron & Metal Co. yard in Canal Park – now the site of the big full-block parking lot between Grandma’s and the Dewitt Seitz Building. You can make out the Aerial Lift Bridge behind the steamshovel on the right. The scrap yard is visible from the air in this previous Attic post.

I sometimes wonder what happened to all the neat old signs of various businesses around Duluth. The above photo provides a sad answer for one of them:

Does anyone know where The Rocket Cafe & Liquors was located? It had a pretty cool sign; I wonder if it also included any neon / moving lights.

The top photo also includes a sign painted on the side of the building at right: