The bars of North Fifth Street in Superior, 1978

October 15, 1978

Bars line the north side of North Fifth Street in Superior on Oct. 15, 1978. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

Does the scene above look familiar? If so, you have a pretty good memory, because all but one of these bars lining North Fifth Street in Superior have been gone for years. The stop sign by the vintage van marks the corner of Ogden Avenue in this view looking east. From left to right, the bars visible here are the Heartbreak Bar, Burke’s Place, the 5th Street Hotel, High Times Saloon, Nickel Street Saloon, the Viking Lounge and the Handlebar. Click on the photo for a much larger image.

This area was largely cleared to make way for commercial and industrial development in the 1970s and 1980s. Here’s the same stretch of North Fifth Street today:

A surviving tavern is the Viking at the corner of Fifth and Hughitt, visible in the distance with the same vertical LIQUORS sign as it had in 1978. Here’s a close-up present-day view:

There may be one other tavern structure still standings – is the “Handlebar” in the distance in the 1978 photo the same building that houses Schultz’s Sports Bar today? I don’t know.

So when did all those bars get torn down? Was it all at once, or did it happen over a few years? Again, I don’t know, so perhaps one of you can fill in some details.

A March 29, 1981, News Tribune article on the redevelopment effort in the North End mentioned how “the project is creating open spaces in the once heavily settled district between Tower and Hammond avenues and North Third and the east-west rail corridor at Eighth Street.

“The 20-square-blocks are being transformed from one of old frame houses ‘so close together neighbors could shake hands through open windows’ to an area of potential high value as a commercial and light industrial district, Superior community development specialist James Kumbera said.”

The city was buying up houses as it could and demolishing them to create large areas of open land.

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What are your memories of the bars along North Fifth Street? What more information can you offer about when they were torn down? Share your memories by posting a comment.

Superior church’s steeple comes crashing down, 1982

September 2, 1982

The steeple of St. Stanislaus Catholic Church lies damaged at Birch Avenue and North 14th Street in Superior on Thursday, Sept. 2, 1982. The 38-foot steeple was being lifted from the soon-to-be-demolished church when a crane tipped, sending the steeple crashing to the ground. (Jack Renudlich / News-Tribune)

Steeple falls prey to crane

By Larry Oakes, News-Tribune staff writer (appeared in paper on Sept. 3, 1982)

“My reaction was just plain fright. Everything was coming along beautifully, and all at once it swung and started to crash down through the wiring.”

The exasperated speaker was Sophie Butler, 68, of 24-B Hayes court, Superior. She had come Thursday to St. Stanislaus Catholic Church and School in Superior to pay her last respects to her former church, which is scheduled to be razed.

However, the church’s 38-foot steeple was going to be salvaged for use as a beach house. Butler and her husband, Joe, 68, watched as a crane began lifting the steeple from the building.

The couple, longtime members of the church as Birch Avenue and North 14th Street, were taking snapshots and reminiscing. It was about 10:15 a.m.

Seconds later, the feelings of nostalgia turned to horror when the crane, holding the suspended steeple about 30 feet above the ground, tipped, sending the steeple crashing to the ground.

“He lifted it off and everything seemed OK,” said Max Taubert, 29, of 3310 Minnesota Ave., Duluth. “But it came down kind of fast once it started. There was no stopping it. It only took about four seconds.”

Taubert had wanted to convert the carved, metal-faced steeple into a beach house.

“There was a lot of scurrying around,” said Cliff Anderson, whose company, Anderson Sand& Gravel, will demolish the church. Anderson, of 5565 Arrowhead Road, Duluth, sold the steeple to Taubert, who hired Lakehead Constructors of Superior to remove it.

“The crane either broke through the asphalt or the boom started to bend,” Anderson, 40, said. “It made one hell of a lot of noise,” he said, removing a toothpick from his mouth. “Like steel crashing into brick — one of those sounds you don’t hear too often.”

A construction worker is dwarfed by a twisted crane lying in front of St. Stanislaus Catholic Church at 1414 Birch Ave. in Superior on Sept. 2, 1982. No injuries were reported when the crane tipped over and the steeple crashed to the ground. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

Witnesses said that as the crane tipped, the boom crashed into the entry of the brick building.

Tim Bernard, 35, of Superior, owner of Lakehead, estimated repair to the crane will run from $25,000 to $30,000. “It will be usable,” Bernard said. “We’ll have to cut the boom and get it off the building. Then it will have to be repaired.”

“I would say the outrigger (a support leg) went into the ground,” he said. “It sure wasn’t the weight.”

Taubert said he will probably be out about $1,000, “mostly for the crane time.”

“I’ve already got more into it than it’s worth,” he said. “I had the option of insuring it before I took it off, but it was $1,000 deductible.”

When the boom toppled, it knocked out some adjacent electric and phone lines, resulting in a power outage in that section of Superior for two hours. Residents were without power in an area bounded by North 12th and Belknap streets on the north and south, and the Soo Line tracks and Catlin Avenue on the east and west, said Dick Kennedy, a Superior Water, Light & Power Co. official. Power was restored by 12:30 p.m., Kennedy said.

Wisconsin Telephone Company representative Kendall Nelson said the accident affected only two phone customers.

The steeple of St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Superior crashed to the ground after a crane toppled on Sept. 2, 1982. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

The 67-year-old church currently awaits the wrecking ball. It was closed because of a shortage of priests and teachers in the Superior Diocese, Joe Butler said.

The school was shut down in 1968 because sisters were in short supply and no money was available to hire lay teachers. When the cornerstone was laid in 1915 the church boasted 450 families in its membership. By 1982, that number shrank to 150, according to Joe Butler, who was president of the church council.

“All my life I was in the parish,” Butler recalled, his eyes fixed. “I was baptized here, married here, my mother and father both had funeral services here.

Sophie Butler watched the cleanup operation from a yard across the street. “It’s a weird feeling because we were parishioners for so long.”

Across the street workers had started the lopsided crane and were feeding out cable that was still hooked to the steeple. What was left of the structure snapped and creaked slightly as it settled to the ground.

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As you may have noted, the steeple-crane accident happened almost exactly 30 years ago, on Sept. 2, 1982. Less than a week later, crews moved ahead with the razing of the main church building. Here are some photos of that:

A wrecking ball crashes into the remainder of St. Stanislaus Catholic Church at 1414 Birch Ave. in Superior on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 1982. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

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Florence Bozinski (left), Sandy Anderson (center) and Sandy’s son Wayne, 11, all of Superior, watch as crews demolish St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Superior on Sept. 8, 1982. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

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Cliff Anderson (foreground) and Ron Johnson, both of Duluth, watch as St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Superior is razed on Sept. 8, 1982. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

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Superior’s Berger Hardware

The narrow aisles and crowded counters behind Berger Hardware owner Sam Berger serve to support his advertising slogan, “The store that has everything.” This photo is from January 1983. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

This hardware store really does have everything

News-Tribune, January 24, 1983

Sam Berger is a chip off the old block – and so is the hardware store he owns in Superior.

Berger has spent most of his life, starting as a youngster, in the business his father opened in 1915. And like his father, who worked at the store until he died five years ago, Sam Berger has kept the Berger Hardware of today just like the Berger Hardware of yesteryear.

It stocks hardware and household items that can be found on the shelves at most of his competitors, from neighborhood hardware stores to the supermarket-style home-building centers.

But what Sam Berger, and before him Morris Berger, have done is retain the atmosphere of a hardware store of decades ago – complete with merchandise that may have been on the display shelves and counters 10 to even 40 years ago. Tucked away in corners, on shelving, hanging from the walls and ceiling are such items as handles for walking plows, horse collars, blacksmith tools, two-man saws, milk cans and plumbing and building supplies of another era.

Sam Berger knows what’s in the store at 525 Tower Ave. and, despite its old-time flavor, he’s an astute businessman. If Berger Hardware doesn’t have what a customer wants, he’ll try to locate it by telephone from some other hardware store owner or supplier from among a list of connections he’s made over the years.

“You can call Berger Hardware the store that has everything,” Sam Berger says in his astute businessman’s sales pitch. “Everything but money, that is.”

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Sam Berger, who took over the hardware business founded in Superior by his father, makes some long-distance phone calls to locate a hard-to-find item sought by a customer in January 1983. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

Sam Berger died in 1993, and the store passed to his son, Charles. Charles Berger suffered some health problems and sold the store to Jim Kremer in May 1994. Kremer ran the store for about three years, but was plagued by the lack of a inventory or organization of all the store’s merchandise. He closed the store, and the contents were auctioned off in March 1999. Here’s the story from the March 19, 1999, News-Tribune…

Eager bidders eye a spool of rope up for auction at the old Berger Hardware in Superior on March 18, 1999. People came to the auction from all over the area, including small groups of Amish from southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

FOLKS HAVE SOFT SPOT FOR LONGTIME HARDWARE STORE

BARGAIN HUNTERS FROM REGION, FAR AWAY REMINISCE, PICK UP TOOLS AT BERGER AUCTION

By Candace Renalls, News-Tribune

They came to Superior’s North End by the hundreds Thursday for good buys and rare finds as Berger Hardware’s massive inventory began being auctioned off.

With it goes the end of an era.

The old-fashioned store at 525 Tower Ave., a North End fixture since 1915, had long been known as THE place to go in the Twin Ports for odd pieces of hardware, no matter how old or obscure.

On Thursday, bidders wearing serious expressions, crowded around the auctioneer’s truck on a closed stretch of North Sixth Street as item by item, box by box, pile by pile, the inventory began to shrink.

Items sold quickly — 100 pounds of rope, pick ax handles, cross-cut saws, rolls of wire, old boat anchors, large steel shelving units used in Berger’s warehouse.

By 12:30 p.m., two hours after the auction began, about 260 people from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Ontario had registered as bidders. The auction continues today and Saturday, then resumes next Friday and Saturday.

For $25, Jim Jamaouski of Esko bought caulking compound, a bunch of nuts and bolts and some rubber belting. For years, the 56-year-old farmer had been a regular customer at the store.

“It had a little bit of everything,” he said. “You could get stuff you couldn’t get anywhere else.”

The cash register inside the old Berger Hardware in Superior, seen here in March 1999, had been around since at least the 1950s.(Bob King / News-Tribune)

Among those who turned out Thursday were members of various Amish communities in Wisconsin and Minnesota who read about the store and auction in “Country Today,” a weekly farm newspaper.

Emery Hershberger of Harmony, Minn., was one of them.

“I’m interested in things we still use, like stainless steel milk strainers for straining cow’s milk,” said Hershberger, 28, who came to Superior with his nephew.

Jim Kremer, the store’s owner, said he intentionally tried to reach Amish communities with news of the auction.

“They’re looking for old hand drills, horse harness buckles, snaps, some buggy whip holders and braces for buckboards,” Kremer said.

And Berger Hardware had them, as well as an abundance of other hard-to-find items, some still in the boxes they came in more than 50 years ago.

The store, with its squeaky wooden floors and decades-old display cases, was founded by Morris Berger in 1915 in the tradition of a general store.

He’d buy in volume to get a better price. He’d go to auctions and buy in bulk, rapidly filling his storage space.

When Berger died in 1978, his son Sam took over the business.

The jam-packed store had it all, from horse harness buckles to hand plows, from turn-of-the-century coffee pots to globes for old ceiling lights, from 2-inch drill bits to old door knobs.

“If we don’t have it, you don’t need it,” Sam Berger used to say.

Sam Berger ran the business until he died in 1993 while sitting at his office desk. His son, Charles, left his chiropractic practice in St. Louis to take over the family business. But health problems forced him to sell the following year.

Jim Kremer at Berger Hardware in Superior in June 1994, shortly after he bought the iconic store. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

Kremer, a former owner of Kremer Disposal of Superior, bought Berger Hardware in 1994. But finding merchandise seemingly placed randomly on shelves and stacked in storage was a challenge.

The Bergers kept no stock charts or inventory lists. They just knew what they had and where it was.

“Surprisingly, I got to where I could stumble around and find what I was looking for,” Kremer said.

But after running the operation for three years, Kremer tired of the hardware business. He closed the store 1 1/2 years ago. But the merchandise remained, filling the building’s three floors, basement and next-door warehouse.

“I loved the place,” Kremer said. “I appreciate some of the old stuff. But it started getting to me. It just isn’t my line of work.”

The entire stock is being auctioned off, along with display cases, office furniture and storage shelves. The building is up for sale, with an asking price of $185,000.

Sam Pomush, who says he practically grew up in the store, couldn’t resist showing up Thursday.

“I just had to come back and reminisce,” he said with a big grin.

“It was like a menagerie,” said the 52-year-old Pomush, who grew up in the North End. “Anything you wanted you could buy here.”

He pointed to a corner of the store and said, “Every kind of screw you’d ever want was there.”

He recalled the row of Schwinn bikes that used to be in the basement and the pans that lumberjacks used for cooking. He remembered well the turn-of-the-century safe and old cash register that soon will be sold.

“The store never changed,” he said, adding that that’s what made it special.

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The building that housed Berger Hardware has since been home to several restaurants, including Mama Get’s and, currently, Marlee’s Caribbean Restaurant.

UMD art student Matt Palmer browses through Berger Hardware in Superior to find art suppliesĀ  on June 1, 1993. (Clara Wu / News-Tribune)

Share your memories of Berger Hardware by posting a comment.

Old aerial photos of downtown Superior

I found a couple of undated aerial photos of downtown Superior in the News Tribune files. They were taken by the News Tribune’s Earl Johnson, probably in the early 1960s – though if you see any clues in these that could help pinpoint the date, please post a comment.

The first two photos below are the original, complete images. Below them are a selection of zoomed-in views:

Do you have stories about the Beacon Theater or any of the other long-gone buildings visible in these images? Share your memories by posting a comment.

Superior shots from the ’60s

Here are a couple of photos of Superior from the 1960s from the News Tribune files; click on the photos for a larger view.

First up is one from May 1965, of the new Montgomery Ward store on Tower Avenue:

You can see the opening signs and some of the merchandise inside:

Montgomery Ward isn’t there any more, of course, but the remodeled building still stands on the east side of Tower Avenue in the block just north of Belknap. Horizons Travel occupies part of the building.

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The other Superior photo I have is this aerial view looking northwest over the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus – then Superior State College – in October 1966, taken by the News Tribune’s Earl Johnson:

The photo was taken to show the then-new Gates Physical Education Building, at lower left.

It’s interesting to compare this photo with a present-day map, to see how the campus has grown. Several streets in this photo, including a portion of N. 18th Street, have since been vacated to make way for new buildings.

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Share your memories by posting a comment. And share your old photos of Duluth and Superior by sending them to akrueger(at)duluthnews.com.

Superior’s ‘Apple Annie,’ 1980

September 7, 1980

Ruth Weidinger, aka “Apple Annie,” greets customers at a produce stand in South Superior in September 1980. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

‘Apple Annie’

Ruth Weidinger’s stand is a Superior institution

By Richard L. Pomeroy, News-Tribune

The small truck pulls into a parking lot in South Superior shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday.

Several people are waiting for the woman sitting behind the wheel.

She stretches, walks around to the side of the truck and hangs a weathered sign announcing “Apples for sale here – also squash” before going to the back and dropping the tailgate.

Inside are bushel baskets stacked to the top of the truck box. Ears of corn peek from the baskets as if intent on eavesdropping on the start of conversation.

“Apple Annie” is more than four hours into her long working day. She has been up since 6 a.m., worked in her garden and wheeled her truck about 80 miles to Superior. For her, this day is like any other fall Saturday or Sunday.

“Apple Annie” is open for business – selling apples and vegetables as she has for 20 years next to the firehall at 58th Street and Tower Avenue.

Although known to many of her customers only as “Apple Annie,” the vendor is formally and legally Ruth Weidinger. She operates a vegetable farm and apple orchard about 4 1/2 miles north of Bayfield.

Bushel baskets of fresh-picked corn are stacked on the back of Ruth Weidinger’s truck in South Superior in September 1980. On the side of the truck, a sign reads “Apples for sale here – also squash.” (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

Weidinger is aware of the “Apple Annie” nickname, but has “not the slightest idea” how it came to be.

“It doesn’t matter – maybe they just don’t know what else to call me,” she said during one of the brief breaks in the sales operation that continues until about 6 p.m.

“As long as I’m selling, and they’re buying, it doesn’t make any difference,” Weidinger added.

“It’s a living and if I wasn’t doing this I don’t know what I would be doing. It’s too late for me to change my ways now – I never did anything else. This is it, this is my life.”

Sales are brisk for more than an hour. There’s no time for small talk.

It takes only a few minutes for Weidinger to get the operation organized.

Several bushels of corn are moved onto the tailgate. That gives her room to stand and begin filling orders.

A kitchen scale is used to fill the first order – for tomatoes.

Weidinger shows her marketing knack by quoting the price at “three pounds for $1.50,” thus filling few orders for less than that amount.

The corn? It was fresh-picked this morning “like it always is.” It sells for $1.25 per dozen.

Why no white corn? “Because I don’t plant any – that’s why.”

Apples? “Yes, but they’re not good keepers. Everything’s pretty early, but the best apples won’t be had for at least a couple of weeks. These are Melbas – soft, but good for pie if you use them right away. The best ones – Wealthies, Cortlands and McIntoshes – come later this month.

Ruth Weidinger keeps up a steady exchange of conversation with her customers as she peddles fresh produce from her farm near Bayfield in September 1980. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

The sun beats down. Weidinger slips out of the woolen shirt she wears over a blouse.

The sales continue, Weidinger filling one order while answering another shopper’s questions about prices.

She totals purchases with precision, accepts payment and makes change from a cardboard box well inside the truck.

Twenty years ago, she sold produce at the Superior fairgrounds, and before that worked with her father at a farmers’ market at 14th Street and Ogden Avenue. After the farmers’ market was discontinued, she teamed with her father in door-to-door selling in Superior.

“But that was too much walking and carrying,” she recalled.

Ruth Weidinger waits for customers as she sells produce in South Superior on Nov. 26, 1989. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

Her products vary with the fall season but always include the traditional vegetables of the area.

Weidinger operates the orchard and truck farm on the old family homestead of about 360 acres. She has about 50 acres, “including the apple trees,” under cultivation.

Her brother, Edmund, whose family lives in another house on the homestead, is a partner and helper.

He and his two sons help with the harvest and help load the truck.

By 6 p.m., it’s time to close shop and head back to Bayfield.

The schedule is the same the next day: up before 6 a.m. to pick more corn and tomatoes, then more wheeling and dealing – wheeling 80 miles to Superior and dealing with both friends and strangers.

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Ruth Weidinger, aka “Apple Annie,” made trips to sell produce in Superior until 1994. She died in Washburn on April 1, 2002, at the age of 91.

In News-Tribune story reporting Weidinger’s death, her niece told the paper that Weidinger preferred selling her produce to people, not to stores, because she liked the variety of folks she would meet.

“She always wanted to smile,” Donna Line told the News Tribune. “She was very, very genuine and friendly, and she liked to talk and visit.”

Wicklund Grocery closes, 2001

October 9, 2001

Wicklund Grocery in Superior’s Billings Park neighborhood closed its doors Monday after nearly a century of service to the community. (Derek Neas / News Tribune)

NEIGHBORHOOD GROCER CLOSES ITS DOORS

BILLINGS PARK INSTITUTION FORCED TO CLOSE BECAUSE OF STRUCTURAL WOES

By Shelley Nelson, News Tribune staff writer

For nearly a century, a small grocery store at 1804 Iowa Ave. in Superior has served the needs of people living in the Billings Park neighborhood.

But Monday, Wicklund Grocery closed its doors forever.

“We went there for everything,” said Scott Severin, who lives nearby and was surprised to learn the grocery was going out of business. “We always go there when we need milk and stuff. They were always just right there.”‘

Under order from the city building inspection division, the store closed because of the condition of the building, which is more than 100 years old.

On Sept. 28, the city issued a repair or raze order, along with orders to vacate the business by Oct. 8 and the building by Nov. 1. The orders were issued because of inadequate foundation and wall supports and the deteriorated condition of wall and roof supports.

The building is assessed at $36,700, and the land is worth $7,900. But, unable to afford the costly repairs — expected to exceed 50 percent of the building’s value, according to building inspection reports — owner John Wicklund decided to close up shop after more than a decade of running the neighborhood grocery.

“I’ve enjoyed the heck out of it,” Wicklund said. “I’m going to miss the people around here.”

Wicklund said he worked at the store as a stocker in the 1960s before he was drafted into the military during the Vietnam War. After 24 years away from the city, he moved back and bought the small grocery.

But Wicklund said he simply can’t afford to make the repairs needed to keep the store open. The building will likely be demolished, but it isn’t known when.

Many other small neighborhood grocery stores in the Twin Ports have come to a similar fate as Wicklund’s. In December, Taran’s Market closed in Chester Park, and the Ideal Market and Bakery in downtown Duluth shut down in November 1998.

For people living in the Billings Park neighborhood, the loss of the grocery marks the end to a century-long tradition.

And while not everyone living in the neighborhood shopped at the market, some said it was unfortunate that Billings Park residents won’t have that option anymore.

“A lot of people don’t have transportation to drive downtown,” said neighbor Bertha Witt, who admits she didn’t shop at the store in the Billings Park business district.

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It’s been a while since I was in that neighborhood, but based on Google Maps it appears that the building was razed after the grocery store closed.

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Superior gas ball comes down, 1985

February 28, 1985

Bit by bit, this old ball-like tank that once held manufactured gas is coming down. The tank, just off Highway 53 near Catlin Avenue in Superior, is no longer used by the Superior Water, Light & Power Co. It was erected more than 30 years ago. The bottom already has been removed. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune & Herald)

The “gas ball” came up in an Attic post a couple years ago. In that photo, it was seen in the distance. Only recently did I find a couple photos showing the gas ball in great detail, as it met its end just about 25 years ago.

Here is one more:

A workman uses a cutting torch to dismantle the gas ball in Superior on Feb. 28, 1985. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune & Herald)

Share your memories of the gas ball by posting a comment.