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

GHOSTS INHABIT WEST END HOUSE

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:

SPIRIT STILL KEEPS KNOCKING

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.

Archive aerial views of the Twin Ports

I came across two (and was e-mailed a third) old aerial photos of the Twin Ports. Here they are (click on the photos for a larger view):

View over the West End and the Rice’s Point rail yards toward the Blatnik Bridge, 1970. (News Tribune file photo)

This photo shows construction of Interstate 35 (and I-535), including parts of the “Can of Worms” interchange, in 1970. The Blatnik Bridge, seen in the distance, had already been open for several years at the time of this photo; its traffic was directed onto Garfield Avenue (where you can see part of Goldfine’s-by-the-Bridge Department Store).

The photo also captures a sliver of the West End business district. Here’s a closer view of Superior Street:

From left to right, you can see a DX service station / car wash; Enger & Olson furniture (with J & J Phillips 66 service station across Superior Street); 19th Avenue West; and the West End Liquor Store, with a billboard on the side that reads “Scotch Scotch” (perhaps Ron Burgundy could have shopped there back in the day).

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Here’s a view of the Burlington Northern ore docks in Superior from 1977. The Mesabi Miner is berthed at the ore dock on the right. On the left, the nearer boat has “Inland Steel” on its side; I can’t make out the ship name, but it looks like the distinctive Edward L. Ryerson, which currently is in long-term layup at Fraser Shipyards just a few miles from where this photo was taken. The name of the third boat can’t been read in this picture.

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And courtesy of Gary Androsky over at the Superior Telegram, here’s an image from the Telegram’s files of Interstate 35 being extended through downtown Duluth in the 1980s – the tunnels are under construction in this view, which also provides a good look at much of downtown; click on the photo for a much larger image.

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Share your stories and memories by posting 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)

JIM’S OPEN DOORS ARE A THANK YOU TO SOME FAMILIAR FACES

BY SANDY BATTIN OF THE NEWS-TRIBUNE STAFF

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)

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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.

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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)

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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)

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

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

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

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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.

Hockey mystery photo

Marti Wise of Maryland sent us this great old photo of a hockey team from Duluth’s West End, seeking information about the team and the players (click on the picture for a larger view):

The first uniformed player on the left in the back row is Edward Olson, Marti’s husband’s grandfather. The second uniformed player from the right in the back row is Reuben Olson, Edward’s older brother. Marti said the photo probably dates to the 1920s, and no later than 1931.

The question now is, does anyone recognize anyone else in the photo? Can you provide any other details about the venue (Curling Club? Amphitheater?) or what game they may have won to earn that trophy?

Post a comment if you have more information, or send me an e-mail at akrueger(@)duluthnews.com.

And if you have any interesting old photos from Duluth, Superior or the surrounding area – whether you’re looking for information or not – send them my way; I’d be happy to share them with the community on this blog.

Beach Boys play Duluth, 1984

The Beach Boys have made several stops in the Northland over the years, but the performance that made the biggest waves in the News Tribune archives was their concert at Wade Stadium on July 8, 1984. Here’s coverage from the next day’s News-Tribune:

Lead guitar player Carl Wilson (left) and lead singer Mike Love of the Beach Boys play one of the group’s many hits during a concert at Wade Stadium on July 8, 1984. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Review: Beach Boys’ beloved oldies bring good vibrations to Wade Stadium

By Bob Ashenmacher, News-Tribune

Solid cloud cover and a chilly wind kept a cool lid on the first three hours of the Beach Boys’ Wade Stadium concert on Sunday. This despite a fine set by local country-rockers Dakota Crossing and a nearly perfect 80 minutes by early 70s hitmakers Three Dog Night.

Luck. As the stars took the stage, the ceiling evaporated and a warm evening sun shone brightly. The crowd of 5,860 appreciated nature’s smile and enjoyed every moment of the band’s 70-minute set.

There’s gray in the sideburns of lead singer Mike Love these days and in the beard of Carl Wilson, the only Wilson brother present from among the original three. (Drummer Dennis died last year, and songwriter and arranger Brian was nowhere to be seen, despite the tantalizing presence onstage of a cream-colored baby grand piano.

There were wobbly strains among the harmonies. And it’s difficult for some of us to be comfortable with the band presenting itself as merely an oldies act – there’s no emphasis on new material, nor any interpretation put into the old stuff. Finally, it’s painful to the point of grotesque to hear “Good Vibrations” made into a singalong. Like a bad movie.

Kevin Pryor and Louella Foley hug as the Beach Boys perform at Wade Stadium on July 8, 1984. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

All that said, it was a good oldies show. The voices of Love, Wilson, rhythm guitarist Al Jardine and longtime fill-in keyboards player Bruce Johnston were in respectable shape.

Six backing musicians played in addition to Johnston’s keyboards and Wilson and Jardine’s guitars. That took away the nimble leanness of the group’s earliest hits, among them “Little Deuce Coupe” and “I Get Around.”

Wilson kept a few licks of the wonderful old “surf” style of lead guitar in, sounding especially good on a Gibson 12-string electric during “Dance Dance Dance.” Jardine’s rendition of “Help Me Rhonda” had girls who weren’t born when the song was released doing The Swim on the shoulders of grinning-grimacing boys. Other highlights include Wilson’s vocal on the lovely “God Only Knows” and a solid “California Girls.” “Sloop John B” sounded good but too fast, “Wendy” flat and sluggish.

I enjoyed myself, as did everyone else down in the very front. Once the set began, I missed absent Brian Wilson only once, during the sweet beginning of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” I wish he could have seen all of our smiles.

They closed with a surf medley and encored with “Good Vibrations,” “Barbara Ann” and “Fun Fun Fun,” leaving the crowd dancing in the dust of the infield.

Beach Boys lead singer Mike Love performs at Wade Stadium on July 8, 1984. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

By the way, the Beach Boys announced on stage that they and their entourage would play Three Dog Night and its crew in a charity softball game at 7 p.m. today at Wade Stadium.

As mentioned, the warm-up acts were fine. Three Dog Night sang all its hits in tight, faithful-to-the-record arrangements. All three members were in good vocal shape and the band was lively.

The Twin Ports’ Dakota Crossing opened with a set that did credit to the label country rock. Their four-part harmonies on a medley of “Rockytop” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” matched anything by the headliners. Best of all, they’re in their early 20s. Practically kids, in terms of professional careers.

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Here’s a photo from the next day’s charity softball game:

Beach Boys crew member Darryl Morrison (left) gives the group’s Al Jardine a neck rub to loosen up his muscles between innings of a charity softball game in Duluth on Jul 9, 1984. Jardine played second base. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

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The Beach Boys also played in Duluth back in August 1966 as part of the festivities surrounding the opening of the Duluth Arena-Auditorium (now the DECC). They were back in July 1980 at the Arena, then played at Wade in 1984, and returned in 1995 for a concert at Connors Pointe Festival Park in Superior.

That 1995 concert originally was scheduled for July 2 but was washed out by rain; they came back for a show on August 9, with Mark Rubin – now St. Louis County attorney – as the opening act.

Those are all the local Beach Boys shows I can find in the archives – am I missing any? If so, or if you have any memories to share about these concerts, post a comment.