Duluth TV personality Jack McKenna dies at age 91

We received word from KUWS radio’s Mike Simonson, on the Radio Superior Facebook page, that longtime Twin Ports radio and TV personality Jack McKenna died Sunday, Dec. 8 at age 91.

Jack McKenna does a weathercast at WDIO-TV in 1977, the same year he was chosen favorite TV personality by Twin Ports residents. (News Tribune file photo)

McKenna spent time as a weathercaster at WDIO-TV in the 1960s and 1970s, took some jobs elsewhere in the country and returned to Duluth as a weathercaster and news host at KBJR-TV in the 1980s.

He played the character “Captain Q” on a Duluth children’s TV show, and the News Tribune files report that he also played “Professor Fantastic” on a late-night horror movie show on WDIO.

McKenna also was an alumnus of Denfeld High School, and a good recap of his career can be found on their website.

Jack McKenna portrays the kids TV show character “Captain Q” in the early 1960s. (News Tribune file photo)

In more recent years, McKenna took part in the Radio Superior vintage radio program on KUWS.

I talked with him briefly a few weeks ago when writing an obituary for fellow Duluth TV veteran Dick Wallack. McKenna had had health issues in recent years, but his mind was sharp when we discussed the time he and Wallack spent working together.

Jack McKenna in 1970. (News Tribune file photo)

Several video clips of McKenna exist on YouTube, including….

McKenna as part of the WDIO news team in a 1973 newscast (I’ve included two of the five clips below – the ones that feature McKenna most prominently; find the rest here):

McKenna giving the weather on a 1986 KBJR newscast:

McKenna giving the weather on a KBJR newscast with Barbara Reyelts in 1988:

McKenna in character as Captain Q (this clip starts with footage of Ray Paulsen as Mr. Toot; Captain Q comes in the second half):

There aren’t many Twin Ports TV pioneers left… share your memories of Jack McKenna and other early Duluth TV personalities by posting a comment.

38th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The Edmund Fitzgerald in the Twin Ports with the tug Arkansas, circa early 1960s. (News-Tribune file photo)

Other duties at work have kept me from posting many new items to the Attic in recent months, but I have to note that today – Nov. 10, 2013 – is the 38th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in a massive storm on Lake Superior. The freighter’s crew of 29 men, including several from the Northland, died when the ship sank in eastern Lake Superior off Whitefish Point on Nov. 10, 1975; it had been heading from Superior to Detroit with a load of taconite.

A little after 7 p.m. that day, the Fitzgerald was in radio contact with the nearby Arthur M. Anderson, and reported that they were “holding our own” in heavy seas. There was no further contact with the freighter; minutes later the ship had disappeared from radar screens.

I compiled a number of archive photos and other information about the Fitzgerald in 2010, on the 35th anniversary of the wreck. You can view that post here.

Among the items posted there is this well-done video for Gordon Lightfoot’s famous song about the wreck:

Split Rock Lighthouse northeast of Two Harbors will host its annual beacon lighting and memorial service for the victims of the Fitzgerald, and all Great Lakes wrecks, this afternoon. They will toll a bell 29 times for each man who lost his life on the Fitzgerald, and then toll the bell a 30th time for all lost mariners. After that, the lighthouse’s beacon will be lit. It’s the only time each year when visitors can climb to the top of the tower while the beacon is lit and revolving.

The lighthouse will be open from noon to 6 p.m. today; the memorial service is at 4:30 p.m. Admission is $7 per person, free for Minnesota Historical Society members.

Here’s a News Tribune video of the Nov. 10, 2011, memorial ceremony at Split Rock:

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Interstate Bridge, 1961

As with the previous post on the bear in the boat, this one features a reader-submitted photo from years back that was left in the News Tribune files.

The photo, credited to C.F. Sager of Duluth and dated Oct. 22, 1961, is a view of the old Interstate Bridge linking Duluth and Superior, as seen from its replacement, the then-new High Bridge, later named the Blatnik Bridge. Click on the photo for a larger version:

Here are a couple of zoomed-in views:

The Interstate Bridge has been featured in several past Attic posts:

Interstate Bridge

Superior’s Main Street and the Interstate Bridge

Edmund Fitzgerald passes through the Interstate Bridge

Most of the span was removed in the years after the Blatnik Bridge opened. Part of the Interstate Bridge remains in place on the Duluth side and is used as a fishing pier; find more information at the links listed above.

Share your memories by posting a comment.

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.

Photos of Paul Wellstone in the Northland

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, marks the 10th anniversary of the plane crash near Eveleth that took the life of U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), his wife Sheila, and six others. Read the News Tribune’s coverage of the anniversary here.

Here’s a selection of News Tribune file photos from Wellstone’s many trips to the Northland, leading up to his election to the Senate in 1990 and in the years that followed:

Democrat Paul Wellstone ratchets up his U.S. Senate campaign against incumbent Republican Rudy Boschwitz during a stop at the Duluth Labor Temple on June 9, 1989. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

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Senator-elect Paul Wellstone reacts to the approval of the crowd during a standing-room-only town hall meeting at the Marshall School cafeteria in Duluth on Dec. 5, 1990. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

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As Sen. Paul Wellstone jokes with locals at Maggie’s, a popular restaurant in Nashwauk, on April 5, 1991, owner Margaret Breuling looks on and smiles. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

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Sen. Paul Wellstone greets people who gathered for the opening of his office in Virginia, Minn., on April 5, 1991. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

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Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., speaks at a rally at the Duluth Labor Temple on London Road on April 13, 1991. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

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Sen. Paul Wellstone answers questions from the audience during a meeting about health-care issues on Feb. 13, 1992, at Duluth Central High School. (Clara Wu / News-Tribune)

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Sen. Paul Wellstone addresses DFL delegates from across Minnesota on June 5, 1992, the first day of the state DFL convention at the DECC, Interpreting was Kim Olson of Minneapolis. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

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Marilyn Pribyl of Chaska and Terry Selle of Bloomington listen as Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., pauses to chat with them during a stop at Grandma’s Restaurant in Duluth on Jan. 15, 1994. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

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Sen. Paul Wellstone addresses a gathering of people in low-income situations during a news conference Nov. 21, 1995, at Emerson School in Duluth. The event was held to bring attention to the plight of low-income people in need of housing assistance. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

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Aimee McIntyre (left) and Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., share a laugh during a rally for Wellstone at the Federal Building in Duluth on July 1, 1996. Supporters wore shirts with red targets and the words: “Proud to be a Republican Target.” (Kathy Strauss / News-Tribune)

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Sen. Paul Wellstone speaks to the crowd gathered at a rally at the DECC’s Pioneer Hall in Duluth on the morning of Oct. 23, 1996, as Vice President Al Gore applauds in the background. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

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U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone answers a question from a student in the audience during the Democracy in Action forum April 9, 1999, at the College of St. Scholastica. More than 600 students from the three high schools in Duluth attended the forum, which gave them an opportunity to challenge and ask questions of elected officals. Listening to Wellstone on stage are state Sen. Sam Solon and Duluth Mayor Gary Doty. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

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Sen. Paul Wellstone speaks to a crowd of about 100 gathered Sunday at the entrance of ME International in Duluth on Oct. 31, 1999. Wellstone voiced his support of the United Steelworkers of America Local 1028 strike that has been in effect since August. (Renee Knoeber / News-Tribune)

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Sen. Paul Wellstone visits Denfeld High School in Duluth on Nov. 16, 2000. (Rick Scibelli / News-Tribune)

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Sen. Paul Wellstone meets with a full auditorium of Denfeld High School students on Nov. 16, 2000, at the school. Wellstone took questions and comments from students regarding the recent election and the issues surrounding it. (Rick Scibelli / News-Tribune)

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U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone greets members of the Duluth Denfeld singing groups Solid Gold and Steppin’ Up on Nov. 16, 2000, during a visit to the school. Wellstone engaged the students in a town hall-style meeting, discussing the previous week’s presidential election. (Rick Scibelli / News-Tribune)

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Sens. Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton talk in Superior on March 9, 2001, with employees of Partridge River Inc., the company whose Hoyt Lakes plant was destroyed by fire earlier that month. The meeting took place at Partridge River’s Superior facility. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

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Share your memories and stories by posting a comment.

George McGovern in the Twin Ports

Former Democratic U.S. Senator and presidential candidate George McGovern of South Dakota died Sunday at age 90.

He made at least two stops in Duluth during his political career, mostly notably on Sept. 8, 1972, during his ultimately unsuccessful presidential campaign against Richard Nixon.

Here are some photos from that visit (and one from 1970). Some of these images from the News Tribune archives had caption information; others did not. If you can fill in any of the gaps or have memories to share, please post a comment:

Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern walks with an entourage of reporters, staff members, security and local officials at the Duluth airport during a visit to the Twin Ports on Sept. 8, 1972. McGovern made a quick campaign stop in the Northland that day, briefly meeting with supporters at the airport before taking a tour of the Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association elevator in Superior, where he donned a hard hat and watched grain being unloaded from a railroad car. Two months later, he lost the 1972 presidential election to Richard Nixon. (News-Tribune file photo)

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George McGovern (second from left) is joined by (from left) Rep. Jack LaVoy of Duluth, Bill Walker of Cass Lake (elected official? candidate?) and Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Martin Schreiber at the Duluth airport on McGovern’s visit to Duluth on Sept. 8, 1972. (News-Tribune file photo)

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Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern (left) gets a tour of the Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association elevator in Superior from general manager B.J. Malusky on Sept. 8, 1972. (News-Tribune file photo)

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The scene outside the Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association elevator in Superior during a visit by Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern on Sept. 8, 1972. (News-Tribune file photo)

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Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern (bottom center) gets a tour of the Farmers Union Grain Terminal Association elevator in Superior on Sept. 8, 1972. (News-Tribune file photo)

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Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern (second from left) walks from his plane at the Duluth airport on Sept. 8, 1972. At left is Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Martin Schreiber; others are not identified. (News-Tribune file photo)

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U.S. Sen. George McGovern (left) visits Duluth on April 12, 1970. Joining him in this photo are (from left) Stanley Breen, chairman of the city’s DFL coordinating committee; Rep. John Blatnik of Duluth; and James Glazman, 61st District (DFL?) chairman. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

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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Share your memories by posting 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.

Duluthians of 1912 find a reason to like Superior

I’m going through old papers from 1912 in advance of the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and stumbled across this editorial that ran in the News-Tribune on April 17, 1912.

At that time the early rivalry and battles between Duluth and Superior – over the ship canal, etc. – still were in living memory. But the newspaper found “one (issue) on which we can get together” – Superior’s superiority as a site for a horse-racing track:

Share your memories and stories 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.