Hung – Vo Hung has bought more rounds of drinks than the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Richard Wozniak – The longtime proprietor of Young at Heart Records could find anything you needed.
Frank Nichols – He’s lovable, he’s cuddly, he plays harmonica and rides the lift bridge.
Christmas Tree Lady – Claudia Abrahamson put up 37 Christmas trees in 2008, carefully placing them in every room of her house.
Five-mile-an-hour Harold – Harold Nelson was an elderly Duluth Heights resident, known for constantly walking around the city. Sadly, he was struck by a car while crossing Central Entrance at Trinity Road on August 10, 2009. He died three days later. Up until the very end — at age 83 — he was still walking, often stopping to pick up garbage or clear snow from bus stops. In his younger days he worked for the city of Duluth in the purchasing division.
Old Man Carlson – Although he’s best known in Duluth as owner of R.O. Carlson Used Book & Record from about 1976 to 2003, Robert Olaf Carlson’s real brush with fame came in St. Paul during the late 1960s. His Wabasha Book and Magazine Store was raided by police at least eight times, resulting in multiple arrests of Carlson and his business partner, Joseph Lee, for selling “obscene literature.” The store in Duluth was famous for it’s sheer immensity. When Carlson filed for bankruptcy, the IRS estimated the store’s inventory was worth $61,500.
Loud Radio Guy – The guy who, according to Baci, lives at a group home on Fifth Street and rides his bike with a little radio blaring out a tiny speaker. “He’s always slowly pedaling by with a helmet on and a smile on his face,” Baci wrote. When I lived in the Hillside, I used to hear the unmistakable sound of his radio as he pedaled past my window, but I only saw him maybe once or twice.
French Larry – Larry Whalen was an infamous Duluth character before he became an infamous Madeline Island character. According to Baci, French Larry was one of the first residents of Emerson School Apartments, a regular at the Mr. Franks open stages (the only bohemian performance venue in the early 1980s), and a founding member of Colder By The Lake. According to Starfire, Larry is also a modern dancer and a great maker of iced coffees. Why do people call him “French Larry”? No one has told me, or else I forgot.
Mr. Gastler – Retired Denfeld social studies teacher Richard Gastler taught at the school so long that, near the end of his career, he would actually say to students, “I remember when your grandfather was in my class.” Gastler was famous for his wit and his green polyesther leisure suit. In the mid-1980s, in an effort to raise money for starving Ethiopians, he wore his famous suit every day until he raised a certain amount of money. He was interviewed about this on Good Morning America. His suit was eventually burned, and the ashes remain in Denfeld’s trophy case at the main entrance to this day.
“Rod Stewart” – The Ripsaw did a story about him once. I think he’s from Superior. He looks like rock singer Rod Stewart, so everybody calls him Rod Stewart. He’s takes it in stride and is quite a nice guy.
“Ray Ray” – Edward Ray Erickson of Superior has worn at least one item of Green Bay Packers clothing every day since about 1975.
Colleen Shannon – The host of Public Access Community Television’s infamous “In My Room” show during the 1990s, Colleen was a pre-vlogging sensation, pointing the camera at herself and going off on unscripted rants. She would also occasionally just put on the radio and shoot video of herself dancing around the house to the music.
Steve at Eighth Street Video on Ninth Street – Steve Lichterman was amazing in his ability to remember all his customers. I’ve never been much of a video renter, so I was amazed the second time I went to his store, probably eight months after my first rental, and he said something like, “Hi Paul. Looking for another Western?” Steve is apparently running a video store in Superior now, according to comments to this post.
Mr. Lookup – Roger Lookup was a homeless man who enjoyed reading at the Duluth Public Library. Legend has it that he would so frequently ask the librarians to look things up for him that they started saying, “Hey, here comes Mr. Lookup!” when he walked toward the desk. Eventually, he had his last name legally changed to Lookup. He died a few years ago.
Dusty Olson – You have to love a competitive distance runner with a penchant for chemical indulgences. There are many tales of Dusty’s antics, but the one I hear the most is the time he drank until closing time at the Anchor and feared he might oversleep and miss the bus to the start of that morning’s Grandma’s Marathon. Being intoxicated, he did the only logical thing. He ran across the bridge, then headed north to Two Harbors, running the marathon course in reverse to the starting line. He then took a nap on someone’s lawn until the gun went off, after which he ran the race in the direction it was intended, finishing it in just over three hours.
The Mayor of West Duluth – His first name was Terry. He died maybe 10 years ago. Everyone called him the Mayor of West Duluth. He could usually be found sitting on the bench outside Brad’s Barber Shop. The story is that the city repaved the sidewalk and removed the bench, and he hounded officials to restore it. When the city gave in and installed a new bench, everyone in West Duluth joked that Terry had the most clout in the neighborhood.
The Unabaker – Dan Proctor was dubbed “the Unabaker” because of his work at Positively Third Street Bakery and his non-conformity (similar to the Unabomber, but totally different). He’s known for being an all-around nice guy, walking everywhere and living almost (or is it entirely?) removed from the power grid.
Uncle Paul – Paul Steklenski is also known as “The Cider Man,” profiled in Barton Sutter’s book Cold Comfort. If you bring him a bag of rotten apples in the fall, he’ll make cider for you. He is also a founder of Positively Third Street Bakery.
Mrs. Pelican – Mardelle Pelican was the super nice lady who owned the old Eighth Street Market and always said hi twice. “Hi-hi!” My dad told me once that she lived by the zoo and called the Police about a disturbance once and was hung up on because she said, “Hi-hi, this is Mrs. Pelican by the zoo.” I’m not sure if that’s a real story, something my dad made up or an urban legend.
Cereal Box Collector Dude – I read a long time ago about a guy named Rob Zenner who has a renowned collection of old cereal boxes. I think he was from Duluth or close by.
Bud James – Beloved singing janitor at MacArthur Elementary School who was recently the subject of a photo archive post.
Leave a Comment
Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here