Duluth in the 1970s

There’s now a Facebook page for 1970s-era Duluth nostalgia.

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about 12 years ago

I too remember Park Drive on 9th and 19th. This was back in the late sixties. The store was really a throwback to the 20s, 30s and 40s. I always remember it being so dimly lit. Within no hint of air-conditioning. The dry goods, like the boxes of breakfast cereal, were stacked so high along the walls they used long sticks with working mandibles at their ends to get the product down from the walls. I imagine those devices are museum pieces now. The establishment also included an in-house butcher in the back. There were two entrances to the business: one from the front on 9th and a side entrance along 19th. Being a neighborhood kid coming down Snelling, I always used the side entrance which always made me feel sort of special. To this day I still remember the partitioned box they kept under the counter with all the penny candy. That, and how patient and kind the owners, an older couple, were to me and my friends when we walked down there with our pennies and nickels in our pockets to buy candy. 

I also remember Taran's, and then even before when it was IGA grocery store. Four years old, wanting to be something like a grown-up, I convinced my mother to give me a dollar so I could go down on my own and buy a box of corn-sweetened breakfast cereal that had captured my imagination: Quisp (as opposed to its apparently marketed antithesis, the equally corn-sweetened and yellow-colored Quake). In time, I grew to understand, crestfallen in only how a four year old can be, that both tasted remarkably the same...marketing aside. The Quisp character had something like a sci-fi halo about his head and Quake had something like a sturdy helmet atop his. It was about the only difference that I could make out, and then it was completely unsatisfactory.

I worked there my last year of high school and freshman year of college, chopping up produce and bagging groceries. An old-time neighborhood grocery that actually made deliveries and let neighborhood locals write checks for cash when they were in a pinch. In the basement, the walls were plastered in the most surreal collection of fruit box label art I think could ever be imagined. It must have spanned forty years, easily. 

Frank Taran was an extremely nice man. Somebody you were proud to work for...even at the tender age of 18 or 19. A real mensch. Little did I understand that I was witnessing firsthand the trailing end of something: the slow and painfully incremental end to what was and had always been a neighborhood fixture. That place on the corner: its lights on, its doors open, and with people milling about inside, ready to do business.

There's not much of that sight anymore in our neighborhoods.That hub of light and activity that gives a bit of identity to that place where you like to think you live. Darn it all. And darn it all again.

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