Rants from the Relic The Stains of Toil: Matt M Luthanen (1912-1999)

In a letter to me over 50 years ago, my dad wrote “Not only does one leave behind the stains of toil, but also chills, aches, and pains.”
This poetic philosophy was in reply to my question to him about the cultural foundation of the sauna -- what, besides a bath, did a sauna mean to Finns?
Matt Luthanen was a man who knew the stains of toil. For 37 years he descended 1700 feet into a vein of iron ore on the Vermilion Range of northeast Minnesota to drill, dynamite, and tug the stubborn blue mineral to the surface. Mud pulled at his boots, dust penetrated his pores, the persistent air drill racket robbed his hearing, acrid smoke invaded his lungs.
How did this environment mold him? In a picture taken underground by a co-conspirator, we see Matt, cocky grin, miner’s helmet askew, holding a lighted stick of dynamite. If we have to do this, let’s have fun.


Window into Yesterday - Josephine Reed and Dr. Robert Reed’s Indian Island Photos

From a lifelong interest in photography, Robert Reed became fascinated with his Native American neighbors on Indian Island on Burntside Lake. He spent summers with his family at his cabin there. His first photographs were taken in the 1920s and 1930s. His focus became the Boshey family’s wild ricing on Hulu Lake in the Boundary Waters and the processing on Indian Island. No one knows if he intended to do anything further with these photos. They could have been made into a wonderful book.
One of Robert and Eunice Reed’s daughters was Josephine. Robert taught English at Winona State College and had a large home there. He had been a collector. After he and his wife both died, Josephine came into possession of the house, the photographs, and the collections.


State tourney magic back in Ely, with new heroes, memories

by Tom Coombe. Echo Editor
For a few magical weeks in 1987, Ely was undoubtedly a football town.
Only weeks after some Minnesota Magic, as the Twins captivated the entire state with their improbable, Metrodome-fueled run to the World Series title, Ely’s football team traveled to the ’Dome for its first and still only appearance in a state championship football game.
In the week leading to the contest and really for at least a couple of weeks before, Ely football created a buzz in town, even sending deer hunting to the backburner as guys like Jon Kastelic, Bob LaTourell, Lance Ronn, Bill Muhvich and a host of others led the Wolves to 13 consecutive wins.
Coach Larry Mischke’s motto - Can’t Be Scared - was attached to placards and homemade signs and someone even created a “Wanted” poster with Mischke’s photo.
Right after Thanksgiving, the Wolves, and seemingly all of Ely, made their way to Minneapolis for the big game.


A Halloween revelation, and evolution

by Tom Coombe. Echo Editor
I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t a normal kid.
Those who grew up with me or watched me grow up probably have their own stories, but a few things pop immediately to mind:
• In perhaps a signal of things to come, as a five-year-old I walked down from my grandparents’ house and watched, unattended, as Ely hosted its first State Legion baseball tournament in 1975;
• Just a year later as a first grader I remember staying up late to watch Chris Chambliss hit a walk-off home run to win the American League pennant and send the New York Yankees to the World Series;
• That same year there was another late night as my mom let me watch as the returns came in to decide a close presidential race between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
Want even more proof? I absolutely, positively, without question hated Halloween.


Trout Whisperer - The last one

I’m an hour later than I planned on driving up to a sprawling ranch style home. Parked, I exit my truck and there on a golf cart is small brown bag which I open and see a note that read, this one’s yours, see ya out there, resting on top of a filled jelly donut.
Not wanting to chase a bag around all day I leisurely enjoy the donut, then I deposit the empty sack in his garage.
I get seated, step on the golf cart gas peddle and down the farmyard road I go passing the house his father built, further along on the same side of the drive I then pass the house his grandfather built, then a massive barn with one silo, a very new pole building then I drive between two silos, one no longer in use, then through a three acre stand of gargantuan oak trees until I hit the intersection where I head north, I didn’t see him right away, but once I did, I headed in his direction.


Hook and Bullet Club

Being a night owl can be a curse and a blessing. It’s 12:41 a.m. and I’ve decided to write a column for the first time in quite awhile.
I’ve got the usual excuses with number one being time. It seems the older we get the faster Father Time moves. Which reminds me of a substitute teacher we had in grade school. But that’s a story for another…time.
There were numerous times I wanted to write and didn’t. Like when Mary and I went to Colorado and spent a mini-vacation with Ely’s former eye doctors, Mike and Gail Saxerud.
We used a Whiskey Myers concert at Red Rocks as the trigger to make the trip happen, but it was the time in the Rockies with the best tour guides we could ask for that keep us thinking about when we could go back.


Trout Whisperer - Pilots…

In a week or less he won’t be here, ever again, from us, to my memories. It’s life, mine more, his, finds the time of no more, but I can’t think of that now. I want to be with him then, in today, maybe it’s our last but dang it, I want him happy in the thoughts of us not the day to soon to come.
So, we’re conversing, reminiscing, a paddle stroke at a tongues time, that big walleye, you almost missed it with the net, we laugh. The afternoon’s sunlight is glancing past the window. The nurse comes in, “How are you doing,” erupts from her, “I just have to check your vitals.” Quick, she’s prompt, on spot, timely, efficient.
Without missing a beat, that in days will not be, he says “Could you bring my dock in?” I say you got it buddy. He doesn’t say thanks, he just nods. Says, “I wish I could do it once more.” It hurts to hear that.
I reply, “Mister you put that dock in and out so many times I’d think you’d be worn out from it now.” He says, “Well, maybe I am.”


Putting the home into Homecoming

by Tom Coombe. Echo Editor
The hallways at Ely Memorial High School are much emptier now than when Doug Luthanen graduated in 1967.
Same goes for when Virgie Ivancich finished at the top of her class in the 1950s or when future mayor Ed Steklasa was valedictorian of the Class of 1962.
The graduating classes now are half the size, sometimes smaller, than they were when Sue Becker, then known as Sue Palo, was part of some of Ely’s outstanding girls sports teams in the early-1980s.
When Larry Mischke started teaching, they put three classes inside the Memorial Building instead of the seven housed there today. Tom Wetzel joined Ely’s faculty not long after and Bob Braff coached an outstanding volleyball team, one led by a hitter named Connie Mavetz, that reached the District 27 finals in 1987.


Rants from the Relic “Smiles to Go”

The first time I saw Hank Thunander, 50 years ago he was playing the “Echo Polka” from the stage at John’s Bar in Ely. I marveled at his skill, facility, and stage presence. His appearance with his four-piece combo was typical of the level of entertainment that the All-American Sled Dog Races brought to Ely in the early 70s -- a sub-zero January festival.
Later that night, much later, I got to meet Hank in the tiny, back room of Doc Udovich’s dentist office. Doc was thumping on a giant stand-up bass and Hank continued to flawlessly play requests while seated on the couch. Hank was about 30 then and whizzing through songs as dawn approached after playing a four hour gig on his feet was no challenge for him. The room was full of harmony, furniture, winter coats -- and smiles.


Old rivalry, new memories

by Tom Coombe
Echo editor
Football may not immediately come to mind when the typical Minnesotan thinks of Ely or Grand Marais.
Separated by a windy road, with Lake Superior at one end and the BWCAW at the other, the two communities are destination points for thousands of travelers, from inside the state and far beyond, year after year.
Yet when it comes to football rivalries, the one between Ely and Cook County High School of Grand Marais has endured.
In the 1990s, football masterminds Larry Mischke and Lyle Anderson locked horns in a series of big games.
Anderson’s Vikings knocked Ely out of the playoffs in 1991, while Ely got some revenge at home a couple of years later - although Cook County fans left town that night upset about an inadvertent whistle that cost their team a touchdown and probably a win.


Subscribe to RSS - Columnists