Grizzly's legendary HarrietFrom the Superior Telegram archive, originally published July 15, 2008.
The following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column featuring a ‘Legend of Superior’ by Don Leighton and Mike Granlund. Columns run occasionally in The Daily Telegram.
In 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was our president, we had advisors in Vietnam to help (oops), the Cuban Missile Crisis would not be a reality for another year and Washington D.C. lost its baseball team.
Until 1955 when the Philadelphia A’s moved to Kansas City, the team located farthest to the west was the St. Louis Cardinals.
In 1958, all heck broke loose when the Dodgers and the Giants left New York for Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Three years later, there was great joy and celebration in Minneapolis and St. Paul when the Washington Senators, officially known as the Washington
Nationals and owned by Calvin Griffith, moved to the Twin Cities.
This westward expansion brought our national pastime to the baseball-starved upper Midwest and, in the process, created many new, dedicated and loyal fans of the Minnesota Twins. One such fan was, and still is, 80-year-old Harriet Rakitnichan.
You may not know the name,but if you have ever been to Grizzly’s Grill ‘N Saloon, you have seen her. She has been the hostess at the restaurant since it opened its doors in 1996. Everyone calls her Harriet, not because Rakitnichan is a tough name, but because everyone loves her.
Harriet has followed the Twins since their arrival in 1961, has met Bert Blyleven, Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew and others of the organization. In fact, how many people do you know who have actually worn the World Series
Championship ring of Bert Blyleven?
Now you know one, Harriet.
Her loyalty to baseball and the Twins is unparalleled. She has clippings, she has autographs, yearbooks, a Homer Hankie, and my personal favorite, stuff.
She has attended the Twins’ Caravan on numerous occasions when it has been in Duluth. She follows the games, when her busy work schedule allows it, and when her boss, Rick Lampton, isn’t looking, on one of the many televisions that Grizzly’s has for their customer’s viewing pleasure.
For Harriet, the paper is the primary purveyor of the storyline of each game, and win or lose, Harriet will be sure to read the story and mildly curse, in hushed tones, when they lose.
Harriet was born on April 24,1928, (we don’t believe that the Great Depression of 1929 was a result of her arrival), in Duluth.
She grew up in Clover Valley,which is located between Two Harbors and Duluth. After graduating in 1945, along with seven others from Clover Valley High School, she began working at various businesses in Duluth.
Always a hard worker and dedicated employee, Harriet worked at Chet’s Fountain and Grill on Lake Avenue and Superior Street back in 1943. Her pay for a 44-hour work week was $15.
She then took her talents to the former Piggly Wiggly Grocery and Donut Bar on 1st Street, between Second and Third Avenues West, in Duluth. She worked there until 1947 when she took some time off to raise four children.
Harriet reentered the workforce and moved to the big time in 1964 when she started working at Glass Block in the credit and gift-wrapping departments and stayed for 25 years. Between 1964 and 1989, she used two sick days. After her tenure at Glass Block, she took four years off, some would say in retirement.
In 1993 she began working at Ponderosa Steak House, the current Grizzly’s location in Superior.
Lampton came to Ponderosa as an assistant manager the next year and the beautiful relationship and “marriage” of Rick and Harriet began. They have been together since 1994 at Ponderosa that begat Bonanza in 1995 that begat Grizzly’s in 1996. (We always wanted to use the word begat)
Lampton became managing partner of Grizzly’s in 2005 and has some wonderful thoughts about the diminutive Harriet.
“Harriet has never called in sick during the time I have known her,” Lampton said. “That cannot be said of too many employees in today’s work force.”
Lampton continues, “She is awesome. She’s 80 years old so we know that we will never change her, but why would we want to? I love coming to work knowing that she will be here.
She’s opinionated, but that’s part of her charm, and she knows everybody. Everybody knows and loves to talk to Harriet.”
I know that Harriet will be embarrassed by the praise from Lampton, but too bad. One other small item for your consideration; Harriet was the Grizzly’s 2002 Employee of the Year for the entire 14-store chain.
That award indicates much about her as a person and as an employee. She is a joy and if anyone thinks that us and our wives come to see Lampton, they’re mistaken. We do come in for the food as well, and we will speak, lovingly, of the cuisine shortly.
In 1947, Harriet and John Rakitnichan were married and had four children during their 39-year marriage. John died in July of 1986. Kathy, 60, lives in Florida.
Dan, 55, lives in Plymouth, Minn. and Barb, 50, lives in Lake Nebagamon.
John Jr., Jake, as he was called by many, was hit by a car as he was riding his bike and died on Sept. 20, 1965. He would have been 59 on Jan. 9, 2009. He played in the Superior Babe Ruth program and loved baseball. I believe he left his mother with his love for the game. In 1980, tragedy struck again when her house in Oliver burned down.
Harriet picked up the pieces and moved on with her life.
Harriet still gets to Minneapolis
to watch at least one Twins game a year. She was a little more than annoyed in 1994 during the baseball strike. “Before the strike, I knew all of the players and managers,” Harriet said.
“I lost interest after the strike and with free agency, it is hard to keep track of where players are playing. The strike ruined it for a lot of people.”
Kirby Puckett was her favorite player and she has clippings from papers all around the country, with tributes and articles regarding his passing. Cal Ripken was another favorite, and how many people, let alone 80-year-old ladies can spell Doug Mientkiewicz?
Harriet works Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday for an approximate 20-hour work week.
“She gets more accomplished in her 20 hours than I do in my 45,” Lampton said.
So go to Grizzlies to “Tame the Growlies,” have some great food, beverage, conversation, free popcorn and meet one of the biggest Twins fans and true Legends of Superior, Harriet Rakitnichan. You’ll love her. A word of advice; don’t drop popcorn on the floor.