The Home of
Micka Electric Company
General Electric Appliances
“Down that street, Fifth Avenue, is where Bob’s uncle’s shop is. Zimmerman’s Furniture and Electric. They’re finally going out of business, after almost twenty-five years. Bob’s father used to make him do odd jobs around the shop. He and this other fellow sometimes would have to go out on a truck and repossess stuff. I think that’s where Bob first started feeling sorry for poor people. These miners would come to town, find a house, buy furniture on the credit their job promised them, and then got laid off when a mind shut down. Then Bob and his friend would have to go over and take away all the stuff bought from Zimmerman’s. Load it onto the truck and just leave. Bob hated that; used to dread it worse than anything.” — Echo Helstrom
1925 5th Avenue East, Hibbing, MN 55746
In about 1920 Edward Micka started Micka Electric. In 1944, Ed Micka died and Maurice and Paul Zimmerman, who had been working for him, purchased Micka Electric. Bob’s father, Abe, joined the company in 1947 and became the secretary/treasurer. As a teen, Bob worked in the store, making deliveries among other tasks.
“He used to work for me. He was strong. I mean he could hold up his end of a refrigerator as well as kids twice his size, football players. I used to make him go out to the poor sections, knowing he couldn’t collect money from those people. I just wanted to show him another side of life. He’d come back and say, ‘Dad, those people haven’t got any money.’ And I’d say, ‘Some of those people out there make as much money as I do, Bobby. They just don’t know how to manage it.’” – Abe Zimmerman (Scaduto, p. 16)
“The Zimmermans really leaned over backwards for a lot of people; they let it go right to the end.” [Abe would rack his conscience over an outstanding account until it was impossible for him to carry it any longer.] “A lot of the time Abe would have Bobby go with me when I went to repossess stuff. He’d sit in the truck and smoke until it was time to carry out whatever it was we were taking back. It really hurt him to have to do this, but Abe left us no other choice.” – Benny Orlando (the store’s service manager for 18 years) (Spitz, p. 61)
Zigman/Zigmond Zimmerman 1876-1936 Odessa Ukraine arrived USA 1907 salesman shoe store dry goods
Anna (Greenstein / Kyrgyz?) Zimmerman 1879 (married Zigmond 1898) Kars Turkey? Odessa Ukraine arrived USA 1910
Maurice Zimmerman 1901-1981 Odessa Ukraine arrived USA 1910
Marian (Minnie) Zimmerman 1903-1996 Odessa Ukraine arrived USA 1910
Paul Zimmerman 1905 Odessa Ukraine arrived USA 1910 salesman Woolin Company then shop
Jack Zimmerman 1909 Odessa Ukraine arrived USA 1910 salesman grocery store.
Abe Zimmerman 1911-1968 born in Minnesota oil company (accountant) then shop
Max Zimmerman 1914-1996 born in Minnesota newspaper then shop
Beatty (Stone) Zimmerman 1915-2000
Abram H. Zimmerman, Bob’s father, was born in America, in Duluth, Minnesota, on October 19, 1911, into a family of four other children. If you believe the 1920 census details, Abe was the first of the family born in the USA. It is more reasonable to believe the 1930 census, which says that Jack/Jake was born in the USA a year ahead of Abe.
Abe’s father — Bob’s paternal grandfather — is Zigman Zimmerman; his Hebrew name is Zisel. ‘I don’t know how they got a German name,’ said Dylan in the 1978 Playboy interview. Zigman was born in the thrusting Russian port of Odessa on Christmas Day 1875, and grew up in an atmosphere of active, vicious anti-Semitism. He seems to have run a shoe-making business before he fled Tsar Nicholas II’s pogroms in 1906. His brother Wolfe not only stayed behind but became a soldier in the Russian army.
Zigman arrived into the US in 1907, through Ellis Island to New York City, like so many others. From there he moved north-west until he arrived in Duluth. He worked as a peddler and sent for his family soon afterwards: by 1910 they had arrived. His wife Anna, formerly Chana Greenstein, born in Odessa on March 16, 1878, had given birth to three children before their emigration: Maurice, aged eight on arrival; Minnie, aged six; and Paul, four. They squeezed into a small apartment at 221/2 West 1st Street, where we presume the fourth child, Jake, was born (though the 1930 census says he was born in Wisconsin). Either way, before the next brother, Max, came along in 1914, the Zimmermans had moved to a house: 221 Lake Avenue North, Duluth. It is the only one of the houses Bob’s father lived in as a child and as a young adult that does not still exist.
Zigman was still a peddler when Abe was born, but by 1917, Zigman, now styling himself Zigmond H. Zimmerman, was a ‘solicitor’ working for the Prudential Life Insurance Co. He had obtained his naturalization papers in 1916, but when the USA entered the Great War in 1918, the Zimmermans were forced to register as aliens. His wife Anna told the registrar she was a dressmaker, and that she spoke ‘a little English’. Zigman could speak it but not read it. By 1920 he was a dry goods salesman; later that decade he opened his shoe store but it failed, and by 1930 he was a salesman in someone else’s. All the same, in 1925 they moved again, to a two-story house at 725 East 3rd Street.
By 1930 the oldest children, Maurice and Minnie had left home, Maurice first working on railway equipment repairs and then as a railway ticket inspector, while Minnie worked as a typist at the Duluth Herald newspaper. Still living at home, 24-year-old Paul had become packer, clerk and then salesman for the Manhattan Woolen Mills. Abe, who by the age of seven had been shining shoes and delivering newspapers, had graduated from the Central High School in 1929, was now 18 and working for the Standard Oil company, first as messenger boy and then as clerk. As Bob commented in 1978: ‘. . . my father never had time to go to college.’ When Abe, aged 22, married 18-year-old Beatty, whom he’d met on one of her weekend trips to Duluth, on June 10, 1934 at her parents’ house in Hibbing, his older brother Paul was best man. They honeymooned in Chicago and then came back to live in Duluth, with Abe’s mother and the three youngest brothers at 402 East 5th Street. Abe’s father, Zigman, had moved out and had an apartment in the Kinsley Apartments on West 1st Street. On July 6, 1936, he died of a heart attack in the street on 2nd Avenue West, in a heat wave, at the age of 60.
Abe duly became a senior manager at Standard Oil, and ran the company union; he and Beatty moved house several more times, finally escaping Abe’s siblings by moving into the upstairs of a duplex at 519 3rd Avenue East, high up on the hillside overlooking the port and Lake Superior. Their first child, Robert Allen Zimmerman, was born at the nearby St. Mary’s Hospital on May 24, 1941, weighing in at 7 lb 13 oz: ‘about as big as a good-sized lake trout,’ writes Dave Engel, in Just Like Bob Zimmerman’s Blues—Dylan in Minnesota. Robert Allen’s Hebrew name is Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham.
In 1947 the family moved to Hibbing, where Abe’s brothers Maurice and Paul had set up [i.e. had bought] Micka Electric Co. the year Bob was born. Abe became an appliance salesman. When Bob’s little brother David was a bit older, Beatty started working as a clerk at Feldman’s clothing shop in the main street, Howard Street.
Abe contracted polio and suffered its debilitating physical consequences all through Bob’s childhood. ‘My father,’ Dylan told the French paper L’Expresse in 1978, ‘was a very active man, but he was stricken very early by an attack of polio. The illness put an end to all his dreams, I believe. He could hardly walk . . .’ But others reported that he walked with a slight limp, not always noticeable. His mother, Anna, who had also moved to Hibbing, and lived for some years with Bob’s Uncle Maurice, moved into a nursing home in St. Paul and died there of arteriosclerosis on April 20, 1955. She had outlived her husband by almost 20 years.
Her death certificate, with the information supplied by Uncle Maurice, confirmed that she’d been born in Odessa. Dylan contradicts this, writing in Chronicles Volume One of visiting her when she still lived in Duluth: she ‘had only one leg and had been a seamstress. She was a dark lady, smoked a pipe. . . . [Her] voice possessed a haunting accent— face always set in a half-despairing expression. . . . She’d come to America from Odessa. . . . [but] Originally she’d come from Turkey, sailed from Trabzon, a port town, across the Black Sea. . . . Her family was from Kagizman, a town in Turkey near the Armenian border, and the family name had been Kirghiz. My grandfather’s parents had also come from that area. . . . My grandmother’s ancestors had been from Constantinople.’
Abe Zimmerman had a heart attack in summer 1966. On June 5, 1968 he died of a second heart attack. He was buried in Duluth.
Gray, Michael. The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. New York: Continuum, 2006, 0826469337, page 729f.
Bob Zimmerman’s Bar Mitzvah (בר מצוה) celebration at the age of 13 was at the Androy Hotel, 502 East Howard Street, Saturday 12 June 1954 (not Wednesday 22 May) with 400 guests. This was large for a Bar Mitzvah in Hibbing.
Bob had prepared for his Torah and Haftorah readings with Reuben Maier, an Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn. (He was close to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson a Hasidic rabbi and the seventh and last Rebbe of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.) Bob and Reuben Maier studied in an apartment at 419 East Howard, right above the L&B Café, which had the best jukebox in town. The rabbi’s arrival in Hibbing was, according to a 1985 interview with Spin magazine, serendipitous.
“[Hibbing] didn’t have a rabbi,” Bob recalls. “When it was time for me to be bar mitzvahed [sic], suddenly a rabbi showed up under strange circumstances for only a year. He and his wife got off the bus in the middle of winter. He was an old man from Brooklyn who had a white beard and wore a black hat and black clothes. They put him upstairs of the café, which was the local hangout. It was a rock ‘n’ roll café where I used to hang out too. I used to go up there every day to learn this stuff, either after school or after dinner. After studying with him an hour or so, I’d come down and boogie. The rabbi taught me what I had to learn and after he conducted the Bar Mitzvah, he just disappeared…. I never saw him again…. He came and went like a ghost.”
In the same interview, Bob went on to say that he believed Rabbi Maier was forced out of the community because he was Orthodox, and too different from the more assimilated Jews of Hibbing. “Jews separate themselves like that. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, as if God calls them that. Christians too. Baptists… Methodists, Calvinists. God has no respect for a person’s title. He don’t care what you call yourself.”
The tone of his recollection may give a hint of what it was like to be a Jew in a town dominated by descendants of the great Scandinavian immigration about whom Garrison Keillor, that other American poet from Minnesota, so fondly spins tales. A teacher at Hibbing High told biographer Robert Shelton that while many barriers had been razed, some remained. “In Hibbing, the Finns hated the Bohemians and the Bohemians hated the Finns. Nearly everyone hated the Jews.” According to Shelton, one classmate said, “The kids used to tease Bob, sometimes. They would call him Bobby Zennerman because it was so difficult to pronounce Zimmerman. He didn’t like that…. His feelings could be hurt easily. Later in high school he wasn’t so well liked, mostly because he stayed to himself so much.”
“All I did was write and sing…dissolve myself into situations where I was invisible,” Dylan said of his teenage years, when he hid away in his family’s attached garage with rock bands called The Shadow Blasters and The Golden Chords. Shelton connects this need for invisibility to the struggles of what he called alien assimilation. “The thirty or forty Jewish families of Hibbing still had to huddle together against the cold. Abe, who loved to play golf, couldn’t belong to the Mesaba Country Club.
East Howard Street with the Androy Hotel on the left.
Note the serious radio mast, upper left of the photograph. WMFG had studios in the Androy Hotel. In June 1942 WMFG dropped CBS and joined the NBC Radio Network. It remained with NBC until the early 1960s. By 1962 it was an independent station.
The Androy Hotel, downtown Hibbing, Minnesota opened June 29, 1921. The name Androy came from the first names of two of the owners – Andrew Doran and Roy Quigley. Built and designed by the Oliver Mining Company, closed in 1977 and restored in 1994, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings on 13 June 1985. The Androy apartments are open to people ages 55 and older and on a limited income. The apartments are modern and spacious and the building offers many opportunities for the residents to get together
Nancy Peterson (she once competed against Bob Zimmerman at a talent show and beat him) worked with Beatty Zimmerman. “She recalls the day in ‘62 or ‘63 when the owner made this announcement: “This is R. W. Feldman. We have a celebrity in woman’s wear—Mr. Bob Die-lynn.”” Star Tribune, September 25, 2005, p. F8
Herman Feldman founded the store, his son Randy made the announcement.
USE PAGE NUMBERS TO CONTINUE BELOW