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Short Cuts: Rare photos show very young Bob Dylan in northern Minnesota

Readers have submitted two rarely seen photos, including one of young Bobby Zimmerman with three generations of his mother's family.

Three young light-skinned children stand holding hands in a black-and-white photo taken circa 1945. Two girls about six years old wear thigh-length coats; a boy about four years old wears a dark suit.
Bobby Zimmerman, right, who would become Bob Dylan, stands with two Hibbing children in a photograph taken about 1945.
Contributed / Barry Tusin

DULUTH β€” With Bob Dylan turning 82 this week, his northern Minnesota childhood was a very long time ago. Even after all these years, though, there are still people from the area with new stories to tell β€” and even new photos to share.

I've recently heard from two readers who sent rare photos of the boy who was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth on May 24, 1941. The child was called Bobby.

One photo comes from Barry Tusin, who now lives in the Chicago area but grew up in Superior. Tusin writes that his aunt, Ruth Rovell, lived in Hibbing and was friends with Beatrice "Beatty" Zimmerman, Bobby's mother. Beatty occasionally dropped Bobby off to play with Barry's cousin, Jackie, and on this day, a neighbor friend.

With the help of Dylan collector Bill Pagel, who owns the house where the Zimmermans moved when Bobby was 6 (as well as the Zimmermans' former Duluth home), Tusin traced this photo location to a house on Second Avenue West. That was near where the Rovell family lived, and the house pictured may have belonged to relatives of the neighbor friend.

According to Tusin, his cousin, Jackie, estimates this photo was taken circa 1945, the year Bobby turned 4. Beatty had close ties to family and friends in her hometown of Hibbing, so it isn't surprising that her young son would be photographed in Hibbing, even when the Zimmermans were living in Duluth.

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Speaking of Beatty's family, a second remarkable photograph submitted by a reader depicts Bobby with his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all together. This photo comes from Lawrence Goldberg, of Arizona. Pagel, noted as a knowledgeable source on Dylan's youth, confirmed that he recognizes all the people Goldberg identified in the photo, and said that to his knowledge, it has never been published.

Four light-skinned people stand for photograph taken circa 1942. A young woman and middle-aged woman stand, with an older woman seated holding a young boy.
Bobby Zimmerman, who would become Bob Dylan, sits on the lap of his great-grandmother, Lybba Edelstein, in this photo taken in 1942. Bobby's mother, Beatty Stone Zimmerman, stands at left, next to his grandmother, Florence Edelstein Stone.
Contributed / Lawrence Goldberg

Goldberg, he explains, is the son of Sylvia Edelstein, the sister of Beatty's mother, Florence. That makes Lawrence a first cousin, once removed, of Bob Dylan. Since Sylvia was "the baby" of the Edelstein family, she was only three years older than her niece, Beatty. The two were "extremely close," according to Goldberg.

In this photo, Beatty is standing at left. Her mother, Florence, Lawrence Goldberg's aunt, is standing at right. Beatty's grandmother, Lybba, is seated holding her great-grandson, Bobby. Lybba died in 1942, when Bobby was just 1 year old. Based on the young boy's age, this photo dates from the last year of her life and presumably would have been taken in Hibbing or somewhere nearby.

The Lybba Theater, built in 1947 and operational until 1982, was owned by Dylan's relatives on the Edelstein side and named after Bobby's great-grandmother. Latterly the Sunrise Deli, the theater was located at 2135 First Ave. in Hibbing and was frequented by Bobby and his friends.

"Life in Hibbing, Duluth and Superior was difficult sometimes," wrote Goldberg. "It sometimes was a hardscrabble existence, but they persevered and survived. The Iron Range was not the easiest place to live, but they all did OK."

Arts and entertainment reporter Jay Gabler joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2022. His previous experience includes eight years as a digital producer at The Current (Minnesota Public Radio), four years as theater critic at Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, and six years as arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He's a co-founder of pop culture and creative writing blog The Tangential; he's also a member of the National Book Critics Circle and the Minnesota Film Critics Alliance. You can reach him at jgabler@duluthnews.com or 218-279-5536.
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