Yesterday in La Crosse (254)

Friday - February 23, 2018 8:44 am

Motel Row was a busy place, 51 years ago

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In 1967, the best known hotel in La Crosse was the Stoddard downtown, but motels were all over the the Holiday Inn on the pike, and others on Rose Street, greeting visitors coming from the north end.  On the far south side of town, Highway 14...Mormon Coulee Road...was known as Motel Row.  Among the lodging places you could find south of Ward Avenue in '67 were the Redwood, the Wishing Well, the Welch and Bluffview, Vick's, and the New Pines.  Many of those motels are still there today.
La Crosse State was preparing to take people on tours of the kitchens at its new dining hall, Whitney Center.  Whitney had four upstairs dining rooms, and two activity rooms in the lower level.  Today, much of the basement is occupied by the local studios for Wisconsin Public Radio.  
During one week of '67, the most popular songs to be heard on radio in the Coulee Region included "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum..."Light My Fire" by the Doors...Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe"...and the #1 song, "Little Old Wine Drinker Me" by Dean Martin.  Fifty-one years ago, 1967, yesterday in La Crosse.  

In April of 1988, a popular animal at the Myrick Park Zoo, a bear named Roscoe, was put to sleep.  Roscoe was a 12-year-old black bear, weighing 500 pounds.  Animal keepers had decided Roscoe was not suitable for breeding.  News of the bear's death angered supporters of the zoo who had just raised money to build a new open-air pen for Roscoe.

Hintgen Elementary in La Crosse was saying goodbye to the only principal it had ever known.  Elmer Grassman had been in charge of Hintgen since the far south-side school opened 20 years later.  Grassman also had been principal at three other La Crosse schools, all of which have closed over the years...Roosevelt, Washburn, and Webster. 

And the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium came down in 1988, to make way for a county juvenile center and health building.  The Sawyer was dedicated in 1955, but became obsolete when the La Crosse Center opened in 1980.  The Sawyer is where Elvis performed in 1956, and where scheduled concerts by Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel were cancelled because they didn't sell enough tickets.  The Sawyer was demolished 30 years ago, 1988, yesterday in La Crosse.


In 1981, the Ice Capades announced it would do seven shows at the La Crosse Center, only open a year.  The long run was the result of high audience interest in previous Ice Capades productions.  One star of the '81 show was Sandy Lenz of Illinois, who skated on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team at Lake Placid.

Ice had to be cut out of the Mississippi River between Prairie du Chien and Marquette in the winter of '81, to allow ferry boat service.  The 7-year-old bridge at Prairie was shut down suddenly in January, and remained closed for repairs for several months.  Inspectors found the bridge was built with weak steel, and had been in danger of collapsing from the day it opened. 

There weren't many specialized cable TV channels to choose from in 1981.  Teleprompter's offerings in La Crosse were mainly broadcast channels, including WTBS from Atlanta, but they also had HBO, the USA channel, and Nickelodeon.  MTV debuted later that year...1981, 37 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.


Tuesday - February 20, 2018 8:46 am

America finally puts a man into orbit, 56 years ago

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On this day in 1962, astronaut John Glenn made three orbits around the earth aboard a Mercury capsule called "Friendship 7." 
Glenn was the third American to go into space, after Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom.  Years later, John Glenn became a Senator from Ohio, and would fly another space mission in 1998 aboard the shuttle Discovery.  On TV that Tuesday night, you could have watched "Bachelor Father," "Dobie Gillis," and a new game show called "Password."
Here in La Crosse, the city was seeking $100,000 for land that the state wanted to buy for a new physical education building, near the football stadium.  The Racquet newspaper at La Crosse State included ads for the Super Ice Cream Shop on 16th Street, for Winston and Tareyton cigarettes, and for light, bracing, clean-tasting Pepsi-Cola..."for those who think young."
1962, yesterday in La Crosse.  

Many presidents and candidates for the job have made it to the La Crosse area in the summertime. 

In August 1979, President Jimmy Carter traveled down the Mississippi on the Delta Queen with his wife Rosalynn and daughter Amy.  The Carters did not have an official stop in La Crosse, but they visited Prairie du Chien.  The president spoke about energy needs at the 3M company picnic, and jogged at the Prairie du Chien HS track.

In August of 1992, Bill Clinton and Al Gore came through Prairie du Chien and La Crosse on a bus trip after the Democratic convention.  Clinton spoke ar Copeland Park in La Crosse, near the Clinton Street bridge.

Gore apparently remembered that La Crosse trip when he won the Democratic nomination in 2000.  The day after the party convention in Los Angeles, Gore and running mate Joe Lieberman flew to La Crosse for a rally at Riverside Park. 

President Barack Obama made a speech at UWL in July of 2015, inside the Recreation Eagle Center.  The next year, Donald Trump spent a night on the campaign trail staying at the Charmant Hotel, yesterday in La Crosse.


Lincoln's birthday was observed this week, but do you remember the date of his Gettysburg Address?  It was November 19, 1863, at the town in Pennsylvania where the bloody Gettysburg battle had occurred four months earlier.  While almost every dramatic reading of the address today occurs without interruption, a newspaper account in the Wisconsin State Journal indicated that Lincoln was interrupted by applause three times when he made the speech.  One instance was after President Lincoln said "all men are created equal."  And "immense applause" was reported when Lincoln claimed the world wouldn't remember the address, but would not forget what soldiers did at Gettysburg.

A few days before the Gettysburg Address, a draft meeting happened in La Crosse.  Mayor Albert Pettibone led the meeting at Barron's Hall, on the north side of Main Street, where plans to draft men for the war were being discussed. 

In 1863, a map of Wisconsin counties looked much like it does today, with some exceptions.  Marathon County, where Wausau is located, stretched all the way up to Lake Superior.  And Vernon County was still known as "Bad Ax County," yesterday in La Crosse.


Thursday - February 15, 2018 8:44 am

Choose four schools on this list to close...40 years ago

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In 1978, the La Crosse School District decided to close four elementary schools, and put together a list of six schools to choose from.  The list included Erickson, Pleasant Valley, Hogan, Emerson, Hamilton, and Franklin.  Parents at Franklin didn't wait to find out if their school would close.  They called a meeting to protest it.  Franklin remained open until a few years ago, when it was replaced by the new Northside School.  Hamilton and Emerson also are still open today. 

Three people were placed on probation for prostitution...two men for keeping a house of prostitution as co-owners of Carol's Sauna on La Crosse Street and Rhonda's Rap at 219 Pearl.  A woman was charged with selecting females for prostitution at the rap centers.

Early in 1978, movie fans were still going to see some of the big films that came out at the end of '77.  They included "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "The Goodbye Girl," both featuring Richard Dreyfuss...the Mel Brooks comedy "High Anxiety"...and the disco drama "Saturday Night Fever."  Forty years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.




Wednesday - February 14, 2018 8:45 am

Onalaska was waiting for a Wal-Mart, 28 years ago

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In 1990, the Crossing Meadows Plaza near Exit 4 of I-90 was quickly being developed.  A year earlier, part of that area was considered as a possible site for a dog track.  The first Festival food store would open at Crossing Meadows during 1990, and Wal-Mart was looking at the shopping center as a location for its first outlet in the immediate La Crosse area.
In the Bridgeview Plaza area near Exit 3, McDonald's and the Ground Round were among the popular restaurants, along with Embers and Happy Chef.  The Happy Chef had replaced a Bridgeman's restaurant...and would later become the home of SSE Music.
The Catbirds basketball team was on its way to its first CBA championship, under Coach Flip Saunders.  The Catbirds beat Quad City and Albany in the playoffs before defeating Rapid City, 4 games to 1, in the league finals.  
And the Plaid Pantry on Jackson Street sold beer, pop, liquor, and wine...and advertised "a little bit of everything."  The pantry was still in business 28 years ago, 1990, yesterday in La Crosse.  

In 1981, the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce took a $20,000 study that had been gathering dust and looked at it again, in search of ways for downtown to compete with Valley View Mall.  The mall had opened in the summer of 1980.  It drew Sears, JC Penney, and Herberger's away from downtown.  The Chamber report recommended more emphasis on mass transit, and improvements in downtown parking.  Within a couple of years, most parking meters would be removed from the La Crosse business district.

A reconstruction of 3rd Street, including the demolition of a building at 3rd and Main, didn't help business much...but at the end of July, La Crosse celebrated the "grand re-opening of 3rd Street North."  On 4th, the Hotel Stoddard was getting ready to shut down for good, and it would be demolished a year later.

New TV shows getting attention in early 1981 included "Magnum, P.I.," "Dynasty," "Hill Street Blues," and "Bosom Buddies," a sitcom with two young actors named Peter Scolari and Tom Hanks.  And comedian David Letterman was signed to an exclusive contract with NBC after hosting a daytime talk show for the network that only lasted a few weeks.  Dave got the contract in 1981, 37 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.  

In February of '72, former Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy talked with U-W-L students at Cartwright Center.  The 1968 presidential candidate warned that the presidency could become a "4-year monarchy" with almost "religious connotations."  McCarthy said that as Richard Nixon was running for a second term, and was about to visit China.  The Democrat also commented that marijuana ought to be sold with a warning on a package.
Drugs also were mentioned by the day's other campus visitor...comedian and activist Dick Gregory.  Speaking at Mitchell Hall, Gregory argued that he could come to La Crosse and find someone to sell him marijuana or heroin with 15 minutes, but he didn't think police would be able to find the sellers.  Gregory also accused the CIA of killing President Kennedy, and of conspiring in the murders of Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X.
La Crosse had a new FM radio station on the air that February.  WSPL was the sister station of WKTY, and played rock music, featuring announcers such as Mike Kearns, John Desmond, and Ralph Heath.  WSPL is now known as 95.7, the Rock.
And WIZM radio hired a news director named James Alan Miklaszewski, a native of Cudahy.  He later went on to CNN and NBC-TV, and shortened his on-air Jim Miklaszewski.  He was a local radio star 46 years ago, 1972, yesterday in La Crosse.

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Eastern Allamakee
North Crawford
Onalaska Luther
Wauzeka Steuben

Bangor 2 hr
Caledonia 2 hr
Houston 2 hr
La Crescent & Hokah 2 hr - Kids Company also 2 hours late, Montessori and STEM 2 hours late
Lanesboro 2 hr
Mabel/Canton 2 hr
Norwalk Ontario Wilton 2 hr
Prairie du Chien 2 hr
Sparta 2 hr - no am pre-K
Spring Grove 2 hr
Tomah 2 hr - No morning speech and language
Winona Cotter 2 hr
Winona Parochial 2 hr
Winona Public 2 hr