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Yesterday in La Crosse (287)

In 1995, the first building used as a city hall in La Crosse was demolished in the 400 block of Main Street.  In the 1930's and 40's, the building was used as a radio studio by WKBH.  It was housing Bob's Moen Photo in '95, but it was crowded up against the State Bank building, and it was torn down for parking.

Congressman Steve Gunderson of Osseo was promoting an overhaul of the federal milk policy.  A key point of Gunderson's plan was to end the practice of pricing milk based on how far away from Eau Claire that the milk was produced.  Instead, the price would depend on whether the milk would be used for drinking, or dairy products.

Before television had "Desperate Housewives" and "Real Housewives," La Crosse had "Angry Housewives."  That was the name of a musical performed in 1995 by the Pegasus Players, above the Brew-Note coffee shop on Jay Street.  In the show, "Angry Housewives" was the name of a punk-rock band started by a group of married women, played by Crystal Hoeth, Melinda Hadley-Bartlett, Vicki Elwood, and Sue Ramsett...23 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.

 

Thursday - April 19, 2018 8:44 am

Earth Day didn't always have that name

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Walter Cronkite called April 22nd of 1970 "a unique day in American history"...the first Earth Day, to raise awareness of environmental problems.  But not everybody called the observance "Earth Day."  La Crosse Mayor Warren Loveland issued an "Environmental Day" proclamation, in which he said the nation must find "adequate and feasible solutions" to overpopulation and air and water population.  La Crosse County's population was 80,000 in 1970.  It's now close to 120,000. 

Less than a year after Woodstock, Wisconsin had its own Rock Fest, outside of Poynette.  Five thousand tickets had been sold for the three-day outdoor concert.  The most famous band booked was the Grateful Dead, but a La Crosse band called Hope, formerly the Jesters 3, also was on the bill.  Another band at Rock Fest, from Rockford, Illinois, was called Fuse, featuring Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson...who later became famous as part of Cheap Trick.

On the radio in April of 1970..."ABC" by the Jackson 5, "Let It Be," by the recently disbanded Beatles, and the Ides of March with "Vehicle."  Forty-eight years ago, Yesterday in La Crosse.

Wednesday - April 18, 2018 8:46 am

What were campaign ads like 50 years ago?

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Compared to political attack ads you see now, messages that ran during the 1968 campaigns in Wisconsin might seem tame.  Congressman Vernon Thomson accused his Democratic opponent, a La Crosse area school board member, of skipping board meetings.  Thomson also claimed his challenger was falsely trying to show an interest in flood control.  Meanwhile, Gov. Warren Knowles was running for a third term, and he made drunk driving a campaign issue.  One Knowles ad showed a picture of a 9-year-old girl, and asked "Will she be dead on the highway in another nine?"

Oktoberfest was known for attracting famous entertainers in its early years.  In 1968, the fest hosted circus clown Emmett Kelly Jr.  And two popular TV actors appeared onstage as their characters at a rodeo in West Salem.  Frank Sutton performed as Sgt. Carter from the "Gomer Pyle" show, and Ken Curtis played Festus from "Gunsmoke."

Doris Day had a new TV series on CBS in 1968, the same year that she did her last movie, the family comedy "With Six You Get Eggroll."  The movie also featured Brian Keith, Barbara Hershey, Jamie Farr, Alice Ghostley, and in his first movie role, George Carlin.  Fifty years ago, 1968, yesterday in La Crosse.

 

 
On Good Friday of 1965, the studios of WKBT Television and WKBH Radio on 6th Street were gutted by an early-morning fire.  No one was hurt, but the fire damage forced broadcasters for both stations out of that building for a time.  WKBH, now WIZM, was offered a temporary studio a block away by competing radio station WLCX.  As for Channel 8, it could still air network TV shows, but local talent had to broadcast from the station transmitter in Galesville, sound only, for a few days.  Lost in the blaze were 20,000 recordings...3000 commercials...and the costume worn by Jack Martin as Bozo the Clown.  
 
The Channel 8 fire struck at the peak of the city's worst flooding on record.  The Mississippi crested in La Crosse on April 22nd, at almost 18 feet...6 feet above flood stage.  The high water shut down the Causeway for about two weeks, and the Clinton Street bridge to French Island also was closed for many days.  
 
And the old courthouse between 3rd and 4th Streets was demolished that April, after 61 years of operation.  A Montgomery Ward store would open on Courthouse Square less than a year later.  The block is now called Belle Square.  The courthouse dome came down 53 years ago, 1965, yesterday in La Crosse.
 

 
In 1991, for the third spring in a row, La Crosse police had to deal with visitors trying to make trouble downtown during the weekend of the Coon Creek canoe races.  When a crowd of about two thousand people wouldn't break up after bar time, officers brought out batons and tear gas.  Dozens of people were arrested, and one group tipped over a police squad car and set it on fire.  Riots broke out again the following April, again on Coon Creek weekend.
 
The Wisconsin Arts Board was under fire, for being an all-white group.  Twelve people sat on the statewide board.  Governor Tommy Thompson was criticized for not including any minority members among the 16 persons he had appointed to the arts board in four years.
 
And voice mail was catching on in Wisconsin.  Northwest Telephone Company in Tomah had more than 600 voice-mail customers in Waukesha County...about 90 per cent of them, residential customers.  Century Telephone in La Crosse reported about 300 people using voice mail in the area 27 years ago, 1991, yesterday in La Crosse.
 

 

In May of 1969, one La Crosse church offered a special worship service at 1:30 a.m., for promgoers for Logan and Central who wouldn't have to worry about oversleeping and missing church in the morning.  Three dozen students still dressed for the dance attended the service sponsored by Christ Episcopal Church.

President Nixon called it the most important nomination a president can make.  Four months after taking office, Nixon made his first Supreme Court appointment in 1969 by naming St. Paul native Warren Burger to replace retiring Chief Justice Earl Warren.  Burger served as Chief Justice for nearly 20 years before retiring in the late 80's. 

A senior citizens center on La Crosse's north side got a new name.  The Gillette Street senior center was renamed after the late Harry J. Olson, who was the former director of the La Crosse Committee on Aging.  The Olson center still operates today, and a task force has suggested either remodeling the building or replacing it.

And "Aquarius" by the 5th Dimension was the #1 song in America for six weeks during the spring of 1969...49 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse. 

 

 

Wednesday - April 11, 2018 8:45 am

The new church on the hill opens, 10 years ago

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In 2008, the church at the Shrine of Guadalupe east of La Crosse opened its doors.  The multi-million dollar facility was a labor of love for former La Crosse Diocese Bishop Raymond Burke, now a cardinal.  Burke was Archbishop of St. Louis that year, but he returned to the area for the dedication, and he routinely comes back to the shrine twice a year during certain holy days. 

The city of La Crosse was breaking ground for a new bus transfer center at 3rd and Jay.  At the ceremony, Mayor Mark Johnsrud pointed out that the new building would be more than just a place to get on a city bus...but it would also have apartments and retail stores.  Johnsrud would be voted out of office, and would move out of La Crosse before the Grand River Station opened in 2010.

Local actors were among the cast members included in a movie being shot in the La Crosse area, called "Fort McCoy."  Hollywood actor Eric Stoltz headed the cast of the film, set during World War II at the Army base near Sparta.  The movie was made 10 years ago, 2008, yesterday in La Crosse.

 

 
On April 8th and 9th of 1973, La Crosse saw one of its biggest snowstorms on record to that time.  The 16-inch total easily beat the previous record for April snow in the city, set 21 years earlier.  Only two other storms delivered more snow...in 1959 and 1971.  The total of 17 inches for the entire month is still an April record in La Crosse...and surprisingly, the forecast had called for light snow or rain.
 
Wisconsin voters were eager to play bingo, passing a statewide referendum to legalize the game.  Some TV stations around the state had broadcast daily bingo shows in the mid-60's for prizes, but the state shut them down because businesses offering the bingo cards had an unfair advantage in the market.  Bingo actually had been outlawed in Wisconsin in 1939, and opponents of the amendment feared that organized crime, and even worse forms of gambling would follow if bingo was approved.
 
At its annual banquet in April, the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce continued its tradition of celebrity speakers by bringing in TV personality Kitty Carlisle.  Five days a week in '73, Carlisle could be seen as a panelist on the game show "To Tell the Truth."  In La Crosse, she spoke about her career as a singer and occasional movie star, noting that she was gaining young fans because of her role in the Marx Brothers classic "A Night at the Opera."  The real Kitty Carlisle stands up 45 years ago, 1973, yesterday in La Crosse.
 
 

Monday - April 9, 2018 8:44 am

Payback by the principal, 28 years ago

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In April of 1990, former Central High principal Robert Bulthaus pled guilty to misdemeanors, resulting from charges that he misused student activity funds during two years in charge of the local school. Bulthaus left Central in the spring of 1988, after it was learned that he had spent $3100 collected from student fees on a desk and credenza for his own office. As part of his negotiated plea, Bulthaus was required to buy the furniture out of his own pocket.
 
Mayor Pat Zielke made a deal with the Navy, getting it to pay $80,000 over 10 years to lease the Naval Reserve station on Green Bay Street. The reserve center had been there for about 40 years, and had only paid a dollar a year in rent. Zielke hinted that he told the Navy that La Crosse is a small city and could use more money.
 
The Catbirds basketball team was on its way to its first CBA championship in the spring of 1990, but it had to open the title series with Rapid City at a neutral location, Rochester. The Catbirds were supposed to host Game 1, but both the La Crosse Center and Mitchell Hall at U-W-L were busy the night of that contest. Home game on the road in 1990, 28 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.
 
 
Wednesday - April 4, 2018 8:46 am

The death of a man who had a dream, 50 years ago

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Fifty years ago, April 4th of 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed while standing on a balcony at a motel in Memphis.  The 39-year-old civil rights leader was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers.  King's murder happened the same week that President Lyndon Johnson announced on live TV that he would not seek another term in office, even though he had already campaigned in the Wisconsin Democratic primary...a primary won by Sen. Eugene McCarthy.
 
The shooting of King was immortalized in the U-2 song "Pride (In the Name of Love)."  The song takes poetic license when it says "Early morning, April 4," while King actually was shot around 6 o'clock at night.  In recent years, singer Bono has changed the line in live performance to "early evening, April 4."
 
Early that evening, news bulletins about King disrupted the usual Thursday night TV lineups...which included "Bewitched," "Daniel Boone," "Ironside," and "The Flying Nun."  In sports, the Milwaukee Bucks hired Larry Costello to become their first coach...after Marquette University wouldn't let Al McGuire take the job.  Costello's on first...50 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.
 

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