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Yesterday in La Crosse (348)

Friday - August 17, 2018 8:44 am

A strike against Trane, 63 years ago

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A walkout against the Trane Company in 1955 came after a union rejected three company offers.  About 1700 Trane employees were off the job.  They got $10 a week in benefits while walking the picket line.  One problem was the length of the contract.  The union wanted a year-long pact, but the company wanted longer.  The offer for more pay reportedly added up to a 4 cent per hour raise. 

Five men were stricken by 95-degree heat in the area.  One man died from the heat, and the city of La Crosse urged an end to lawn sprinkling during the hot weather.

The Ringling Brothers circus was coming to town, onto Ericskon Field, where the current pool and playground stand near Losey Boulevard.  The Ringlings would soon give up using the big top tent for their shows.

Households with TV sets were checking out new series in '55.  Bandleader Lawrence Welk got his own "champagne music" show.  "The Honeymooners" with Jackie Gleason became a weekly series.  And two new shows for kids began in October..."Captain Kangaroo" and "The Mickey Mouse Club" in 1955, yesterday in La Crosse.

 

Thursday - August 16, 2018 8:43 am

We set our clocks to Central War Time, 76 years ago

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In the spring of 1942, clocks all over the U.S. were running an hour ahead of Standard Time to save energy during World War II.  It was called "War Time," and it remained in effect year-round until the Japanese surrender in August of 1945.  WKBH Radio, now WIZM, had 15-minute programs of only war news.  One was at 7 a.m., and the other at 12:45 p.m.

Talk of victory was everywhere in '42.  Westby High School had graduation two weeks early, so young people could put in more work time on farms, with so many men fighting the war.  The Westby commencement speaker was Rexford Mitchell, president of the La Crosse Teachers College.  Mitchell's name is now on the athletic building at UW-La Crosse.

A band called the "Hawaiian Victory Band" performed at La Crosse's Trocadero Night Club, in the 100 block of N. 3rd St.  The Cavalier bar was in the same place you'd find in now, 5th Avenue North.  You could see Wisconsin native Liberace perform at the Cavalier, yesterday in La Crosse.

 

Monday - August 13, 2018 8:44 am

Was West Avenue wide enough, 40 years ago?

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The width of West Avenue was a hot topic in the fall of 1978.  The "Neighborhood Preservation Association" was against making the north-south road 16 feet wider between intersections, and 20 feet wider at signalized crossings.  The changes were proposed from King, south to Adams Street.  The city council reversed its approval of the widening plan, setting the stage for a city-wide referendum. 

La Crosse Police were cracking down on prostitution in '78.  The city and state had been investigating massage parlor activities for over a year.  The investigation focused on Lolita's Massage on Jay Street, Carol's Sauna on La Crosse Street, and Ronda's Rap on Pearl.

For 15 weeks from June to October of 1978, the musical "Grease" was the number 1 movie in America.  The only other movie that reached the top spot during that period of time was "National Lampoon's Animal House," starring John Belushi.  Nostalgia on the movie screens, 40 years ago, 1978, yesterday in La Crosse.

In 1977, five members of the La Crosse school board were fighting for their board seats, in the face of a recall campaign.  The board angered some citizens by voting not to renew the contract of Longfellow Junior High principal Myron McKee, who had gotten praise and criticism for his approach to discipline at the school.  Newly elected board member Ralph Geary Jr. said the targeted board members shouldn't fight to keep their jobs, if so many people signed petitions to get them out of office.  Those five targeted members were removed from office that August.

The La Crosse convention bureau wanted a bigger share of the hotel room tax in August of '77. The tax on rooms at the time was 3%, raising about $100,000 a year, and there was talk of raising the levy to 4%.  The visitor bureau and the city of La Crosse each got 45% of the money. The CVB wanted its share increased to 60%, to finance more tourism promotion. That idea was turned down by the city council, by a one vote margin.

Shopko stores were having a "sound explosion," selling stereo LP's and 8-track tapes for 99 cents.  Vinyl albums on sale included releases by the Supremes and Sammy Davis Jr.  For your car, you could buy 8-tracks from the Guess Who, Lawrence Welk, and Pat Boone.  That was 41 years ago, 1977, yesterday in La Crosse.

 

 

Thursday - August 9, 2018 8:43 am

The north-south highway plan was "dead" for the 1990's

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La Crosse Mayor Pat Zielke predicted in 1992 that the north-south corridor idea was "dead" for the decade after Plan 5 was voted down by the city council.  But another plan, named 5-B-1, got on the ballot six years later.  That referendum was aimed at stopping project funding for two years, but the defeat led road opponents to argue that La Crosse voters don't ever want a road built through the marsh. 

One popular western Wisconsin restaurant closed that fall...Zach's in Prairie du Chien, named after former President Zachary Taylor, who had served at Fort Crawford.  Zach's was the site of a big party that summer, when Bill Clinton and Al Gore stopped in PDC during a Midwestern campaign tour.  Zach's used to be known as Geisler's Blue Heaven, with tiny lights in the dining room ceiling representing stars.

The last week before the 1992 election was busy at the La Crosse Airport.  President George H.W. Bush flew out of the airport on Air Force One, two days before the election.  Vice President Dan Quayle also made a trip to town, as did Health and Human Services secretary Louis Sullivan.  And boarding the same plane to Minneapolis one morning after separate speaking engagements in the area were Red Cross president Elizabeth Dole and author Kurt Vonnegut.  Twenty-six years ago, 1992, yesterday in La Crosse.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday - August 8, 2018 8:59 am

Nixon and a painting make the news on 8-8-68

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Fifty years ago, August 8th of 1968, Richard Nixon accepted the Republican presidential nomination, for the second time, when the GOP held its convention in Miami Beach.  Wisconsin delegates put Nixon over the top toward the end of the balloting.  Nixon's first nomination was in 1960, while he was still vice president.  He lost that election to John F. Kennedy.  
 
While TV watchers had to choose between Walter Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley for election coverage, a portrait of the Marquis of Huntley was donated to La Crosse's Viterbo College.  The painting dated back to the early 1600's, and was donated to the college by a California woman who had gotten hospital care from Viterbo graduates.  A promise was made to display the portrait in Viterbo's new fine arts building...which wouldn't open for another three years.
 
The biggest local story on the front page of the Tribune that Thursday was a report on the United Fund, now known as United Way.  The goal for 1968 would be $347,000...an increase of $22,000 over the year before.  Thirty agencies in the area would get United Fund money, including La Crescent branches of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Red Cross.  
 
Anti-mosquito spraying was scheduled in La Crosse that night, from the Causeway to the north city limits.
 
And movie lovers could go to La Crosse's outdoor theaters and see "Bonnie and Clyde" or the latest James Bond adventure, "You Only Live Twice."  Fifty years ago, 1968, yesterday in La Crosse.
 

Tuesday - August 7, 2018 8:46 am

The year of the Cuban refugees, 38 years ago

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For much of 1980, Fort McCoy housed thousands of people who had fled Cuba in a massive boatlift.  Some of them had been prisoners released from jail by the Castro government.  Many of the refugees who had been at McCoy were sent to Arkansas, and that led to discontent against the young governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton.  He was voted out of office in 1980, but came back a couple of years later.

The '80 election put Ronald Reagan in the White House, defeating Jimmy Carter.  Republican Steve Gunderson of Osseo unseated three-term Congressman Al Baldus in Wisconsin's 3rd District.  And Gaylord Nelson's time as a U.S. Senator was up.  Nelson was beaten by Republican Bob Kasten.

Disco pretty much disappeared in America after 1980.  The song "Funkytown" was #1 for most of June that year, and "Magic" from the "Xanadu" soundtrack topped the charts in August.  But mellow songs were popular late in the year..."Sailing" by Christopher Cross, "Woman in Love" by Barbra Streisand, and the Kenny Rogers hit "Lady."  Thirty-eight-years ago, 1980, yesterday in La Crosse.

A John Doe investigation of illegal gambling led to a fine for a past president of La Crosse's First National Bank in 1974.  George Milne was fined $500 for setting up a "Las Vegas Night" at the La Crosse Club the previous winter.  In '74, Wisconsin had no casinos, no dogtracks, and no lottery, but Bingo was getting a foothold.  Among the people caught playing blackjack and craps on the Vegas night was the brother of La Crosse mayor Peter Gilbertson.

When President Nixon resigned in August of '74 because of Watergate, a few planned activities were disrupted on the Thursday night of Nixon's televised speech.  The Oktoberfest committee was meeting at Heileman Hall that night, with many fest volunteers in their German costumes for the occasion as they pondered the historical event.  Doug Farmer, the treasurer of the La Crosse County Republican Party, predicted that the GOP would have a "Mr. Clean" image after Nixon left the White House. 

A few Oscar winning actors were born that year...including Christian Bale, Hilary Swank, Penelope Cruz, and Leonardo DiCaprio.  In 1974...44 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.

 

 

Thursday - August 2, 2018 8:44 am

Blackboards and chalk were so 1960

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Today's college students routinely carry laptop computers and smartphones.  But in 1961, high-tech teaching equipment used at La Crosse State included overhead projectors and reel-to-reel tape recorders.  Science professor Milford Cowley liked the projector, saying it saved time and labor compared to a chalkboard.  The campus newspaper had a photo of physical science instructor Kenneth Lindner, later a UW-L chancellor, setting up a recorder and projector to train other faculty members.

The Beta variety show was being held at the La Crosse campus for the 21st time.  By popular demand, Dave Stork was returning as emcee.  Stork had been a hit with the audience the previous year with what a reporter called "zany tactics and Scandinavian-accented anecdotes and jokes."

"West Side Story" was the biggest hit movie of 1961, also winning the Oscar for best picture.  Number 2 at the box office was "The Guns of Navarone."  Three Disney movies made the top 10...the original versions of "The Absent-Minded Professor," "101 Dalmatians," and "The Parent Trap" with Hayley Mills.  Fifty-seven years ago, 1961, yesterday in La Crosse.

 

 

The Rivoli Theater in La Crosse is still in business today, but the Tivoli restaurant off Highway 35 is not.  Both were busy places in 1970.  The Tivoli Gardens was on the George Street extension between La Crosse and Onalaska, about where you'd find Nutbush City Limits now.  At the opposite end of La Crosse was Club 14 on Mormon Coulee Road.  It was replaced by the Ports O'Call shopping center, later Canterbury Court.

There was talk of re-opening old Central High School during the 1970 school board race in La Crosse.  The old school at 15th and Cass was closed in the late 60's when Central moved to Losey Boulevard.  Candidate Bill Murphy called for old Central to be used as a junior high.  That never happened, but Murphy won the election, along with David Nelson and Carol Gundersen. 

And at the end of July in 1970, the "Huntley-Brinkley Report" on NBC aired for the last time.  Chet Huntley was retiring to his home state of Montana, and David Brinkley said good night to him one more time.  Huntley and Brinkley's 14-year partnership came to a close in 1970, yesterday in La Crosse.

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