Yesterday in La Crosse (94)

Friday - June 23, 2017 8:42 am

A new trial for Evan Zimmerman, 12 years ago

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In the spring of 2005, Evan Zimmerman earned the chance at a retrial on a murder charge for which he had gone to prison.  The Wisconsin Innocence Project at the UW Law School questioned the original conviction of the former policeman who was found guilty of strangling a former girlfriend in Eau Claire, hours after her wedding to another man.  La Crosse attorney Keith Belzer handled Zimmerman's defense.  The trial ended abruptly with Zimmerman cleared of the charges and released from prison, after the DA says he did not have enough evidence to prosecute.  Zimmerman moved to La Crosse, and died two years after he was cleared.

The Mother's Day sale was on at Ben Franklin Crafts in the Village Shopping Center.  The craft store was selling a park bench for $50, a copper birdbath for $39, and a Yankee candle in a jar for $17.  The scent of the month was 'fresh peach.'

Among the movies showing in La Crosse that spring...the animated film "Robots," "Ice Princess," and the Clint Eastwood boxing drama "Million Dollar Baby," which had just won the Oscar for Best Picture.  Twelve years ago, 2005, yesterday in La Crosse.


In June of 1994, O.J. Simpson was arrested for a double murder after the infamous "white Bronco" chase in California.  The Simpson case broke the same week that a triple-murder trial began in La Crosse for James Frydenlund, a Twin Cities man accused of killing his estranged wife, Suzzette, and her parents, Leroy and Celia Weibel, at the Weibel's trailer home east of La Crosse.  The slayings happened in the fall of 1992.  Prosecutors theorized that Frydenlund drove from Minneapolis to La Crosse late at night, committed the murders, and drove back home so neighbors would see him at his house the next morning.  One La Crosse TV station interrupted news coverage of Simpson in court to air the live jury verdict in the Frydenlund trial...not guilty.  Twin Cities defense attorney Earl Gray lists the Frydenlund trial as one of his courtroom victories.  Gray was on the defense team that recently won an acquittal for Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez in a fatal shooting. 
The New Orleans Saints were practicing at UW-L for the seventh straight year in 1994.  Later that year, the football team announced that it would keep the summer training camp in La Crosse for another five years...but as it turned out, that extension would be the last one.  The Saints went back south for their training after the 1999 season. 
And Jack and Janet Miller were named Commodore and First Mate for the 1994 Riverfest...23 years ago, Yesterday in La Crosse.

Wednesday - June 21, 2017 11:53 am

Punishment for the principal, 27 years ago

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In June of 1990, former La Crosse Central principal Robert Bulthaus was sentenced to a month in jail, and apologized for misusing student activity funds during the two years he was in charge of the high school.  Bulthaus resigned in 1988, shortly after it was discovered that he had spent about $11,000 of money intended for student programs at Central on office furniture for himself, a desk and credenza. 
Three major car dealers in La Crosse threatened to leave the city, if the common council didn't allow one of them to close one block of traffic for business expansion.  Dahl Ford said it needed to have Ferry Street closed between 3rd and 4th, to allow more development.  Eversole Motors and Honda Motorwerks joined Dahl in threatening to pull their dealerships out of La Crosse if the change wasn't made.  The council approved the street closure. 
And the 3rd District Congressman waited until the 12th of June, five months before the election, to announce that he would seek a 6th term.  Republican Steve Gunderson of Osseo kicked off his campaign in La Crosse with a fundraiser featuring President Bush's Interior Secretary, Manuel Lujan, who toured the federal fish lab on French Island during his visit...27 years ago, 1990, Yesterday in La Crosse.

Tuesday - June 20, 2017 8:43 am

A pipe bomber goes to prison, 32 years ago

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In the summer of 1985, Earl Karr was sentenced to 18 months in prison by a Minnesota judge, for possessing an explosive device. Karr actually planted about two dozen pipe bombs in four Midwestern states, including six found just in La Crosse prior to the Memorial Day weekend in 1984.   One bomb was discovered outside the cathedral downtown, and another near a slide at a playground.  Six people in all were injured by the explosives. Karr eventually received much longer prison sentences.
La Crosse County has a full-time administrator now, but in 1985, county board members turned down the idea, even after it had been recommended by a task force. Supervisor Norbert Nuttelman actually responded to the administrator plan by saying if the system "isn't broke, don't fix it."
Movie fans were introduced to Marty McFly and Doc Brown in the original "Back to the Future." It was also the summer for "The Goonies"...Sylvester Stallone as "Rambo"..."Cocoon"...and "St. Elmo's Fire." Thirty-two years ago, 1985, yesterday in La Crosse.

Sunday - June 18, 2017 9:21 pm

A teacher walkout, 46 years ago

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In early 1971, La Crosse Education Association members walked off the job for a day, shutting down all 20 schools in the district.  The strike capped a year-long dispute with the school district, which the Tribune called "the biggest educational crisis in La Crosse history."  The union and the school board had agreed on most parts of a contract, including a base salary of $7300.  But the talks broke down on the issue of contract renewal. 
Daniel Ellsberg was a leaker.  Ellsberg sent the Pentagon Papers to the media in '71, when Senate Republican leader Hugh Scott said Democratic candidates for president were using the war as a "political football"...for criticizing President Nixon for a war they had supported under Lyndon Johnson.  More than 20 years later, Ellsberg spoke at Main Hall on the U-W-L campus about his anti-war activism.
And Wisconsin became the 34th state to approve a lower voting age of 18.  A handful of lawmakers opposed the change.  Only four more states were needed to make the 26th amendment a federal law, in 1971.  Yesterday in La Crosse.

In April of 1959, the introduction of America's first seven astronauts was front-page news around the country, and especially for the La Crosse Tribune, which touted the selection of Sparta's Deke Slayton for the Mercury program.  At the time, Slayton was a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base.  NASA declared that all seven men would get identical training, and the first one to go into space would not be notified until the day of the mission.  In reality, the agency chose Alan Shepard to make the first flight four months before his mission.  Slayton was supposed to fly in 1962, but a medical problem kept him grounded until 1975.
On the same day that the astronauts made their debut, the future president who would push the U.S. to put a man on the moon was visiting Wisconsin.  Massachusetts Senator John Kennedy was already being considered a likely candidate in the 1960 presidential race.  Kennedy was in the state to speak at the annual dinner for the Milwaukee Press Club.
Around Flag Day in '59, a La Crosse woman announced that she would fly her old 46-star flag on the 4th of July.  Mrs. M.B. Stenger said the flag, about 50 years old, had been in her family since shortly after star #46 was added for Oklahoma.  That summer, a new 49-star flag was adopted, to celebrate the addition of Alaska...58 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.


Thursday - June 15, 2017 8:43 am

Time to turn Central into a park, 44 years ago

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In 1973, the La Crosse Park Department wanted the city to buy the site of the Old Central High School, at 15th and Cass, to use as a park.  The school had sat empty for about six years.  There were suggestions for a community center, or condominiums.  Businessman Charles Gelatt offered $50,000 if the city would make it a park.  That finally happened, with the park named after long-time Central teacher and coach Babe Weigent.  A new statue of Weigent has now been installed at the park.

The city was looking for money to build a fire station at the La Crosse Airport.  Meanwhile, airport manager James Cote resigned over plans for an 800-foot tall television tower in La Crescent.  Cote said the tower might hamper air traffic through the area.

Three of the four ex-Beatles had #1 hits on the radio that year.  Paul McCartney held down the top spot for most of June with "My Love," followed immediately by "Give Me Love" by George Harrison.  Ringo Starr landed at #1 late in 1973 with "Photograph"...44 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.


In the fall of 1989, La Crosse hosted the first official delegation from the Russian sister city of Dubna, then part of the Soviet Union.  Three female musicians known as the Dubna Trio performed at Viterbo during that visit.  One of them has stayed in the U.S., and became a faculty member at Viterbo.  The Radisson had a special Russian-themed brunch during the November, 1989 tour, which came just days before the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

Governor Tommy Thompson was pondering his future in the fall of '89, deciding whether to run for a second term.  He'd have to announce his decision by New Year's Eve.  Thompson, who eventually was elected to four terms, said he could see himself working in Washington some day...which he later did, as a member of the George W. Bush cabinet.

Popular movies late in '89 included "Parenthood," with Steve Martin, the second "Back to the Future" film, "Look Who's Talking," and "The Little Mermaid"...28 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.


The new store near Losey and State Road in June of 1957 was a Kroger's supermarket, in the Village Shopping Center, offering "acres of free parking."  Kroger's celebrated its opening with a circus theme.  Besides food, Kroger's featured a toy department, a record section, and a "complete hosiery department."  Over time, the Village Kroger's would be replaced by a Quillin's Store, and Festival Foods.  On the opposite side of State Road was a trailer park, which would make way for a K-Mart in 1965.
Consumers Market and Bakery at 4th and Pearl advertised its wedding cakes, and other baked goodies like applesauce Danish rolls, prune and apricot fluff rolls, and whole wheat raisin bread.  In time for Father's Day, Smale's Market on Cass Street declared "DAD LIKES CHEESE," and had gift boxes of cheese for sale, starting at $1.50.
Conservatives won control of the parliament in Canada, for the first time in 22 years.  The new ruling party promised to have a woman in the prime minister's cabinet, Mrs. Ellen Fairclough.  She was described in a newspaper story as "slim, fair-haired, and active"...and the newspaper headline about the appointment wondered if the Canadian Cabinet could be called the "Kitchen Cabinet?"  That was 60 years ago, 1957, Yesterday in La Crosse.

The "Batman" TV show starring Adam West was a hit in the summer of 1966, and a movie version was about to open at La Crosse's Rivoli Theater that August.  As a publicity stunt, somebody dressed as Batman was scheduled to appear somewhere in La Crosse...maybe at the State Bank, the Montgomery Ward store, or at some of the movie theaters in town.  Guesses about the identity of the local Batman were to be sent on postcards to radio station WLCX.  First prize was the actual Batman costume.  Other prizes included radios, pizzas, and Pepsi. 
A similar guessing game involved the grand marshal for the 1966 Oktoberfest Maple Leaf Parade.  People were invited to predict who the marshal would be, and whoever was right would win two tickets to travel with Fest royalty to the St. Paul Winter Carnival.  The '66 marshal turned out to be WLCX newsman Jim Conway. 
Oh, back to that Batman contest.  The person in the Batman costume was to be unmasked on August 11th at Cameron Park.  And Batman was...well, if we ever find out, we'll let you know here, same Bat-time, same Bat-Channel.  Yesterday in La Crosse.


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