Yesterday in La Crosse (30)

In 1961, Russia had sent a man around the earth.  The U.S. didn't put a man into orbit until the next year, but a monkey named Enos did make two orbits in '61.  The "chimp-o-naut" was on a diet of 200 banana pellets a day, but also earned oranges and apples as a reward.

Doerflinger's Department Store was a booming La Crosse business in 1961, and the Tribune put the spotlight on Doerflinger's in a "business of the week" feature.  The store opened in 1881 on 4th Street as Doerflinger and Bosshard, in the building now occupied by Designing Jewelers.  In '61, the store had 120 employees and a payroll of half-a-million dollars.

La Crosse's three AM radio stations all carried live Sunday church services.  Those services were broadcast from Trinity Lutheran Church, First Congregational, and a Presbyterian church...56 years ago, 1961, Yesterday in La Crosse.


Thursday - March 23, 2017 8:46 am

The Reagans pay a visit, 41 years ago

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On March 23rd of 1976, former California Governor Ronald Reagan brought his presidential campaign to La Crosse.  Reagan and his wife Nancy came to La Crosse on the same day of the North Carolina primary.  The candidate spoke to a Ducks Unlimited dinner at the Sawyer Auditorium, and also at the Hotel Stoddard, where he criticized Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and said America was in greater danger 'than at any time since Valley Forge.'  Mrs. Reagan also met with reporters at the Stoddard.  The Reagans left town just before he was declared the winner in the North Carolina voting. 

Many other big-name candidates followed Reagan to La Crosse before the '76 Wisconsin primary.  President Gerald Ford had a rally at the Sawyer.  Democrats Jimmy Carter, George Wallace, and 'Scoop' Jackson also met with voters in La Crosse. 

In Argentina that March, President Isabel Peron was ousted in a military coup.  And British Field Marshal Montgomery died at age 88.  'Monty' was one of the leading Allied Commanders in World War II. 



La Crosse Central has won a state basketball championship for the first time since 1925.  They definitely score more points now. 


It was March 28th of 1925, when the La Crosse High School won the state championship over Shawano at Madison, in what one newspaper described as a game with 'cautious playing' on both sides. Apparently, most of the shots were taken from mid-court or farther, which could explain the final score...La Crosse 10, Shawano 4. The lowest-scoring championship game ever in the WIAA boys tournament.




The first girls basketball tournament ever in Wisconsin also happened in March of '25. It wasn't a statewide tourney, but a regional contest played at Chippewa Falls.




Tennessee passed the Butler Act that month, banning the teaching of evolution in the state's schools. The law would be challenged in court that year by teacher John Scopes, at the famous 'Monkey Trial' where Clarence Darrow defended Scopes, and William Jennings Bryan headed the prosecution.




The William Fox movie studio had a new silent Western in movie theaters...with Buck Jones starring in 'The Trail Rider.' Big screen action 92 years ago, 1925...Yesterday in La Crosse.






Tuesday - March 21, 2017 8:49 am

The fight was against Hillary-Care, 23 years ago

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In 1994, First Lady Hillary Clinton was promoting a national health-care program, which came to be called "Hillary-Care."  Mrs. Clinton had a telephone conference call with citizens who had questions about the reform plan.  Galen Humphrey of Galesville was one of the callers.  Humphrey said his step-mother had breast cancer, and had been denied some insurance coverage, and he supported the plan to require employers to provide health care benefits.  The plan was defeated.

The La Crosse Center was talking about hockey again, just after the basketball Catbirds moved to Pittsburgh.  An investor from Minnesota spoke to the center board about a hockey league which would offer to bring a team to La Crosse, and buy equipment for the arena to make its own ice rink.  The Center never got a hockey team.

Wisconsin, Minnesota, and UW-Green Bay all reached the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament in 1994.  None of those schools made it to the Sweet 16.  Arkansas won its first NCAA men's basketball title ever, beating Duke in the final...23 years ago, Yesterday in La Crosse.





Sparta astronaut Deke Slayton was supposed to fly on one of the original Mercury space missions in the 1960's, but a heart problem kept him grounded for more than a decade. When Slayton finally made it onto the crew of a joint American-Soviet mission in 1975, about two dozen relatives went to Cape Canaveral for the lift-off. Several Sparta area businesses ran advertisements in the La Crosse Tribune to wish him luck, including Felland's Shoe Store, H and R Block, and the Morrow Memorial Home.




The New Villa restaurant on Ward Avenue had more than just fine dining at times. Doerflinger's department store put on a fall fashion preview at the New Villa in '75. And during an anniversary celebration, the bar featured Bob Hirsch's jazz band and local comedian Ronnie Eastman.




At the Embers restaurant on Rose Street, you could buy two eggs, hashbrowns, and toast for only 79 cents. Embers was later replaced by a Walgreen's store, but it was a popular place to eat in 1975, Yesterday in La Crosse.




Friday - March 17, 2017 8:47 am

The superintendent was moving on, 40 years ago

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In March of 1977, the La Crosse School Board accepted the resignation of superintendent Eugene Balts, who had accepted the same job in Rice Lake.  To succeed Balts, the district hired an Illinois man who is still active in La Crosse government today...Dick Swantz.  The school board also supported the plans for a new northside high school to be opened in the fall of '79.  That school would become the new Logan High. 
The man in charge of the Sawyer Auditorium, Michael Gebauer, said he was getting offers to run civic centers in other cities, but he wanted to stay in La Crosse.  The city council was looking into replacing the 22-year-old Sawyer with a newer building.  The number of events booked at the auditorium had risen about 50 per cent in just five years, with 22 basketball games played there in 1976.
CBS aired the last episode of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' that week, while a new sitcom on ABC made its debut...'Three's Company.'  Top contenders for the Oscars, being given out that month, were 'Network,' 'Taxi Driver,' 'All the President's Men,' and 'Rocky.'  That was 40 years ago, 1977, Yesterday in La Crosse. 

Thursday - March 16, 2017 8:47 am

You couldn't spell BINGO without N-O, 58 years ago

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In 1959, Bingo games were illegal in Wisconsin.  Some Milwaukee lawmakers tried to get a referendum on the ballot to permit Bingo.  It didn't happen until the 70's.  TV Bingo games were tried for a brief time in 1966, including on La Crosse's WKBT.  But the state shut down the games because businesses that didn't offer TV Bingo cards were at a competitive disadvantage.

There was still a grocery store every few blocks in La Crosse in '59.  The Model Market stood at 9th and Vine.  National Foods was at 5th and Cass.  La Crosse had two Super Valus, on the Causeway and at Jackson Plaza.  The A & P had stores on 6th Street, and on West Avenue near St. Francis Hospital.

The biggest hit movie of 1959 was also the winner of the best picture Oscar that year...'Ben-Hur,' starring Charlton Heston. Number 2 at the box office was the Disney cartoon 'Sleeping Beauty.' Rounding out the top 5 were 'North by Northwest' with Cary Grant...'Some Like It Hot,' with Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon, all wearing dresses...and the Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedy 'Pillow Talk.' Fifty-eight years ago, 1959, yesterday in La Crosse.















In March of 1969, the Apollo 9 mission was the first space flight to test the lunar module that would take men to the moon's surface. The actual landing was planned for later that year, during the Apollo 11 flight, and Buzz Aldrin was the favorite at that point to become the first man to step onto lunar soil. NASA said the plans could change, and Neil Armstrong might get the honor instead.  Armstrong eventually was first to walk on the moon.



Why did the turtle cross the runway? At the La Crosse Airport, the turtles wanted to lay eggs, and experts believed that a runway extension had been built on the migration path of the turtles on French Island. The state director of airport development, Joseph Abernathy, was hoping that a fence around the runway could keep the turtles out. He called it 'kind of a ridiculous situation.'




At least three local radio stations were planning to broadcast sectional basketball playoffs featuring North Crawford and Onalaska. Neither of those local teams made it to the final eight in Madison. The '69 state finals are still remembered for the 55-foot buzzer shot made by LaMont Weaver of Beloit Memorial to force the first of two overtimes with Neenah. Beloit won the state title in 1969, 48 years ago, Yesterday in La Crosse.







In 1968, the voting age was still 21, so many people attending college were not old enough to vote in the real presidential race.  But Time magazine set up a national primary called "Choice '68," to be held on campuses around the U.S. that April.  As part of that program, a pediatrician from Columbia University, Dr. Benjamin Hubby, came to La Crosse to campaign for Senator Eugene McCarthy.  Hubby spoke at Viterbo, and at the Newman Center on the La Crosse State campus. 

Paul Newman came to La Crosse and Prairie du Chien just before the 1968 Wisconsin primary to promote the McCarthy campaign.  Newman had just starred in "Cool Hand Luke," and was greeted on Main Street in La Crosse by a crowd described as "screaming" fans.  The future "Butch Cassidy" said in La Crosse that he was not campaigning because he was a movie star.  He said "I am doing this because I have six children."

Country singer Eddy Arnold could be seen on TV twice in one night that March, on the Red Skelton Show and a Carol Channing special.  And on Carol Burnett's new CBS show, she was hosting singer Jack Jones and future Burnett cast member Tim Conway...49 years ago, Yesterday in La Crosse.




Monday - March 13, 2017 9:18 pm

A new interstate bridge in the works, in 1958

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The Minnesota Department of Highways announced in 1958 that a bridge for the proposed La Crosse to Sioux Falls interstate was to be built on the Mississippi, starting in 1960. The bridge in the Dresbach area was projected to cost $10 million. The entire cost of what would become the Minnesota portion of I-90 was budgeted at $32 million.  That bridge didn't open until the late 60's. 




Wisconsin voters did something unusual in the spring election of '58...they defeated an incumbent Supreme Court justice. Emmert Wingert had been appointed to the court just two years earlier. Wingert lost to Hartford attorney William Dieterich, who had run for the Supreme Court twice before, as well as for attorney general. The experts were surprised, because there had been little controversy in the court race, and both candidates identified themselves as Republicans. Dieterich died six years into his 10-year term.




Bangor High School dedicated its new addition that spring, including a gymnasium, and a hallway where photographs showed several standing ashtrays stationed at the 1958, Yesterday in La Crosse.




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