Yesterday in La Crosse (174)

Thursday - October 19, 2017 8:42 am

Kennedy and Nixon both came looking for votes in 1960

Written by

In the month before the 1960 presidential election, both major candidates campaigned in La Crosse.  Vice President Richard Nixon spoke at the Sawyer Auditorium one day after one of his TV debates with Sen. John Kennedy.  The state college newspaper, the Racquet, was not impressed...claiming that Nixon said little during his La Crosse speech, except to promote GOP farm policy.  And when Kennedy arrived two weeks later, the Racquet also slammed him for saying very little.  The newspaper also criticized faculty members of the college for protesting the arrival of a Republican "truth squad" plane at the airport when JFK was there.  One Senator in the truth squad was Prescott Bush of Connecticut, father of the 41st president, grandfather of the 43rd.

A beauty pageant scandal arose, shortly before the election.  The young woman chosen to represent the US in the Miss World contest was too young.  Annette Driggers of New York was 15, but had claimed to be 20.  The runner-up, Judith Achter of St. Louis, became Miss United States instead.

An odd assortment of movies hit #1 at the box office in October of 1960.  They included the western drama "The Magnificent Seven"..."The Alamo," starring John Wayne...the Roman epic "Spartacus"...and "High Time," a comedy with Bing Crosby as a businessman who goes to college.  Fifty-seven years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.


The La Crosse city council took up a public consumption ordinance in 1975.  The ordinance would prohibit drinking on the streets of the city, or the sidewalks.  Aldermen admitted the purpose of the ordinance was to control drinking during events like Oktoberfest.  One council member, Dennis Kaufmann, wanted open drinking to be allowed if paper or plastic cups were used.  Tavern owners would have some responsibility, to warn customers that they couldn't leave a bar with a beer or other drink in hand.  A sign saying so had to be posted at the exit.  Alderman Dick Arneson asked to have those signs posted at every exit of a bar.

On this night in 1975, Simon and Garfunkel re-united five years after their break-up to perform together on "NBC's Saturday Night"...the show now known as "Saturday Night Live."  Paul Simon was hosting the second episode of the series, after George Carlin hosted the debut.  The different title was used to avoid confusion with a new ABC prime-time series called "Saturday Night Live," a Ed Sullivan-type variety show hosted by Howard Cosell.  Other hosts in the first few weeks of NBC's "SNL" included Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin, Robert Klein, and the first two-time host, Candice Bergen.  Live from New York 42 years ago, 1975, yesterday in La Crosse.


In the fall of 1992, the La Crosse County Republican Party had a meeting shortly after the election in which President George Bush had been defeated by Democrat Bill Clinton.  Speaker Steve Knudson promoted a television channel called 'National Empowerment TV,' which was being organized to 'bypass' perceived liberal bias in the national media.  A video viewers of the channel could get 'unvarnished truth' that would not be 'filtered' through the regular media, and it could help college students cope with 'radical professors.'  There was talk among the local Republicans of replacing some of the 'deadwood' on the La Crosse city council in the 1993 election, when 9 seats would be on the ballot.  
The La Crosse Center had been open for only 12 years, but it was considering expansion plans.  There were proposals of building a larger arena, possibly by 1997 or 2007, along with more space for conventions and meetings.  Board members talked of expanding the center to the south or the east, but definitely not west into Riverside Park...which is an option being reviewed by the La Crosse Center now.
TV watchers in '92 were checking out new fall shows such as 'The Ben Stiller Show'...'Mad About You'...'Bob,' with Bob Newhart playing a cartoonist...and 'The Golden Palace,' which was 'The Golden Girls' minus Bea Arthur.  Twenty-five years ago, 1992, yesterday in La Crosse.

In 1966, a 'La Crosse Citizens Committee Against Fluoridation' bought a newspaper ad claiming that a 'propaganda' piece in the West Salem newspaper led voters there to vote for fluoride in the tap water...because the voters didn't get to hear the other side. The committee was being re-activated and expanded to include six counties, in hopes of preventing other communities from saying yes to what the group called 'mass medication.' La Crosse had voted down fluoridation once in the 50's. There would be referendums again in the city in 1968 and '69...and both were defeated.
The next presidential election was two years away, and Wisconsin leaders were debating whether to have an early primary again. Wisconsin was traditionally the second primary state, after New Hampshire, with a presidential vote in early April. But a bi-partisan committee suggested moving the state primary to May, when it would have less influence on the nominating process. The '68 primary remained in April.
And a popular series of TV commercials featured the Ajax White Knight.  The knight on a horse pointed a lance at people with dirty clothes, and magically their clothes became clean.  Ajax laundry detergent ran a sweepstakes, asking customers to vote on a name for the knight...Lancelot, Bayard, Roland, or Galahad...with the winning name to be announced on 'The Dean Martin Show.'  But the Ajax website today doesn't have a record of what name won the contest.  Stronger than dirt in 1966, yesterday in La Crosse.




In November of 1981, La Crosse tried an experiment to keep shoppers coming downtown, after the opening of the Valley View Mall.  The city council considered a one-year suspension of nearly 700 curbside parking meters, and later reduced that to a three-month trial.  Eventually, all the city-owned meters were removed, and were kept in storage until a recent sale.  When bags were placed on the meters to allow two-hour free parking, some drivers thought parking was banned in those spaces, and they tried to park somewhere else.  City Hall estimated that it would lose tens of thousands of dollars without those meters.

The Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium was empty and unused, a year after being replaced by the La Crosse Center.  But the center board voted to rent the Sawyer to the Blue Stars drum and bugle corps for $5000 a year. 

Gas prices in La Crosse averaged $1.29 a gallon around Thanksgiving of '81.  Some of the lowest prices for regular gasoline could be found at Frank-Len on N. 3rd St., the Clark gas station on Lang Drive, and the Citgo Quick Mart on West Avenue near campus.  Cheap gas in 1981, yesterday in La Crosse.


Thursday - October 12, 2017 9:05 am

A new City Hall in the works, 49 years ago

Written by

In 1968, the La Crosse City Council was on its second round of bids for a new building to replace the city hall at 6th and State, now part of the Post Office parking lot.  City Hall had been on that spot more than 70 years.  The new building along La Crosse Street would open in 1970, putting it several years ahead of plans for the new post office.  In order to cut costs, planners decided to eliminate an underground heated parking garage from the design of the new City Hall. 

The La Crosse Community Theatre hired a new director from Canada named John Brown, succeeding Michael Thompson, who was leaving to do plays in New York.  Besides doing stage work, Brown had made documentary films for the classroom.  He only spent one season at LCT.

During October of 1968, the Beatles appeared on American TV in new videos of "Hey Jude" and "Revolution," which aired on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour."  "Hey Jude" spent 9 weeks at #1 in 1968, yesterday in La Crosse.


In 1973, the organizers of Oktoberfest made a scheduling move to cut down on the public drunkenness and crowds on 3rd Street of previous years.  The fest had been Tuesday through Sunday in '72, but under the new schedule, the celebration opened with the Maple Leaf Parade on Sunday, October 7th and wound up with the Torchlight Parade on Thursday the 11th.  However, there were still dozens of downtown arrests on the two nights before Oktoberfest began.  
For the first time in almost a decade, the U.S. was without a vice president that October, when Spiro Agnew resigned over a financial scandal in Maryland that took place before he was VP.  Agnew was only nine months into his second term...and under the fairly new 25th Amendment, President Richard Nixon could appoint a new vice president instead of leaving the job vacant.  Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and Nelson Rockefeller were mentioned as possible choices, but Nixon nominated House Republican leader Gerald Ford two days after Agnew quit.

Elvis Presley was granted a divorce from his wife Priscilla after six years of marriage.  She would get $1 million in the settlement.  During Oktoberfest, Tex Shell was playing the organ and piano at the Cavalier bar, and the Jack Hefti orchestra was at Walt's Restaurant.  Forty-four years ago, 1973, Yesterday in La Crosse.

In 1985, Onalaska tennis pro Tom Gullikson won his first singles title in 11 years on the Grand Prix circuit.  Gullikson took the championship at the Volvo Tennis Hall of Fame tournament in Rhode Island.  Tom retired from the tour two years later and concentrated on coaching.  Tom and his twin brother Tim had some success as a doubles team, reaching the finals of the men's doubles at Wimbledon in 1983.

NASA had been looking for a school teacher to fly on the space shuttle, and in the summer of '85, it chose Christa McAuliffe of New Hampshire to become the first American teacher in space.  McAuliffe was aboard the Challenger when it exploded shortly after liftoff the following January.  Some U.S. schools have been named after her, including one in Hastings, Minnesota.

The Tribune noted that it had mixed up the names and photos of a couple of local men in stories on the business page.  One of the men misidentified in a story about a screen printing company was one "Donald J. Weber."  Mr. Weber's name and face would become much more familiar in the future, after he founded Logistics Health.  Mistaken identity 32 years ago, 1985, yesterday in La Crosse.


Just after the 1963 Oktoberfest, organizers claimed the crowd that attended the 3rd annual festival was the largest ever in La Crosse.  Festgoers drank 1000 half-barrels of beer at the Sawyer Auditorium festival site...more than twice the total of the year before.  They also gobbled down about four tons of brats and 250 gallons of sauerkraut. 

The president of South Vietnam declared that the Communists were losing the war in his country.  Ngo Dinh Diem said in early October that the Viet Cong faced inevitable defeat.  Less than a month later, President Diem was assassinated in a coup, partly supported by the U.S.  Also in October, the White House announced that President Kennedy was planning trips to four states in the fall, including a two-day tour through Texas on November 21st and 22nd.

Danny's House of Music in La Crosse was selling a combination TV, radio and stereo in a fancy cabinet with "NO HIDEOUS CONTROLS" on the outside.  If you had that TV on at 3:00 on a weekday afternoon and heard the song "A Swingin' Safari," you were probably watching the original "Match Game," hosted by Gene 1963, yesterday in La Crosse.



In the fall of 1965, Dale Rudy got a building permit to build a second A&W restaurant in La Crosse.  The original A&W in town is still open at 16th Street and South Avenue.  The second one, now called Rudy's, would be built on La Crosse Street for just $12,000.  Rudy's is well-known for its chili dogs and roller-skating waitresses.

The Holiday Inn on the pike was being expanded in '65.  Owner Jake Hoeschler said the inn would add an L-shaped building for a dining room, banquet hall, and a cocktail lounge.  Banquets also were held next door at Holiday Lanes, the bowling alley which was later converted to offices for the Company Store.

The Blue Moon in Onalaska was serving a half-chicken dinner for a dollar.  Henninger's on Jay, between 3rd and 4th Streets, had an all-you-can-eat German potato pancake dinner for 87 cents...52 years ago, 1965, yesterday in La Crosse.


Page 1 of 13