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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 1970, the university publicized plans to develop green space on campus between 16th Street and the football stadium. The proposed pedestrian mall would pass by the Murphy Library and the Cowley Science building, and it would feature concrete benches, planters, and sculptures. The mall would be developed later in the 70's. It's now the site of the Hoeschler Clock Tower at UW-L.
A campus demonstration against the Vietnam War turned deadly at Kent State in Ohio that spring, when four young people were killed and others wounded by National Guard troops assigned to break up the protest. That summer, a violent explosion killed a researcher at the Army Math Research Center on the UW-Madison campus. The FBI searched for four suspects in the Sterling Hall bombing. Three of them were captured within the next few years. The fourth man has never been found.
On TV in the summer of 1970, you could see variety shows starring singer Engelbert Humperdinck, and stand-up comic Robert Klein, and a new Smothers Brothers show on ABC featuring dancer Sally Struthers, who would become a star on "All in the Family" a year later. Struthers and the Smothers, 47 years ago, Yesterday in La Crosse.
In 1967, baseball fans in the Badger State had no major league franchise to call their own, after the Braves moved to Atlanta. For a few years, WKBH Radio in La Crosse aired Minnesota Twins games, until the Brewers came to Wisconsin in 1970. The Twins broadcast team included Merle Harmon, Halsey Hall, and Herb Carneal.
The price of mailing a letter in '67 was five cents, and would rise by a penny the next year. Postmaster General Lawrence O'Brien, later commissioner of the NBA, suggested making the Post Office a non-Cabinet department, taking the power to set postal rates away from Congress.
Country music was a big draw at the Sawyer Auditorium in La Crosse. One April show that year featured Conway Twitty, Sonny James, and future "Hee Haw" star Roy Clark. Fifty years ago, Yesterday in La Crosse.
In early 1966, Wisconsin was one of five states being considered as a site for an underground atom-smashing facility, designed to force atoms to collide and reveal what's inside them. The 400-million dollar project covering several acres could have been built near Madison. Eventually, Illinois got a particle accelerator, which opened in 1983.
Fifty-four years ago, La Crosse had a primary for the April city elections on the first week of March. Six candidates were challenging incumbent Mayor Milo Knutson, and several council races had primaries, too. Among the names on the March ballot who would become familiar faces in city government in later years were Allis-Chalmers worker Don Medinger, insurance agent L. Peter Groves, Mobil Oil employee Bob Johnson, and Bernie Maney, who worked at Ross Furniture as a salesman and color coordinator. David Hogue, the assistant dean of men at La Crosse State, also ran for council. The newspaper mistakenly identified Hogue as 88 years old.