Yesterday in La Crosse (249)

Lincoln's birthday was observed this week, but do you remember the date of his Gettysburg Address?  It was November 19, 1863, at the town in Pennsylvania where the bloody Gettysburg battle had occurred four months earlier.  While almost every dramatic reading of the address today occurs without interruption, a newspaper account in the Wisconsin State Journal indicated that Lincoln was interrupted by applause three times when he made the speech.  One instance was after President Lincoln said "all men are created equal."  And "immense applause" was reported when Lincoln claimed the world wouldn't remember the address, but would not forget what soldiers did at Gettysburg.

A few days before the Gettysburg Address, a draft meeting happened in La Crosse.  Mayor Albert Pettibone led the meeting at Barron's Hall, on the north side of Main Street, where plans to draft men for the war were being discussed. 

In 1863, a map of Wisconsin counties looked much like it does today, with some exceptions.  Marathon County, where Wausau is located, stretched all the way up to Lake Superior.  And Vernon County was still known as "Bad Ax County," yesterday in La Crosse.


Thursday - February 15, 2018 8:44 am

Choose four schools on this list to close...40 years ago

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In 1978, the La Crosse School District decided to close four elementary schools, and put together a list of six schools to choose from.  The list included Erickson, Pleasant Valley, Hogan, Emerson, Hamilton, and Franklin.  Parents at Franklin didn't wait to find out if their school would close.  They called a meeting to protest it.  Franklin remained open until a few years ago, when it was replaced by the new Northside School.  Hamilton and Emerson also are still open today. 

Three people were placed on probation for prostitution...two men for keeping a house of prostitution as co-owners of Carol's Sauna on La Crosse Street and Rhonda's Rap at 219 Pearl.  A woman was charged with selecting females for prostitution at the rap centers.

Early in 1978, movie fans were still going to see some of the big films that came out at the end of '77.  They included "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "The Goodbye Girl," both featuring Richard Dreyfuss...the Mel Brooks comedy "High Anxiety"...and the disco drama "Saturday Night Fever."  Forty years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.




Wednesday - February 14, 2018 8:45 am

Onalaska was waiting for a Wal-Mart, 28 years ago

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In 1990, the Crossing Meadows Plaza near Exit 4 of I-90 was quickly being developed.  A year earlier, part of that area was considered as a possible site for a dog track.  The first Festival food store would open at Crossing Meadows during 1990, and Wal-Mart was looking at the shopping center as a location for its first outlet in the immediate La Crosse area.
In the Bridgeview Plaza area near Exit 3, McDonald's and the Ground Round were among the popular restaurants, along with Embers and Happy Chef.  The Happy Chef had replaced a Bridgeman's restaurant...and would later become the home of SSE Music.
The Catbirds basketball team was on its way to its first CBA championship, under Coach Flip Saunders.  The Catbirds beat Quad City and Albany in the playoffs before defeating Rapid City, 4 games to 1, in the league finals.  
And the Plaid Pantry on Jackson Street sold beer, pop, liquor, and wine...and advertised "a little bit of everything."  The pantry was still in business 28 years ago, 1990, yesterday in La Crosse.  

In 1981, the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce took a $20,000 study that had been gathering dust and looked at it again, in search of ways for downtown to compete with Valley View Mall.  The mall had opened in the summer of 1980.  It drew Sears, JC Penney, and Herberger's away from downtown.  The Chamber report recommended more emphasis on mass transit, and improvements in downtown parking.  Within a couple of years, most parking meters would be removed from the La Crosse business district.

A reconstruction of 3rd Street, including the demolition of a building at 3rd and Main, didn't help business much...but at the end of July, La Crosse celebrated the "grand re-opening of 3rd Street North."  On 4th, the Hotel Stoddard was getting ready to shut down for good, and it would be demolished a year later.

New TV shows getting attention in early 1981 included "Magnum, P.I.," "Dynasty," "Hill Street Blues," and "Bosom Buddies," a sitcom with two young actors named Peter Scolari and Tom Hanks.  And comedian David Letterman was signed to an exclusive contract with NBC after hosting a daytime talk show for the network that only lasted a few weeks.  Dave got the contract in 1981, 37 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.  

In February of '72, former Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy talked with U-W-L students at Cartwright Center.  The 1968 presidential candidate warned that the presidency could become a "4-year monarchy" with almost "religious connotations."  McCarthy said that as Richard Nixon was running for a second term, and was about to visit China.  The Democrat also commented that marijuana ought to be sold with a warning on a package.
Drugs also were mentioned by the day's other campus visitor...comedian and activist Dick Gregory.  Speaking at Mitchell Hall, Gregory argued that he could come to La Crosse and find someone to sell him marijuana or heroin with 15 minutes, but he didn't think police would be able to find the sellers.  Gregory also accused the CIA of killing President Kennedy, and of conspiring in the murders of Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X.
La Crosse had a new FM radio station on the air that February.  WSPL was the sister station of WKTY, and played rock music, featuring announcers such as Mike Kearns, John Desmond, and Ralph Heath.  WSPL is now known as 95.7, the Rock.
And WIZM radio hired a news director named James Alan Miklaszewski, a native of Cudahy.  He later went on to CNN and NBC-TV, and shortened his on-air Jim Miklaszewski.  He was a local radio star 46 years ago, 1972, yesterday in La Crosse.

Friday - February 9, 2018 8:44 am

Beatlemania begins in America, 54 years ago

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On this night in 1964, the Fab Four made its first live appearance on U.S. television, on "The Ed Sullivan Show"...sandwiched on Sunday night TV between "My Favorite Martian" and "The Judy Garland Show."  The Beatles were featured three weeks in a row on "Sullivan," and they weren't very well known in the states before their arrival in New York.  The La Crosse Tribune ran a front-page photo of the band that weekend.  Ringo was the only one identified correctly. 

The Beatles never played at La Crosse's Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium, but other big stars did perform at the Sawyer that week in February.  Movie musical star Jane Powell headlined a show one night, followed the next night by a country music show featuring Jim Reeves and Stringbean.  Reeves died in a plane crash later that year.

Three months after the shooting of President Kennedy in Dallas, that city was considering designs for a large marble monument at the crime scene in Dealey Plaza.  That monument was never built. 

The La Crosse city council was getting ready to buy new fluorescent street lights for downtown, at a cost of around $120,000.  Lights on in 1964, 54 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse. 



Wednesday - February 7, 2018 8:43 am

Want good gas mileage? Get a Rambler...advice 62 years ago

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They don't make Ramblers any more, but it was a popular car model in 1956, and got between 17 and 24 miles a gallon.  In those days, you could get 10 gallons or more for what a gallon costs now.  The average gas price in America during 1956 was 23 cents per gallon.

The Western Supply company had an outlet in downtown La Crosse, in the 600 block of South 3rd.  Western Supply is still around, but now it's known as Wesco of Sparta.  Other businesses you could find downtown in 1956 included Leithold Music...not on 4th Street, but on Main, where the U.S. Bank parking ramp is now.  The current Leithold store was occupied by Tillman Brothers furniture.  Main Street was the home of the Iris Cafe, near the Batavian Bank, and Cortland Jewelers, on the same block as the cathedral.

The Campus School at La Crosse State was still popular, generally attended by children of well-known local families.  The school shut down in the early 70's, and was renamed Morris Hall.  It still stands at 16th and State, just as it did in 1956, yesterday in La Crosse.


In 1943, the U.S. was at war in Europe and the Pacific, and Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt was already a record-holder on his third term in the Oval Office.  FDR was prepared to run again in '44, and New York Governor Thomas Dewey was said to be interested on the Republican side.  Dewey had sought the nomination in 1940, only to lose to Wendell Willkie of Indiana.  Dewey had said that he wouldn't run for president while he was still governor, but he became the nominee in 1944.  Willkie died shortly before that election.  Roosevelt won a 4th term anyway.

The government seemed to have an office for everything during the big war.  Marcus Pratt was named an automotive maintenance specialist for the La Crosse area.  Pratt had to be concerned about shortages of car parts.  Uncle Sam urged preventive maintenance of civilian cars, because you couldn't be sure about getting a replacement part if you needed one.  A wartime worry 75 years ago, 1943, yesterday in La Crosse.


Monday - February 5, 2018 8:43 am

Lots of old rubber just lying around, 28 years ago

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In 1990, the Wisconsin DNR was ordering a cleanup at the Shiftar Brothers salvage yard near Gillette Street.  The city of La Crosse was in the process of condemning the Shiftar property, and wanted a pile of old tires removed.  About 150-thousand tires.  There was a fear that mosquitoes would breed inside all those tires, and the city's goal was to get them off the land within a year.
Flying out of La Crosse to other cities might be cheaper than going to a bigger airport.  That argument was being used to get more people to fly Northwest Airlines through the La Crosse airport.  For example, a ticket between La Crosse and New York was $32 cheaper than flying from the Twin Cities to the Big Apple.  And La Crosse to Los Angeles...$84 less than using the Minneapolis airport.
The cost of cable TV was fairly cheap in the Coulee Region.  La Crosse's cable TV franchise began in 1961, and by 1990 it was known as Westmarc Cable.  For $17.95 a month, you could get 28 channels on Westmarc.  Onalaska and French Island got their cable from Jones Intercable...26 channels for $18.95.  That was 28 years ago, 1990, yesterday in La Crosse.  



Thursday - February 1, 2018 8:44 am

Welcome to "Pornography Awareness Day," 25 years ago

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In 1993, about 40 people gathered at Aquinas High School one weekend to hear speakers warn about porn.  One person on the program suggested that there were probably more people shopping in La Crosse's adult book stores that day than were at the Aquinas event.  A statistic brought up during the discussion implied that about 90% of sex offenders had viewed porn at one time.

Jane Fonda and her then-husband Ted Turner spoke to much larger crowds in La Crosse that summer, at the first International Bison Conference and Trade Show inside the La Crosse Center.  CNN founder Turner wanted more people to breed buffalo for meat, and workout guru Fonda promoted bison as healthy food. 

People in La Crosse were getting worked up about plans for a 75-foot-tall beer stein proposed for downtown, near City Hall.  The idea by artist Susan Sampson was greeted with a protest campaign, called "Nein the Stein."  Within a couple of months, Sampson abandoned plans to have the stein built in La Crosse, and considered building it in Black River Falls, instead.  That was 25 years ago, 1993, yesterday in La Crosse.


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