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Yesterday in La Crosse (304)

Friday - May 25, 2018 8:45 am

New schools in the works, 54 years ago

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In 1964, La Crosse was making plans for build a new Central High School on the south side.  But city committees couldn't agree on the size of the proposed school.  The council's finance committee voted for a building housing 750 students, while the plan commission wanted a school twice that size.  Central was still located at 16th and Cass, now Weigent Park. 

Westby was having a referendum on building a new high school for $50,000.  The existing high school would become a middle school if the referendum passed.  Westby was celebrating its 50th anniversary commencement that spring.

A civil rights dispute in Milwaukee.  Newspapers reported that a group of "Milwaukee Negroes" demanded that Gov. John Reynolds appoint a black judge for Milwaukee County...or else, Reynolds would lose the support of black voters in the '64 election. 

Hit movies showing on a screen near you in the spring of '64 included "Viva Las Vegas" with Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret...

"The Incredible Mr. Limpet," starring Don Knotts as a man who turns into a fish (an animated fish)...

And "The Brass Bottle," with Barbara Eden playing the girlfriend of a guy (Tony Randall) who finds a genie in a bottle.  The genie was played by Burl Ives...1964, yesterday in La Crosse. 


Thursday - May 24, 2018 8:43 am

Gambling on their minds, 23 years ago

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In early 1995, the front page of the La Crosse Tribune ran a story about the rituals and lucky charms used by some gamblers, in hopes of winning at casinos.  The Lac du Flambeau tribe had just announced plans to turn the Holiday Inn on the pike into a casino.  That idea was defeated in a La Crosse County referendum.  The Miss Marquette riverboat casino, now called the Casino Queen, had opened just after Christmas of 1994 in Marquette, Iowa. 

Bees were starting to disappear around Wisconsin.  Honey producers in the state reported that the number of bee colonies had been reduced by 20% in the previous decade.  Mites and other small parasites were blamed for killing the bees.  Coon Valley farmer Paul Hess said he had started seeing the problem in the early 90's, and he was hoping researchers could breed a bee that was resistant to mites.

The Shelby Mall was promoting its annual January sidewalk sale.  It was still an enclosed mall, with stores such as Payless Shoes, Maurice's, Mister Movies, and the One Stop Party Shop.  Shelby Mall later converted its stores to outside access only, but indoor shopping was the style 23 years ago, 1995, yesterday in La Crosse.


In May of 1992, La Crosse County made a deal to buy the old Montgomery Ward Auto Center at 3rd and Vine and convert it into housing for work-release Huber prisoners.  Price tag...$800,000.  The vacant garage was the last remaining portion of the former Wards store on Courthouse Square which closed in 1986, and was mostly demolished in 1991.  The current courthouse was built next to the Huber Center in '97, and the work-release building finally came down when the courthouse was expanded years later.
The petition drive to recall La Crosse school board members over a busing plan was completed that spring, with recall elections held that summer.  Many families opposed the plan to have kids ride buses to achieve socio-economic balance in the district schools, and to fill the two new schools opening that fall...North Woods and Southern Bluffs.  Tribune columnist Ted Vollmer was bothered by recall organizers saying the end of the petition drive was a "proud day" for La Crosse...and wondered whether the petitioners were proud of getting people involved in government, or proud of trying to, in his words, "boot six people out of office." 
A couple of TV series made headlines during one week in late May.  Johnny Carson retired after 30 years of hosting "The Tonight Show," and was succeeded by Jay Leno the following week.  And fictional TV reporter Murphy Brown had a baby, becoming an unwed mother...drawing criticism from the real Vice President, Dan Quayle.  Twenty-six years ago, 1992, yesterday in La Crosse.

In early 2002, somebody from the Milwaukee area was interested in building a big store on the west side of Mormon Coulee Road in La Crosse, across from All-Star Lanes.  But the name of the client had not been revealed yet.  The manager of Woodman's food market in Onalaska said it probably wasn't going to be another Woodman's.  He speculated that it might be Wal-Mart, which was in Onalaska at the time, but not in La Crosse.  Eventually, the south-side lot became the home of a Wal-Mart.

Amtrak was cutting back on its service hours in La Crosse and Winona.  The federal passenger rail service announced that the two depots would be closed on Saturdays and Sundays as a cost-cutting measure.  Amtrak's Empire Builder only stopped in Winona and La Crosse two times a day...eastbound in the morning, and westbound at night.  La Crosse Mayor John Medinger was worried that the Amtrak route might be eliminated completely.  A study showed that the most popular eastbound destination for La Crosse travelers was Chicago.  Westbound riders went to the Twin Cities most often, 16 years ago, 2002, yesterday in La Crosse. 


In 1994, a Coon Valley man wrote to the La Crosse Tribune that La Crosse's Oktoberfest wasn't German enough.  His problem was with the Oktoberfest button chosen for '94, featuring a wizard and a crystal ball, emphasizing the "magic" of the event.  The writer said associating a wizard with a German festival is a "major historical inaccuracy."

Not enough parking in downtown La Crosse was the complaint of another letter writer, just after Riverfest.  This man had attended a senior citizen breakfast during the fest, but had to park a long distance away because "No Parking" signs were posted on Front Street all day, even before anything was scheduled for the day at Riverfest.  Mayor Pat Zielke told the man that he would try to do something about it. 

Sequel-mania was big at the movies, with films such as "Major League 2," with Charlie Sheen..."The Mighty Ducks 2," with Charlie's brother, Emilio Estevez...and "Naked Gun 33 1/3," featuring Leslie Nielsen and O.J. Simpson.  Twenty-four years ago, 1994, yesterday in La Crosse.


In 2006, Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and associate Justice Ann Walsh Bradley appeared at the Viterbo Fine Arts Center on "Law Day," answering questions from local reporters.  Abrahamson has been called an "activist," and said people don't agree on what makes a judge activist.  She said it may depend on whether the person using the word liked a decision made by a particular judge.  Bradley said the use of the "activist" label has become "alarming."

Abrahamson also spoke that day at a celebration in the La Crosse County courthouse for local attorney Ernie Hanson, who was marking 65 years as a lawyer, and who had just turned 90.  The Chief Justice said she felt "very young,' having served only 50 years in the profession herself.

And a youth theatre group from Japan visited La Crosse for a week, to perform a play at La Crosse Community Theatre about the Hiroshima bombing.  Several local residents also played parts in that production 12 years ago, 2006, yesterday in La Crosse.


In July of 1981, Britain's Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer at a lavish wedding seen on TV around the world. That same day, the Hotel Stoddard in La Crosse was auctioning off its property, including crystal chandeliers. It was less than a year after the Radisson along the riverfront opened its doors.
A baseball strike over free agency ended that same week, leading to a two-part season for major league teams. The Milwaukee Brewers did well enough to make the playoffs for the first time in '81.
MTV made its debut the week of the royal wedding. The first music video played on the channel was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles. MTV's second video featured Pat Benatar. Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll...1981, yesterday in La Crosse.
Tuesday - May 15, 2018 8:49 am

The city gets a new police chief, 41 years ago

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Acting La Crosse chief Ray Lichtie was promoted full-time to chief in May of 1977.  Lichtie had been in that position since the previous October, when former chief Ron Wold resigned to work in security at Gateway Foods.  Two members of the city council said they might sue City Hall for not advertising the chief opening first.  Lichtie's new post was announced at the same time that the police and fire commission was completing a study of poor management and morale problems within the La Crosse Police Department.  
The Holiday Inn on the pike promoted a champagne 'bruncheon' buffet for only $3.50, which featured, according to one advertisement, a make-your-own "Blood Mary bar."  Kilger's Four Seasons, south of La Crescent, served German food most nights...with offerings such as sauerbraten on Wednesdays, and pot roast with German potato pancakes on Thursday.  
And America was marking the 50th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's historic solo flight across the Atlantic.  The 1927 voyage was being featured in TV documentary programs, and the 50's movie "The Spirit of St. Louis" with Jimmy Stewart as "Lucky Lindy" was broadcast in 1977...41 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.  

Monday - May 14, 2018 8:44 am

The "Queen" was coming to town, 53 years ago

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The La Crosse Queen paddlewheeler was being introduced in 1965.  Roy Franz of the Big Indian Boat Lines said the new excursion boat could hold as many as 150 passengers.  Franz had been offering river trips in La Crosse for three years before the Queen's first tour.  The boat would arrive in La Crosse after a 10-hour trip up the river from Prairie du Chien.  
Memorial Field might have to be moved, to allow the state university in La Crosse to grow.  A new campus heating plant was part of the expansion project, along with the physical education building, Mitchell Hall.  The La Crosse city council had been talking for some time about possibly building a new football stadium in the marsh.  
Four women had been turned down as candidates to become U.S. astronauts.  By May of 1965, only seven Americans had gone into space, with Gus Grissom the only man to do it twice.  That spring, Barbra Streisand did her first TV special, and the La Crosse Tribune said "feminine viewers (would be) interested" in a fashion salon segment on the show.  Space travel versus fashion?  That was 53 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.


" London" was a familiar opening to Edward R. Murrow's radio reports from England during 1942.  Murrow and other CBS reporters, including Charles Collingwood and Eric Sevareid, kept American listeners up to date on World War II, and went on to do news for CBS in the early era of television.

La Crosse had a department store named Barron's downtown at 5th and Main in 1942.  Barron's later changed its name to Herberger's, and years later, Herberger's moved to Valley View Mall.  In the next few weeks, Herberger's will move out of the mall for good.

You could get 5 cents for your old 10-inch or 12-inch records at Terry's Music at 307 Main St.  Most popular records sold in the 40's were 12 inches across, and were played at 78 rpm. 

Back to the war...La Crosse County had a council of defense, headed by Ray Dwyer.  The council provided wardens for air raids, when people were asked to pull their blinds so the lights in your home wouldn't be noticed by enemy planes.  It was easier to block out the lights in those days, because many homes had window shades made of dark green paper, in 1942...76 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.


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