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Yesterday in La Crosse (316)

In early 1966, John Howard Griffin spoke in La Crosse about his experiences posing as a black man in the South, as described in his book "Black Like Me."  While in the city, Griffin was served with a subpoena by the La Crosse Sheriff's Department, ordering him to appear locally in court as part of a lawsuit.  A La Crescent family claimed that their 13-year-old boy was emotionally damaged by reading "Black Like Me," which some people considered obscene.  Legal wrangling went on for weeks over whether Griffin would have to return to La Crosse to testify at a trial.
Afternoon TV in June of '66, on La Crosse's Channel 8, included soap operas such as "The Edge of Night" and "General Hospital."  There were reruns of "The Mickey Mouse Club" from the 50's and "Dobie Gillis" from the early 60's.  For game shows, you had "To Tell the Truth," "Password," and La Crosse's version of "TV Bingo," where viewers played on free cards distributed by IGA stores and Mobil gas stations.  "TV Bingo" ended a five-month run on July 1st, when the state banned games of chance on local television, arguing that they gave the businesses handing out the cards an unfair competitive advantage.  It was time for Bingo to go in 1966, 52 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.  


Monday - June 18, 2018 8:45 am

Fewer students expected on campus, 31 years ago

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The UW-La Crosse campus was under pressure to limit enrollment in the 1980's.  Early in 1987, Chancellor Noel Richards said the projected enrollment for fall would be 97-hundred students, but he warned that the university would have to reduce that number down farther, to 92-hundred.  Richards said the state was aining for even lower 88-hundred.  He believed that the university had reached the point where there were too many students for the budget.  UWL now has an enrollment around 10-thousand.

The White House was accused of lying, and deceiving the public, about the role of U.S. troops in Central America.  Members of a La Crosse "Peace and Jobs Coalition" were protesting Reagan administration decisions to send Wisconsin Army Reserve soldiers to Honduras...which they believed might be part of a plan to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

"Beverly Hills Cop 2" was a big hit in theaters during the early summer of 1987.  "Robocop" and the comedy version of "Dragnet," with Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks, also made money that summer.  Even the Dustin Hoffman-Warren Beatty bomb "Ishtar" still ranked #1 at the box office the week it opened, in 1987, yesterday in La Crosse.

Wednesday - June 13, 2018 8:43 am

It was a big graduating class for 1907

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More than 100 years ago, La Crosse High School awarded 38 diplomas to its class of 1907.  The commencement was held at the La Crosse Theater. 

Even though it was the start of summer in 1907, a few people were already thinking about fall.  One local newspaper advertised the La Crosse Interstate Fair well before the planned date of September.  Why?  Fair organizers wanted the best household products entered and on exhibition.  An advertisement said "Give the ladies a chance to show their fancy work and cooking."  For many years, the Interstate Fair was held on the east side of La Crosse, on the current site of UW-L, before moving to West Salem.

The headline "Folly" described the tale of two boys who could face prison time for an act of revenge after being fired by the John Gund Brewery.  The young men went downtown, bought clothes, and had the store charge the brewery for the bill.  The two pled guilty before Judge Fruit in Sparta, but instead of prison, they were sentenced to six months in the county jail.  That was in 1907, yesterday in La Crosse.


In 1941, La Crosse Police Chief Herman Rick and traffic sergeant Lyle Gilbert said traffic lights in the city would stay on 45 seconds before changing.  The old time had been 33 seconds for a red or green light.  The idea was to give pedestrians more time to cross the street, as well as reducing rear-end collisions.

Modern 1940's technology may have put washing machines into people's homes, but plenty of folks still used a wringer and a clothesline to get their duds dry.  A new Speed Queen washer at Kroner Hardware on Pearl Street sold for $60, including the wringer.  Ideal for squeezing the water out of the laundry before it gets hung on the line.

Basketball players were not as tall in those days as they are now, so high school games had lower scores.  In the winter of '41, Onalaska beat West Salem, 19-16...and Campion from Prairie du Chien defeated Aquinas in a squeaker, 24-23.  Low scores in high school, 77 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.


Monday - June 11, 2018 8:47 am

Campbell wanted a new identity, 45 years ago

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In June of 1973, the town of Campbell was trying to incorporate as the Village of French Island.  Opposing the incorporation was the city of La Crosse, which was hoping to annex the island.  Campbell town attorney Jerome Klos argued that the state of Wisconsin seemed to have a "preconceived" attitude against approving incorporations.  
A couple of two-room schools in the La Crosse district were out for summer, and forever.  Valley View and Washington Schools closed their doors to classes for the last time in '73.  The students at both schools would be transferred to the former St. Pius School on Mormon Coulee be renamed Erickson School.  
Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes in June of '73, becoming the first race horse in 25 years to accomplish the Triple Crown of the Belmont, the Preakness, and the Kentucky Derby.  
At the Colonel's Corner in the Hotel Stoddard, you could get a sirloin dinner for $4.75...fried shrimp for $3.75...and half-a-chicken for just $2.75.  The dinner time menu in 1973...45 years ago...yesterday in La Crosse.

Friday - June 8, 2018 8:44 am

"Now, it's Slayton's turn"...56 years ago

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In early 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.  The next Mercury astronaut scheduled to fly in space was Sparta's Deke Slayton.  But just a few weeks before "Delta 7" was to be launched, Slayton was grounded with a heart problem that would keep him out of space for another 13 years.  Scott Carpenter took his place on the next mission, and folks in Sparta made up for the disappointment by inviting Slayton back home for a celebration that May.

Was the U.S. government turning Socialist?  That was the fear expressed in 1962 by Robert Welch, founder of the anti-Communist John Birch Society.  Speaking at a Republican dinner in Milwaukee, Welch accused the country's leaders of re-distributing the wealth, giving people "other men's property," and warning that the U.S. was being "pushed" toward its downfall.

For people who could watch NBC stations on their TV's, the "Tonight" show was preparing for a new host.  Jack Paar was leaving the late-night show, to be replaced by game show host Johnny Carson.  On Friday nights that summer, you could watch "The Twilight Zone," "Rawhide," "Route 66," and Dinah Shore...56 years ago, 1962, yesterday in La Crosse.


Thursday - June 7, 2018 9:06 am

Judge Toepel wins a full term, 60 years ago

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In 1958, Eugene Toepel defeated Edward Gansen, a justice of the peace, to keep his new job as La Crosse County judge. Toepel, a Bangor native, had served in the Assembly before being appointed to the bench in '57 by Governor Vernon Thomson. Another local election winner in '58 was Onalaska Mayor I.H. to the job he had already held for 16 years.

Sears was the big store at 5th and King in La Crosse. For 99 cents, you could buy 20 feet of garden hose at Sears, while $99 could get you an automatic sewing machine. In between, for $28, Sears was selling canister vacuum cleaners.
The Starlite Theatre on La Crosse's south side was open for a "10th great year." The biggest hit movie released in '58 was the musical "South Pacific," followed by "Auntie Mame" with Rosalind Russell, and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" with Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.  Sixty years ago, yesterday in La Crosse.
Wednesday - June 6, 2018 8:43 am

The thrill of the hunt for a medallion, 16 years ago

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Lots of people in La Crosse enjoy treasure hunts, especially for the Oktoberfest medallion.  In September of 2002, a group called the "All-Night Flashlight Patrol" captured the prize.  Amy Steinhoff, Dana Mulholland, Kathy Mulholland, and Annette Yoshizumi led the group, which specialized in searching late at night.  For six years, the Flashlight Patrol had not found the medallion, but in '02, they zeroed in on the medal at Babe Weigent Park.  The searchers said they were in it more for the hunt than for the $500 prize...and a year later, the same group found the medallion again, early in the morning, outside the South Branch Library.

Only three Democrats were in the hunt for the Wisconsin governor's mansion in the 2002 primary.  Congressman Tom Barrett, Attorney General Jim Doyle, and Dane County executive Kathleen Falk were all hoping to unseat Republican Scott McCallum, who inherited the governor's office from Tommy Thompson, when Tommy joined the George W. Bush cabinet.  Doyle won the primary, and the general election, and served two terms as governor.  Barrett, now mayor of Milwaukee, was the Democratic nominee for governor in the 2010 race and the 2012 recall.

Downtown La Crosse got a Subway restaurant in the fall of 2002, and it's still there at 3rd and Pearl...on the former site of Jim's Harborview gas station.  The Subway opened 16 years ago, 2002, yesterday in La Crosse.


Tuesday - June 5, 2018 8:44 am

Making more at minimum wage, 13 years ago

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In 2005, state rep Jennifer Shilling led a public hearing on plans to raise Wisconsin's minimum wage to $6.50 an hour.  The minimum was just $5.15 an hour at the time.  Retiring La Crosse Mayor John Medinger spoke of "haves" and "have-nots," and argued that conservatives should want to put more money in the pockets of the poor.  Marilyn Wigdahl told the hearing that UW-L students have to work three jobs to keep up with college costs.  And local union leader Terry Hicks used words such as "immoral" and "slavery" to describe how costs had gone up in eight years, while the minimum wage had not.

What were gas prices like in 2005?  Web sites that watch gasoline trends say gas was priced at about $2 a gallon in Wisconsin, during the last half of January.  Minnesota prices were around $1.80.  By August, the average price of gas nationwide had climbed to a record high $2.50.

Members of the Thunderbirds Air Force flying team made a winter stop in La Crosse.  They visited the La Crosse Airport, and flew around the area in advance of their summer appearance at the Deke Slayton Airfest...13 years ago, 2005, yesterday in La Crosse.


On June 1st of 1993, Connie Chung joined the "CBS Evening News" as a co-anchor with Dan Rather...and that night, she closed the newscast with a report on a busing plan to achieve economic balance in public schools in La Crosse.  CBS reporter Wyatt Andrews covered the story, which had been big news in La Crosse for nearly two years.  The dispute over busing students in La Crosse to equalize kids from rich and poor families within school buildings led to two school board recall elections in 1992, in which four board members were ousted.  The change in board membership came too late in the summer to halt the busing plan for the fall of '92, and it went ahead as scheduled.
Western Wisconsin was about to get a big summer flood that June.  Heavy rains affected the Black River, leading to a partial failure of the Hatfield Dam at Lake Arbutus, and the Mississippi at La Crosse eventually went higher around the time of Riverfest.
The original "Jurassic Park" made its debut in June.  Later in the summer, Harrison Ford would star as "The Fugitive," at theaters in 1993, yesterday in La Crosse.

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