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Yesterday in La Crosse (266)

Friday - March 16, 2018 8:54 am

Waiting for a light to change took longer in 1941

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Seventy-seven years ago, in 1941, La Crosse police chief Herman Rick and traffic sergeant Lyle Gilbert said traffic lights 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 water out of the laundry before it gets hung on the line...and for inflicting pain, if you get your hand caught between the rollers.

The Wisconsin Badgers won the NCAA men's basketball title, 39-34 over Washington State.  It would take the Badgers 74 years to get back to the title game again, but they won in 1941, yesterday in La Crosse.


In early 1982, the La Crosse School District was considering more school closings because of declining enrollment.  Two elementary schools on the north side, Roosevelt and Franklin, were targeted for shutdown, and 14-hundred people responded by signing petitions to keep them open.  Each building was expected to have fewer than 200 students the following fall.  School board members did not respond to comments about the proposed closings, saying they wanted to keep their minds open...which led to accusations that the decision was already final.  The two schools actually stayed open well into the 21st century, until they were replaced recently by La Crosse's new Northside School.
The Equal Rights Amendment for women was still being debated around the U.S., as a passage deadline of June 30th approached.  The amendment was still three states short of becoming part of the Constitution.  Meanwhile, a state ERA for Wisconsin passed in the Senate in Madison by a vote of 28 to 4.  Among the opponents was Republican Senator Walter Chilsen, who argued that an equal rights amendment might open the door for more abortions in Wisconsin.
And evangelist Billy Graham filled a three thousand seat hall in Blackpool, England, preparing for a series of crusades in Britain...36 years ago, 1982, yesterday in La Crosse.

During the race for mayor of La Crosse in 1939, candidate Donald Lyden used the word "amuck" to describe the city's taxing practices.  He was one of six people running for mayor, and they all wanted lower taxes.  That April, incumbent mayor C.A. Boerner was voted out, in favor of former mayor Joseph Verchota, who won by about 1200 votes.  Boerner finished second, and Lyden was third.

The chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Marvin Rosenberry, was making news during his re-election campaign by not bothering to campaign.  Rosenberry had been on the high court for 23 years, and said the court's work was "unusually heavy," so he didn't have time to do campaign events.  He went on to win the election, and remain as chief justice for another 11 years.

The Leithold Piano Company in La Crosse was selling a radio that could fit in your hand for only $7.  Meanwhile, two of the biggest radio stars of the 30's, Jack Benny and George Burns, pled guilty to buying jewelry from a smuggler for their wives, Mary Livingstone and Gracie Allen.  Both men were fined thousands of dollars...but maybe even worse for Jack Benny, he had to admit in public that he wasn't really 39, but 45.  As Benny might say, "Well!"  That was 1939, yesterday in La Crosse.


Monday - March 12, 2018 8:52 am

Time to think about a new courthouse, 27 years ago

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In March of 1991, the La Crosse County courthouse and jail was getting crowded.  The building had been open only 26 years.  It replaced a 60-year-old courthouse which was torn down to make way for a Montgomery Ward store, which had been vacant for years by '91.  A county committee was looking into the need for a new law enforcement center, which might need to be at least 20-thousand square feet larger than the existing courthouse.  La Crosse County had four judges at the time, and predicted they might need six courtrooms within 10 years.  When the current courthouse opened in 1997, it was built with spaces for six courtrooms.
Viroqua astronaut Mark Lee and his wife, Jan Davis, had been chosen as the first married couple to fly in space.  They would fly together aboard the Endeavor space shuttle in 1992.  Before that flight, NASA had an unwritten policy against letting married astronauts serve on the same mission...and apparently, the Lee-Davis flight has been the only exception to that rule.
In March Madness that year, the Lady Popes of Milwaukee Pius High School won the WISAA girls' basketball tournament for the 10th year in a row...and they were building up a 92-game winning streak in 1991...27 years ago, Yesterday in La Crosse.



In early 1974, folks in Cashton were complaining that their town wasn't posted on signs near I-90 exits, so drivers trying to get to Cashton didn't know where to get off.  The most convenient exit was Highway 27, on the west side of Sparta.

Almost all new TV programming in the U.S. was "In Color" by 1974, but the country only had 22 million color TV's...and many of them seemed to be catching on fire at an alarming rate.  The National Commission on Product Safety identified more than 100 color TV models that were considered fire hazards...including RCA, Magnavox, Sylvania, and Philco.

The Village Country Kitchen in La Crosse was advertising a carry-out special for 16 pieces of Country Boy fried chicken and a tub of fries for only $3.95.  The Country Kitchen was just a short distance from the KFC at Losey Boulevard and State Road...44 years ago, 1974, yesterday in La Crosse.


Wednesday - March 7, 2018 8:45 am

Then, there were 3 La Crosse TV stations, 32 years ago

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La Crosse's third commercial TV station, WLAX-TV, signed on the air in late 1986, on Channel 25.  It's now better known as Fox-25, but the Fox network was just getting off the ground at the time, so WLAX had a lot of reruns, including "Star Trek" and "I Love Lucy."  The station debuted 16 years after WXOW signed on, and XOW came along 16 years after La Crosse's first TV station, WKBT.

Wisconsin elected a new governor in 1986, Tommy Thompson.  The Republican from Elroy defeated one-term Democrat Tony Earl.  Thompson became the state's fifth governor in less than 10 years.  Eventually, he was elected to four terms.

And the Monkees performed in La Crosse on their 20th anniversary tour.  Michael Nesmith did not make that stop, but Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork headed the La Crosse Center show.  The made-for-TV band was joined on the tour by other 60's acts, including Herman's Hermits, and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap.  The La Crosse concert was sandwiched between tour stops in Cedar Rapids and Duluth...32 years ago, 1986, yesterday in La Crosse.



In early 1971, Kenneth Lindner became the latest leader of the state college campus in La Crosse.  Lindner rose from the faculty at La Crosse State to become president...and then chancellor, when the merger with UW-Madison took effect.  Chancellor Lindner would be sworn in on April 23rd at Main Hall, with a ball to follow downtown at the Hotel Stoddard. 

A few weeks before that event, Lindner visited Wentz Hall, one of the women's dorms on campus.  The president was asked whether La Crosse would get co-ed dorms, and he called that idea a "fad" which he saw "no point"in having.  But within two years, UW-L would have the first of its co-ed residence halls.

The college would have a spring "Hillidaze" festival in '71, with end-of-semester activities including a skydiving exhibition, a hootenanny, and a greased pig contest.

On Tuesday nights in early 1971, you could turn on the TV and watch "The Mod Squad"..."The Beverly Hillbillies"..."Green Acres"..."Hee Haw"...and a new show about a New York couple named Archie and Edith...Bunker.  "All in the Family" was new in 1971, 47 years ago, yesterday in La Crosse. 

Monday - March 5, 2018 8:44 am

Glory, glory, Hallelujah Singers...46 years ago

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In early 1972, a new choral group from Viterbo College was getting attention, called the Hallelujah Singers.  The choir performed with the La Crosse Symphony during one February concert.  The singers were led by Sister Thea Bowman, the first black instructor to teach full-time at Viterbo. Sister Thea became nationally known for her work with African-American Catholics after leaving Viterbo, and she has been mentioned as a possible candidate for sainthood. One of the Hallelujah Singers of 1972, Nola Jo Starling, was honored by Viterbo in 2017, when a recital hall was named after her.
Senator Ed Muskie won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire in 1972, but he was expected to have a bigger win, being from neighboring Maine.  Many members of the media blamed the decline of Muskie's campaign on an outdoor news conference in New Hampshire, when the candidate defended his wife against attacks by a newspaper.  It was snowing while Muskie spoke, and he was perceived as crying.  As a result, he was portrayed as being too weak to be president.

NBC aired the Oscars that year.  Charlie Chaplin got a special award...Gene Hackman and Jane Fonda won regular acting Oscars.  "The French Connection" was best picture...and the best song was the theme from 'Shaft' by Isaac Hayes.  But I'm talkin' about Shaft!  1972...yesterday in La Crosse.  

Thursday - March 1, 2018 8:45 am

A huge snowstorm hits Wisconsin in March of 1959

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During the first week of March in 1959, a late winter storm brought 10 inches or more of snow to many parts of the state.  The blizzard left 22 inches of snow on La Crosse, with 13 inches falling just on March 5th.  Twenty-six years would pass before the next time La Crosse got that much snow in a single day. 

The heavy snowfall hampered local firemen who were battling an explosion and house fire in Shelby, because the streets were narrowed and hydrants were covered up.  A 26-year-old woman and her two young sons died in the fire.  Another big snowstorm hit the La Crosse area about a week later.

If people were stuck in their homes the Thursday night of the big storm, they could always watch TV.  On Thursday nights, the three major networks had shows such as "Playhouse 90"...the Western "Zane Grey Theater"..."The Real McCoys" with Walter Brennan...Groucho Marx hosting the quiz show "You Bet Your Life"...and "The Ford Show," sponsored by Ford Motors and starring Tennessee Ernie Ford.  Fifty-nine years ago, 1959, yesterday in La Crosse. 

This may not be a leap year, but the #1 songs on certain leap days have stayed popular over the decades.  Take the song that #1 on February 29th, 1940..."In the Mood" by Glenn Miller.  

In 1944, the top song was a Latin number, "Besame Mucho," once covered by the Beatles.  The Fab Four were everywhere in February of 1964, with the chart-topping "I Want to Hold Your Hand."  The 1960 Leap Day hit was the mellow theme from "A Summer Place," performed by Percy Faith.  Not so mellow, "Jump" by Van Halen on February 29th of 1984.  "Love Is Blue" was #1 at Leap Day of 1968.  And Queen had 1980's Leap Day hit, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love."  Helping you remember Leap Days, Yesterday in La Crosse.

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