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Yesterday in La Crosse

Saving the Delta Queen was a mission, 49 years ago

Brad Williams

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In 1970, Congress was talking about ways to preserve the popular Delta Queen paddlewheeler, which made regular trips on the Upper Mississippi.  The boat was nearly 50 years old, and made mostly of wood, which violated a 1966 ‘safety at sea’ law requiring metal hulls on riverboats to prevent fires.  There was some resistance to making an exception for the Delta Queen, but that year, the boat was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   

Passenger train service to La Crosse was in danger of being reduced by the Burlington Railroad.  The Interstate Commerce Commission held a hearing at the La Crosse Courthouse on plans to end two overnight train trips.  One train left La Crosse for Chicago just after 1 a.m.  The other endangered run left at 4:30 in the morning for Minneapolis.  Meanwhile, two Hiawatha trains operated by the Milwaukee Road stopped serving La Crosse that month.   

President Richard Nixon delivered his first State of the Union address in 1970…only 36 minutes long, cut down from a draft that timed out at two hours.  Republican Nixon wanted to do more to fight crime, sought support for his Vietnam War policy, and urged Americans to ‘make our peace with nature.’ Democrats were planning a televised response to the speech…to be aired about two weeks later.  

On TV, former Smothers Brothers sidekick and ex-presidential candidate Pat Paulsen got his own ‘half-a-comedy-hour’…a 30-minute weekly show on ABC, with Steve Martin and Bob Einstein among the writing staff.  It lasted 13 weeks in 1970, yesterday in La Crosse.  

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