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Yesterday in La Crosse

Merger mania at the Trane Company, 35 years ago

Brad Williams



In February of 1984, Trane merged with the American Standard Company. Trane chairman William Roth said that the air conditioner maker, founded in La Crosse in 1913, probably would not experience major changes, and no local layoffs were expected. Trane is now a branch of the Ingersoll Rand company.

The La Crosse Center had been open only four years, and it had a new manager who was under fire. John Friedmann had just been on the job for a couple of months, but he was being criticized for not booking enough concerts during the winter at the civic center. Friedmann was granted a 20-day leave.

The ’84 presidential campaign kicked off with the Iowa caucuses. President Reagan was seeking a second term, and a long list of Democrats was challenging him. In Iowa, former Vice President Walter Mondale got 47 per cent of the Democratic caucus votes. Gary Hart was a distant second, and George McGovern was third.

And the hottest catch phrase in the country in early 1984 was ‘Where’s the Beef?’ It was spoken by Clara Peller in commercials for Wendy’s hamburgers. Peller was one of three older women in the ads who thought a rival restaurant’s burgers were too small. A Michigan commission on aging wanted the Wendy’s ads taken off the air, finding them insulting to the elderly. But ‘Where’s the beef’ was a hit in 1984, yesterday in La Crosse.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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