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Yesterday in La Crosse

‘Alice in Dairyland’ is crowned along the Mississippi, 66 years ago

Brad Williams



In June of 1953, La Crosse hosted the yearly Alice in Dairyland festival, which was started in the 1940’s to help promote the state’s dairy industry. The major events of the celebration included a parade from the riverfront to Burns Park, in which the 16 ‘Alice’ candidates rode in open convertibles…and the actual selection ceremony, held at the vocational school auditorium. The women were judged on beauty, personality, voice, farming background, and ‘wholesomeness.’ Mary Ellen Jenks of Chippewa Falls won the Alice title for 1953.

Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy was planning hearings about books by authors who were considered Communist. McCarthy had sent subpoenas to well-known writers including Dorothy Parker and Lillian Hellman, and accused some of trying to duck the hearings.

La Crosse was having a heat wave that June, with temperatures rising unofficially above 100 degrees. The city asked homeowners to stop sprinking their lawns and gardens, to prevent the reservoir from running out of water.

On the radio, you could hear ‘Ozzie and Harriet,’ ‘My Little Margie,’ and ‘December Bride,’ which also were hit TV shows in the 50’s. And Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club radio show based in Chicago was marking 20 years on the air, in 1953, yesterday in La Crosse.

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