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Yesterday in La Crosse

Hi-yo, Silver, Away! Silver coins went away, 54 years ago

Brad Williams



If you’ve wondered why most U.S. dimes or quarters have a red stripe on the rim, that goes back to a decision made by Congress in the summer of 1965.  President Johnson proposed eliminating all or most silver in American coins, to relieve a silver shortage.  Until 1964, coins worth 10 cents of more generally were 90 per cent silver.  Now, quarters and dimes are 92 per cent copper, accounting for the red rims, with an 8 per cent nickel coating to resemble silver.  

Cutbacks were being planned in local government around Wisconsin in ’65.  The state was setting limits on how big a county board should be, saying that any county with a population under 25,000 should have only 21 county supervisors.  That led to redistricting plans for Jackson County, where there were 30 county board members, and Trempealeau County, which would have to cut a 39-man board down to 21 men.  And yes, news stories about the process did say ‘man’ when talking about elected officials.   

The planners of Oktoberfest in La Crosse were thinking big for the 1965 fest–about big-name entertainment, that is.  How could they top Louis Armstrong playing Oktoberfest in ’64?  A Minneapolis ad agency used by the Heileman brewery offered a package of famous names to perform for the fest.  The list included Pat O’Brien, Pat Boone, George Gobel, Mitzi Gaynor, and Rose Marie.  The total cost of hiring those famous entertainers was estimated at $12,000.  Most of them did not make it to Oktoberfest, but the Castaways did play at the Avalon Ballroom in July, performing their   big hit “Liar, Liar” in 1965, yesterday in La Crosse.