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Yesterday in La Crosse

Should high school bands play at partisan events? A big debate, 59 years ago

Brad Williams

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In 1960, Vice President Richard Nixon was coming to La Crosse for a rally on the day after one of his televised debates with Sen. John Kennedy. Local Nixon volunteers asked the La Crosse School Board if band students could perform at the rally. The board said if the students wanted to play, that would be fine.

Area Republicans were planning a big dinner at the Avalon Ballroom, now a Chinese restaurant on Copeland Avenue. Candidates scheduled to appear included former Gov. Vernon Thomson, running for Congress, and La Crosse’s D.A. George Thompson, running for attorney general.

The Avalon often hosted live radio broadcasts when famous bands were in La Crosse. For example, WKTY did a live remote from the ballroom one September night when the Whoopee John band was performing, in 1960, yesterday in La Crosse.