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Why not turn Central High into a park? The city got that idea, 46 years ago

Brad Williams



In 1973, the park department wanted the former Central High property at 15th and Cass. The new Central on Losey Boulevard had been open for a few years, and the old school building had been torn down. Businessman Charles Gelatt offered $50,000 if the city would use the land for a park. Eventually, it became Babe Weigent Park, named after the former Central teacher and coach.

Vandals cut support wires at the WXOW TV tower outside La Crescent in ’73. Damage to the fallen tower and the studio building added up to about $200,000. Channel 19 was off the air for four days because of the vandalism. One theory about the case suggested that the tower was toppled by people who didn’t want a new public TV tower put up in the same area.

Perry Mason made a television comeback that fall. The legendary lawyer wasn’t played by Raymond Burr, because he was starring as “Ironside” on NBC. Actor Monte Markham was the new Perry Mason in the CBS series, which only lasted a few months. Jimmy Stewart also played a lawyer on TV that fall, named “Hawkins.” And Telly Savalas played a lollipop-loving cop called “Kojak.” Who loves ya, baby?…in 1973, yesterday in La Crosse.

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