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Yesterday in La Crosse

Bags over the parking meters, 38 years ago

Brad Williams

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In November of 1981, a year after the opening of Valley View Mall, La Crosse tried an experiment to keep shoppers coming downtown.  The city council considered a one-year suspension of nearly 700 curbside parking meters, and later reduced that to a three-month trial.  Eventually, all the city-owned meters were removed, and were kept in storage until a sale a few years ago.  When bags were placed on the meters to allow two-hour free parking, some drivers thought parking was banned in those spaces, and they tried to park somewhere else. 

The Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium was empty and unused, a year after being replaced by the La Crosse Center.  But the center board voted to rent the Sawyer to the Blue Stars drum and bugle corps for $5000 a year.  The Sawyer eventually was torn down in 1988 to make way for a La Crosse County juvenile facility and health department building.

Gas prices in La Crosse averaged $1.29 a gallon in the fall of ’81.  Some of the lowest prices for regular gasoline could be found at Frank-Len on N. 3rd St., the Clark gas station on Lang Drive, and the Citgo Quick Mart on West Avenue near campus.  Cheap gas in 1981, 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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