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The original “October surprise,” 47 years ago

Brad Williams

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A cease-fire in Vietnam could happen before the end of ’72. That’s what a group of wealthy contributors to President Nixon’s re-election campaign was being told in October, just weeks before the election. Later in the month, Nixon adviser Henry Kissinger announced “peace is at hand” in southeast Asia. That declaration led to the coining of the phrase “October surprise,” used to express suspicion that an event in the news is announced in October with the aim of influencing an election.

House Democratic Leader Hale Boggs and three other people were missing after flying in a small plane to a political event in Alaska. The plane and the people aboard have never been found. The Louisiana Congressional seat held by Boggs was later declared vacant, and his wife Lindy succeeded him. Hale and Lindy Boggs were the parents of the late political reporter Cokie Roberts.

The Montgomery Ward department stores were celebrating their 100th anniversary with a “Century 2” sale. La Crosse’s Wards store on Courthouse Square, now known as Belle Square, was having a sale on nylon carpets, no-wax flooring, and home freezers.

A letter to the editor in the Tribune complained that “long-haired, drug-oriented…radical parasites” had “invaded” Oktoberfest weekend in La Crosse, and the writer said “Go home, don’t come back.” The letter complained that the visitors had left litter behind and parked on private lawns during the fest.

A Johnny Cash concert at the Sawyer Auditorium, featuring June Carter Cash, Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers, was already sold out the day before the show. And Bob Hope’s last theatrical movie comedy, “Cancel My Reservation,” was playing at the Cinema Theaters in 1972, Yesterday in La Crosse.

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