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Yesterday in La Crosse

The first boss at the Sawyer didn’t stay long, 65 years ago

Brad Williams

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In late 1955, Joe Givens resigned as the boss of La Crosse’s Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium, claiming that he could not perform his duties as manager under existing conditions.  Givens had only been on the job for five months, and the Sawyer had opened that August with the “Holiday on Ice” skating show.  Givens planned to move to Florida, to manage “Holiday on Ice.”  The Sawyer board replaced Givens with Walter Mabee, who made a big splash the following year by booking Elvis Presley at the auditorium.  

There were charges that the Democratic Party was playing favorites before the ’56 presidential campaign.  Senator Estes Kefauver wanted to run against Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, and he accused the DNC of secretly favoring 1952 nominee Adlai Stevenson for the nomination again.  Kefauver said the situation wasn’t proper.  Stevenson was nominated again in 1956.  Kefauver became his running mate.  And, Eisenhower got re-elected.  

The Academy Awards given out in March of 1955 went to Marlon Brando for “On the Waterfront” and Grace Kelly for “The Country Girl.”  Brando’s competition for best actor included Humphrey Bogart, James Mason, and Bing Crosby.  Kelly was named best actress from a field that included Audrey Hepburn and Judy Garland.  

Del’s Tavern on 3rd Street was selling 24 bottles of “strong beer” for just $2.25.  And you could buy a home garbage disposal called the Calcinator from the electric company, NSP, in 1955, 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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