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Yesterday in La Crosse

It was only a test, 49 years ago



In February of 1971, the La Crosse State campus conducted a disaster drill for emergency workers.  They had to react to fictitious reports of tornadoes causing many deaths and building collapses at the college, along with businesses on fire and looting in the city.  The mock disaster happened on the same Friday when towns from Prairie du Chien to Dubuque saw the late morning sky turn dark as night, causing street lights to come on.  Real tornadoes were reported in northern Illinois that February day.  

The Democratic National Committee was making changes in its presidential campaign process, to avoid a repeat of 1968, when party leaders were perceived as dictating the choice of Hubert Humphrey as the nominee.  The reform commission had been headed by Senator George McGovern, who would defeat Humphrey for the party nomination in 1972.  One result of the reforms was the establishment of Iowa’s presidential caucus, which began in ’72.   

La Crosse County Republicans elected 32-year-old Walter Baltz as their chairman that February.  Baltz was credit manager for the Heileman brewery.  He said economic trouble might have led voters to elect Democrat Virgil Roberts to an Assembly seat the previous fall.  Baltz thought the GOP could take back the seat from Roberts in ’72.  Roberts held onto the seat until 1984.   

Kids had lots of Saturday morning choices on TV, such as “The Pink Panther,” “Scooby Doo,” “The Harlem Globetrotters,” and “Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp,” in 1971.        

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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