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Yesterday in La Crosse

Would the Delta Queen stay on the Mississippi? A big question 50 years ago

Brad Williams

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In 1970, Congress was talking about ways to preserve the popular Delta Queen paddlewheeler, which made regular trips on the Upper Mississippi.  The boat was nearly 50 years old, and made mostly of wood, which violated a 1966 ‘safety at sea’ law requiring metal hulls on riverboats to prevent fires.  There was some resistance to making an exception for the Delta Queen, but that year, the boat was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   

Passenger train service to La Crosse was in danger of being reduced by the Burlington Railroad.  The Interstate Commerce Commission held a hearing at the La Crosse Courthouse on plans to end two overnight train trips.  One train left La Crosse for Chicago just after 1 a.m.  The other endangered run left at 4:30 in the morning for Minneapolis.

A solar eclipse could be seen over North America on March 7th of 1970, a Saturday.  People in a few Southern and Atlantic Coast states witnessed a total eclipse.  In La Crosse, about 60 per cent of the sun was blocked out by the moon. On the day of the eclipse, a new TV station began broadcasting in La Crosse.  Channel 19, WXOW, became the city’s full-time ABC affiliate.  Saturday nights that March, Channel 19 had shows such as Lawrence Welk, and the Madison-based polka show “Dairyland Jubilee,” in 1970.         

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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