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Yesterday in La Crosse

Wiggling and waffling on the campaign trail, 44 years ago

Brad Williams

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“He waffles, he wiggles.”  That’s what the president said about his campaign opponent in 1976, yesterday in La Crosse.    President Gerald Ford turned 63 years old on July 14th of 1976, as he was running for a full term in the White House.  Ford had been president for almost two years, following the resignation of Richard Nixon during Watergate.  On Republican Ford’s birthday, the Democratic Party convention in New York nominated Georgia’s Jimmy Carter as its candidate.  He chose Minnesota’s Walter Mondale as his running mate.  Carter and Ford met for three TV debates that fall.  Ford accused Carter of wiggling and waffling, and he said the peanut farmer “isn’t the man you want for president.”  Carter accused Ford of being “brainwashed,” and Ford was hurt by an answer in one debate where he insisted that Poland was not being dominated by the Soviet Union.   

Onalaska was steadily growing bigger in the 1970’s.  The city only had 3000 people in 1960, and almost 5000 in 1970.  The ’76 population estimate was 7000 or more.  Today, Onalaska’s population is close to 20,000.  

Viterbo was putting on “Our Town” and “Carousel” as summer theater shows in ’76, followed by “Hello, Dolly!” in the fall.  The La Crosse Community Theatre would open its season with the musical “The Pajama Game,” usually set in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  The LCT version made La Crosse the show’s location, to honor the city’s history of having clothing factories.  Scenes were set at spots including the Pettibone Park gazebo and the Cass Street bridge, in 1976, 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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