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Yesterday in La Crosse

It was the greatest mall of ’em all, opening 40 years ago

Brad Williams

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July 31st, 1980 was opening day for La Crosse’s largest indoor shopping mall, Valley View Mall.  Bigger than the other local shopping centers, the Village, Bridgeview, Center 90, and Shelby Mall.  The $23 million Valley View attracted the big department stores which had been downtown for years…J.C. Penney, Sears, and Herbergers, along with Dayton’s out of Minneapolis, which was a partner in developing the mall.  Now, of those original major anchors, only the Penney store remains.  Governor Lee Dreyfus was among the guests at an opening bash called “Moonlight Serenade.”  Although it was 1980, and the site was a modern shopping mall, the featured entertainers were from the Big Band Era–the Tex Beneke orchestra, and singer Helen O’Connell.  

The president was running for a second term, and was upset that others in his party wanted to take the nomination away from him.  That president was Democrat Jimmy Carter, and he said it would be a ‘travesty’ to let the convention delegates vote for whoever they wanted.  Senator Ted Kennedy was Carter’s main challenger.  The head of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, Joe Checota, said he didn’t think Carter could beat Republican Ronald Reagan in November, and said the only possible alternate nominee to Carter was Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson.  Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate suspected that Carter would try to “ram through” some presidential nominations before the election, and they vowed to block Carter nominees, so that Reagan could fill those jobs if he was elected.  

Where was the Rose Street viaduct?  An aerial photo in the Tribune showed the street without the old metal bridge over the railroad tracks.  That viaduct had just been removed, and the current bridge on Rose Street was about to be built, in 1980, 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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