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Yesterday in La Crosse

A new boss at the Chamber of Commerce, 60 years ago

Brad Williams



In January of 1961, D.J. Petruccelli was introduced to the Thursday Rotary Club as the new manager of the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce.  The 32-year-old Petruccelli spoke about a campaign to create a more positive attitude in La Crosse, called “Operation Pride.”  Petruccelli became known for bringing famous speakers like Ann Landers and Ronald Reagan to the Chamber’s annual dinner, and he arrived in La Crosse just in time to help organize the first Oktoberfest that year.   

A new U.S. president took office on Friday, January 20th, when John F. Kennedy was sworn in to succeed Dwight Eisenhower.  In La Crosse, WKTY Radio carried coverage of the inauguration ball after basketball, a Central High School game.      

CBS introduced a new TV game show that Friday night, called “You’re in the Picture,” hosted by Jackie Gleason. Arthur Treacher, Pat Harrington, and other panelists stuck their heads through holes in a large picture, and asked questions of Gleason to figure out what was going on in the picture.  Gleason pulled the plug on the show after just one episode.    That same night in Hollywood, the star of the Broadway musical “Bye Bye Birdie” was filming the pilot episode of a new sitcom that would start in the fall of ’61.  It ran for more than one episode…five years, in fact.  They called it “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” starting in 1961, 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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