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Yesterday in La Crosse

A history-making inauguration, 80 years ago

Brad Williams

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In January of 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first, and so far only U.S. president to be sworn in for a third term.  Roosevelt went on to get a fourth term in 1944, and then the constitution was changed to impose a two-term limit on presidents.  America was still coming out of the Depression in ’41, and the country would be at war before the year was over.  Thousands of visitors traveled to Washington to get in on the party.  The Republican who lost the 1940 election, Wendell Willkie, was being sent to Europe on a diplomatic mission, and President Roosevelt and the State Department were going to help him prepare for the trip.   

In La Crosse, Grandad Bluff was about to get a flagpole.  In honor of National Defense Week, school children and other citizens were raising money for the pole, which would cost about 500 dollars.  A member of La Crosse’s Defense Week committee said the schools teach Americanism, and the man on the street supports Americanism, pride of country.   

La Crosse had about 10,000 cars on the street in 1941.  Less than 40 years earlier, automobiles were a luxury item in the city.  Somebody had found an old newspaper from 1906, reporting that only 74 persons in the city owned cars.  You can probably guess the names of local families which could afford wheels in those days…families named Hixon, Cargill, Gund, Copeland, and Doerflinger.  But lots of folks had cars by 1941, 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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