Yesterday in La Crosse

October was a scary time, 54 years ago

In the middle of October that year, Nikita Khrushchev lost his job as first secretary of the Soviet Communist Party…less than a year after the assassination of America’s president, John Kennedy. Khrushchev was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev, who would continue as one of the top Soviet leaders for almost 20 years. The Russians put three […]

Sit-in at a library, 32 years ago

A couple hundred students at UW-La Crosse staged a protest on a Saturday afternoon in late 1986 in the Murphy Library. They wouldn’t leave at closing time, protesting changes in the library’s hourse which they said were unfair to students. The university said reduced hours were needed to save money for computerizing the library, which […]

Pondering the future of the Sawyer Auditorium, 36 years ago

In 1982, the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium had gone mostly unused for two years, after the opening of the La Crosse Center. Mayor Pat Zielke had some ideas for putting it to good use. Developers Paul and James Hemker suggested putting a hotel, an ice arena, an athletic club, and an office tower on the […]

Trying to get above 50,000…43 years ago

In 1975, new mayor Pat Zielke said La Crosse would have to consider annexing parts of neighboring towns to stay above the 50,000 population mark, needed to qualify for more federal funds.  Money from Washington was decreasing because the city’s population had gone down to 47,900. Area schools were welcoming new teachers…Tom Berkedal at Lincoln […]

Do you want to drink poison? A fluoride question 50 years ago

In the fall of 1968, La Crosse was getting ready for a referendum to place fluoride in the city tap water.  Opponents of the plan bought several newspaper ads, quoting doctors and citizens from New Jersey who said personal fluoride treatments are better for preventing tooth decay than putting a chemical in the drinking water.  […]

Barack Obama arrives in La Crosse, 10 years ago

“How’s it goin’, La Crosse?”  That’s how presidential candidate Barack Obama greeted an outdoor audience between the Holiday Inn and the La Crosse Center on October 1st of 2008.  Obama’s wife Michelle had campaigned in La Crosse earlier that year.  The Illinois Democrat spent the night in La Crosse during the middle of Oktoberfest, and […]

A pair of new bridges for north La Crosse, 38 years ago

In 1980, the Wisconsin Transportation Commission granted the wishes of La Crosse city leaders by approving two bridges over the railroad tracks near the Amtrak depot.  One bridge would replace a metal viaduct on Rose Street.  The other would be a bridge on Copeland Avenue, where there was no bridge at the time.  Building of […]

A famous Republican was warning against one-party rule, 53 years ago

Former Congressman Robert Taft Junior of Ohio told a GOP dinner in La Crosse in October of 1965 that more Republicans needed to be elected the following year, or else the two-party system would be in “great danger.” Taft was the grandson of President William Howard Taft, and he charged that the Democratic Congress was […]

Oktoberfest became a political fest, 30 years ago

The Maple Leaf Parade of 1988 in La Crosse fell just a month before a presidential election, and it drew a frequent presidential contender.  Republican Sen. Bob Dole walked with several Wisconsin members of his party in the parade, including Senate candidate Susan Engeleiter, who was running to succeed retiring Democrat William Proxmire.  Engeleiter’s Democratic […]

One of the best bowlers in the world lived here, in 1967

In late 1967, La Crosse State College bowler Jack Connaughton went to Paris for the International Masters Bowling Championship.  Connaughton defeated a Japanese bowler, 195 to 172, to win the title.  About 200 people greeted him at the La Crosse airport when he returned, and gave him an official escort back to campus. Top college […]

How spooky was Halloween in 1962?

The #1 song on the week before Halloween of 1962 was “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett.  In 1991, Pickett performed the song at an outdoor concert at the Trempealeau Hotel…and joked that Elvis Presley didn’t like “Monster Mash,” but he (Pickett) was still around, and Elvis was not. Another hit record was made in […]

A $10 million wish list, 67 years ago

In 1951, La Crosse city leaders were discussing an improvement plan with a total cost over $10 million.  A new high school to replace Central on Cass Street was on the list.  That school wasn’t built until the mid-60’s.  A new City Hall was on the wish list, too, along with a George Street viaduct […]

If you couldn’t get away from disco, you could still learn how to dance to it, in 1979

In the fall of ’79, Michael’s Cerise on Ward Avenue was advertising that customers could “learn how to disco in 3 lessons.” The lessons in the Terpsichore Cocktail Lounge at the Cerise were taught by qualified teachers from the Marilyn School of Dance. Even though disco was king at the time, there was still room […]

A Supreme Court justice faced sexual harassment charges, 27 years ago

The Brett Kavanaugh controversy of 2018 has been compared to the charges made against Clarence Thomas, when he was being considered for the Supreme Court in the fall of 1991. There was much live TV coverage of the testimony by both Thomas and his accuser, Anita Hill, who said Thomas had made offensive sexual statements […]

A long career in Congress begins in 1931

Gardner Withrow of La Crosse was a former railroad man when he first went to Congress in 1931.  Withrow served four terms in the House as a Republican or Progressive before losing his seat in 1938.  He also lost the next two elections, but returned to Congress in 1948, and served six more terms until […]

A famous author was part of a local court case, in 1966

In early 1966, author John Howard Griffin spoke in La Crosse about his experiences posing as a black man in the South, as described in his book “Black Like Me.” While in the city, Griffin was served with a subpoena by the La Crosse Sheriff’s Department, ordering him to appear locally in court as part […]

Men whose names are on UWL buildings made news in 1973

Former university president Rexford Mitchell died on the 4th of July in 1973. He was 77. Mitchell holds the longevity record among the people who have led the La Crosse campus, serving as president for almost 30 years. The campus only had four buildings when Mitchell became president in 1939. The main physical education building […]

A new name for a local park, 5 years ago

In 2013, the La Crosse park department was debating whether to keep the name Hood Park on public property along 5th Avenue South. There was a concern that the name ‘Hood’ suggested crime, even though the park and a nearby street were named after William Hood, an early surveyor of La Crosse. One alternate name […]