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Yesterday in La Crosse

What do you call that big round thing with the tomato sauce on it? Pizza catches on in La Crosse, 60 years ago

Pizza Hut, Pizza Villa, Pizza Ranch, Pizza Doctors.  La Crosse has fallen in love—that’s “amore”—with the Italian delicacy of crust and sauce, cheese and toppings.  In 1961, the Racquet newspaper at La Crosse State devoted a large article to the popularity of pizza in the U.S.  Only about 500 pizza places existed in North America […]

Would the iceman cometh? Maybe not, 77 years ago

For many La Crosse families in May of 1944, during World War II, the kitchen icebox was still literally an ice-box.  Not an electric refrigerator.  To keep their food cold, they needed deliveries from the iceman, especially in the summer.  And the city was facing an ‘ice crisis.’  The war labor board had turned down […]

Time for the Safety Patrol trip to D.C., 47 years ago

In May of 1974, more than 1000 young Safety Patrol members from Wisconsin schools went on the patrol’s yearly bus trip to the Nation’s Capital, and Gettysburg.  There were 8 busloads of kids from La Crosse and Monroe Counties, and 3 buses from Prairie du Chien. During the ’74 visit, Prairie Safety Patrol supervisor Ruth Ryan presented […]

The old courthouse came tumbling down, 56 years ago

Late in April of 1965, the domed courthouse in downtown La Crosse was demolished, after being used for 61 years.  A new jail and courthouse had just been completed a block away, and the county had decided there was no reason to keep the old building around.  The courthouse on what is now called Belle […]

Amuck, amuck, amuck…La Crosse city leaders in 1939

During the race for mayor of La Crosse in 1939, candidate Donald Lyden used the word “amuck” to describe the city’s taxing practices.  He was one of six people running for mayor, and they all wanted lower taxes.  That April, incumbent mayor C.A. Boerner was voted out, in favor of former mayor Joseph Verchota, who […]

A La Farge dam seemed like a good idea at the time, 50 years ago

In the summer of 1971, about 500 people attended the ground-breaking for a new Kickapoo River dam project near La Farge.  Just one protester spoke out at the ceremony.  The plan to prevent flooding in the Kickapoo Valley had been proposed as early as 1937, and got Congressional approval in 1962.  The $29 million dam was scheduled […]

Plenty of music stars have played in La Crosse early in their careers…or not

You might have heard about Elvis Presley performing at the old Sawyer Auditorium in May of 1956, when he was 21.  But there are lots of other stars who passed through La Crosse on their way up, or were supposed to. In 1939, a young classical musician from Milwaukee named Liberace took requests at a concert […]

Ten-four, good buddy…loving radios, 37 years ago

By the spring of 1984, the CB radio fad may have been done, but special radios were still popular…especially police scanners, for people to listen to squad-car radios.  Wettstein’s in La Crosse was selling a Bearcat scanner for $99.  If you wanted a good car radio with a cassette player, you could buy a Clarion […]

These guys had “the right stuff,” 62 years ago

In April of 1959, the introduction of America’s first seven astronauts was front-page news around the country, and especially for the La Crosse Tribune, which touted the selection of Sparta’s Deke Slayton for the Mercury program.  At the time, Slayton was a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base.  NASA declared that all seven men […]

Drink your milk, or else…52 years ago

In the summer of 1969, it was against the law in La Crosse County to drink anything but milk during June Dairy Month.  Okay, we think that was a joke, but the dairy celebration did swear in 18 ‘milk marshals’ at the Hotel Stoddard…including two local judges.  The marshals reportedly swore to ‘arrest’ anyone caught drinking a […]

Happy Earth Day to you, or you can use another name

The 22nd of April in 1970 was a big day for ecological awareness in the U.S.  Walter Cronkite did a special report on CBS that night, talking about the very first “Earth Day” observed in America.   La Crosse Mayor Warren Loveland issued an “Environmental Day” proclamation, in which he said the nation must find […]

Hank Aaron makes baseball history, 47 years ago

On April 8th of 1974, viewers around the U.S. watched an early-season baseball game between the L.A. Dodgers and Hank Aaron’s Atlanta Braves. Aaron had tied Babe Ruth’s career record of 714 home runs, and fans wanted to see if he’d break the record that Monday night, which he did at the Atlanta stadium. When […]

We were in the spotlight for being under water, 20 years ago

In April of 2001, the national media kept track of severe flooding on the Mississippi.  For a couple of days, the focus was on La Crosse, as TV networks covered briefings by La Crosse public works director Pat Caffrey.  The river crested in La Crosse on April 18th at 4 feet above flood stage, and […]

Why do you think they called daytime dramas “soaps”?

Five-day-a-week soap operas were introduced on radio in the 1930’s, and then moved to television.  An episode only lasted 15 minutes, until April of 1956.  That’s when a pair of half-hour dramas debuted the day after Easter on CBS: “As the World Turns” and “The Edge of Night.” For years, the opening of “Edge” showed darkness falling on the skyline of […]

A close call for the president, 40 years ago

It’s happened five times in American history…a president has been shot while in office.  Abraham Lincoln was the first, in 1865.  Then Garfield, and McKinley, and John Kennedy was killed in 1963.  March 30th of 1981, Ronald Reagan had been president only two months.  Gunfire broke out as Reagan was leaving a Washington hotel after […]

A head start for one candidate at Oktoberfest, 50 years ago

One year before the ’72 presidential election, South Dakota Senator George McGovern visited La Crosse during the fall fest.  At the time, McGovern was one of several Democrats challenging Republican President Richard Nixon for re-election.  But McGovern would become his party’s nominee the following summer.  McGovern toured the festgrounds for about 20 minutes, and gave […]

Some old buildings were getting attention, 15 years ago

In early 2006, the city of La Crosse was ordering the demolition of a nearly century-old building next to the new Cameron Avenue bridge.  The owners of Advanced Fiber Products on Cameron argued that the walls of the building were unstable because the two-year-old bridge was built only five feet away from the structure, said […]

Keeping customers in downtown stores, 40 years ago

In 1981, the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce took a $20,000 study that had been gathering dust and looked at it again, in search of ways for downtown to compete with Valley View Mall.  The mall had opened in the summer of 1980.  It drew Sears, JC Penney, and Herberger’s away from downtown.  The Chamber […]