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Yesterday in La Crosse

They did the “Mash” on the radio in ’62

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. Micky Dolenz of the Monkees […]

The original “October surprise,” 47 years ago

A cease-fire in Vietnam could happen before the end of ’72. That’s what a group of wealthy contributors to President Nixon’s re-election campaign was being told in October, just weeks before the election. Later in the month, Nixon adviser Henry Kissinger announced “peace is at hand” in southeast Asia. That declaration led to the coining […]

We interrupt your Sunday night to bring you Martians!

It happened the night before Halloween, 1938. “The Mercury Theatre on the Air” on CBS Radio broadcast a new version of “The War of the Worlds,” starring 23-year-old Orson Welles, 7 p.m. La Crosse time.  Welles used fake news bulletins to make it sound like Martians were landing in New Jersey, and one actor playing […]

Who was running La Crosse County, 30 years ago?

In October of 1989, the La Crosse County board was considering the idea of hiring a county executive to manage government business. The concept of an executive or administrator had been brought up before, with little support, and it was argued that county board members didn’t want to give up their power to another elected […]

George McGovern was just one of the candidate crowd, 48 years ago

One year before the ’72 presidential election, South Dakota Senator George McGovern visited La Crosse during Oktoberfest.  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 a campaign […]

The old jail site was going to become apartments, 54 years ago

The former 1965 courthouse and jail in La Crosse were recently converted to an apartment building called “The Hub on 6th.” That building replaced an old jail at 10th and Zeisler Streets, and in 1965, Milwaukee lawyer Bruce Reid offered $12,000 to buy the former jail site, if he could also acquire adjoining city property […]

What would the world look like in 1976? A prediction from 1955

In October of 1955, NBC aired a television special called ‘1976, Your World of Tomorrow.’ It was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, and scheduled in honor of Oil Progress Week. Popular TV stars such as Sid Caesar, Wally Cox, and Arlene Francis were in the cast, with appearances by Admiral Chester Nimitz and poet […]

An “aeroplane” comes to town–big news in 1911

It was billed as ‘positively the most sensational event ever held in La Crosse,’ when an airplane came to town in 1911.    In October of 1911, a biplane landed in La Crosse to take part in an “aviation meet” at the interstate fairgrounds, apparently featuring just one ‘aeroplane.’  The plane would be piloted by […]

No Oktoberfest weekend? They tried it 46 years ago

In 1973, the organizers of Oktoberfest made a scheduling move to cut down on the public drunkenness and crowds on 3rd Street of previous years.  The fest had been Tuesday through Sunday in ’72, but under the new schedule, the celebration opened with the Maple Leaf Parade on Sunday, October 7th and wound up with […]

Where to build a new fire station? A hot topic, 56 years ago

In October of 1963, the city council turned down a plan to put a south-side fire station at 16th and Farnam, to replace Station 5 on Denton Street, which later became a senior center.  Another possible site for a station was at 22nd and Green Bay Streets, which the fire chief thought was a bad […]

Separate tables in the school cafeteria, 43 years ago

In 1976, a student at La Crosse Central was suspended for three days, for the offense of sitting at a lunch table reserved for teachers. The offender happened to be the Central student council president, Scott Limpert. The suspension came after the second time that Limpert sat at the faculty table. He had gotten a […]

He didn’t start the fire, or did he?

Seventeen years ago, in 2002, former Lanesboro police chief John Tuchek was put on trial for setting a building on fire in his town. Tuchek was hoping to get his ex-girlfriend to come back to him, and he wanted to do something heroic, like rescuing her from a fire. So, the chief arranged for a […]

A celebration in Crawford County, 51 years ago

In the early 1800’s, the area that became Wisconsin was briefly divided into two large counties. Brown County covered the east side of the state, and Crawford County took up an area which now includes 41 counties. Crawford was founded in 1818, so historians marked the sesquicentennial of that event in 1968. A month-long celebration […]

Between light and shadow, the eclipse was sort of “The Twilight Zone,” 60 years ago

“There is a middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition.” That was part of one opening for the “Twilight Zone” TV show.   And you could describe the path of a solar eclipse that way. Sixty years ago, October 2nd, 1959, a total eclipse could be seen across much of northern Africa […]

Troubled times for Oktoberfest, 53 years ago

Just before the 1966 Oktoberfest in La Crosse, a cartoon in the Tribune asked “How’s this for an image?” The cartoon promoted the six-year-old festival as a time for fun, joviality, friendship, and non-violence. A near-riot during fest weekend led to almost 200 arrests, and to the long-standing ordinance against public consumption of alcohol. Violent […]

Bags over the parking meters, 38 years ago

In November of 1981, a year after the opening of Valley View Mall, La Crosse tried an experiment to keep shoppers coming downtown.  The city council considered a one-year suspension of nearly 700 curbside parking meters, and later reduced that to a three-month trial.  Eventually, all the city-owned meters were removed, and were kept in […]

Why are streets blocked off during Oktoberfest? Mainly because of Coon Creek

In 1991, for the third spring in a row, La Crosse police had to deal with visitors trying to make trouble downtown during the weekend of the Coon Creek canoe races.  When a crowd of about two thousand people wouldn’t break up after bar time, officers brought out batons and tear gas.  Dozens of people […]

Quillin’s comes to the Village, 48 years ago

In 1971, the Quillin family opened an IGA foodliner in the Village Shopping Center.  Quillin’s featured several ‘big and beautiful’ specialty departments in that Village location, which was replaced by a Festival store in 2011.   Rich’s Fairway Foods at 13th and South Avenue had a ham sandwich special–8 sandwiches for just 89 cents.  Super […]