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Looking back: 1974

Posted 11 a.m. Friday, May 31, 2024

Take a look back at what was happening at UWL 50 years ago.

Campus life, marching to Florida and more — 50 years ago

As it entered its third year in the newly merged University of Wisconsin System, UW-La Crosse was hitting its stride 50 years ago. With an enrollment of just more than 7,500 students in fall 1974, the sprawling campus was at the end of the ’60s growth spurt that saw the construction of nearly a dozen residence halls. Academically, the new Center for the Arts (now the Truman T. Lowe Center for the Arts) opened, and the classroom building on the northern edge of campus (first called North Hall and eventually Wimberly Hall) was nearing completion.

Here's a glance at some highlights of the 1973-74 academic year, as noted by the 1974 La Crosse yearbook.  Page numbes are noted below.

On-campus living thriving (p. 21-22)

With nearly all campus residence halls in their first 10 years of existence, the residence life program was expanding on-campus life. The men’s halls on the east of campus (all named for male professors) and women’s halls in the middle of campus (all named for female professors) were mixing things up. Drake and Laux halls were the first two coed residence halls. Baird Hall, still all women, and Trowbridge Hall, now all men, were in their second year of operating as halls for juniors and seniors. “Trow” quickly became known for infamous parties, with the only problem reported as “getting the guys up the next morning to help clean up the basement.”

In its second year as an upperclassmen hall for men, Trowbridge took on notoriety for its infamous parties.

In Baird Hall, junior and senior women were enjoying the convenience of living on campus with the independence of living off campus. With the switch the previous year, kitchens were added to each of the hall’s floors, allowing Baird residents to get off the meal plan at Whitney and do their own cooking.

Off-campus living grand, too (p. 14-15)

Yearbook editors noted that twice as many students were living off campus in 1973-74: “Eight in one house” with hope that it’s near campus and rent totaling “$50 a month plus utilities.” The article adds that off-campus is attractive with freedom, less noise, independence and more. But it notes the challenges of monthly bills, such as grocery shopping at Quillins with sticker shock of “$2.49 a pound!” And don’t forget the chores: washing dishes, taking out the trash, house cleaning — all along with all-night parties.

Off-campus living included never-ending household chores such as doing dishes.

Without a meal plan at the Whitney Center, students living off campus often visited Quillins to shop for groceries.

Let me entertain you (p. 16-17)

The popular group The Association returned to campus in September 1973, filling Mitchell Hall with the sounds of “Cherish,” “Windy” and “Never My Love.” It was an encore performance from the group’s first campus appearance for Homecoming 1970. “An informal atmosphere, featuring continual quips from stage and an audience participation song, kept the evening at a fast-paced level,” yearbook editors noted.

“Cherish” was the word when hit group The Association returned to campus. The Marching Chiefs and Phi Sigma Epsilon sponsored the encore performance that brought nearly 850 concert-goers to Mitchell Hall.

It's Greek to them (p. 80-121)

Greek life was extremely popular during the 1973-74 academic year, with more than 40 pages in the yearbook highlighting the many activities Greek organizations held on and off campus. Greek organizations were the basis of many campus events, including Homecoming, Winter Carnival, formals, variety shows and more. The groups were involved in the community too, ranging from sponsoring Miss La Crosse Oktoberfest candidates to organizing Christmas and Halloween parties at the Northside Boys Club and YW-YMCA, respectively, and donating to charities and adopting overseas orphans.  

It was game on in October 1973 when Greeks hit the road to Eau Claire to rally for the big UWL-UWEC football game. The La Crosse road rally helped the team to a 14-7 win over the Blugolds.

Homecoming a key to campus life (p. 38-43)

Students celebrated the 50th anniversary of Homecoming in fall 1973. The golden anniversary emphasized the marching band’s trip to Florida with the theme: “Orange Bowl or Bust.” Traditional activities included selection of a Homecoming queen, the Hanging of the Lantern, a snake dance, the Lighting of the ‘L,’ and a parade to Memorial Field where the football team played UW-Oshkosh.

Drake Hall won the residence hall decorating competition, proclaiming: “We’ll Squeeze Out A Victory.” The 50th Homecoming celebration highlighted the Marching Chiefs’ trip to the Orange Bowl later in the year.

A march to Florida

UWL’s marching band took its second large trip in four years during winter break ’73-74. A $103,000 fundraising effort took the 250-member Marching Chiefs to the Orange Bowl in Miami. The band’s halftime performance of the AFC Championship was met with rave reviews, while the band cast its own musical spell on thousands at Disney World. The weather wasn’t bad, either. The La Crosse Tribune reported that while it was “Fair and bitterly cold with a low of 20 below zero,” the Miami Herald stated, “Partly cloudy and mild with highs near 80.”

UWL's Marching Chiefs, as they were called then, perform at the 1974 Orange Bowl in Miami.

On the air

The United Press International teletype machine in the WLSU newsroom in Wing Communications Center (now Wing Technology Center) churned out the latest worldwide news items for students to read on the air. Only in its third year of broadcasting, the campus radio station expanded to full-time production, providing 18 hours daily with a staff of 50 students. As a National Public Radio affiliate, WLSU was the only La Crosse station that provided live coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings.

A close look at the United Press International teletype machine in the WLSU newsroom.

This building under construction

During the 1973-74 academic year, the new classroom building (eventually named North Hall before being named Wimberly Hall in the ’90s) was taking shape. The new fine arts center (now Lowe Center for the Arts) had opened during the academic year, and the new classroom building opened in fall 1974. The campus didn’t open another new academic building until Centennial Hall opened in 2011.

Wimberly Hall, formerly known as North Hall, under construction.

Bumper sticker omen?

This bumper sticker spotted on campus expressed the thoughts of one motorisit following the tumultuous political happenings of fall ’73 and spring ’74. But before President Richard Nixon was impeached by the House of Representatives, he resigned during a live speech aired on TV and radio Aug. 8, 1974.

A bumper sticker spotted on campus foretold the downfall — if not the exact fate — of President Richard Nixon.


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