Tag: Madison

Blasts from my Madison past

Last week, I wrote about the Facebook page “If you grew up in Madison you remember …” which last week was attempting to take over Facebook like dandelions in your lawn.

As of today, the group, which is not even two weeks old, has more than 6,100 members and nearly 17,000 posts. Not surprisingly, the growth and post rate has slowed down since last week; otherwise it eventually would have taken over the entire Internet, not merely Facebook. It’s also getting media attention of its own, with WIBA radio (Madison’s first commercial radio station) having done a segment last Friday.

Why this popularity? Two posts on Facebook give answers:

This page brings us all back to a more simpler, carefree, happy time. Before all the “trials and tribulations” of adult life took over. And before all the pain and sorrows , that I’m sure most of us have endured. Life was pretty easy then . Such little things gave us such enormous joy. I think this is healthy reliving it all.

What’s telling is that so many people have so many fond memories of childhood in Madison. Clearly, for a lot of people, it was a great place to grow up.

One example of that “simpler, carefree, happy time” is all the movies I saw at East Towne Cinema, rated from G to R. (This entire old Madison thread started with media, as you know.) All the movies — from “Benji” to “First Blood” to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to “The Spy Who Loved Me” — started with the funky open that you see here.

On Thursday, the subject of Tedd O’Connell, described as WISC-TV’s “hipster newsman” in a Madison Magazine article, came up. O’Connell was WISC’s City Hall reporter (and I know that because I first met him when he was in the City–County Building coffee shop during a ridealong with my Scoutmaster, a Madison police officer) and news anchor for 15 years. He left Wisconsin but returned in the mid-1990s to become the first news director at WGBA-TV in Green Bay. He died of cancer three years ago.

While doing a search for information on O’Connell, I came upon this video, from which come these images that brings you the ’70s in all their funky color glory, followed by the much more buttoned-down ’80s:

This is the second iteration of WISC’s checkerboard set. (O’Connell is in the middle; John Digman, who used a 1949 Cadillac antenna to do the weather, was on the right, and a sports guy, possibly Jim Miller, is on the left). The glass panels you see were originally used to superimpose graphics behind the anchors. The original set had no desk; the anchors sat on low-back chairs with their scripts in their laps.

The anchors and reporters used their signatures for graphics, the reading of which may have been a challenge for viewers of those with more illegible signatures. The original version also had a high-tempo theme once described as sounding like angry bumblebees, which was followed by a slower synthesizer-heavy theme (and you can hear a small clip in the background on the video at 6 seconds). And for those who think Casual Friday is a ’90s concept, well … 

Apparently WISC decided the checkerboard set was not colorful enough, so its replacement was rainbowish. (I remember the lighter tan being more orange.) O’Connell is pictured with meteorologist Marv Holewinski (unfortunately not wearing his banana-colored suit), who can still be heard on the radio doing weather and outdoor reports.

And then came the 1980s. O’Connell is in the middle with sports director Van “Mount Horeb toppled Verona” Stoutt on the left and, I believe, meteorologist Dana Tyler, now at WFRV-TV in Green Bay, on the right.

They also did their news (or at least news updates) from the newsroom for a while; this is O’Connell’s report of the shooting at the City–County Building in which Dane County Coroner Clyde “Bud” Chamberlain was killed.

You may have concluded from reading this blog and its predecessor that I have a love–hate relationship with my hometown. That’s actually not accurate — you can love neither things nor places, since neither is capable of loving you back. (That includes jobs, by the way.) I think I had a very nice, mostly uneventful childhood in a place that really doesn’t exist anymore, or at least exist in the way I remember it.

And all I needed for evidence was a drive through my old neighborhoods on Saturday — the first house I remember, the house we built, and my old grade school and high school. Both the houses were originally green; they are  now gray. (My parents ruined the house I grew up in by changing its paint from green with yellow trim to gray with red trim. Something about resale value, I think.) I had a really difficult time recognizing the older house; the present owner of the one-story one-car-garage house somehow added two more garage spaces. (Which, my wife points out, makes the house look like more garage than house.) The trees are much bigger than I remember them, because, of course, they’ve grown in the 40 years since they were planted. (So have I,  of course, both vertically and horizontally.)

This is how a young mind works: There was a Meadowlark Drive south of Cottage Grove Road and a Meadowlark Drive north of Cottage Grove Road, but they didn’t connect to each other. And I always wondered why that was. (A cul de sac road ended any chance of their linking.) The Heritage Heights neighborhood apparently was developed by an Anglophile, given that the road names included Kingsbridge, Queensbridge, Knightsbridge roads and Greensbriar and Vicar lanes. (Plus Inwood Way and Open Wood Way; the mnemonic device would require you go into Inwood Way to get to Open Wood Way.)

I don’t know if those who had positive childhoods remember their hometowns in such detail (even if occasionally inaccurate) as how the “If you grew up in Madison you remember” group does. (The contrast is that my parents grew up in small Southwest Wisconsin towns and left at the first opportunity, never to return except to visit their parents. Everyone votes with their feet.) I said last week that gauzy memories suggest either we remember things as being better than they were, or things were better then than we thought they were at the time. That makes me wonder how our three children will remember their childhoods where their parents chose to raise them.


Blasts from our Madison past

A month ago, I discovered a few old pieces of Madison media on YouTube, and posted them on this blog.

Then on Tuesday, I was trying to write Wednesday’s blog item when I checked on Facebook.

Several hours later, I decided to start writing this to make up for all the time I lost in the Facebook “If you grew up in Madison you remember” group. I think I once mentioned that most of my high school graduating class appeared to be on Facebook. Apparently everyone else who grew up in Madison the same time, or before then, is on Facebook too.

On Tuesday, the activity on this group slowed down my laptop and threatened to bring the Internet to a screeching halt more effectively than an electromagnetic pulse. It was like feeding bread to ducks, with people fighting to get their memories of Madison online.

In the four hours between when I was let into the group and when I finally turned off the email notifications, there were more than 500 posts. The group jumped over 1,000 members and 3,000 posts less than 24 hours after it was created. (As someone posted, “Hooray! We broke Facebook!”) By the end of its second day it exceeded 3,400 members and 7,500 posts. By the end of its third day it exceeded 4,600 members (and jumped over 5,000 members shortly thereafter) and 11,000 posts. WIBA (1310 AM) in Madison is doing a segment about this group today at 10:30 a.m. This site may need to be spun off of Facebook onto its own domain — maybe www.ifyougrewupinmadisonyouremember.com.

A lot of the memories, not surprisingly for Wisconsin, involved bars and drinking. (I’ll pause while you recover from the shock.) I was part of the last high school class that could legally drink at 18. One of my first mixed drinks was something called Swampwater, which was the color of antifreeze and was usually served in mason jars. I have been unable to determine what was in it. (I drank that in a campus bar where I was in more than any other campus bar; in a previous location, it was a favorite of my father’s back when he was a UW student.) There were also fond memories of Long Island Ice Teas, which, for those who can’t decide between gin, rum, vodka or whiskey, combines all four, plus triple sec, sour mixer and cola. As one poster put it, “This site is proof you can’t kill all your brain cells no matter how hard you tried.”

Many of the other memories (including the aforementioned  memories involving adult beverages) undoubtedly were of the if-our-parents-only-knew variety. (The amusing point to ponder is how many of the members’ parents are also on Facebook.) The future corollary is when parents ask themselves how much of what they did when they were their children’s age would they want their own children to do.

In rough alphabetical order, what also came up included:

The A&W drive-in that sold root beer in the baby-size mugs quite inexpensively. Ask my parents, and they will tell you how on summer nights they would give their boys baths, put them in their pajamas, and take them to this drive-in, where they would order three root beers and one orange. (Guess who got the orange because he didn’t like root beer.) And the boys in the back seat would have one orange smile and one brown smile.

Arlans, a discount retailer that had a store on Milwaukee Street, and Eagle, the grocery store on the other half of the same building. Swiss Colony owned the building last time I saw it. The building is west of the “new” Madison post office, opened in Gerald Ford’s presidency.

Barnaby’s, a pizza place where numerous birthday parties were held. People placed orders and then picked them up when a light at their table informed them dinner was ready. It offered pizza-and-root beer combinations, which was fine unless you didn’t like root beer.

Bridgeman’s, a restaurant and ice cream parlour (that’s how they spelled it) that was my first employer. There was a Dairy Queen in the neighborhood before Bridgeman’s, but when Bridgeman’s arrived it blew DQ out of the water. (On the other hand, there is still a restaurant in the original DQ building, whereas the old Bridgeman’s is now, ironically, a dental office.) The best thing about working at Bridgeman’s was eating the mistakes, particularly the Tin Roof sundae (hot fudge, butterscotch and pecans, I think). Drinks were free, but food was full price unless, oops, someone made a mistake. (Perhaps that’s why it went out of business less than a decade after it opened.)

The C&P shopping center with a sloped parking lot. Most of the store was level with the west side of the lot, but there was a ramp that went from the main level to the ground level where shoppers could bring their cars and pick up their groceries. (Another thing you never see anymore.) Of course, five-year-olds loved to race down the ramp ahead of Mom’s grocery carts.

Cars we drove or owned, which were on the large side in the case of the former and were barely functioning in the case of the latter.

“Choi,” a term of approval at La Follette (I assume it’s short for “choice”), and the more superlative “choi to the max!” At the time I thought this was just an ’80s term. Based on posts, however, it appears to have been limited to only Madison. That makes one wonder who started “choi,” in the same way that La Follette alumni of the early ’80s still wonder who started the epic spring 1982 outdoor food fight.

Concerts in various venues ranging from the Shuffle Inn (Van Halen) to Headliners (Joan Jett) to Merlin’s (U2) to the Dane County Coliseum (Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, the Doobie Brothers, Elvis Presley, Cheap Trick opening for Queen, REO Speedwagon opening for every other act, Foreigner, Chicago more than once) to the Orpheum Theater (Bob Marley and the Wailers) to the Dane County Junior Fair (Rick Springfield) to the Memorial Union Terrace (the Violent Femmes) to Breese Stevens Field (Ready for the World and Sheila E) to … an East High School TWIRP (The Woman Is Required to Pay) dance, where Cheap Trick supposedly played.

Madison’s first convenience stores, Stop & Go and PDQ.

The drive between Madison and Cottage Grove, which was posted at 55 mph except for one 50-mph stretch. So much development has taken place in the intervening years that Dane County BB is now posted at 35 mph.

Department stores in the pre-mall era, including Gimbel’s, Manchester’s and Yost’s. Some offered not just clothing, but restaurants or hair styling. Similar to …

Several old drug stores, including Gerhardt’s (now a Walgreen’s) and Rennebohm’s, owned by a former governor of Wisconsin. I believe Gerhardt’s was where I purchased my first record (Rhythm Heritage’s “Theme from ‘SWAT'”). My parents remember the downtown Madison Rennebohm’s because it had a lunch counter (where I ate once before interviewing the mayor of Madison, who had just replaced the mayor who had replaced Paul Soglin.)

Our various doctors, dentists, etc. It turns out that our pediatrician, Dr. William Ylitalo of Quisling Clinic, was also the pediatrician of numerous other people in this group. (Quisling Clinic was started by two physicians who were cousins of Vidkin Quisling, who was to Norway what Vichy was to France. For running Norway for the Nazis, Vidkun was executed after the right side won.) Dr. Ylitalo’s son is in this group too, so I imagine he’s been enjoying the reading. And most of us also had in common various dental appliances to correct our overbites, underbites, or poorly spaced teeth.

The East Side Business Men’s Association festival on Milwaukee Street. Everyone who attended was of the age where they didn’t notice how rickety the Ferris wheel was. (The ESBMA building on Atwood Avenue/Monona Drive was also the site of the La Follette High School Class of 1983 post-graduation party, our final formal event as a class before the 1988 reunion. It’s now called the East Side Club.)

The early days of East Towne Mall, which in its first decade or two had fountains, smoking areas, a Burger King, County Seat (preferred source of Levi’s), the Aladdin’s Castle video arcade, a bar, a two-screen theater and the Moon Fun Shop, a head shop. East Towne also had York Steak House, where I had my first and last dates (and a few in between) with my first girlfriend.

The back road to East Towne, which before development there meant driving through a weird intersection that included a right-hand curve and a steep hill that ended at a stop sign. My brother was driving our 1975 Chevrolet Caprice to work one day when he was rear-ended at the multi-level intersection by a one-ton van. The van appeared as though a giant fist had smashed the front end. The Caprice suffered … a bent rear bumper.

The Hungry Hungry (or possibly Hungry Hungry Hungry), a drive-in I vaguely remember occasionally visiting across the street from Olbrich Park on the east shore of Lake Monona.

Ironic repositioning of store chains. What you know as Kohl’s, Wisconsin’s finest retail chain, was also a chain of grocery stores, most in buildings with curved roofs. What you know as Copps’ supermarkets also was a group of discount retail stores. The East Side had a Kohl’s grocery store and a Copps discount retail store, neither of which are in existence today. (The Kohl’s building on Monona Drive is still there, though.)

Kelly’s, a former fast-food chain in at least Madison. The difference between Kelly’s and McDonald’s was that Kelly’s had hot dogs, and its mascot was a dancing pickle reportedly named Pete.

Marc’s Big Boy, a restaurant on East Washington Avenue (the chain still exists, but not that restaurant) that featured fish in buckets wrapped with wax paper with London newspaper print, and Big Boy comic books.

Various off-brand gas stations, including Fisca, Kickapoo, Martin and Transport.

Paisan’s, which, in its fourth location, still has the best pizza in Madison.

The Pig’s Ear, a high-end restaurant (which I never went to) with garish pink walls. It is now called Talula and has gotten at least one good review.

Pizza Pit, which still runs this commercial:

Public employee strikes — the 1976 Madison teacher strike (which prompted the mediation/arbitration law), which got us two weeks off right after winter vacation for the price of (1) losing our entire spring vacation, (2) having to go to school on a Saturday, and (3) adding two days at the end of the school year) and the 1977 and 1980 Madison Metro bus strikes, which forced those who didn’t live near our middle and high schools to find alternative transportation to and from school.

Queen of Apostles High School, which was just east of Interstate 90. I didn’t go to “QAS,” but when I joined the Boy Scouts our meetings were there until it closed in the late 1970s. It’s now some kind of high-tech business.

The Catholic church many of us attended, St. Dennis, the only Catholic church in the entire La Follette attendance district. (St. Bernard was on Atwood Avenue, and Immaculate Heart of Mary were in Monona, but it still seems like poor planning to have a farther east or farther south Catholic church for the far East side’s exploding growth.) Until my senior year of high school, St. Dennis Masses were held in either a very small church, or the school gym. (For the first few years of my life, I thought every Catholic church had backboards and a scoreboard.) St. Dennis pre-adult parishioners were in two groups — those who also went to St. Dennis School between first and eighth grades, and those who attended the Madison public schools. St. Dennis didn’t have a church big enough for the enormous congregation until 1983, in a building project funded by monthly Friday fish fries in the 1970s, where I bused in exchange for free fish afterward.

Paul Soglin, when he was mayor of Madison the first time, from 1973 to 1979. And then he was mayor from 1989 to 1997. And then he was elected mayor again in April. (Perhaps when Soglin passes on they’ll just prop up his body El Cid-like in the City–County Building council chambers and have an assistant push keys on a laptop for “Motion to approve,” “those in favor say aye,” and so on.

Teachers, including former La Follette choir teacher Rod  Witte (who was very popular with his singers) and Pete Olson, physical education and driver education teacher and (twice-state-championship-winning) boys basketball coach at La Follette, who now apparently can be found fishing on a lake in Vilas County. Any student or player of Olson’s knows exactly what he would have said about all this: “Not very impressive.”

Theaters,  including the Cinema Theater on Atwood Avenue (where as previously noted my brother and I saw our first movie, “Lady and the Tramp”) and the Badger and Big Sky drive-ins.

The Wisconsin term for an ATM: a TYME machine, standing for “Take Your Money Everywhere.”

The old UW–Madison registration process. In the days before online registration, and even before the days you could register by phone, you were assigned a registration start time by your last name. Students at the state’s only world-class university started at the UW Stock Pavilion (just the place you want to be on a hot August day), then raced to various buildings corresponding with subject areas on campus, where the student would check with the academic department registration committee to see if any spots were available for the desired class. Repeat the process until you get your classes (if you have an early registration time), or, if not, figure out alternatives. One semester this process went so well that I had classes two days from 8:25 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., no classes at all two other days, and a morning full of classes on Friday. This is one of the excuses I have for not giving money to my alma mater.

The Vietnam War protests, well chronicled in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “The War at Home.” I had relatives outside Wisconsin who, not knowing the layout of Madison, assumed from what they saw on the evening news that their nephew and his young family was in danger of being assaulted by marauding college students. (There was no need for concern because (1) college students probably didn’t know Madison existed outside campus, and besides that (2) we were in bed by bartime.) The nadir of the antiwar movement occurred Aug. 24, 1970, when UW’s Sterling Hall was bombed by four people (one of whom disappeared shortly after the event and has never been found), killing one UW grad student. Many people remember the middle-of-the-night bombing for the sound it made and the damage it caused. I was a religious watcher of ABC-TV’s “The FBI” at the time, a show that ended with star Efrem Zimbalist Jr. doing a piece about someone on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, and I remember the night those four were on.

“When we could road trip all night on $5 worth of gas!!!” And indeed you could do that, even with 11-mpg cars, because gas was less than $1 a gallon into the 1980s.

Various features of the Henry Vilas Zoo, including a polar bear that played with a bowling ball and the Mold-a-Rama machine. If that’s the polar bear I remember, I believe it came to a premature end when, after a mentally ill man jumped into the polar bear pit, Madison police shot the bear to protect the man. That led some people to suggest that the police had chosen which to shoot incorrectly. I went on a field trip with my oldest son to the zoo, and it, of course, blew my mind.

Younger readers and non-Madisonians will probably wonder what the hell these 3,000-plus people are babbling about. My prediction, however, is that you too will be reminiscing about the good old days (no matter how old you are) before you even realize it. My wife (who after her first La Follette reunion with me claimed she had more in common with my classmates than hers) recalls fondly driving around the courthouse square in Lancaster the wrong way, with her best friend screaming the whole way. (Or perhaps it was the mouse hiding in the headliner of the car — the stories sometimes get confused.)

I have no idea how many of the 3,000-plus members of the “If you grew up in Madison you remember” group still live in Madison. Based on what they remember, they, and I, grew up in a Madison that had fewer of the problems that Madison has today. (The weather, however, is unchangeable.) A number of posts included mention of going someplace by foot or on bus, by themselves, with no harm occurring, something you wouldn’t be likely to recommend doing today. So while Mad City was a good place to grow up, I don’t think it is a good place to grow up today, assuming you could even afford to live there.

These memories have also been softened, in one direction or another, by time. Distance makes us forget that, when we were in middle school, we wanted to get to high school, and when we were in high school (the giant angst factory), we wanted to get out of high school (whether “out” meant college, a job, or just out of Madison). Either we remember things as being better than they were, or things were better then than we thought they were at the time.

Most of us (certainly me) probably need to thank our parents for their contributions to the Madison in which they raised us. Many, including my parents, came to Madison from various other places, sometimes for better occupational opportunity, or perhaps because they thought Madison would be a better place to raise their kids than where they grew up. They were the people went to work every weekday (or more), paid the high taxes, took up their free time with various civic involvements, endured the institutional strangeness, and made the other sacrifices parents make for their kids. And the memories on this insanely popular Facebook page were one of the results.

Blasts from the Madison media past

Regular readers know that I am a media history buff. (Which makes sense for someone who majored in journalism and political science and minored in history.)

One of the more useful functions of YouTube is as a collection point for old media that can be converted from film, 33- or 45-rpm record (remember those?), reel-to-reel or cassette tape, kinescope or videotape, or, for all we know, Victrolas and wire recordings to electronic form. (Until some obscure copyright-holder who thinks they deserve money demands that YouTube takes down the offending old media, that is.)

While I was looking for something else (and I don’t even recall what I sought), I came upon this treasure trove of old Madison media that dates back before I was born.

First is a series of ads that apparently ran in Madison theaters in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Contained within this video is (1) my mother’s former employer, (2) our favorite pizza place, and (3) the theater where my brother and I watched our first movie.

(The answers are (1) the Bank of Madison, (2) Paisan’s Restaurant, and (3) the Cinema Theater, two blocks east of my father’s bank, where we watched “Lady and the Tramp.”)

The popular radio station among those of us in the grade-school set was the top 40 station, WISM (1480 AM):

Both of these blow my mind. I met Clyde Coffee (he would occasionally drop by the restaurant I first worked, and I watched him broadcast on a Saturday morning at what the station called “Club Syene,” their Syene Road studios south of Madison) and Bill Short (who was also a sports official and as recently as last year was still doing radio traffic reports in Mad City), and once interviewed Jonathan Little, who went from WISM to WZEE (104.1 FM) to turn an automated station into WISM’s replacement and the number one station in the Madison market, Z104. And the last piece has a recording of Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, from the first time he was mayor.

(More Madison radio can be found here. For that matter, the menu on the left has more radio from elsewhere in Wisconsin.)

WKOW-TV (channel 27) was Madison’s first TV station, switching on its transmitter as a CBS affiliate in 1953. (When WISC-TV went on the air in 1956, CBS switched to WISC, and WKOW went to ABC, since WMTV had already started as an NBC affiliate, although WMTV also carried ABC and DuMont.) WKOW commemorated its 50th anniversary with this video. I recall none of this, but I would point out that I met (1) Blake Kellogg when he became a UW professor and (2) interviewed Marsh Shapiro after WKOW fired him in 1986. Shapiro already owned the Nitty Gritty restaurant/bar by then, and I have eaten his Gritty Burgers and drunk his beer. I also remember John Schermerhorn and “Dairyland Jubilee,” a show that ended when he died of a heart attack at 44. Tom Hooper went on to be the consumer reporter for WITI-TV in Milwaukee.

In the days before multiple late-night shows and infomercials, nearly every TV market had at least one station that did Friday- or Saturday-night horror movies, usually with a host. In Madison, it was …

… The Inferno, brought to you by American TV & Appliance, on WMTV (channel 15). It was originally called “Ferdie’s Inferno,” after Ferdinand Mattioli, the first owner of American TV. After Mattioli died of cancer, his younger brother, Leonard, took over the company, and the show became known as “Lenny’s Inferno.” The host was Mr. Mephisto, and the box talked back to the host. The younger Mattioli was a legend in Madison TV, with the most, shall we say, energetic commercials on the tube.

This is a photo of the old WISC-TV studios on the West Beltline. The “Radio AM-FM” refers to what later became WISM and what now is WMGN (98.1 FM, “Magic 98”). WISC was the host of the first appointment TV I recall, “Circus 3,” Madison’s answer to Chicago’s “Bozo’s Circus,” featuring ventriloquist Howie Olson and Cowboy Eddie, apparently a relative of Howdy Doody, along with, as you see from the back wall, the classics:

WISC also had the market’s first noon news, the “Farm Hour,” the theme music to which was Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown.” (The same music as the old “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” TV ads. If I ever own a radio station that does farm news, that will be the farm news sounder.)

WISC was actually Madison’s third commercial TV station, but because it had the only VHF channel (2 to 13 in the pre-digital days), it became the Madison TV market’s number one station almost as soon as the transmitter was turned on. And yet it had perhaps the most interesting history. (Other than, that is, WKOW’s owner selling the station to a company that went bankrupt, which gave the owner the chance to buy back his stations. The fact I was an intern at WKOW at the time had nothing to do with WKOW’s owner’s bankruptcy … I think.)

According to a Madison Magazine article on WISC’s first 50 years, in 1970, WISC received a challenge to renewing its Federal Communications Commission license. (According to a former WISC employee who spoke to my high school journalism class, there was some question as to how WISC got channel 3, and there were some accusations of WISC’s covering news events with cameras that lacked film in them.)

WISC’s response was to create Madison’s first and last hour-long news, “Eyewitness News,” at a time when perhaps Madison didn’t really have enough news to fill an hour at 6 p.m. That lasted until the mid-1970s, when WISC returned the 6 p.m. news to half an hour and started the market’s first 5 p.m. news under the banner of “Action News.”

WISC’s 50th anniversary website has a lot of video and photos, including a reunion with Cowboy Eddie, but sadly it does not have photos of the first Action News set. Picture in your mind a checkerboard of blue wooden squares and yellowish glass, with the visuals for the stories projected onto the glass. The anchors sat not at a desk, but on low-backed chairs holding their scripts in their laps.

Tedd O’Connell, who later went on to become the first news director of WGBA-TV in Green Bay, anchored for 15 years. The weather guy was John Digman, a short redhead who used the antenna from a 1949 Cadillac as his pointer. After a couple of years, WISC decided Action News needed a desk after all, so they made one, in the shape of a giant number 3. (Perhaps emulating WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, the state’s first commercial TV station, whose news anchors read the news from behind a giant 4 around the same time.) Later in the 1970s, WISC ditched the checkerboard for a more conventional-looking set, other than its yellow, orange and green colors.

(WISC’s 50th anniversary website also doesn’t have this blast from my personal past. The night before my girlfriend, who was a year ahead of me at Madison La Follette, was to graduate, we were at her house, when WISC’s just-before-9 p.m. news update came up, with, I believe, O’Connell teasing a Madison high school senior skip day bust. She and I spent the next hour speculating on which high school got busted; we dismissed La Follette immediately. So 10 p.m. arrived, and O’Connell announced that several arrests were made at a senior skip day … for La Follette. Specifically, some of her classmates.)

Finally, something you almost never see anymore: A TV station signoff: