Concrete cloverleafDOT changes in how state highways rolled through and around Janesville had impacts, but they were minor compared to the arrival of the U.S. Highway Administration's I-90.
Its first appearance in Rock County was a leg between Beloit and Janesville, starting at the state line and ending just east of Palmer Park in what the Gazette called a "giant cloverleaf traffic interchange..." 216
Governor Gaylord Nelson presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the four-lane, controlled-access interstate on November 24, 1959.
Truck driver father Alfred August told us many tales about the convenient, fast, and safe toll roads he negotiated hauling Chevys to Chicago and loaded my brother and me into the 1954 Bel Air (sky blue and white) to show us the cloverleaf. It was impressive.
Parking revenues from downtown meters continued to grow and by the end of 1960 reached $69,192217—$554,788.94 in 2015 dollars.218
Myers reopensIn June of 1961, the Myers reopened to a fair amount of hoopla, with then-City Manager Joseph Lustig cutting a ribbon and the Darwin White Combo playing on the street outside the entrance.219
A review in the Gazette didn't say much about the "re-decorated and remodeled" theater but lauded the "spectacular" movie Pepe, the first attraction shown: "Columbia Pictures production which offers the most glittering array of Hollywood stars, breathtaking color photography, and musical extravaganza, for such an auspicious occasion as the reopening of the theater closed since 1957." 220
Holiday Inn opensThe next day, July 1, 1961, Holiday Inn-Janesville opened on Milton Avenue just west of the Highway 26 Outdoor Theater. A Gazette story pointed out: "The site on which the Holiday Inn was constructed here is 1,500 feet south of the Highway 26-14 intersection on the west side of Highway 26. Proximity to and visibility from Interstate 90 figured heavily in selecting the site." 221
Brother Bob started as a busboy at HI in the summer of 1962 and worked his way up to cook by the time he went to Whitewater for college in 1964. My dad often dropped him off and picked him up and took me along.
I loved the place, especially the back-lighted letters spelling out Holiday Inn that appeared on the red brick wall to the right of the lobby canopy. Sometimes Bob would invite me to go swimming in the heated pool, and it was truly another world of ultra-cool to a 12-year-old. He also regularly gave me part of his tip change which made me rich among buddies.
In the summer of 1967, as a 16-year-old, I followed in his footsteps and became an HI maintenance worker, at first responsible for cleaning the pool, mowing the lawn, and trimming the long hedge that paralleled Highway 26 and formed the southern border of the parking lot. The giant HI sign aglow with neon and yellow bulbs stood between the hedge and road. Later I became a porter and one of my duties was climbing a ladder and changing the messages on the sign—a particularly challenging task on subzero days. I worked my way up to desk clerk and night auditor and stayed until leaving for college at Whitewater just after Woodstock in 1969. For many more reasons than just updating the sign message on wintry days, HI was a cool experience.
On November 2, 1962, Governor Nelson presided at ribbon-cutting ceremonies that opened a second 30-mile I-90 stretch between Janesville and Madison.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported, "...on the Janesville end of the road, a 'ribbon' of upholstery materials from General Motors cars was whittled through by the governor..."222
Now Janesville had two major access points to the interstate: the original near Palmer Park and the new one just west of where the Highway 14 bypass crosses Highway 26, which I was surprised to discover actually begins in downtown Janesville.223
Folk at the Jeffris
Mike Lalor, one of long-time theater manager Bill Lalor's sons, mentioned he saw a "This Day In History" feature published by the Milton Courier that referenced a half-century-ago appearance by The Kingston Trio at the Jeffris. Curator/Administrator Judy Scheehle of The Milton College Preservation Society (the college closed permanently in 1982223.1) provided various items related to the event including a photograph of a poster (excerpt below right) that states, "The Milton College Social Board Presents The Kingston Trio In Person." I tracked down a panel ad for the concert in the February 21, 1966 Gazette223.2— photos and two articles were in the next day's paper (click to view). It's the only instance of a live act at the Jeffris I've encountered; I don't remember any from my time growing up in Janesville. Probably there were others earlier in the theater's history.
Holiday Inn opens in 1961; click for
full story and additional images.
Click for full story
Detail from the program for the opening of I-90
between Janesville and Madison. Available
as a PDF file at the Wisconsin Department
of Transportation Library hosted by
the Milwaukee Public Library.
Click for entire program.
Detail from the cover of a program for the opening
of I-90 between Beloit and Janesville. Available as
a PDF file at the Wisconsin Department of
Transportation Library hosted by the
Milwaukee Public Library.
Click for entire program.
Click for full story.
Click for full story.
Click for larger image and
accompanying Jeffris ad.
Ticket prices of $3.50 and $4.00 are
equivalent to $25.60 and $29.26
in 2015 dollars.223.3