Meehan Memorial Lansing Public Library seeking stories about “Life without the Black Hawk Bridge” for May program

Saturday, March 17, 1945, traffic drove across the Black Hawk Bridge at Lansing and the nearly three-mile dike between Iowa and Wisconsin much like it had done for the previous dozen years for jobs, school, shopping, entertainment, dating and all the other pastimes of busy lives. The next day that vital link over the Mississippi River would close for a decade.

Helping to break up ice on the river, the Coast Guard cutter Fern had passed Lansing on its way up the river the previous Thursday. The highest water in 25 years was predicted for that weekend, and by Sunday, March 18, the high water had arrived, pushing the broken, foot-thick chunks of ice under - and into - the dike bridges. The Big Slough and Winneshiek Slough bridges along the dike gave way that day, cutting off that traffic route between Wisconsin and Iowa.

Families on both sides of the river had shared lives and commerce since the Black Hawk Bridge opened in 1932. All of a sudden, that lifeline was severed.

A program being held May 21 at Meehan Memorial Lansing Public Library will explore how communities on each side of the Mississippi River dealt with that massive 1945 interruption of their lives. More than 70 children in Wisconsin had attended school in Lansing - what changed in their lives? How did families in Lansing and in De Soto, WI continue to educate their children? How could a boy in Lansing see his girl in Wisconsin? What happened to Main Street shops?

Meehan Memorial Lansing Public Library is looking for human interest stories about this time in local history. How did area residents, or the parents and grandparents of today’s area’s residents, cope with the bridge closing?

Those who have a story to share in regard to that time in local history are asked to contact the library at 563-538-4693 or email with their stories. Those stories will be collected to present at that May 21 program, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Meehan Memorial Lansing Public Library, located at 515 Main Street in Lansing.

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