I would say we are (a small town) but not too small, and there’s usually something to do if you just look for it. There are some groups in Great Bend and the area that are really working hard to help make life and experiences enjoyable for all.Karma Byers
Karma Byers is a Great Bend Tribune institution.
“I can honestly say I have been here since ‘before I was born,’” said Byers, production foreman for the newspaper, whose tenure is measured in decades. “My anniversary date is June 1, 1974, you do the math. My mother (Janet Miller) worked here for 23 years (even while pregnant with Byers) and got me started in this profession as an after-school and weekend job employee. She left after my first year and I stayed.”
She grew up in Great Bend, attending Eisenhower Elementary School and Harrison Junior High before graduating from Great Bend High School in 1975. Right out of high school, she and her friend Linda Ballard rented a house together, usually taking on a third roommate to help pay the rent.
“We were 18, fresh out of high school and working at the Pizza Inn,” Byers said.
During that time, she also took some courses at Barton Community College. Over the years, she thinks she may have picked up enough courses and training for a degree. “It’s been so long now I’d probably have to start over,” she said.
Her friend Linda married Steve Pringle and through them, Karma met her future husband, Steve Byers.
“I asked him to a Tribune Christmas party and there we are!” she said.
Karma and her husband Steve were both born and raised in Great Bend, and they raised their sons Ray and Ryan here as well.
“We’ve never really discussed moving anywhere else and I think at this point we’ll just stay here,” she said.
“Our friends and family are here,” she said. “I know I wouldn’t want to start over somewhere without that particular back-up system.”
She also doesn’t like driving in a larger community and joked she doesn’t want to ride with her husband if he is driving.
But, it’s more than that.
“I would say we are (a small town) but not too small, and there’s usually something to do if you just look for it,” she said, noting there is a positive energy here. “There are some groups in Great Bend and the area that are really working hard to help make life and experiences enjoyable for all.”
In the past, she has volunteered with several organizations. Now, she just volunteers at her church, St. Mark Lutheran, as they need her.
In her spare time, she likes to read. “I also enjoy sitting around and visiting with friends,” she said. In addition, “we’re close enough to Wilson Lake and we enjoy going up there.”
The evolution of a
Byers worked through several phases of newspaper production at the Great Bend Tribune and saw the equipment and her responsibilities upgraded several times. Years ago, the Tribune's many reporters, a photographer and accountants were housed upstairs. The downstairs was filled the offices of the publisher, advertising staff, circulation and classified staff, as well as a production crew.
“It felt like there were 50 of us in here at any given time,” Byers said. While that was not the case, it is true it used to take many more people to put out a newspaper in the 20th Century. “A lot of people have gone through this place.”
Well into the 1980s, news copy was sent to typists who converted the text as a code onto punched paper tape that could be fed into a Linotype machine, which automatically set columns of type. After that came Compugrahpic, a computerized photo-typesetter, followed by word processors and personal computers that allowed the reporters to replace typesetters.
Stories to tell
When asked if there were any particular stories she would like to share, her replay was, “Probably nothing I should put in print.”
Her old roommate, Linda Pringle, now works in the Tribune newsroom part-time. “We’re still friends because we also know where the bodies are buried,” Byers said.
Pringle’s only comment was, “I’ve been sworn to secrecy.”
Byers plans to retire at the end of December, although she says she might not be able to completely stay away. “I’ll probably still come into the Tribune a couple days a week if they still want me to, to help with some of the projects we work on.”
Other than that, “my plan is probably a lot like everyone else’s when they retire – get my house in order and work in the yard and garden. After that, we’ll see.”
Community Connections is a regular feature of the Great Bend Tribune, showcasing people who live in the Golden Belt. We welcome readers to submit names of individuals who are active in the community that they would like to see featured in a future story. Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and explain their “community connections.”