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Out of the Morgue
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Today, owners of Great Bend Masons former Masonic Hall are Paul and Barbara Wagner, who operate the Great Bend Coffee Company. Back when the Masons were a thriving civic club, they purchased a lot with existing structures present. One of those structures was the Elite theater, a popular entertainment venue back in the Vaudville days of the early 1900s. In 1928, the Masons laid a new cornerstone, and began an unusual construction project, adding two addtional floors where club events could happen. They rented commercial space in the lower levels to pay for the construction, and in the late 1950s finally paid off the note, according to club historical publications. They held onto the structure until 2005. Historical information and archived photos courtesy of the Barton County Historical Society Museum. - photo by courtesy of the Barton County Historical Society Museum

In the newspaper business, the term ‘morgue’ refers to the place where a newspaper keeps its “dead” papers. In today’s lingo, this is called the archive files. Some papers use microfilm, or even scan to PDF format. Others have print editions bound into annual volumes and stacked on shelves in a basement, where over time they become yellowed and brittle. They’re used mainly for internal research by writers who need background information for current stories, or ad people who need to recall past campaigns. Sometimes, they’re used by people researching genealogical history, or historians writing books. Other times they’re used in lawsuits. Going through the morgue is like taking a step back into history as its happening.
Each week we’ll take a step back into the history of Great Bend through the eyes of reporters past. We’ll reacquaint you with what went into creating the Great Bend of today, and do our best to update you on what “the rest of the story” turned out to be. We openly invite any of Great Bend’s many history buffs to weigh in with their insights. Maybe even take the spotlight from time to time as guest columnists for this feature.

Taking a step back into the first week of Aug., 1962....

Bob Dole, Republican candidate for Congress from the first district spoke to about 20 high school and college students in a meeting Monday morning, Aug. 6, 1962, in Great Bend. These students included Martha Schumacher, Leslie Edwards, Marsha Mermis and Marty Reynolds. The breakfast meeting was the first step in organizing a Collegiate Repulican Club in Barton County. The group planned more meetings to be held in the fellowship room of the Congreagtional Church later that week, offering an open invitation to all high school and college students in Barton County.
At the time, Dole already held the office United States House of Representatives for the 6th district. In 1962, it merged with the third district to become the first congressional district. He won the race, and continued to serve until in 1968 he replaced United States Senator Frank Carlson, and served several terms as Senator until resigning in 1996 to run for President. He won the Republican nomination, but lost the presidency to Democrat Bill Clinton. He then retired, started writing and speaking, and raised a lot of the funds to build the World War II memorial in Washington D.C.
What happened to the young men and women who had the opportunity to meet a younger Bob Dole in person? Well, after extensive internet searching, here’s what we’ve found.
Martha Ann Schumacher married Meir Shillor and had a daughter, Ann Shillor, and moved to Auburn Hills, Mich. Leslie Edwards and Marsha Mermis both graduated from Great Bend High School with the class of 1964. Edwards married Frank Hill and moved to Olympia, Wash. Mermis married, taking the name Beauperlant. It is unknown where she moved to. Marty Reynolds married. He and wife Anglina resided in the Great Bend area. In 1996. Angelina Reynolds sued the Holiday Inn in Great Bend, for $1 million for negligent infliction of emotional distress, which made headlines in this paper. The emotional distress occurred in 1996 after she accidentally picked up a used condom in her motel room while checking under the bed.
The newspaper featured a photo gallery of historic buildings in Barton County that week. A Great Bend landmark known in 1962 as the Merill Trust Company building located at 2021 Lakin St., was erroneously identified as being built in 1886. According to a story in the March 3, 1928, edition of the Great Bend Tribune, the cornerstone of the building, owned by the Great Bend Masons, was set that day. But the story doesn’t end there, and here is where the confusion may have arisen. An article in the March 1, 1928, edition describes what lies underneath the building.
“It occupies the site where the Lakin theatre operated for so many years and a part of the building is being used. Plans call for an Indiana limestone exterior, a new facade, and the raising for the building to make it three stories high. The second and third stories will be entirely new.” Karen Neuforth, researcher at the museum, found a photo of the theater building before the Masonic Lodge was built around it, pictured above.
In August of 1962, the main floor was reported as vacant, but the lower level housed a beauty shop and the Christian Science church rooms, apartments were on the second floor, and the Masonic lodge hall occupied the third floor. Today, the 15,500 square foot building is owned by Paul and Barbara Wagner who purchased it in 2005 after the Masons put it up for sale because they were no longer able to maintain it. It is currently the home of their business, the Great Bend Coffee Company.

Cecil Appel, state champ in the Class A stock in Go-kart Racing circles, was busy Aug. 7, 1962, at the Great Bend Karting Association’s track at the airport, preparing for the up-coming four-state go-kart territorial races Aug. 11 and 12. He took time out from the work and practice laps to help daughter Cheryl try out a kart and helmet for size. Appel continued to own super modified race cars. On Sunday, September 14, 1969, driver Jay Schrock of Hutchinson drove his #27 in the fifth-annual Kansas State Modified Championship Races at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, placing second after being involved in a wreck in the first heat. Photos of Cecil Appel can be found at, click on Kansas Super Modifieds from the 60s and 70s, drivers with the last name beginning with A. He is mentioned as the engine builder for the Shippert #4 at Dodge City, a photo of The Cecil Appel #27 in the shop, and Cecil Appel posing with the team of driver Gene Potts and the #24. Though he could not be reached, he is reported to be living around Albert.

In a story by Dave Hudson of the Great Bend Tribune, written for the Associated Press, Hudson interviewed the three Kansas women that made up the Kansas Board of Review, charged with the duty of screening and censoring “every foot of film (except newsreels) which appeared in the state.” At the time, the board had vague laws to follow, and admitted they used their own judgement when determining if a film was obscene or not. They would remove sections of a film that were deemed unseemly, and rarely eliminated a film in its entirety. According to the ladies on the board, they felt the major consideration when censoring a film was that children would view it. They went on record favoring a system that would put age limits on ratings. It took another six years before ratings moved in that direction to the scale we use today.
According to the Motion Picture Association of America, 1962 was the tail end of the era that used the Hays Code from 1930. There were in effect two ratings, approved or disapproved. In 1966, the rating SMA (suggested for mature audiences only) was added. This still wasn’t good enough, Over the years, additional ratings were added. Over the next two decades came G for general audiences, PG for parental Guidance, R for restricted audiences over the age of 17, PG-13 for parental guidance with material not appropriate for pre-teens, and NC-17, Patently for the adult, no children admitted.