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Christmas and New Year’s Eve 1918
Out of the Morgue
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O.W. Dawson was the Mayor of Great Bend in 1918. He proclaimed all businesses should stay closed on New Year’s Day. - photo by Tribune file photo

 Last week, as we perused the 1938 editions, we ran across a story, “War Veteran recalls Christmas Eve in 1918.” 

100 years later, tastes have changed, but our fascination with history is still strong. This week, we invite you to take a step back in time and imagine a holiday marked by the end of a great war, and the anticipation of the return of many young men from the area.

“War Veteran recalls Christmas Eve in 1918” 

From the Dec. 24, 1938 Great Bend Tribune

One member of Company C, of the 137th infantry, 35th Division, an outfit in the World war which included many persons from Great Bend, recalled that it was 20 years ago today in northern France where the members of that company were preparing for a big Christmas celebration. 

Members of the company were busy on that Dec. 24, 1918 getting all in readiness. Some of them went to Nancy where they purchased hams costing 98 cents a pound, while other delicacies consisted of corn, potatoes and grapes. These were used in the celebration in addition to a regular issue of candy.

One group went out and secured a Christmas tree. As the Great Bend man recalled today, the tree cost about $5, hinting that they had to pay several dollars after they were caught cutting it down. This tree was decorated and was one of the centers of the celebration in a program which was presented on Christmas eve.

The cooks stayed up all night to prepare the feast which was a welcome sight to the men the next day. Some of them had not had any pork since they left the United States. 

Company C was originally the National Guard unit from Great Bend. 

New Year’s Eve, 1918

Per Mayor O. W. Dawson, “All places of business are requested to remain closed during the entire New Years Day tomorrow as far as possible.” 

A report from a Great Bend man fighting in the trenches was welcome news to Tribune staff.

“A postal card received this morning from Clyde Carson, who is in the Motor Truck Corps of the Heavy Artillery in France, a part of which will be of especial interest to Tribune readers and shows that no matter where you may go you will find a member of the Tribune family.

:The card was written on the 4th of November, and Clyde said that a few days previous to that date as he was walking down the street of a certain French city he saw a French soldier intensely studying an American newspaper. He called the soldier and asked him what the latest news was, and the Frenchman shouted, “It’s almost over.”

Clyde asked him what paper the news was in, and the soldier could not speak the American language well enough to tell him intelligently, but he showed him the paper and it was a copy of the Great Bend Tribune. Upon inquiry he told Clyde that he had just returned from the front line trenches and had there found the paper in a dug-out. 

“It is a known fact that the people of the United States have all the time known more about the general progress of the war than have the soldiers themselves, and the news contained in that issue of the Great Bend paper, telling of the great advances being made by the Allies on all fronts, was doubtless the means of bringing much cheer to many of the American boys and their comrades of other nations at the front.”

The New Year’s Eve paper included an announcement that, “effective tomorrow morning it is announced that the Scott City branch of the Santa Fe will run on mountain instead of central time. The leaving time henceforth will be at 11:15 instead of 12:15 as formerly.” 

A brief: “If you’re hunting for a resolution for the New Year, here is a good one: Resolved to keep your walks clear of snow for the balance of winter.”

Taking stock, the World War, transportation and oil exploration topped the list of important events effecting the people of Great Bend in 1918.

“Among the things accomplished in 1918 the following may be mentioned briefly: The finest court house in Kansas or the west; the start for the paving of the Santa Fe Trail across Barton County and the completion of the railroad from Holyrood to Galatia are big things that have been accomplished.

“And the start was made in 1918 for the erection of a memorial building, a community center, permanently useful to the people. It is fortunate for coming generations the combination of sense and sentiment that marks such a plan for the establishment of a memorial of the war. 

“The idea of showing the deep gratification we feel to the men who took part in the war through a memorial that will be of use to their children and their children’s children shows a modern development of civic conscience. The Barton County War Council, which made a reputation as one of the most efficient county organizations in the state has charge of this matter. 

“Another matter of tremendous import to Barton County is the prospecting for oil and gas in the county. It is being prosecuted by one of the strongest of the independent oil companies and promises to be a thorough test.” 

The realities of recovery for wounded World War soldiers was acknowledged. While reports from the front indicated a certain amount of stoicism from those who lost limbs in battle, Miss Maude Kellam, superintendent of nurses at the Colorado Training School before she entered the army service, urged women to prepare themselves for their part in the reconstruction period here at home. 

“There is plenty of reconstruction work for the woman who wants to help,” she asserted. “I’m afraid our enthusiasm is going to spend itself after a year or so — just about the time our wounded soldiers are beginning to feel only bitterness at the thought of “the missing leg.” Then they will need the women. I don’t know just what the women will be called upon to do, but their work will turn up. The boys will need their enthusiasm and sympathy then more than now.”

New Year’s Day, 1919

Greetings from the Twentieth Judicial District

“Now that the war is over and the prospects for lasting peace are very promising; and the outlook for material prosperity never having been better, we wish to join with others in extending to the general public all of the compliments of the season and to wish for them every joy and pleasure which life affords.” -- D.A. Banta, Judge. Richard Coyle, Reporter. 


The New Year’s Day paper announced moviegoers would have a new Charlie Chaplin film to look forward to seeing at the Echo on Saturday. “Shoulder Arms” was described as “a clever intermingling of laugh-provoking burlesque on trench life with deft touches of the drama and pathos of war.” 

“The story pictured in “Shoulder Arms” takes Charlie through all of the training experiences of a recruit, and then blows him into a first line trench, prepared for action with an armament by which he could be mistaken for a soldeir, a cook, a chambermaid, a milkman, a valet, or a plumber. This equipment constitutes his idea of what a doughboy should have and doesn’t get.”

As you head into the new year, take time to look back at all you’ve experienced in 2018, and appreciate the small part you’ve played in building the history of Great Bend during your time here. We wish you the best in the coming year.