By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Election, volcano, and ads in 1980
Out of the Morgue
otm_vlc_Grand prize ad.jpg
Lee Staehr’s grand prize winning ad.

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.

It’s been a historical week for the United States and the world this week, so let’s take a step back 40 years to 1980. In Great Bend that week, there were also closures, special travel considerations and tests being contemplated, but on a whole different level. 

Part of Patton Road was going to be closed to traffic while paving was being removed for a sanitary sewer project. A travel program was presented by the Great Bend Optimist Club on Matthew and Sherilyn Mentes recent trip to Poland. Also, Census takers were still needed, and a simple test was required for the job. 

Yes, this week in 1980 was a much simpler week. 

A primary election was set to take place on April 1, and for the first time ever, the number of voters in Great Bend exceeded 16,000. Ronald Reagan not only won the Republican nomination later that year, he also won the presidency. This was welcome news for Barton County, which, according to Tribune staff writer Mark Anderson, had a higher number of Republicans than Democrats (5,393 to 4,185) but identified primarily as Independent (6,524).

There was a disappointing cancellation of a highly anticipated sporting event in 1980 too. President Jimmy Carter had just announced the United States would not participate in the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, dashing the hopes of Olympic athletes who had hoped to attend. Jane Frederick, track and field, Fly Hyman, volleyball, and John Satterwhite, shooting sports, were all pictured in an AP photo in the Tribune, at a press conference in Washington D.C. where they hoped to sway the President. They were unsuccessful. 

Oil was in the news, but instead of a price war between Russia and OPEC, the news was “32 new drilling starts reported in the Golden Belt,” including one new wildcat among the nine in Barton County. 

A Great Bend Cub Scout Pack was preparing for a bake sale at the Courthouse the following week. The Tribune featured a photo of the scouts dropping spoonfuls of dough on a pan. That weekend, a big snowstorm hit the area, with several inches of snow, followed by the creation of several snowmen. Kids then as now are pretty good at figuring out things to do when school is closed. 

otm_vlc_cub scout cookie bakers.jpg
Cub Scouts in Pack 184 “work for their Keep” by making their own batch of oatmeal cookies for their bake sale set for Tuesday at the courthouse (1980). Jared Sinclair spoons the dough onto the cookie sheet with the help of his fingers and fellow cubs, his twin brother, Jason (right), Greg Boys and future Cub Scout Chris Boys (left).

On Tuesday, March 27, the morning paper reported that quake activity associated with Mount St. Helens in Washington State had subsided, and scientists were trying to figure out what it might mean. 

“A geologist at Portland State University, Leonard Palmer, said “eruption is imminent ... it could appear within days.” But he later said the situation was “less threatening” and conceded” “We just don’t know what it will do.” 

The scientists speculated on what could happen if it blew. Major flooding, thick ash falls, hot flows of rock down the side of the mountain were all suggested. 

Two days later, the volcano erupted, spewing a plume of gas and black ash 16,000 feet into the sky, along with an “avalanche of ash” down the northwest flank of the volcano. 

otm_vlc_Mount st helens blows.jpg
Two pictures show Mount St. Helens before, top, and after, bottom, when the snow-covered volcano, dormant for more than a century, erupted Thursday (March 28,1980) with an explosion.
Just for fun
8th annual student ad contest

We found a great ad spread in this week’s Great Bend Tribune hand drawn by Great Bend in grade school and middle school. 

“Harrison Junior High took top honors this year in the 8th annual Great Bend Tribune Student Ad Contest. Harrison has taken this honor twice before, in 1976 and 1974. Lee Staehr, a 9th grader at Harrison Junior High was the Grand Prize winner. Lee’s ad, drawn for Insurance Unlimited, was chosen from over 1,500 entries, judged by O.W. Huss, Steve Dudek and Larry Knupp. After the winners were determined, the remaining entries were taken to the participating stores and the merchants then chose the ad or ads to run in this special section.” 

Staehr, 14, was a 9th grader in Mrs. Frazer’s class. 

otm_vlc_Staehr is winner.jpg
Lee Staehr, was 14 and in the 9th grade in 1980 when he was the grand prize winner of the Great Bend Tribune’s student ad contest.