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.
In early December 2008, the United States was on shaky ground financially. For the past three months, the financial crises saw a major drop in the Dow Jones, the Fed had to step in to prop up banks, and the labor market had lost 240,000 jobs in the month of October. Then, on Dec. 11, Bernard “Bernie” Madoff was arrested and charged with securities fraud in a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. Billion. Many people learned their life savings had been completely and utterly wiped out.
It had to be tough for both President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama to contemplate the upcoming transition of power set to happen a month later. It was also this week that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested by federal officials for attempting to sell Obama’s soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat, among other things. A week later, Bush would have two shoes thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist at a public appearance in Baghdad. He ducked and avoided being hit- and the journalist was apprehended and dragged away. After much controversy was kicked up by the incident, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the journalist, served a few months time in an Iraqi prison.
In 2018, Muntadhar al-Zaidi announced he was running for President of Iraq. He was unsuccessful in his campaign, losing the election in May. He continues to work as a journalist in Iraq today.
Meanwhile, it was the Christmas season, and people in the United States attempted to make the best of it. Money was tight, so Black Friday deals were much sought after. So much so, one man lost his life.
The Great Bend Tribune published a column by religion writer Matt Price, who reflected on the death of a 34-year-old Walmart temporary worker, Jdimytal Damour, who was crushed as hundreds of shoppers crashed through the entrance of a Walmart store early in the morning on Black Friday the week before. Price asked, “Is saving a few bucks worth someone’s life?” Certainly not.
Not a breeze
In Great Bend, Dale Hogg was reporting on the fledgling wind industry. First, a report on the Opportunity Wind Energy Conference held that week at the Highland Convention Center where 130 participants including representatives from power companies, school districts, city and county governments around the state, and a number of individuals, met in break-out sessions and later toured the wind turbine at Scott Brantley’s facility near Otis. At that time, it was noted by Dorothy Barnett of the Land Institute’s Climate and Energy project that 75 percent of Kansas wanted a more aggressive wind policy.
Later in the week, Hogg’s column focused on the conference. He reiterated what he learned at the conference in layman’s terms, and commented on a key criticism of windmills-- how they obstruct vistas and kill birds.
“Personally, I find them very attractive. The horizon-lining wind farm in Lincoln County makes for a unique visual experience as the graceful white blades meet the stiff prairie breeze,” he wrote. He stated that wind is AN answer, not THE answer (emphasis his).
“Meeting our energy needs may not be a breeze, but we can’t just blow off the importance of doing so.”
Since 2008, Hogg reported on the opening of the Great Bend Transload Facility where hundreds of bodies and blades of windmills are now stored until they are shipped to their ultimate windfarm destinations. We spoke to Hogg earlier this week, and while he still feels wind energy is beneficial and has created many jobs, concerns over the future availability of subsidies for the industry gives him pause. Also, he’s not as enamoured as he used to be about the appearance of windfarms. Ten years ago, he said, most people didn’t imagine the industry growing to the extent that it has.
And, as far as bird deaths go, innovations in blade design, and attention to placement of new wind farms in relation to migratory corridors and bird habitat have helped to reduce the number of deaths each year from wind turbines. One article we found at LiveScience.com, estimated reductions around 50 percent.
A song in the air
Great Bend High School senior Carmen Burrow was spotlighted this week in the Tribune, along with a public invitation to a recital fund-raiser at the Central Baptist Church to help pay for her trip to Washington D.C. with the Great Bend A Capella Choir. Burrow’s accomplishments included “1” ratings in regional and state solo contests three years running, and countless performances for civic organizations, churches, and through the high school and Barton Community College. She also placed two years in a row in the Parnassus Music Scholarship Auditions, and was working on vocal auditions for college where she hoped to major in vocal performance. We found Burrow on Facebook. Carmen Burrow-Cooley is now a Usborne Books dealer, and married Scott Cooley in 2015 in Utah.
Another GBHS vocal music star was highlighted in the Tribune this week in 2008. Frances Fox was the subject of a regular feature called “Great Bend Greats,” and spoke of her days singing in a trio called The Three Harmonizers weekly on the radio station KVGB when it opened in the 1930s.
The adventure of her life included raising a family, waiting out World War II with her son while husband Wilson Fox served in the Army, having enlisted following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Later, they spent 10 years as owners of a restaurant where Frances became a local celebrity for her pies. Eventually, they moved back to Great Bend, and she worked for Southwestern Bell for 30 years.
Over the years, she entered the Tribune’s Christmas Story Contest many years and won many times.
“During all her years, she maintained her interest and talents in music, and still plays the piano. After her retirement, she spent many years singing with Sweet Adelines. She sang in quartets and wrote scripts for their many appearances around the country.
In addition to her Christmas stories for the Tribune, Fox continues her interest in writing. She has been a member of the Kansas Authors Club and of the local Prairie Writers Group for a number of years and has won awards for her contributions to these groups.”
From contributing writer Arleen Whittaker’s portrait of Fox, she was clearly a well rounded person many were fond of. Born in 1917, Fox passed away in 2012 at the age of 95. She was the daughter of Charles Franklin and Nannie Silvey Younkin of Great Bend.
Hoisington’s Mitchell hired
The Dec. 10, 2008, Great Bend Tribune announced Hoisington hired a new city manager. Jonathan Mitchell, formerly the city manager of Ellsworth, accepted the position, selected from a pool of four finalists out of an original 28 candidates. Then-mayor Clayton Williamson referred to him as “head and shoulders above the rest.”
According to Mitchell’s Linked In profile, he graduated in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in public relations, and in 2005 with a master’s degree in public administration, both from Kansas State University.
According to the report, “he and his wife, who will graduate with a veterinary degree from K-State in May 2009, were looking for a community of 3,000 or less where they could both work and live. They are looking forward to living a more normal life, he said.”
In the ten years since, the Mitchell’s started a family and bought Hoisington Veterinary Hospital in 2015 where Dr. Lindsay Mitchell, DVM, practices today.