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Kennedy, elms and sunflowers in 1960
Out of the Morgue
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Sen. John F. Kennedy, Mass., was the Democratic nominee for the 1960 Presidential Election on July 14, 1960.

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 was this week in 1960 that author Nelle Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” was published. The story was inspired by her father, who had unsuccessfully defended a Black man in Monroeville, Ala., her hometown. Her father was also a newspaper publisher and editor in that town, and presumably his respect for the written word passed to her. It was the right time for the novel, as the country as a whole opened to the ideas of the Civil Rights Movement. 

By the time the publisher released the book, it was already the pick of four national mail-order book clubs, according to the National Endowment of the Arts website 

Also this week, Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts became the Democratic nominee for president. Throughout the week, The Great Bend Tribune carried coverage of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. 

For Kansans, the choice was a tough one with their own Gov. George Docking in the running as one of the top four picks. U.S. Sen. Stuart Symington of Mo. was the leader of the Jayhawker delegation. He urged delegates towards Kennedy.

“For those of you who have stuck with me to this point, I ask you to stay with me to the end because we have a chance to win,” he said. 

“Robert Kennedy, brother of Sen. John F. Kennedy was standing in the wings while Symington spoke. 

“Kansas delegation yesterday refused a plea by Gov. George Docking that he be released as a favorite son candidate on the first ballot and throw the state’s 21 votes to Kennedy.” 

By Thursday, July 14, Kennedy was reported to be an “Easy Victor.” Some felt Symington might be his pick for V.P., but another Southerner, Texas Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson was his ultimate pick. 

The Tribune reported “Kansas ‘Couldn’t have messed it up more’.”

“That’s it, we’re through,” said Paul Aylward of Ellsworth. 

So Frank Theis of Arkansas City stepped up to the microphone and cast Kansas’ 21 votes for Sen. John F. Kennedy as the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. 

That ended one of the wildest days and nights any delegation ever had. 

“You know,” said one delegate, “if we’d worked at it, we couldn’t have messed it up more.” 

Some tempers cooled by the time the Kansans gathered for a party after the big session last night. 

“That’s politics,” said one. 

Teaching goes electronic

In 2020 teachers have quickly had to adjust to virtual teaching via various internet applications with little advance training. Teachers in 1960 were just beginning the process of moving into the electric age. An editorial in the July 15, 1960 Tribune, “Teachers’ Pet” provides some perspective. 

“Just as you might have expected, teaching is going electronic. Teachers and students in our most up-and-coming schools are being wired for sound!

“The advantages, according to alert educators, are many and the equipment can be simple and inexpensive. First used in teaching foreign languages to junior high school youngsters, the results were so surprising the “Dictaphone Electronic Classroom” has since been tested with similar success on various subjects from history to shorthand and business machines and in classroom sessions in physical education and shop.

Basically, teachers recorded their classes (onto audio tape) in peace and quiet, and played them back for students (wearing headsets) in the classroom. 

“With headsets in their ears, the kids can’t help but listen to the lesson to the exclusion of everything else! They find, as a result, that learning is fun and downright exciting. And they’re too preoccupied with absorbing their lessons to think of devilment (remember, this is editorial).

The writer suggested a teacher would have it made after a year’s worth of lessons had been recorded-- and would never again have to repeat the same instructions over and over again for slower students. Claims that students taught be dictaphone retained knowledge longer were also made. 

“Teachers have also discovered taht the new system gives them the freedom for much more individual tutoring than heretofore.”

“We would suspect that schools that teach by this new electronic method would keep their teachers longer. It looks like pretty cheap teacher insurance.” 

Hopefully, 60 years has informed us that technology, while helpful, is no replacement for true teaching, be it a sound recording, or a ZOOM session. 

Elms in danger

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, a catastrophic fungal disease, Dutch Elm Disease, slowly made its way west across the nation from the east coast. But, in 1960, it was European Elm Scale that was the topic of discussion by the Great Bend City Council. 

The scale had reached then Mayor Don Weltmer’s house, “which brings it closer to home.” 

It was expected to kill many elms in the city, both Chinese and American elms, unless it was controlled. This could be accomplished through prompt trimming of dead branches and by spraying (the cost at that time was about $3 per tree). 

The city had no means of forcing residents to spray trees, so a plan was devised to have a civic group take up the cause to “Same Our Trees.” Tree surgeon Harvey Barry was there, and underscored the importance of acting quickly. “It was actually cheaper to spray the tree than let it die.” 

Barry went on to explain that The Dutch elm disease, borne by the bark beetle, thrives on trees weakened by the European elm scale. Treatment could protect it, allowing it to withstand Dutch elm disease. But, it had to be done by August 1. So, the general consensus was that a program could be put together for the following year. 

American and Chinese elms used to be about as common as Shumard oaks are today. There are some beautiful Elms that remain today, so if you get a chance to appreciate one, take a picture, as they are true survivors. 

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The July, 1960, caption of this Tribune file photo reads “Getting a measurement on one of the five stalks of a giant sunflower growing in his backyard garden, Troy Saylor of 902 Holland is dwarfed by a 10-foot stalk. The head of the sunflower, which measures 15 inches across, droops because of its weight.”
Just for fun
Saylors sunflower

Troy Saylor, a Great Bend veteran, retiree and gardener, was featured in the Tribune that week, gazing up at a very tall sunflower, one of five he’d grown from seed in his yard to shade his garden, described as “Paul Bunyon-like” in proportion. 

“Sunflowers are good for your garden,” he said. “They make a nice shade for smaller plants and keep them from being burnt up by the sun.” 

One of the larger sunflower stalks measured 10 feet tall and was more than 10 inches in diameter at the base. 

“We’ve always had gardens,” he said, as he and his wife stood in the shade of a tree-like sunflower. “We work out here in our spare time and get a lot of enjoyment working with plants.” 

Saylor passed away, age 66, in April, 1966.