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NATO turns 70, civic action, a winning performance and a somber return in 1949
Out of the Morgue
otm_vlc_Drum and bugle corps.jpg
This Tribune file photo includes members of the American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps, from left to right: Frankie Bassett, Elmer Huslig, Robert Lapez, Engle Scott, Fred Pollard, Butch Morrison, Zeta Schartz, Patricia Hoffman, Larry Markle, Alfreda Foos, Kay Fugger, Tommy Kummer, Tony Marie Schartz, Terry Besser, Larry Klein, Janiece Dailey, Terry Welsc, Gary Harms, Jimmy Shiel, Roger Harmon, John Kunzelmann, Harold Kunzelmann, Jr., Joan Tomason, Gugene Foos, Fred Hoff, Judy Milberger, Tim Brown

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.

On April 4, 1949, leaders of several world powers met in Washington, D.C. to sign the North Atlantic Treaty Organization agreement, creating an alliance against Communist Russia. President Harry S. Truman anticipated Congress would ratify the pact in short order. Meanwhile, Russia considered its next move. Two days later, it was reported they made two “soft moves.” 

“The Russians sent some of their top officials to an American party in honor of Army Day and they partially lifted their ban against the Allied-sponsored mark (money) in this cold war city (Berlin).” 

But the Russian controlled newspapers there showed no change, continuing to espouse Communist propaganda accusing the Americans and British of everything from warmongering to white slavery, the Associated Press reported. There was no coverage of the Russian delegation to the party. 

Good Friday, April 8, carried a photo of the British royal baby, Prince Charles, in preparation of his first Easter. It was also reported that day that the United States, Britain and France announced they were ready to end military control over western German as soon as a proposed “German Federal Republic” was set up. Then, they steeled for fresh propaganda blasts from Russia. 

According to, On May 5, 1955, the American, French, and British forces formally ended their military occupation of West Germany, which became an independent country. Four days later, West Germany was made a member of NATO. According to Wikipedia, West Germany was the common English name for the Federal Republic of Germany, which existed from May 23, 1949 until German reunification on Oct. 3, 1990. NATO-aligned West Germany and Warsaw Pact-aligned East Germany were divided by the Inner German border. In 1961, West Berlin was physically separated from East Berlin and East Germany by the Berlin Wall. Then, it once again became “Germany.” And Germany today is aligned with NATO. 

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“Preparing for his first Easter, Baby Prince Charles, future ruler of Britin, plays with a toy rabbit in Buckingham Palace, London. Born last November 14, Princess Elizabeth’s son was 19-weeks old when this picture was made and weighted 16-pounds, 3-ounces.”
Civic action

Meanwhile, April 4, 1949, was the day before the April election in Great Bend, and the reports in the Great Bend Tribune indicated a high level of activity getting out the vote. 

“Emphasis was on getting out the vote and on the proposed bond issues today as Great Bend prepared to go to the polls tomorrow to elect a mayor, four city councilmen and other city officials.” The Tribune’s political editor reported. 

“The Junior Chamber of Commerce, which staged a strong vote-for-the-school-bonds campaign, topped off its performance today by handling out in the schools mimeographed letters to parents of students urging them to “turn out and vote” for the school bonds.”

The $1,256,700 bond issue was to expand the high school, as the number of students attending at that time was nearly double the capacity the building was designed to serve. 

The JayCee’s were also campaigning for the bond issue, and the Democratic party had agreed to allow the JayCee’s to use a portion of the party’s time on the local radio station. The group was offering to provide rides to the polls, and promised many cars were available. They were not to be outdone by the Republican Women’s Club of Great Bend, who were also organizing transportation to be provided by 11 of its members. 

 The Tribune came out in support of a parks bond that would also provide money for an addition to the city auditorium and enlarged quarters for the fire department, and larger offices for the city administration and departments. 

The bonds passed, and Joseph A. Mermis Jr. was elected Mayor. The Tribune’s editorial ran front page.

“The new mayor campaigned largely on the promise that he is a man of action and a friend of progress. No one will deny that such characteristics will be superb assets to an incoming mayor, nor that Mermis will have ample opportunity to prove that he is a progressive man of action.” 

Kroms return home

Photos of two Great Bend boys who sacrificed their lives fighting for their country in World War II were returned home this week in 1949. Their photos appeared in the Tribune, with the following caption:

“Among the last of the remains of war dead to be brought back home to Great Bend for burial from overseas are those of the sons of Mrs. Leah Krom, whose pictures in their wartime uniforms are shown above. The bodies are to arrive here Wednesday. Funeral arrangements will be announced later. Edward was a Seaman, 2nd Class, in the Navy, while Vernon was a corporal (T-5) in the Army.” 

We checked with Diana Watson at the Barton County administrator’s office to see if the two brothers were included on the Golden Belt Veteran’s Memorial. They are not currently listed, but it is possible they may be included soon. 

Just for fun

This week, the Great Bend American Legion Bugle Corps took first place at a competition in Pratt over the weekend. 

“Six teams were registered for the contest but as the other five didn’t arrive, the Great Bend group lead the parade and were awarded first place, Don Bowsher, a member of the corp committee, said this morning.

“The kids did a swell job,” Bowsher said. Before the parade at 5 p.m., they went around ad serenaded the hotels and business houses down town to let everyone know that they were there. 

The corps was practicing seriously for the state convention in Wichita in August, the report stated, in hopes of winning first place there and receiving an all expenses paid trip to the American Legion convention in Pittsburg that fall.