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.
President Ronald Reagan was serving his first term in November, 1982. In November 1982, the nation reached a high unemployment rate of 10.8 percent. Today’s 7.9 percent reported in October doesn’t seem quite so bad now. At that time, more than 9 million Americans were out of work, and the nation was undergoing its worst recession since the 1930s. Reagan’s promised tax cut to boost the economy, commonly referred to as the “trickle down theory” was just around the corner. The Reagan Administration earlier that year upped the ante in the arms race with the United Soviet Socialist Republic, or USSR. In fact, the Soviet premier, Leonid Brezhnev said in a speech to his generals and Defense Ministry officials that the arms buildup was evidence the U.S. was pursuing a policy of “adventurism, rudeness, and undisguised egoism” that threatened “to push the world into the flames of nuclear war.” He died two weeks later, to be replaced by Yuri Andropov. It would be another five years before the Cold War would officially be over.
In Washington D.C. the week of Thanksgiving, the Klu Klux Klan organized a march on Washington D.C., consisting of 40 hooded members protesting legislation that would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens in the United States. This was the first march of its kind since 40,000 members marched on the nation’s capital in 1925. The 1982 march led to an angry mob of 3,000 anti-klan demonstrators who looted businesses in Washington D.C. Since then, protesting illegal aliens has gone mainsteam. Today, it’s a popular plank in the G.O.P. platform.
Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher survived a letter bomb, planted by animal rights activists, that exploded in her home at 10 Downing Street in London.
With all the upsets abroad, and not much good news to report at home, is it any wonder The Great Bend Tribune’s focus was heavily on national news at the time?
Still, people in Great Bend continued to improve their minds, enjoy art, donate to charities, and question why we do what we do.
Principal P.K.Duncan was interviewed about a new enrichment class offered at the St. Patrick Parochial School. But lest’s jump ahead for a second-- St. Patrick’s consolidated with St. Rose schoolin 2001, it became Holy Family School.
Okay, now we’ll jump back again. The class was “Conversational French for Elementary Children,” taught by Duncan herself. Parents paid $1 per student per class. Those taking part were showing progress and parents were pleased. Today, Holy Family no longer offers French, but neither do Great Bend’s public schools. In fact, according to a 2008 study, the National K-12 Foreign Language Survey by the Center for Applied Linguistics, more private schools offered foreign language classes to elementary school students than public schools did in the 1980s, and that remains true today. But the number of school offering French has steeply declined over the past 30 years, with other languages like Spanish, Latin and Chinese surging ahead.
According to an August, 2012 story in Forbes Magazine, America’s Foreign Language Deficit, American parents understand the need for foreign language instruction, and they want it, but money is the problem.
“Schools at every level are balancing their budgets and offsetting reductions in government allocations by cutting their offerings and/or eliminating foreign language requirements.”
The story goes on to encourage parents to help their students become proficient in a language, whether offered or not, and that less popular languages are the most in demand for diplomats as well as entrepreneurs. Some languages they suggest: Vietnamese, Farsi, Bengali and Indonesian.
A Great Bend stained glass artist, Bill Shepard, was spotlighted in the Dec. 3 edition of the Tribune. A former fireman, he started messing around with art as a hobby for his down days. The project he was working on at the time was the repair of eight stained glass windows for the Hoisington Methodist Church.
Tom Macy and Jan Watkins, Ellinwood, made a $200 donation to the Ronald McDonald House to help fund two proposed facilities to be built in Wichita. Watkins had stayed at the house in Kansas City following the birth of the couple’s son who was premature. They urged the community to support Ronald McDonald house because people from communities like Great Bend benefitted most from them. McDonald’s conducted a survey in 1982 that found many out-of-town families of children hospitalized in Wichita slept in cars or waiting room chairs because they had no where to stay. The problem even put critically ill children at risk because some parents chose not to treat them because they couldn’t afford lodging. Thanks to support from people like Macy and Watkins, the first Ronald McDonald House in Wichita opened in 1983, and the second opened two years later in 1985.
This week in 1982, Tribune news editor Maggie Lee produced a two-part series on probation. According to Lee, the public was frustrated over repeated reports of offenders being “sentenced but granted probation.” When asked what it took to get someone put in prison, Judge Barry Bennington, 20th Judicial District, replied “a crime of violence.”
According to Lee’s story, there were eight probation officers for Dist. 20 working out of the Great Bend Office. Already, each parole officer was assigned 40 to 45 cases each. Bennington said in a majority of cases, probation was successful and met the expectations of the court system.
At that time, no states had adopted a “Three Strikes” law yet, and there were fewer people in prisons, and fewer children in foster homes than today. In 2012, there are still only eight probation officers assigned to the 20th District, with only seven carrying case loads. The case loads of the 1980s sound like a cake walk compared to what these public servants are assigned today. Each officer is assigned from 70 to 75 people, and some have more than one case. Each officer is assigned over 100 cases at any one time.
The Saturday morning cartoon lineup on network television that was so popular in the 70s was already beginning to thin out, thanks to the introduction of cable television. The Tribune’s television guide included both network and cable. While MTV hadn’t yet made the scene, there was HBO and Nickelodeon. Saturday night on HBO, you could enjoy your own popcorn and view “The Howling” from the comfort of your own living room in Great Bend. The movie kicked off a brief werewolf craze during the 80s. It would be nearly 30 years later that The Twilight Saga would take werewolves to a whole new level with the Team Jacob, Team Edward rivalry between werewolves and vampires.