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Out of the Morgue
Christmas 1902, the US Postal Dervice, traveling libraries and apples
otm vlc great bend public library 1907
In 1907, Great Bend began constructoin of a Carnegie library funded by a $12,500 grant from Andrew Carnegie, and a library tax voted on by the taxpayers of Great Bend. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

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.

Christmas 1902
The U.S. Postal Service was held in higher regard in 1902 than it is 110 years later.  “There are many tons of merchandise handled throug the mails at Christmas time.  If the government can haqndle this class of goods and make money at it there is no reason why it could not handle all our goods and make a profit by it...Our United States mail service proves a great many things that many, some day, work for the benefit of the people.”  Today, however, people are more likely to consider the postal service a dinosaur from the past, unable to keep up with for-profit businesses of today.  
However, some food for thought--according to Writer Jim Hightower, in 2006,” In 2006, the Bush White House and Congress whacked the post office with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act — an incredible piece of ugliness requiring the agency to PRE-PAY the health care benefits not only of current employees, but also of all employees who’ll retire during the next 75 years. Yes, that includes employees who’re not yet born!
No other agency and no corporation has to do this. Worse, this ridiculous law demands that USPS fully fund this seven-decade burden by 2016. Imagine the shrieks of outrage if Congress tried to slap FedEx or other private firms with such an onerous requirement.”
Here’s another surprising reference in the 1902 paper.  Could it really be true that shop-keepers would open on Christmas?  Here, from the week after Christmas, “Query— If the stores did not open Christmas morning and there was no opportunity for the recipients of unexpected presents to buy something to give in return, how many injured feelings would there be?”  Would those feelings be injured without the suggestion of shopkeepers who opened on Christmas morning?  Something to think about.  
Public singing was more prevalent before the days of radio.  Often, people would sing or whistle a tune as they walked, and caroling was something done for fun by many.  But sometimes things could get out of hand.  
“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast but if the Pawnees or other tribes had not gone away the government could have had the land by simply occupying it judging from the new songs that were sung Christmas eve on several streets by well known artists of the city.  The Indian tribes would have fled, not stopping long enough to even take their tepees with them.”

Experimental farming
Farmers were still experimenting with what crops would perform best.  In Dec. 1902, “The farmers along the river are anxious to try sugar beet raising.  Oreman says several thousand acres could be contracted for the coming season.”  
Popular apples in 1902 were Ben Davis, Wine Sap and Missouri Pippin, as advertised in the paper.  They kept well and were shippable to market.  Kansas apples would travel to Europe.  Today only the Winesap is considered good for marketability.  The others can be found in catalogues for the home orchardist or heirloom collector.  According to Frank Morrison, Prof. Emeritus at Kansas State University in his publication Kansas Fruit History, Kansas is a great place to grow fruit trees of all kinds.  In 1880, the Kansas State Board of Agriculture reported 2,386, 812 apple trees in the state.  But, in November 1940, the “Armistice Day  freeze” damaged and killed many trees, and the fruit production never recovered.  part of the reason, too, was the spread of wheat as a commercial crop.   With fruit trees requiring at least 100 hours of labor per acre per year, and wheat production only requiring three hours of production labor per acre per year, its easy to understand why so many farmers weren’t excited about starting all over again with fruit trees. Oh, and it takes about two to four years to get a tree to produce, too.  Who can wait that long to get a crop?  The good people at Cain City Orchard, 2446 3rd Rd, in Bushton, can.  According to their website,, the orchard was established in 1982, survived droughts, late and early freezes and tornados, and continues to produce quality fruit in season.  But, if you’re interested in planting fruit trees for your own backyard production, for the most part its worth the trouble.
Traveling Libraries
Before there was a Great Bend Public Library, there was a traveling library.
“Any group of readers at the crossroads, or a city or district school may provide themselves with the best reading matter of the day by making applicaton to the secretary.  The only expense attached to a library of 50 volumes for six months’ use, is $2 which is used to pay for its transportation.”--Great Bend Beacon, December 23, 1902  
Ladies from the Progress Club and the Athenian Club, as well as members of the Commercial Club got together to support a reading room thanks to this traveling library arrangement with the state.  On Nov. 14, 1906, Great Bend recieved a $12,500 grant to build a Carnegie Library.  According to the blog, The Carnegie Legacy in Kansas by Allen Gardiner, “An elecion was hled and the voters agreed to levy a libraray tax.  The first library board assembled fro a meeting on january 12, 1907.”
It was a two-story structure above a raised basement.  “The second floor was called the auditorium, and was used for dances, large meetings, community theater and often for socials and school classrooms,” Gardiner wrote.  Unfortunately, the second floor was not reinforced, so in later years it was only used for listening to records and storing the reference collection.  It also had an irreparable leaky roof.  
In 1965, taxpayers voted to impose a tax levy and issue bonds to begin raising money for a new building.  Thatks to a grant from the State Library and local money, a new library was built and opened Feb. 1, 1971.  A Jan. 31, 1971 story in the Great Bend Daily Tribune said the east entrance of the new library looked out to where the old library had stood.  New to the library was a law library, “sure to be of use to the many lawyers in the area,” and a fine arts room and the Kansas Room where geneological and historical records are kept.  The children’s library was decorated in teal and gold.