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Out of the Morgue
Christmas 1942
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In 1942, Bing Crosby released his famous hit single White Christmas. Rolling Stone magazine listed it as one of the 15 best whistling songs of all time. According to Songfacts, it is historically the biggest selling Christmas song of all time, and was the biggest selling song of all time until Elton John released his tribute to Princess Dianna, Candle in the Wind. It has military significance too. It marked the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. As the North Vietnamese surrounded Saigon, an evacuation plan was put into effect to bring the remaining Americans to safety. Their cue to evacuate was when a radio announcement stating that the temperature in Saigon was 105 degrees and rising, and followed by the playing of Bing Crosbys White Christmas. That was the signal for the mad dash to the US Embassy where helicopters were waiting. - 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.

Here’s a bit of trivia.  Of every decade from the 1870s to present day with a year that ended in “2”, only 1942 was actually published on Christmas Day.  Of course, there is no one around any longer to ask who and for what reason the newspaper didn’t take a break.  I’m going to make a guess, however, based on the news that filled the paper during World War II.  I’m betting it was a patriotic gesture.  After all, the army nor the enemy didn’t take a break on Christmas.
The Christmas edition carried “News from Our Boys”, with updates from Great Bend’s young soldiers who were home on brief leaves between training and deployment, and letters home that proud parents shared with the paper to update friends on what their sons were up to, as well as addresses where letters could be sent.  
Leonard G. Hurst wrote home of his trip from the Great Lakes Naval Training Station to U.S. Destroyer base in San Diego, Calif.  
“We had a nice trip from the Great Lakes, sleeping in Pullmans and enjoying good food.  We got started to school immediately and it looks as if the schooling would be much more serious here than at Great Lakes.  Out of 120 men in our outfit, 30 of us came here.  Four remained as instructors and most of the others were sent out to sea.  We get more liberty here but San Diego is so crowded that I don’t think we will enjoy ourselves much.”
Today, thanks to email, skype, and cellular phones, it’s easier than ever to communicate with our military personnel.  If you haven’t checked out the Great Bend Tribune facebook page, every day we post a new greeting from a Kansas military personnel.  

Thirty-four Barton County men were named as available for military service in the Christmas morning paper too.  According to the story, a great majority of the 34 men were between the ages of 18 and 20.  It’s a hard thing to think of young men like this, at the threshold of adulthood heading out to fight and possibly die in a war.  For many, there was a happy trip home.  Here’s what we could find of the men listed that Christmas morning.

 Some are likely still living, like Francis Murray, Ernest Leiker, Donley Hurd, Eilt Miller,Louis Herron, and Emery Roelse.  Some we could find no information about, like Thomas Powers, Anton Tingel, Robert Rasmussen, Richard Schrader, Edward Marsh, Ralph Dreiling, Raymond Kirmer, Ward Garner, Robert James and Russell Schmidt and Henry Schmidt, Clyde Allphin, Lloyd Watkins, Juan Torrez.  Others lived a long life following their service, including Fritz Maneth, Forrest Panning, Orville “Punch” Doeden, Walter Matthews, Jerome Axman, Harry Seiker, Kenneth Bartonek, and Herman Herdt.  One, Everon Brack, had a short life, dying Dec.16, 1954 at the age 31, according to his obituary in The Great Bend Tribune.
A few had some notable stories:
Paul Linenberger--The Hays Daily News ran a 60th wedding anniversary announcement for Paul and Bernadine Linenberger on May 23, 2008.  They would have the reception at the Prince of Peace Parish Hall in Great Bend.  They married May 12, 1948 at St. Anne Catholic Church, Olmitz.

Roy Messex--He is mentioned on as Roy J. Messex, born Jan. 12, 1923, and died Jan. 22, 2010.  On, he can be found as Roy John “Gabby” Messex, born in Minneapolis, Kans., and having moved to Hoisington in 1937.  He enlisted in the Army Air Corps, drove the fuel and ammunition trucks in the Red Ball Express for Patton Tanks.  He returned to Hoisington and married Sophia Alexander, began raising his family, and worked in the oil fields of Kansas, Texas, and Louisiana for years.  He and his wife eventually settled down in Breaux Bridge, La. Not only did he survive World War II, he survived “being blown off an oil-rig in an explosion which killed many.”

Harold Moon--we found two Harold Moons.  One, born 1926, was too young to be listed in 1942.  The other, born Mar. 15, may be our Harold Moon, though we could not find any birth history to confirm it.  This Harold Herman Moon was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously for bravery at the Battle of Leyte in the Phillippines Islands on Oct. 21, 1944.  He and his platoon were caught in a well-supported night attack by the Japanese, which lasted over four hours.  Moon was ultimately fired on as he stood to throw a grenade.  A more in depth account of his bravery can be found on

The people of Great Bend dealt with rations and war news, but still kept their spirits up.  Even on Christmas night, dances were to be found.  The City Auditorium was a lively place, with Victory Barn Dances every Saturday night, and on Christmas night, two dances were advertised.  One at the City Auditorium, featuring the Club Royal Orchestra, admission 50 cents.  At Ellinwood’s Maennerchor Hall, the Smokey Valley Boys played for 55 cents per couple.  

A new point rationing system was to be introduced after the new year to ensure that everyone could get their fair share of scarce but essential items, but still have a variety to choose from, the paper said.  Rather than using coupons that allowed a person to purchase whatever was listed on the coupon, the points could be used on a segment of items, but each item would be rated a different point value.  An editorial comment: “By the time it is over, nearly everyone who has learned to figure out the system will be able to qualify as an accountant.”

Luckily, war did not deter Santa Claus.  He has faithfully made an appearance in Great Bend every Christmas season since the city was born.  In 1942, he arrived on Christmas Eve, “Several hundred children were in the business section of Great Bend this afternoon to greet Santa Claus who arrived about 2.15 o’clock loaded down with treats for them.  He shook hands with some of them and promised that he’d pay them a visit tonight.”

As this goes to print, we here at The Great Bend Tribune wish you a Merry Christmas, and may the New Year be historically one of your best.