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.
Philippe Petit, a 24 year old french street performer, walked a cable strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Photos taken of the feat have become nothing short of iconic.
The story, in the Aug. 8, 1974 Tribune explained how he pulled off the illegal feat.
“Petit and his friends-- at times there were six--played the roles of delivery men, workers, or messengers. Petit and an assistant spent the night on the south tower’s rooftop, hidden at first under a tarpaulin. Two other friends with cameras stayed on the north tower. At dawn, they used a five-foot longbow to fire a fishing line attached to the cable from one tower to the other. At about 7 a.m., the stunt began.”
The 2009 Academy Awards featured Petit for his collaboration on the documentary film, Man on Wire (2008), by director James Marsh about his 1974 WTC performance. “On stage with Marsh to accept the Oscar award, Petit made a coin vanish in his hands while thanking the Academy “for believing in magic.” He balanced the Oscar by its head on his chin to cheers from the audience.”
The next day, headlines on page one of the Great Bend Tribune read “Nixon to yield historic resignation,” just a day after the front page announced “Nixon ‘won’t leave’.”
Meanwhile, in Great Bend, summer heat was broken by a generous rain, school boards met, parents walked around partially bald from tearing their hair out, counting the days until their kids returned to school...pretty much like they do today.
Tree Board idea planted
When the west was settled, the trees came, providing shade and a framework for community life outdoors. By 1974, the city had a number of well established trees which at least a couple generations had grown up with and taken for granted that they had always been there and always would be.
The Great Bend City Council considered the establishment of the Tree Board this week in 1974. It actually revised an existing ordinance on the planting, care and maintenance of trees, but also established a one-mill levy to finance such things as a dead tree removal program, spraying and planting. However, the ordinance didn’t clearly spell out the owner’s responsibilities for trees in areas between property lines and the city streets, so it was sent back to committee.
On Sept. 16, 1974, a public notice appeared on page 2 of the Tribune concerning the establishment of a city tree board and the accompanying mill levy. Related stories in the following weeks pointed to Dutch Elm disease as a major factor in the need to remove and destroy hundreds of large trees in cities and towns throughout the area. The next logical step would be a reforestation program, and what better project to frame a tree board around?
Since then, the city tree board has done what it set out to do and more. Great Bend has been a Tree City USA participant for decades, and board members distribute redbud starts each year to city fourth graders who have taken them home to plant in their yards, populating the city with beauty from all corners.
At the Aug. 4 city council meeting, Great Bend Mayor Mike Allison alluded to new projects and excitement brewing with the Tree Board. According to member Lisa Whipple, the board is making great strides in moving towards the renovation and updating of the Argonne Forest area at the north end of Veterans Park. They are also partnering with the city on a push to plant street trees and park trees to replace those lost because of drought stress. Members of the Tree Board can be contacted through the city offices.
Movies showing at the Crest and the Great Bend Drive-in were “The Sting,” starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Robert Shaw, and “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry,” starring Peter Fonda and Susan George. While all the men in these movies went on to have long, successful careers, George fell into obscurity, continuing to work as a television actress in the United Kingdom, and in the late 1980s, she was the executive producer for the film, “Stealing Heaven,” released in the U.K.
The ballot from the 1974 primary included one name Barton County residents will be familiar with today--Kruckenberg.
“Seeking to oppose (Congressman Keith G.) Sebelius in November are Democrats Homer Kruckenberg, Great Bend; Don Smith, Dodge City; and Chuck Wilson, La Crosse.”
He received 1,235 votes. Since then, Harold Kruckenberg has served as a Barton County commissioner since 2008 serving District 2.
The brief column, “Golden Belt Nuggets” on Aug. 8 was amusing:
“A fender bender accident in Russell turned out to be the real thing. Jim Fender drove his car around a corner to collide with a car driven by Harold Bender who was backing from a parking stall. Fender’s bender was estimated at $100 while there was no fender bendered on the Bender machine.”