Just for fun: Did you know that in 1924, Great Bend boasted one of the best skating rinks in the southwest? Located at the corner of Broadway and Baker, ladies and gentlemen could “get the skating habit and add ten years to their lives,” with lady and gentlemen instructors available. “Skating is conceded to be the greatest health builder in the world,” an advertisement for the rink claimed in The Great Bend Tribune.
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.
Much like our news today, in October of 1924, politics took center stage. But some local headlines were too good to not steal the show. Such was the case with “Confidence men rob Gt. Bend Boy,” featured first on the Oct. 20, 1924 edition of The Great Bend Daily Tribune. At that time, headlines were pretty long, and broken up into several parts. “Chas. Pundsack 18-year-old boy, lost his summers wages 3 weeks ago. BUT KEPT IT QUIET...Until he met one of the men yesterday and crook had to be rescued by police.”
The tale, as reported in the Wichita Eagle, was long and detailed, but here’s the Great Bend summary, because it would be too cruel to just leave you hanging.
“Charlie Pundsack, who lives near town, doesn’t want his folks to find out how he was “worked” several days ago by a couple of “sharpers,” who took his savings, about $100, and he has been working in a restaurant washing dishes trying to get into something that would let him get it back but they can be pretty proud of the fight he had yesterday and which landed one of the confidence men in jail for Charlie “tied” into him at sight yesterday afternoon trying to get $100 worth of fight out of it, anyway. And it took the police to pry him loose. The confidence man is in jail and if Charlie is wise enough to keep him there, he’ll have no trouble getting his original money back.”
It was this week in 1924 that Toastmasters International was founded. According to the club’s website, in 1924, Ralph C. Smedley held the first meeting of what would eventually become Toastmasters International in a YMCA basement in Santa Ana, Calif.
“Smedley began working as director of education for a Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) after he graduated from college. He observed that many of the young patrons needed “training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings” and Smedley wanted to help them. He decided the training format would be similar to a social club. During the early 1900s the word “toastmaster” referred to a person who proposed the toasts and introduced the speakers at a banquet.”
Ninety years later, the club has grown to include 313,000 memberships in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. The desire to improve one’s ability to speak in public is stronger than ever.
In fact, a new Toastmasters International club was started in Great Bend in September, 2014. According to club member Crystal Barnes, the club has met a few times already, and is off to a great start. “We have about 15 members, all but one are first-time members, and they are all motivated to improve their public speaking skills,” she said. The club meets in the evening on the second and fourth Thursdays.
In 1924, orators, people who could speak well in public, were much sought after for both entertainment and political functions. Without television, speakers had a great deal of power for influencing the public. Attending club meetings and public talks were common social outlets, in both large and small cities all over the country. It makes sense that a club supporting the cultivation of the craft would take off at that time.
Kansas City speaker featured
Mrs. Charles Childs, Kansas City, Kan., spoke at the Barton County Courthouse Tuesday, Oct. 21, 1924, at 8 p.m. “Mrs. Childs is one of the best known speakers of the colored race and has been one of the ablest workers for the advancement of the Negro. Her speech while political, will prove of great interest and if you can attend you will hear the questions of the day discussed from a new viewpoint.” In addition, J.N. Stokes of Pratt, a Republican and Kansas gubernatorial candidate Ben Paulen supporter, would give a short address.
Childs’ speech was particularly relevant because in 1924, one of the major issues voters had to consider was the political reach of the Ku Klux Klan. Tuesday evening’s paper reported:
“I believe that the colored race is going to show at almost solid vote for the republican ticket from top to bottom. Our people realize this is the time that we must not be led astray by false issues and we are going to do everything we can to elect our ticket, from President Coolidge and Ben Paulen down,” said Mrs. Charles, of Kansas City, this morning, regarding the political situation and the talk that there was liability that voters of that race might be induced to vote otherwise.
“She stirred a zeal in the workers here that was manifested plainly. A convincing talker, exceptionally well-educated, and oratorical, her talk brought much applause and conviction throughout.”
William Allen White was also running as an Independent candidate, and challenged Paulen to make plain his stand on the Klan, rather than leave it a question and curry favor with Klan supporters.
According to another story in the Tribune, plans were underway by several highly educated individuals to throw their support under White at a Topeka function the next week.
“Preparations are underway to make the William Allen White political meeting in Topeka, Oct. 28, one of the biggest gatherings of its kind ever held in Kansas. In addition to an address by Mr. White, Dr. Charles Sheldon and Judge Dick Hayden, both of Topeka, will be on the program. Reservations have been made for 300 voters from Emporia, 250 from Lawrence, 600 from Leavenworth, 100 from Kansas City, Kan., and a delegation from Oskaloosa.”
Paulen ultimately won.
According to Linda Schreck with the Kansas State Historical Society, “Although White lost the election, he won the battle with the Klan. Paulen, influenced by the pressure White and his campaign put on him, didn’t support the Klan and during his governance, Kansas became the first state to outlaw the Klan.”
Meanwhile, in St. John, on Oct. 22, 1924:
“A crowd estimated at 5,000 people of Stafford and adjoining counties gathered today in a barbecue picnic under auspices of the Ku Klux Klan at Rhoom’s Grove, two miles southeast of St. John.
It was an orderly and peaceable assemblage, and the Klansmen were not in uniform or masks. The Klan had invited the public generally to attend and be their guests.
Barbecued beef, shipped from Kansas City in fireless cookers was served at the dinner. This afternoon a program was held, including an address by Rev. J.J. Ballinger of Radium, who defended the Klan, and answered the accusations and charges made by William Allen White, in an address at St. John.
The St. John band and male chorus helped make music for the affair. The picnic closed with a band concert at 4 o’clock.”